The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

December 20, 2010

Chapter 14 ‘As the Small Town Turns’


— By Karen Bethea

Guest writer

Twyla LouAnn Roddenheimer lay back on the red satin sheets stretched taut over the sagging truck mattress. That Rock was something, he was. Handing her a set of real red satin sheets he bought from the tent vendor beside the 7-Eleven while he talked her into driving them, including that little brat kid of his, to Branson in her rig instead of his.

She had met Rock at a truck stop just outside of Memphis, and since she loved Elvis, one thing had led to another, and the next thing she knew, they had had one too many Bud Lights and wound up hitched by an all night justice of the peace.

Rock told her that he had to bring his kid on this run, and since her rig was bigger, they needed to leave his in Memphis and drive hers to Branson. She didn’t care. This was more excitement than a whole box of Twinkies anytime.

She jumped when the Walkie-Talkie came to life “Twyla LouAnn! Start the rig up and be ready. We’re a’coming out the back door.”

“Ten-4 Rock-Baby, I’ll be ready.” Twyla LouAnn wedged her bright orange muumuu-clad 400-pounds behind the wheel and revved the engine. She jumped when the headlights hit a homeless man running out in front of the rig as she turned into the alley behind the Stardust Theater. She ran over the curb and took a streetlight out.

She regained control and pulled up to the stage door just as Rock with Roxy in tow came flying down the steps. He jumped into the cab and threw Roxy back onto the mattress. “ I want Raggedy Ann!” Roxy shrieked.

“Good God Almighty, Roxy,” Rock yelled, “ I’ll get you a dozen of them when we get to Vegas.” Twyla LouAnn geared into first and lumbered down the alley.

Just as the rig swung wide onto the main street of Branson, Buck and Sheriff Blinky bolted out the back door of the Stardust.

“Crap, Buck, we missed them! We don’t even know what they were driving since we found Rock’s rig in Memphis.”

A quaking voice said, “I saw ‘em, Mr., I knowed which way they done gone.”

Buck stopped and stared at the man who spoke. He was emaciated with long, brown, oily hair, rags for clothes and a bottle of Boone’s Farm in his hand.

“All I want is a few bucks for a bottle, please, please?” the man asked.

Buck stared harder and rasped, “Corncob, is that you? I’d know that voice anywhere.”

The homeless man stopped begging and took a long, hard look at Buck, and to everyone’s amazement, started crying big tears.

“Cap’n...Cap’n Buck. Man, I ain’t seen none of the boys from Iraq since I done got home. Things ain’t been so good fer me since my leg healed up.”

Buck looked down and saw a prosthetic foot peeking from beneath the ragged hem of his pants. Jake Green of Tupelo, Mississippi, better known as “Corncob” to the guys in the unit, had been in direct line of the same bomb blast that had injured Bobby Tom.

“Corncob, we need to know what you saw, then I’ll be back to see you. Where do you live?” Buck asked.

“Over behind that dumpster. That one’s mine – I got claim to it,” Corncob said.

He then told Buck and Sheriff Blinky everything he had seen. The rig, the woman driving, the man and the kid, but he didn’t know which way they had gone.

Sheriff Blinky pulled out his radio and called the awaiting helicopter. “Put down in the MIDDLE of the road and I don’t give a rat’s butt who has a heart attack. We’ll be right there.”