I was getting paid to watch Tucker's two-year-old daughter Emmylou while he was on stage singing and some other times too. He and his band were on tour. But no, I wasn't getting paid to get in my bunk on the tour bus after I put Emmylou down in her daddy's bed and pull the curtain closed and put my hand between my legs and think about Emmylou's daddy touching me. Slipping between me the same way he slipped his cigarette between those strings of his guitar and let the smoke go and go while he was tuning and getting it right.
Tucker was one of those guys who smoked even though he worked out everyday too and kept an eye on what he was eating. It didn't make no sense and that's kinda how he was. He didn't make no sense and I didn't want him to. He wasn't my man, he was Shay's. Shay was a big country music star too and had legs like Jesus had sculpted them with His bare hands, said they were good. Shay wasn't Emmylou's mama. Emmylou's mama was a mystery and I liked it better that way. She didn't much wanna be a mama, Tucker had told me about her. I gave Emmylou extra love because of it and Tuck loved her plenty enough for two. I'd put her hair up in two little pigtails to make her look like a ladybug and wonder how her no-good mama could leave her behind.
Sometimes Shay would be up there singing with Tucker and I'd be standing off the side of the stage holding little Emmylou on my hip with her big pink plastic earmuffs on to block out all the sound. Tucker and Shay had a duet burning up the radio stations and on the nights I was strong and not too jealous to listen, I'd stand there and watch them. On my weak nights, it would hurt my feelings and I'd turn me and Emmylou around right before Shay walked out. Emmylou and I would take the long way back to the bus—catch the sky right as it was changing from late-ombre evening to full-on night black. Everysinglestar shining bright as God made it to be.
He didn't make no sense and I didn't want him to
Tucker wasn't an easy flirt. I had to earn it. Like the time I put on a turquoise feather skirt and went next door to his hotel room to pick up Emmylou before the show. He opened up the door and I sang Amarillo by Morning to him and wasn't the tiniest bit shy about it because I'd been practicing in the shower. That part was easy to sing once you listened to the song all the way through just once. I'd listened to it about five hundred times. That's where we were headed after the show in Oklahoma City. Amarillo. Tucker looked me up and down and did a cartoony wolf whistle and he never did stuff like that so you gotta hear me out when I tell you it was really something. Emmylou was toddling around in her overalls, babbling behind him. Tucker was saying look at you. To me.
I'm ready too, he said. And damn right about Amarillo by morning. I'm ready to get back to Texas, he said.
I wanted him to say more about my skirt but didn't want to make it too obvious or desperate. I bent over and got on my knees, opened my arms for Emmylou to run into them. I got Emmylou's bag and Tuck closed the door. Emmylou and I were going down the hallway, walking hand-in-hand in front of him and I had a feeling that little skirt looked best from behind. I thought about him thinking about me, thinking about me differently than just Emmylou's nanny. Thinking about me the same way he thought about Shay. Thinking about my body and my legs and what was under my little skirt. And I was thinking about his arms in his shirt, how I cut off the sleeves for him those nights he was on stage sweating and singing. His perfect, cute-fat ass. And those nights when I'd put Emmylou to sleep at his place and he'd be downstairs writing music and wearing those grey sweatpants that made me wanna fall out and die. Those nights, this life when I'd give any damn thing for him to take me to his bed. For him to take hold of my hips and pull me to him hard and fast without saying a word.
I thought about him thinking about me, thinking about me differently than just Emmylou's nanny
Like one night it was storming so bad I stayed over. Tuck told me if Emmylou was a boy he was gonna name her Buffalo; his brown buffalo hat was right there next to him on the couch and I picked it up, put it on my head. He asked me my favorite Dwight Yoakam song. I said Fast As You so easy like it was my middle name because for me there ain't no other Dwight Yoakam song. Told him it was sexy, lonesome. And Tucker started playing it right there for me and singing the chorus and he was singing it just like Dwight. I covered my hot face with my hands. I didn't get paid to think about Tucker putting that guitar down and slowly slipping his tongue into my mouth and taking off his grey sweatpants but I was thinking about it anyway. I wanted to feel how Thelma felt about J.D. in Thelma & Louise minus the awful parts. Just that part where she goes to the diner the next morning and gets all wide mouth laughing at Louise before hell breaks loose again. When she pulls her collar out and points at the hickey on her neck—jittered on the VHS screen of my heart.
So I was walking in front of Tucker, swaying my hips but not too much. That turquoise feather skirt looking like the sun had lit it up, the blue holding the bright. Tuck was singing under his breath and we were almost to the elevator. He was slow poking, taking his time like he always did.
So I was walking in front of Tucker, swaying my hips but not too much
I see you up there looking beautiful, he said with his scritch-scratch voice from so much singing and growling under rising summer moons night after night, all over. He said it kinda low. Kinda like I wouldn't hear him but I did. I was listening with every part of my body. Hoping he'd leave Shay. Feeling the weight of the wait. The carmine-hot wanting. I would've heard him if he hadn't said a word.
We were fixing to get on the elevators and I didn't even turn around. I was thinking maybe I'll be fast as you—knowing someday Tuck'd write a song about this. Knowing I'd finally planted a seed back there somewhere and now all I had to do was sun it and water it and be as patient as patient could be. I looked down at Emmylou and said say thank you, Daddy. Then I said it too, like a good girl. Kinda slow. Meant it.
Thank you, Daddy.
Song: Fast As You by Dwight Yoakam
Illustration by Patrick Moran
Patrick Moran was born in Chicago, now living in Austin, TX. He has been making art most of his life but recently discovered a passion for illustration and finds time everyday to create something new. He is searching for an opportunity to see the world from other point of views, and then reflect that view in his art.
Leesa Cross-Smith is the author of the story collection Every Kiss a War (Mojave River Press, 2014) and the forthcoming novel Whiskey & Ribbons (Hub City Press, 2018). She is also the editor of WhiskeyPaper. Her work has appeared in Best Small Fictions. She loves baseball and musicals. Find more @ LeesaCrossSmith.com and WhiskeyPaper.com.