Winndrow leisurely dabbed his paper napkin at the small pool of Pabst that had collected on the oily surface of the checkerboard tablecloth. At the first strains of the violin, he shot an annoyed glance over at the jukebox in the corner of the dimly-lit bar. "If that’s country music, then I'm a flying pig," he said.

Joycellen, the bar's owner, paused by his table on her way back to the kitchen, tucking the empty tray under her arm. "Give us a break, Winn," she drawled, brushing a red strand of hair out of her eyes, "What's so bad about that song? I like it. In fact, it's my nickel that's bringing your fit on. Whataya got to complain about, anyway? It's a beautiful day and you got good health and good company to share it with."

Winndrow jabbed out his unfiltered Camel in the table's glass ashtray and ran his other hand over his blonde crewcut. "Dog it, Joycellen," he said wearily, "It's 97 in the shade, everbody in this place is either drunk or asleep, I got the early warning signs of a powerful headache, and it ain't Hank Williams on the box, it ain't Kitty Wells, and it ain't country."

She glanced down at his glass as she continued on her kitchen route. "Trouble with you," she said, "is the mug is always half empty."

Outside, as the late afternoon sun baked the highway out of Dover into a hard goo, a brand-new white 1962 Ford convertible pulled off the road and into the gravel parking lot of the bar, the tiny stones popping under the hot tires. Once the man and woman had exited the car, they stood beneath the half-painted, half-neon "Joycellen's" sign over the entrance and looked around nervously, surveying the strange environment they were about to step into. He pulled open the heavy door, and they stood inside for a few moments to let their eyes adjust to the dark room. The cigarette smoke hung in thick clouds lit by beer signs over the billiard tables as the window air conditioners hummed loudly in a cacophonous drone.

©Copyright 2002 David Ray Skinner/SouthernReader. All rights reserved.