‘Counselor 13, please report to reception…’

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A scene from “Easy Rider,” written by Terry Southern, co-founder of “The Paris Review” – from Alvarado, Texas, who also wrote “Dr. Strangelove,” The Magic Christian, and Candy, as well as “Red Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes”

BIKERS HAVE VOWED TO COME TO WACO AND ASSEMBLE AT BELLMEAD AT 8 A.M. ON SUNDAY, JUNE 7, IN ORDER TO FORM UP AND RIDE INTO, THROUGH, AROUND, AND AROUND, AND AROUND, AND AROUND WACO UNTIL HIGH NOON, WHEN THEY WILL STOP FOR LUNCH, THEN REASSMBLE AT THE MCLENNAN COUNTY COURTHOUSE FOR A ‘SILENT PROTEST.’ TRUE STORY. LOOK IT UP.

Six Shooter – I don’t think of Skippy as a Doctor. He’s an old boy I used to play with when we were little kids, long ago, in another country with the same name as this one, located in the same place, but somehow – very distant. Remote.

I ran into him yesterday evening on what our great grandparents knew as the Chisholm Trail, where it skirts Castle Heights and moseys on toward the Brazos ford downtown. Blacksmith row, a place to trade wagons, horses and mules, get harness fixed, take a bath, drink a beer, get a shave – all that.

He stopped to chat about the way the mass shooting at Twin Peaks makes him feel – and how he thinks about it.

While we talked, a lady walked up to him in the shopping center parking lot and asked, “Has anyone ever told you you look just like Kenny Rogers?”

Can’t sing a lick,” he told her. “But I can play my radio real loud.” He made her laugh. Made her day. She went away happy.

That’s the Skippy I know, the Skippy of the baseball field and the creek, the playground and swimming pool. He knew more Speedy Gonzales jokes than anyone else, back in junior high. 

I said I’m concerned because every time the Legislature is mixed up in something about the laws regarding these dad-blasted pistolas, the police and the federales get right exercised, involved and – well, plumb violent. Think Branch Davidian. Just think.

He agreed.

But then he said, “Why does that surprise you, Jim? This place,” he said, gesturing at the old trail that’s now Franklin Avenue, the trees on the hill, the blue sky and the parking lot, the used car dealerships, the storefronts – “is what they call Six Shooter Junction. It’s always been a very, very violent place.”

He let that sink in.

You see, Skippy works at one of those nameless, faceless alphabet soup agencies of the State of Texas, in an office painted the most neutral shade of beige you’ve ever seen, but don’t even remember, in a cubicle, where he classifies people and their behavior.

He’s a psychologist.

I read psychological profiles every day – all day – without fail. That’s my job.”

He laughed out loud. You get to thinking there’s few surprises in the world when it comes to the games people play – at least, not for Skippy.

Then he brightened up, and said, “Just the other day, I heard them say on the PA, ‘Counselor 13, please report to reception…’ I’m Counselor 13. I’m the chief counselor, and my code is Counselor 13 when they need me for something.”

The receptionist had hit the panic button.

I get up there and this big old boy was standing up there raising hell. Blocking up everything. Couldn’t get clients in, couldn’t get them out. Just scaring the daylights out of everybody.

I told him, ‘Look here, partner, don’t make me have to handle this. We don’t want to have to do that. I’ll have to call those old police and you know they just love to mistreat people like you, beat them up and hurt them, put them in jail – all that. If you don’t get your ass out of here and leave us all alone, I’m gonna have to do that.”

He waited for my response.

Yew dawg! Did you really do that, man?”

Yeah! Then the old boy said, ‘You’re the one they’re looking for in that double murder over at Baylor, aren’t you?’ I told him, ‘I sure as hell am, and I’m fixing to call the law on you – right now.’”

So, the old boy left – peacefully. End of story. That’s Skippy for you.

I recalled a similar story told over coffee a few years back, about a young black man who desired a confrontation at Skippy’s office.

It wasn’t his first rodeo,” Skippy said. “He’d been in the pen for multiple stretches. This dude came in wearing a pair of cutoffs and some tennies – nothing else – and he had his whole body completely coated with Vaseline! Hair and face and arms, legs, torso – everything. There was no way they could get ahold of him.”

He belly laughed and got in what he calls his “lesbian truck” because it’s a compact model – American made with a Japanese drive train – the kind his daughter – a softball enthusiast – says all the daughters of Sappho who play competitive softball on Dallas diamonds drive. He’s been driving it for at least 20 years I know of.

Then he paused and delivered this chilling line. “Oh, the law, they get on TV and do all this tough talking because they know people like to hear all that, but, you know, those old boys watching, some of them, they’re gonna take that motorcycle home and take off that leather jacket or turn it inside out and get that rifle and come back in their cars.” He nodded with assurance.

Then, he got happy again – and got to laughing.

He was still laughing when he drove away.

It was as good for me as getting a birthday card from a home that somehow just is not there any more, except in the minds of certain men and women of an age – from a place that still exists – but only in their minds. You can’t live there, but it’s a really swell place to visit because when you’re there, you are allowed to truly act your age.

Like Yogi Berra said, “This is deja vu all over again.” He’s right.

 

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