Steve Davenport


Black Guy's at Bald Guy's new house. Bald Guy's just called it his crib. They're watching BET because that's what Bald Guy was watching when Black Guy walked in.
      What's wrong with Hank Williams, Black Guy asks and slides the bong back.
      Hank Williams?
      Hank Williams.
      I give.
      Give what?
      What's wrong with Hank Williams?
      No, I'm asking you.
      Knock knock, Bald Guy says.
      Who's there?
      Hank who?
      Hank you but no hank you, Bald Guy snorts he's laughing so hard.
      Black Guy also laughs, but doesn't want to and isn't sure why he thinks that particular knock-knock joke funny enough to ignore the principle he was trying to lay down there where even Bald Guy could see it.
      Charlie Parker, Black Guy leans in to make a point, said Hank Williams had soul.
      Not so. Soul.
      Right. Soul. So?
      So why don't you listen to Hank Williams?
      Hank Williams?
      Hank Williams. Godfather of White Soul. Your Cheating Heart.
      Jambalaya and a crawfish pie?
      And fillet gumbo. That guy. Charlie Parker said he had soul.
      What did he say about Charlie Daniels?
      Man, I can't talk to you. Black Guy stands up. He has nowhere to go. He goes and gets a beer from the fridge. Why, he wonders, isn't cocaine their drug of choice? They're actors making a good living. Bald Guy's got a marble fireplace. A fountain's shooting out of the pool at Black Guy's. Then Black Guy remembers. Cocaine makes them jumpy.
      White soul, Bald Guy yells at him. Soul got color? Is that what you're saying?
      Shut up. You know what I'm saying.
      Then why do you hang with me?
      Don't say it like that. Black Guy walks back in. Quit the tired rope.
      You don't cotton?
      No, as a matter of fact, I don't fucking cotton.
      You mean you don't motherfucking cotton. Why didn't you get me a beer?
      You have a beer.
      It would have been a nice gesture anyway, Bald Guy says before draining the second half of his beer and going to get another. He comes back with two and puts one next to Black Guy's other beer.
      It occurs to Black Guy for like the tenth time in the last month, maybe the second time in the five minutes he's been there, at Bald Guy's, in his crib watching BET, or in Black Guy's case not watching BET, not chilling in this crib, that he and Bald Guy need some kind of buddy counseling.
      I'm ordering a pizza, Bald Guy says. You want some pizza?
      No, I don't want some pizza.
      You want a beer?
      You want a beer?
      Quit it.
      Hank Williams liked beer. He had white soul.
      It was white.
      That's it, Black Guy says standing up.
      You think there's a direct connection between the two?
      Charlie Parker and Hank Williams?
      No. The beer and the white soul.
      Shut up.
      You shut up.



Bald Guy likes to hang with Black Guy. They've been buddies since childhood. Black Guy likes to hang with Bald Guy except he would never say it that way. Given the history of rope in America, Black Guy doesn't want to hang with anyone.
      Black Guy recognizes the history of the black cowboy, not to mention the black sailor and the black Eagle Scout, and the knots they all have to learn, but still, he tells himself. Still.
      Once, hoping Bald Guy would get the hint, Black Guy said he didn't cotton to no rope talk. He thought "cotton," with its race associations, would flip the switch behind Bald Guy's eyes, wake him to his linguistic insensitivity, but Bald Guy kept on talking, yammering, because they were smoking a few bowls of weed, which usually makes Bald Guy more playful and given to language he thinks is funny.
      Dude, Bald Guy exhales, this weed, cough, I could hang, like, cough, like forever, you?
      Black Guy takes the bong. No. Not hang. I don't cotton to that kind of talk.
      You don't cotton?
      I don't cotton.
      Bald Guy feels kind of cottony. His mouth and throat thick thnck, so he reaches for his beer. It's cold, feels good.
      Black Guy changes the channel to BET until he remembers that Bald Guy likes BET more than he does and changes it again.
      Hey, Bald Guy says, I was watching that.
      No, you weren't. That's not watching.
      What is it then?
      Nibbling. Surfing. Grazing. Not watching.
      Remote in hand, Black Guy watches Bald Guy watch an old black-and-white Western. John Wayne's talking, but they can't hear him since Black Guy's turned down the sound to put some music on the stereo.
      A greatest-hits collection by Elvis Presley.
      Bald Guy looks up. Man, there's two guys I'd like to tie to the back of my bumper and drive around a parking lot.
      Black Guy doesn't answer.
      Long rope or short?, Bald Guy asks.
      I'm not responding.
      You mean you don't want to tie John Wayne to my bumper? Two ropes, we can tie the King to the Duke.
      Black Guy says nothing as he watches Duke lasso a bad guy and pull him off a horse.
      Bald Guy watches Black Guy watch John Wayne. Tell me this then, Bald Guy says. Why are we listening to Elvis?
      I thought Elvis might improve him.
      You out of your mind?
      Elvis was the King. He had a posse.
      And poosy. Never to forget the poo-say. In the little white socks, Bald Guy adds as he grabs at the remote.
      What do you have against Elvis, Black Guy asks.
      Big Mama Thornton's gonna rise up and put a whuppin' on your hound-dog ass.
      Why do you watch BET?
      I don't watch it that much.
      You watch it more than I do.
      Maybe you don't watch it enough.
      And what the fuck, Black Guy asks, is that supposed to mean?
      Here's what. Who's Big Mama Thornton?
      Blues singer. "Hound Dog" was hers before Elvis made it a hit.
      It was an R&B hit before Elvis got it. When did she write and record it?
      Aha, Black Guy says. The R&B tells me not long before Elvis got it.
      Good, but she didn't write it. Couple of white cats did. Name another Big Mama a white singer turned into a huge hit for white folks.
      Black Guy can't take his eyes off Duke, who appears to be yelling at a cowpoke for roping a calf wrong. I don't know, "Brown Sugar." Wait, "Streets of Laredo."
      No, Bald Guy yells. Not that. I am not listening to "In the Ghetto." Tell me you're not a Mac Davis fan?
      "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me"? Who doesn't like to sing along with that one?
      Big Mama. Me.
      Black Guy shakes his head. I bet she's singing it in her kitchen right now.
      Dead for years, my man. You know more about Mac Davis than you do Big Mama. Doesn't that strike you as pathetic? And exactly what Texas ghetto did Bad Mac live in's what I want to know.
      Black Guy clicks back to BET, ejects the Elvis, turns up the sound. Will that shut you up?
      Tie your ass to that chair, Bald Guy says, and learn something.
      Elvis is cool. A million fans can't be all wrong.
      Yes, they can. I just can't tie them all to my bumper.
      I'd like to tie you to a bumper.
      Grab some rope, brother, and get in line.


Neither Black Guy nor Bald Guy shows any sign of shutting up.