Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction

STELLA STONE

V1

COUNTRY HEAVEN

Stella sat on the little stool in front of her dresser and took one more look at her hair and makeup. She decided that it would have to do and stuck her make up kit in her overnight bag and walked to the front of her house. She giggled to herself and thought,

Stella you’re acting like a sixteen year old getting ready for her first date.

While this would not be her very first date, it was the first in a very long time. In fact she hadn’t gone out with a man since Ted’s helicopter went down in Iraq. Stella had been a Marine Captain commanding a MP Company and Ted Lowry flew Cobra’s for the 101st Airborne. They met and fell in love in the middle of combat and his death was shattering.

She was lost in memories when she heard a car pull into her driveway. She looked out the window and saw a shiny Ford F150 with L&S Hauling painted on the door. She picked up her bag and locked the front door behind her just as a tall, dark haired man stepped to the lawn. He grinned and said,

“Let me help you with that bag,”

Winston, “Bubba” Lovejoy took her overnight bag and stowed in the back seat. He held the door and helped Stella into the jacked up truck, then said,

“Well, good morning Miss Stone, we’re off to see Willie. I brought a cup of coffee in case you missed yours, didn’t know how you took it, so it’s black.”

“Good morning, Winston, thanks, black is just fine and I’ll make you a deal, you call me Stella and I’ll call you Bubba.”

“That’ll work for me, I almost called you deputy.”

Stella was a deputy sheriff in Barksdale County Mississippi and Bubba co-owned a trucking and towing business in Leesburg, the county seat. They were on their first date, an overnight trip to Nashville, to see Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Emmy Lou Harris in concert.

Bubba turned north on U.S.45 and headed toward Corinth and Stella said,

“I’m glad Betty and Burt decided to go yesterday, we’ll have the time to get a little better acquainted.”

“I’m glad you insisted that I give the other two tickets to Betty, she and my momma are good friends and she and Burt have wanted to spend a weekend at Opryland since it opened. We’ll see them at the dinner before the concert. Since we’re going to get to know each other, tell me a little about you.”

“There’s not that much to tell. Grew up in Ruleville, over in the Delta, went to Mississippi State and majored in criminal justice. When I graduated I took my ROTC commission in the Marine Corp. Did two tours in Iraq with a MP unit and ended up here as one of Willard’s deputies. You know the rest, how about you?”

“Not nearly as exciting I fear, I finished high school in Leesburg and you know about my brief career as a cornerback at State. I could read the quarterbacks eyes, but had trouble reading text books. I’d join the Guard in high school, Leesburg had an engineering company and we did a tour in Afghanistan. I was a truck drive and decided to stick with it after my enlistment. Junior Swafford and I started L&S Hauling when he got hurt and ended his NFL career.”

They continued talking about their lives as the miles clicked by and soon they passed the U.S. 70 exit just outside of Nashville. The couple of hour trip had passed pleasantly and Stella found that Bubba was witty, intelligent and interesting. She had expected an egotistical meathead but found herself having a good time.

Bubba turned off I-40 at the Broadway exit and turned south and took the West End Avenue split. When he pulled into the Loew’s Vanderbilt Plaza hotel she arched her eyebrows and said,

“Hey, dude, you went all out, this is the most expensive place in Nashville.”

“I figured, what the hell, after the VIP tickets; why not let it all hang out.”

“I’ll chip in on the expenses; this whole thing must have cost a small fortune. I know what those tickets ran. I’m not a cheap date, but I’m not Madonna either.”

“No, you’re a whole lot prettier than Madonna and probably have a lot less baggage.”

“Don’t count on that, but we’ll discuss the expenses later, now we need to get checked in and give me time to get ready. The dinner at the Ryman is at six and I’ll barely have enough time.”

“Gilding the lily shouldn’t take long.”

“My Bubba, you might just turn a girl’s head with your sweet talking.”

“Just calling it the way I see it.”

They checked in and agreed to meet in the bar at 5:30. Bubba took a shower and changed into starched jeans an open collared dress shirt and a linen sport coat. He made sure he had the tickets and went down to the bar. He took a stool and ordered a draft beer and checked out the crowd.

The bar was about half full with a mixture of health care executives in suits and country music people in all sorts of outfits. There was a piano player on the small stage playing lounge music and the fading sunlight lit the scene. He was taking the last sip of his draft when Stella came to the door from the lobby. One look and he knew that every dollar had been well spent.

Stella strolled across the bar in a classic little black dress. Her hair was down around her shoulders and she glowed with youth and natural beauty. Every male in the room followed her as she walked up to Bubba. He stood and held the bar stool for her and said,

“That was some entrance; I’m surprised you weren’t asked for an autograph.”

“Hey, if you got it, flaunt it. I don’t get to dress up much at home.”

“I’ll be lucky to get you out of here alive. I can feel the vibes from all of the wanna be alpha males.”

“I’m not worried, if you can’t handle them then I can.”

“I bet you can at that. I just finished a beer, I’d say we’d have another but we need to get to the Ryman.”

Bubba had the parking valet bring the truck around, tipped him $5.00 in spite of the outrageous daily valet fee of $45.00. They followed the traffic on West End across the interstate and pulled into the valet parking signs at the Ryman. A slim young man who looked to be about thirteen took his keys and Bubba thought,

Hope he can see over the dashboard,

They were met at the door by a pretty young woman who introduced herself as Maggie Lee. Maggie asked them to follow her and she led them through the ornate lobby to a set of double doors. They entered a private dining room with three tables set for six people each. Maggie led them to a table near another piano player, looked at the place cards and said,

“Mr. Lovejoy, you and Miss Stone are here.”

She held Stella’s chair while Bubba sat next to her. When the young woman left Stella snuck a look at the place card next to her and said,

“We’ve been seated with some folks we won’t know, Kris and Lisa.”

Bubba checked the cards on his side of the table and replied,

“Well at least we’ll know Betty and Burt, they are our other couple.”

Just then Betty and Burt Buford were escorted in along with several other couples. The Buford’s found their seats and Betty said,

“Hope we’re not late, Burt got lost on the interstate in spite of my expert navigating, he’s used to driving tractors on gravel roads and pavement baffles him.”

Burt laughed and said,

“As a GPS system, Betty would make a good pump handle. All she did was scream recalculate, recalculate.”

Betty saw the two empty places and asked,

“Who else did you invite?”

“Nobody seems we’re to be joined by a couple called Kris and Lisa who must have sprung for the VIP deal too.”

A waiter came up and asked for drink orders and before he returned they were joined by slender man with a longish gray hair and a neatly trimmed beard with a handsome brunette on his arm. He smiled and asked,

“Do you mind if we join you? I’m Kris Kristofferson and this is my wife Lisa.”

Bubba seized the moment, stood and said,

“We’re honored to have y’all. This beautiful young lady is Stella Stone and these folks are Betty and Burt Buford. I’m Bubba Lovejoy and we’re all from Leesburg, Mississippi.”

Kristofferson held his wife’s seat, sat down and said,

“I actually know where Leesburg is, I passed through on way to a concert at Mississippi State University in the eighties.”

Bubba looked out of the corner of his eye and saw Betty staring with her mouth wide open and a stunned look on her face. He smiled and said,

“This is an unexpected treat. Betty is one of your most devoted fans, while I really came to see Willie and Emmy Lou.”

Lisa Kristofferson giggled and said,

“Me too, Willie is my favorite singer and songwriter.”

Kristofferson laughed and quipped,

“Yeah and Rita is my favorite ex-wife.”

“Too bad she dumped you,” Lisa retorted, then added,

“You know I have to have a thick skin and a good sense of self to follow in the footsteps of Janis Joplin, Barbara Streisand and Rita Coolidge, and those are just the ladies he admits to.”

Kristofferson raised his glass to Lisa and said,

“To the love of my l life. Third time was charm.”

He turned to Betty and said,

“I understand that you and Stella work in law enforcement.”

Betty blushed and said,

“Well, Stella does, I’m only a dispatcher.”

“You get the troops to the scene and that’s an important job, but I do recognize that Miss Stone is on the pointy end of the stick, like last year when she broke up the robbery at the Shell Station.”

Everyone looked stunned and Kristofferson laughed saying,

“No, I’m not clairvoyant; we have staffers who prepare background material on the folks we sit with. For instance I know Mr. Lovejoy won a Silver Star when his truck hit an IED. He pulled his men from the burning wreckage and fought off the tribesmen until help could come.”

Bubba looked sheepishly and said,

“Mr. Kristofferson, you ought to know that Burt was in Saigon when the North took over and had to walk out to Thailand, took him almost a year.”

“You’re right, I read the book he wrote, “My Stroll through the Jungle,” and I loved it.”

They looked around the room and saw that Willie Nelson and Emmy Lou Harris had joined their tables and everyone seemed to be relaxed and at ease. Dinner was served and when the coffee came, Kristofferson stood and said,

“I’ve got to go get dressed for our performance; may Lisa stay and have dessert with y’all?”

Stella grinned and said,

“I’ve been hoping you’d say that, I can’t wait to hear all about the real Kris Kristofferson, but promise me one thing before you go.”

“Of course, what can I do for you?”

Promise me that you’ll sing “Me and Bobby Magee.”

Kristofferson smiled and replied,

“I promise, just for you.’

After finishing dessert and coffee they were led to the main auditorium of the Ryman. The Ryman is unusual in that it doesn’t seats, put pews. They were seated in the middle pew on the top deck, one of the best seats in the house.

All three of the performers came into spot light and sang Willie’s On the Road Again then Willie did his rendition of Crazy and Kris followed with Help Me Make it Through the Night. Emmylou sang Save the Last Dance for Me. The audience loved it and so did the artist.

After intermission Willie sang Pretty Paper then the spotlight fell on him alone as he sang his version of Stardust. Kris and Emmylou did a duo of For the Good Times then Kris took the spotlight, held up his hand and said,

“This next song was a special request from a lovely gal from Mississippi, Stella Stone,” and he broke into Me and Bobby Magee. The audience stood clapping and stomping as the three performers left the stage. Soon all three returned and started singing Will the Circle be Unbroken and the audience joined in.

When the last of the applause had died down they returned to the private room and everyone had a chance to visit with all three. Bubba and Stella had their picture taken with each of the artist and Betty had one made kissing Willie Nelson on the lips. After an hour or so the performers thanked everyone for coming and blew the room a goodnight kiss.

Later, sitting in the bar of the Vanderbilt Plaza Stella looked at the autographed photo of she and Bubba standing with Lisa and Kris Kristofferson and said,

“Bubba Lovejoy, this has been one of the best nights of my life, thanks for asking me to come.”

Bubba smiled and said,

“Me too, and it’s going to be a challenge to come up with something for a second date.”

Stella smiled and said,

“Let’s go to the baseball game next weekend in Starkville, States playing LSU and I’ve got tickets in the left field lounge.”

 

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Categories: Flash Fiction

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