I almost decided not to tell this tale but, I’m pretty sure
that the statute of limitations has expired on this incident. I damn sure hope so
A phone call from an old friend a while back reminded me of it and I figured I’d tell ya’ll about it.
I was living in Charleston at a time when ‘dance’
music was king.
Most of the successful clubs changed from ‘music’
venues to ‘dance clubs’
and, as a result, a lot of musicians were out of work.
If you weren’t out of work, you were at least relegated to playing in places where the crowd size as well as the paycheck was considerably smaller than you were used to. It was simply a fact of life that unless you wanted to dress in flashy ‘outfits’
, play repetitive three chord progressions and pretty much sell your musical soul to Satan….you were gonna starve!
When the dance craze was first rearing its ugly head, I swore loudly and repetitively that I would never play that 'dance shit'
! I considered myself to be an ‘artist’
and I would NEVER
stoop so low as to play that funky music white boy
! So, when the dance craze completely took over….I was honor bound to back up my words!
In other words…I damned near starved to death for awhile!
Times were BAD
financially for a lot of us then but, thankfully, I was playing six or seven nights per week for $35.00 per night so….I wasn’t actually
starving but…times were TOUGH
One night, a buddy of mine named Joey presented me with a proposition that was simply too tempting to turn down.
He offered me four thousand American dollars
to do a three hour job!
All I had to do was help him smuggle a thousand pounds of pot and a few pounds of cocaine into the country via a small inlet near Seabrook Island just outside of Charleston.
Joey was a small wiry dude who lived down the street from me and occasionally worked for my Uncle Frank. He was a strange, hyper little dude who spoke and acted like Joe Pesci with a geechee accent. I met Joey on a Sunday afternoon when I was in the inlet behind my house tossing a shrimp net trying like hell to catch dinner for me and my girlfriend.
“Geechee” is a distinct dialect spoken by folks in the South who primarily live near the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia and the upper part of Florida. It’s a strange mix of languages and it varies from region to region in but this a rough representation of what it sounds like in the Charleston area when Joey snuck up on me that day.
“Son, ya’ll ain’t gon get no shrump dis here toym ah da day.” (Son, ya’ll ain’t gonna get no shrimp this here time of the day.) He said.
He startled the hell out of me but I tried not to show it.
“Where the hell did you come from?” I asked as I hauled the throw net back out of the water.
“Oy be luvin down day bah you Grammah.” (I be living down there by your Grandma) He replied while pointing up the road. “Oy bun shrumpin’ dis cut ahl mah loyf an oym tellin’ yah…you dis waisin’ yah toym.” (I’ve been shrimping this cut all my life and I’m telling you..you’re wasting your time.)
Ok…ya’ll get the point.
The Geechee dialect is a bit like listening to a Jamaican on amphetamines instead of marijuana! You might be able to follow it but, you damn well better listen quick!
I threw the net down on the grass and faced him.
“I remember you. You used to do my Granny’s yard work for free.” I stuck out my hand and he grabbed it.
“I ain’t never done nothin’ for free my man.” He laughed. “That Grandma of your can cook so good it makes your tongue slap your damned eyes out!”
“Yeah she’s a cookin’ fool ain’t she?”
From that day forward, Joey and I became good friends even though we really didn’t hang out much together. He was kind of like Kramer on Seinfeld, he would show up unannounced from time to time at my house or at a club where I was playing.
One Tuesday night, he came over to tell me that he needed my help with something ‘a little shady’
He was aware of the fact that my income had taken a nose dive and he figured that I could use the money. As he talked, he got a beer from my refrigerator and fired up a joint. After taking a big hit off the joint, he passed it to me.
Of course, I accepted it and, within minutes I had a nice buzz going.
He kept talking until he had laid the deal out for me.
It was really quite simple.
All we had to do was drive out to Seabrook Island at three a.m. on a Wednesday, wait for a boat which would dock, help off load a few bales of pot and some cocaine into Butch’s pick up truck and drive it to his house. Someone else would pick it up from there.Piece of cake….right?
I turned him down flat but he kept after me. I kept turning him down until he blurted out the fact that he had been paid a thousand bucks in advance.
Did I mention the fact that I had a car payment past due and the rent was one month behind? Well…it’s a fact and when he told me that he would give me five hundred bucks up front..…I bit.
Hook, line and sinker.
The next day, I paid some bills and went back home to chill out until Butch came by to pick me up that night. Now that my financial situation had improved and the wolf was no longer howling outside my door, I was scared shitless about what I had agreed to do!
I was no criminal. My criminal record consisted of a few bar fights, arson of an automobile (a subject for yet another post but, it’s not as bad as it sounds), defrauding an innkeeper (yet another post for another day), a few speeding tickets and of course…that little A.W.O.L. charge when I was in the Navy but guess what?
another topic for a future post.
I never actually ‘deserted’….I just didn’t go back to my ship when I was supposed to.It’s a long story.
The point is that I wasn’t a ‘smuggler’
type guy. Yes…I did
smoke pot and do the occasional line of coke but hell, I never smuggled the shit into the country!
Hell, I never even sold pot
Well, actually, that’s a bald faced lie! I did
sell pot but….only to friends.
Ok…that’s a lie too.
I sold to strangers who COULD
have been friends at some point.All right damn it!
I SOLD pot from time to time but, other than THAT
, I wasn’t a real criminal
Now….back to the story.Stop buggin’ me about my criminal past!!
You people can get VERY
judgemental at times!
Sure enough, Butch showed up shortly before two a.m.. He knocked lightly on the door and I rushed over to answer it. When I opened the door, he grinned at me.
“Oy don mine tullin’ ya bubba…oy’m scared to death!” He was breathing heavily.
“I’m glad to hear it ‘cause I’m thinking we ought to call the whole thing off!” I said.
His grin disappeared and he rushed into the living room.
“Truss me son…you….me….we gon do dis shit right ‘chere.” His eyes were locked into mine. “Day is a some kinda bad men done PAID
me….we gon do dis here job or we ain gon be breathin’ tomorrow.”
“What if we paid him back what he gave you?” I asked.
Rightfully so, he looked at me as though I was a brain damaged child.
“So we repay the thousand bucks he gave me?” He asked.
“Sure, why not?” I answered.
Once again he shot me a disbelieving look.
“Who’s gonna unload the boat?” He asked. “In ONE fucking hour?”
Suddenly I got his point. Whoever the ‘money man’
was…he needed that boat unloaded and if no one showed up to do it….he would be seriously PISSED
“Well, I guess we’ve got it to do so…let’s get it over with.” I said.
I locked the front door and walked to his truck. I noticed that he had a bunch of roofing junk in the bed.
Butch worked as a roofer when he wasn’t doing illegal stuff.
“Are we gonna have room for the illegal shit?” I asked.
“Yeah, there’s supposed to be twenty fifty pound bales so I figured we’d cover ‘em up with the tarp, shingles and ladders.” He explained.
“Good idea I guess.” I answered. “Better than running the roads with a bunch of bundles in the back at three in the morning.”
So…..we took off and headed towards Seabrook Island.
Neither of us spoke much during the drive. Once we got onto the island, Butch slowed down and hit his high beams.
“It’s on the left here after the bridge.” He said.
“Damn dude, that’s old Kelly Brown’s house!” I told him.
“No it’s further down the road.” He said. “It’s three hundred yards past Kelly’s house.”
“Yeah but, he’s gonna hear us go past the house Butch.” I said. “He’s got four or five dogs and they're gonna raise holy hell!”
“Nah…it’ll be okay.” He claimed.
He turned into the road and switched off his headlights as we inched down the straight sandy road.
All you could hear was frogs and the low growl of the truck engine. As we crossed a little wooden bridge, lights came on at Kelly Brown’s house.
Kelly was a fiftyish black man who I had known most of my life.
He used to work for my grandfather when Granddaddy Rock owned a small roofing company. Kelly was illiterate in that he couldn’t read or write but, he could stand on the ground, look at a house and tell you how many ‘squares’ of shingles it would take to do the job and precisely how long it would take his crew to complete the task. He was a also a good and decent man. To this day I remember his logical outlook on life. He was a true survivor.
As soon as the lights came on at Kelly’s house, I told Butch to stop in the front yard so that I could talk to Kelly.
“Are you out of your fuckin’ mind?” He asked.
“Trust me dude, if we don’t
stop and talk to him, he’s gonna show up at the dock with his twelve gauge shotgun.” I explained.
Butch pulled up close to the house and I opened the door to get out of the truck.
Before I could exit, I heard Kelly shouting.
“I got a loaded shotgun and I’m a damn good shot!” He hollered. “What ‘chu doin’ here?”
“Hey Kelly, put down that twelve gauge…it’s me Bubba
.” I shouted.
I got out of the truck and slowly walked toward him. I hadn’t seen him in a year or so and I decided to expound.
“I’m Granddaddy Rock’s grandson…Bubba
.” I told him.
?” He asked. “Boy, what the hell you doin’ down here at this hour?”
I walked up to the front step and his shotgun remained trained on my chest.
“It’s a long story and I don’t have much time.” I said.
“Boy, I don’t give a shit how long dat story is….you better start tellin’ it
!” He said angrily. “You woke my old ass up and I was dreamin’ some good shit!”
“Can I come in?” I asked.
“Sure boy…come on in.” He said. “Ain’t much changed here since I used to change your diapers…watch that top step
Every time I saw Kelly he managed to find a way to remind me of how often he had changed my diapers! The truth was that I don’t know that he EVER
changed my diapers but he and his wife Rose did
baby-sit me quite often when I was young so…Mrs. Brown probably DID
change my diapers but Kelly….I’m not so sure
I walked in the house and sure enough, it looked just the same as it did the last time I was there…maybe five years before.
“What ‘chu doin’ here boy?” Kelly asked.
“Kelly, do you remember when you and my granddaddy used to run moonshine?” I asked.
His face lit up.
“Hell yeah I ‘member dat boy!” He grinned. “Dem was da good ole days
“Well, that’s kind of what I’m doin’ here tonight.” I explained. “I didn’t know I was coming here but this is where the boat’s landing and I've gotta unload it.”
He thought about it a second.
“You ain’t runnin’ no shine boy…you runnin’ dope
!” He said.
“Yessir…but it’s just some pot and a little coke and I can’t turn back now. We’ve gotta pick it up and take it to James Island.” I explained. “All you’ve gotta do is go back to bed and pretend you never saw me.”
“I don’t like it Bubby…” He began. “Your Grandma will hunt me down if you get ‘rested ‘round my house.”
“I’ll give you five hundred bucks when I get paid tomorrow…all you’ve gotta do is go back to bed Kelly.” I told him.
He grinned at me.
“For five hundred bucks, ole Kelly gon sleep like a baby
.” He said. “Go do your bidness boy…I got to get me some sleep
“Thanks Kelly…if I don’t get arrested, I’ll see you tomorrow with your cut.” I laughed.
“If you get arrested, you call me boy…I’ll go your bail.” He said.
“You finally got a phone?” I asked.
“No…I ain’t got no phone but if I did…I’d bail your ass out.” He answered with a laugh. “You sure you don’t need no help?”
“Nah…we can handle it I think. Just stay here and play possum.” I said.
He reached up, patted my cheek and smiled.
“You be careful boy….dem drug folks is dangerous
.” He offered.
“Yeah…I suppose so but I remember the time you and Granddaddy Rock got messed up by those rednecks over in Summerville.” I laughed.
“Your granddaddy was so dark skinned dat dem damned rednecks called us both niggers and ole Mr. Rock got PISSED
I laughed because my grandpa WAS
so dark skinned that Kelly used to tease him that there must have been a ‘nigger in the wood pile’
somewhere in the family which would send my grandpa into fits of anger.
“Ya’ll both got shot that night didn’t you?” I asked.“Did he tell you that?”
“Yeah…he said he got shot in the leg and you got shot in the back.” I answered.
“Lord rest his soul....that man sure could tell a damned lie
!” He shook his head. “When the shit jumped off, Mr. Rock pulled his knife. When we was runnin’ away, he tripped over me and stabbed hisself in his own damned leg!”
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“Don ‘chu never tell nobody but when I got home, Rose was so mad about me comin' in at six in da mornin’…she waited till I went to sleep and then she beat me half to death with da coal shovel
!” He chuckled. “Damn dat lil woman could get MAD
I was laughing hard by the time he finished telling the tale because I had heard a totally different version of the story as I was growing up.
He wished me luck and I left his house and got back in the truck with Butch.
"Is everything cool with him?" Butch asked.
"Yeah...everything's cool but we owe him five hundred bucks tomorrow." I said.
"Jeez dude!" He exclaimed. "That's too fuckin' much!"
"You wanna go argue with him?" I asked. "His shotgun is still loaded you know."
Butch thought about it for a minute but finally just shook his head and pulled the gearshift into 'drive'.
We drove down the road until we saw the navigation lights of the waiting boat tied to the old dock ahead and to our left.Continued Tomorrow....