Biloxi 1975

An hour after sunset we passed through Ocala. The cowboy town looked mean and I drove the speed limit. Florida was a big state at 55.

I joined the Interstate after Lake City.

Old Bill drunkenly bitched about the trucks.

“Not many other options.” I wasn’t keen on driving through the backroads of the Panhandle. “This is cracker territory.”

“I know, but those trucks sound like giant frogs fartin’.” He stuffed wads of wet paper in his ears and fell asleep until we reached Biloxi around four in the morning. He lifted his nose to the open window.

“There’s a good crab shack before the bridge. The second one. My wife liked it. We’ll eat there.”

Old Bill’s choice was on the money.

The crabs were big and juicy.

We entered the shack and sat by the window. He tucked a napkin into his collar and spread a handkerchief on his lap.

“Only have one damned suit.”

The other diners watched him crack the crabs and stuff the succulent meat in his mouth.

Shells and crab meat were scattered all over his side of the table. I averted my eyes from the horror of his enjoyment. At the end of the meal Old Bill wiped his mouth with the napkin.

“I get anything on my suit?” He stared down with an inquisitive sniff.

“Nothing. I didn’t need to tell the truth to a blind man.

“I’m a lucky man.”

We returned to the Olds.

“How so?” I felt good too.

“My belly’s full of crab and I got a hippie diving me to Texas.”

“I’m lucky too.” I opened the car door and hesitated for several seconds. A warm wind blew off the Gulf. Winter was up north. I pulled the keys out of my pocket and sat behind the wheel. The traffic over the Biloxi bridge was light and the road was open to LA.

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