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Saturday Night at Willie’s Bar and Grill

by Ron Van Sweringen

Saturday nights were special; that’s when the real Tyra Moss came to life. Gone were the boring days of work, her faded waitress uniform and Tucker’s diner at the crossroads of Route 45 and Grand Street, in Hopscotch Texas. In their place was Tyra Moss the entertainer, a potential Star Search winner. “Just give me a little while, I’ll get there,” she told herself, checking out her makeup in the restroom of Willie’s Bar and Grill on Saturday night.

Her lips were better this week; she was getting the hang of it. The eyelashes were better also. She still wasn’t happy with the shape of her eyebrows, but a little more tweezing would take care of that. The teeth whitener had done wonders for her smile.

“You’re gorgeous, baby,” she whispered to the cracked restroom mirror. And she was, as far as every horny cowpoke within twenty miles of Hopscotch, Texas, was concerned. It was Saturday night and Tyra Moss was ready to be a star again in the world of cold beer and cigarette smoke.

Willie Williams shoved the restroom door open abruptly, without knocking. “Shucks,” he smiled, his fifty-year old sun-dried cheeks wrinkling up, “thought I might catch you in the middle of somethin’ interestin’.”

Willie was the owner of Willie’s Bar and Grill and the master of ceremonies for the show every Saturday night. Willie also owned the roamingest pair of hands in west Texas where good-looking women were concerned.

Tyra’s knee had arrived in his crotch unexpectedly the first night she worked there, putting him out of commission for a week and establishing her line in the sand once and for all. She wasn’t putting out, at least not when she was only getting $25 a show. After all, this was 1952 and she was a star in Hopscotch, Texas.

“OK, honey, fifteen minutes,” Willie announced. “Let’s knock ‘em dead tonight.”

Buck Ballon stood in the doorway to Willie’s Bar and Grill that Saturday night. He was 25 years old and a handsome cowpoke in his white shirt with a Texas longhorn embroidered on the chest. He almost glowed under the Christmas-tree lights strung from the ceiling.

The three Scraggly Brothers were hard at work on the bandstand, giving out with their rendition of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” to a packed house.

“Let’s do ’er,” Buck said to himself, checking the shine on his lizard-skin boots. He was tall and built like a T-square, with shoulders that grow only in Texas; girls were always hanging on him. He made his way to the bar, found a space and ordered a beer.

As usual, at nine o’clock Willie opened the show with a song, backed up by the Scraggly Brothers. The music was loud and country, and that’s all that mattered. Folks were dancing elbow to elbow without room enough for a flea to fart.

Tyra caught Buck’s attention through the crowd and waved him over. He made his way toward her with a broad smile. “Howdy, ma’am,” he drawled on purpose, thinking it made him sound like John Wayne .

Tyra smiled at him; he was even more handsome close up. “Look me up after the show, cowboy, I might have a surprise for you.” She winked and headed for the stage.

The cigarette smoke in the bar was thick enough to stuff a mattress. A huge cheer went up when Tyra strutted onto the stage. The cheer became a roar as she unzipped the top of her costume.

Then she began her act with both batons flaming and her 36-C’s bouncing. By the time Tyra had the pie tin balanced on her chin, the room exploded. Cowboys were standing on chairs, their hats sailing through the air. Buck had never seen anything like it. “Hot damn,” he shouted.

Everything was going fine until Tyra missed one of her flaming batons. She reached for it and missed the other baton, which bounced against a wall covered with crepe paper and cardboard decorations. The wall instantly burst into flames.

The first baton had already ignited the stage curtains, and orange flames began eating their way up the walls. Tables went over amid screams as men and women climbed over each other to escape the racing fire.

Tyra was huddled on the stage floor, fire all around her. Buck made his way along a far wall and up the few steps to the stage. Just as he reached Tyra, an overhead rafter started to give way. Buck whisked her up just in time, the rafter missing them by inches. She was clinging to him when they made it out of the building.

“This wasn’t the surprise I had in mind,” she said, gulping for air.

“Shucks, ma’am.” Buck smiled, looking at his smoking lizard boots. ”It’ll do for starters.”

Copyright © 2013 by Ron Van Sweringen

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