The old wooden bar stretched from front door to back, fashioned out of prime Forked Deere river timber that the beavers took down. Sam had sanded and polished the piece until it was smooth as silk. A fitting place to slam down the forbidden product of stills hidden deep in the kudzu. The shack was surrounded by a cotton crop about half of the year, and by floodwater the rest of the time. Belle kept bar for the men who came to play cards and wager on the game. My what a woman! Her unkempt reddish blonde hair, when she dared to let it down, draped over shoulders that supported ample breasts over her curvy hips. Helluva gal, in many ways. Poor thing had a weakness for weak men and this was the place to find 'em. The liquor either made them mad as hell or sad to a fault and she heard it all as she leaned back against the mirrored wall and dreamed of something different for herself and her kids. Their Daddy, Buck, had died from a heart attack behind a mule last year and times were hard for the three of them. Abby was a first grader at the schoolhouse down the road and John Mark had taken on the role as man of the house. His daddy's gun was never far from his side during the long nights while his mama tended to her customers. Their place out back was just one big room with mattresses on the floor and an outhouse. One of them pumped water every morning for face washin' and such and every few days they filled up the clawfoot tub with hot water and got cleaned up. Belle planted a big garden every May and it always did well in the hot and humid climate of West Tennessee just like the cotton that always surrounded them.
Many wealthy landowners came out to the patch just to escape from their nagging wives and spoiled children. This was a place where they could buy rounds for other patrons and feel more important than they were with the ones they supported. Every one of them ladies knew the danger when her man went down by the river into the kudzu. Lots of times whores walked half the night just to get their chance to get drunk with a rich man and give him some pleasure the likes of which he never saw at home with a respectable woman who bore his children and never enjoyed a minute of the planting of those seeds.
One of the most frequent patrons was a bet maker called Carl Smith. When the cards got laid out alongside the whiskey he was always there to collect his share of the pot. Carl didn't have no wife...just a string of floozies who enjoyed spending his money in exchange for their favors. Carl had tried like the dickens to buy a night with Belle but she was adamant about the whole thing. Never take nothing home that you find in a bar, was her motto. CS, as he was known, ran a little loansharking business on the side and wouldn't hesitate to beat the crap out of somebody who was late on payment plus a sizeable interest. Of course, he had a lot of enemies. His volatile temper was well known and respected among his clients in the gambling and loanin' trade. Just as soon shoot ya as look at you if he was pissed off about something not going his way.
I reckon his hatred toward mankind came from the Depression years when he sucked dust behind a plow just to keep his belly halfway full and buy some juice of his own for the weekend. Living that kind of existence will make a man hard and cold. His wife Mary had died during childbirth along with the son that was to be Eli had he lived. Carl took to the bottle heavy then spending hours and days cussin' at God for taking away his joy. When he finally got his wits together enough to figure out he needed some money to survive, that's when he began to prey on others. There's a little bit of the devil in each and every human that thinks he or she can get by without treating people right like the good book says. Carl became on of those folks.
The Patch was full this Friday night, with a full moon reflecting off of the tin roof and spilling onto the river behind it. CS sat in his usual spot by the window, watching the cards being laid down hand by hand and making bets on which poor fool would lose a week's pay to fate. Becky Jean sat to his left, rubbing his thigh and enjoying the warm fuzzy feeling that good whiskey gave her. She had met CS up at the store when he was buying some food for his huntin' dogs. He invited her out to meet him in the cotton patch that Friday evening for some fun. She sure did need some fun, if anybody ever had.
A big old fluffy cloud floated over the moon followed by another one that blacked out the light. Old Hoss had counted on this to give him a chance to sneak off of the kudzu covered riverbank with his gun and creep up for a clear shot. The shouting and music were so loud that nobody heard the sounds of Hoss snaking up through the grass next to window. From his perch on the ground, he saw CS grab Becky's breasts and lean over for a sloppy wet kiss. When he moved back from her mouth, CS never knew what hit him in the back of the head. Glass shattered from the firepower and the women screamed. CS slumped over and took his last breath while Becky watched him die. Her dress was covered in his blood with bits of brain matter trailing down her bare leg and onto the wooden floor. Somebody went to fetch the sheriff. Old Hoss just shimmied back the way he had come down to the kudzu and waited.