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  • PEPPERMINT LOUNGE-1969

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    I met Clove for the first and last time at the Peppermint Lounge, outside Biloxi, Mississippi. It was a Sunday night. Over a few whiskies she’d told me  she was widowed, living with her grandmother.  She was full Choctaw– high cheekbones, raven black hair and deep-set brown eyes. She stood at about my height, 5’10” or so, but unlike me, had an hour glass shape. She told me about life up on the “res” in Neshoba County, Mississippi, where she grew up. Two years earlier her husband’s bomb wing had been deployed to U Tapao, Airfield in Thailand, to conduct sorties over North Vietnam.  She’d gone to visit him. One night sirens screamed, engines snarled and brakes screeched as the B-52s crept to the runway on orders passed down from the President’s office. She recalled the last time she saw him; how one by one she watched these behemoths lift off in a thunderous wake, soaring into the stratosphere,  disappearing as noiseless dust motes jetting across a cosmic emptiness. But her husband’s bombs never fell. The plane exploded after being hit by a surface-to-air missile.

    I told her I was from the East, but came South when I was seventeen to play in a blues band. When I was about to run out of money, we decided to go back to my place, a small room above the bar I’d been playing at every other night. I was paid to play, and given a break on the rent, eight-bucks a week, which got me an—iron-framed bed—, China-white wash bowl, and a half-jaundiced mirror on a scratched oak dresser from the 20’s. The room was a little dusty, untidy as we say, crushed roach embers dead in the ashtray, empty cola bottles. The toilet ran constantly, but I could hear clear as day ole man Jackson playing blues on a steel body guitar right below us. Having Clove next to me made me feel as good as I’d  known in months. Woke the next morning about seven. She’d gone. Slipped away during the night. For the next few weeks, I went back to the bar where we’d met–, no luck. I remember the song ole Jackson played half-dozen times that night. Stormy Monday, how could I forget.

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