Lacey Jean Frye – The Last Marlboro Man

Jerry Lee is a mean, little bastard. And when I call him a bastard, I’m talking about two things we don’t mention ’round here. The first thing involves his good for nothing momma who skedaddled out of Washington County no sooner than Jerry Lee’d filled his first cloth diaper. And the second thing I’ve the mind to set right: what he did to that poor girl down on Elizabeth Street.

See, the church-ladies, the widow women, been praying for the wrong one all along.

The widow women wear big sun hats even in the rain and they grab big plates of food then pick it to death like crows. And they been praying for that poor girl, and for her sister Anne Marie, who right up and spilled her famous fifteen-bean soup all over the mayor at the Washington County Fair Soup & Stew Contest when she heard the news from Ginny Anne, no less (ain’t she always stirring Anne Marie’s pot before the judges?).

I must admit Jerry Lee’s been stirring up the mother hens ‘round, chasing after their dainty daughters until the old folks come out onto their porches of a evening to smoke the last bit of bright tobacco.

But the real fuss came when Jerry Lee started catching himself some of the county’s prettiest chicks.

He’d wait outside of Rudy’s Grill and as the gals finished up their milkshakes, he’d pounce all willy nilly into the flock of ‘em. Oh, how they would scatter! Jerry Lee’d lick his lips and rub the front of his Levi’s as he chased them into the corner of the fenced in parking lot. You know I’m not the scurrying type, so I just keep my nose low and in my dog-eared copy of The Hidden Window Mystery.

Not once did I see Jerry Lee lay a tobacco-stained finger on any one of ‘em. He’s got fifteen summers underneath his big boy belt, and I suspect that’s why the widow women assumed the poor girl’s word was gospel the evidence of Jerry Lee’s foolishness sits belly-up to the poor girl never stirring up any trouble of her own, never using the lord’s name in vain.

Now don’t you tell I breathed a word of this just yet, but after early morning service last Sunday, Jerry Lee sat down across from her in the Community Banquet Hall and when her old man went to fetch the two sisters, that poor girl was nowhere near her booth of homemade jams and jellies.

Well, her daddy searched low near the county’s best fishing hole and high on the hill that anchors the Baptist Church to the ground. He came back in the Hall and let out a low rumble like my ears never heard before. He cleared the Hall in two bootstrap steps and had his metallic, calloused hands ‘round the preacher’s Adam’s apple before any fellow could stop him.

And here’s where the story falls plum apart.

Yes’m, Troy’s his name, and he demanded to know just where on god’s green earth his poor girl was and just who she was with. All slick-like, Jerry Lee came waltzing in the back of the hall as fine as frog’s hair and the poor girl scooted on past towards her daddy, smoothing her dress down as best she could.

That poor girl didn’t let out a single yelp when her daddy barked at her; his tobacco and lemonade breath hitting square across her forehead. She looked over to where Jerry Lee was shaking the hands of other farmhands and she tiptoed up to her daddy’s ear and told him a lie colored white.

Dag nabbit, that lie wasn’t white, ’twas bright and black at the same time.

It burned bright as she told her old man Jerry Lee’d coaxed her into the black and grey barn out back and hoisted her up onto an old saddle. It burned black when she whispered he’d shoved his fist and then his manhood and then his fist, filling her raw, filling her inside out.

And that poor girl said she couldn’t remember how to come up for air anymore.

Right then, I saw Ol’ Troy just a gawking at Jerry Lee’s shit-eating grin. In typical Troy style, he crossed the room with his fist connecting Jerry Lee’s oversized jaw with the concrete Hall ground. Troy scooped Jerry Lee’s squirrel meated body outta’ the Hall like he was a clump of tobacco sticks.

And no words were shared. No prayers were prayed for the sake of Jerry Lee, who was fisted into concrete, into rubble, and into grass just outside the Hall.

That poor girl’s easy on the farmhands’ eyes and her daddy, the last Marlboro Man standing in line for Virginia crop, knew he’d have to keep one eye on his tobacco and one eye on the menfolk who showed any sign of sweet-toothing up the poor girl.

Her jams and jellies produce quite the gathering—have you noticed no fellow in town is keen on sampling Anne Marie’s? Even the ol’ widow women pause their bridge playing and yapping about passersby—like little school girls they are—and hobble the five blocks to the Baptist Church for a sliver of the poor girl’s jam.

And now these widow women are praying for that poor girl; they been breathing into their palms that some fellow will still have her and that when the right fellow gives her a ring, she’ll be good and able to give him little chicks of their own.

And all this time, Jerry Lee’s hulled up in a hospital bed. When he gets out, I aim to pay the widow women a visit.

For the widow women have stories under their peter pan collars that could make any grown man beg for forgiveness. And if their grapevine grabs a hold of what really went on between the likes of that poor girl and Jerry Lee, the whole county’ll surely be crying for the mean, little bastard and will keep their hands clear out of that poor girl’s jams and jellies.