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▶  More from Fiction The Filthy Few
The Song in Joey’s Head
Coconut Groove: The Filthy Few, Chapter 1, Bookmark 2

East on Sample Road

“I Am Not Your Rolling Wheels” was the part of the song he could remember. The other stuff that went into a song, well, he couldn’t exactly remember it, but sure could remember how it felt listening to it, especially while he ran.

Joey Bennett needed a song when he went for a run to cut down on the feelings of retardedness that had accompanied his efforts at road work, ever since Coach Johns back at Duck River High had shouted when he ran past, “Run, Forest, Run!”

Joey had been too busy hiding from Dad and from Mom’s boyfriend and Dad’s girl friend’s brother, when he was a kid, to have much TV experience—which he had always supposed was the reason for him being “slow on the up-take” as Vince would say, not having had all that TV learning like the people he looked up to and feared. But he had just known that Coach Johns was making fun of his stride by the way everybody laughed.

So one day, in the school locker room, Joey, he had hit that big funny maker—and don’t you know, Coach Johns wasn’t put together no better than that trailer door that Little Joey had tried to hide behind when Mom’s boyfriend had come a hunting him.

In any case, running to that painful singing man song in his head had always made him feel a little bit like Rocky—which was the only documentary he had ever seen—enough to inspire his trip to the gym after he had got out of Stayover School. Stayover School hadn’t been so bad—nobody teased him in Stayover School. A dude might mess with him, but then it was just a matter of doing again what had gotten him into Stayover School that ended all of that fuss.

“Run Forest, Run!” came the call from the three little dudes in the pickup truck, and Joey ran all the harder, back to that supermarket, back to that Gatorade, elated that somebody down here knew him when he was running—just like back home, and in Stayover School—which were not so bad once you got used to it.

The coaches at Stayover School used to let Joey run all day around the fenced track, and well, those boys used to yell, “Run Forest Run” also, but he didn’t take it personal. It was probably just something a mean-old grownup had taught them, like Coach Johns for instance.

He felt kind of bad about Coach Johns sometimes. Why did he have to look so much like Mom’s boyfriend? And why did all of the big meanies seem to have heads made out of plastic?

“Whew, whew, sexy!” came a yell from a convertible load of hot school babes. Joey just waved and picked up the speed, almost back to the supermarket lot as he was. Joey was so intent on his run that he ignored the two cute chicks crossing the street in front of him—and then they crossed it behind him—Joey Bennett was that fast! His hands might not be fast, but his feet sure were.

Damn he felt good, like the world had turned to rain and just rolled off his back—sweating good. Then he remembered what Coach George had always said about sweating being a waste of time if you didn’t wipe it off. You had to wipe your sweat off. But he only had the one shirt and it was wet.

“Darn, I’m all soggy,” moaned Joey as he pushed the beading sweat off of his smooth head and turned at the head of the parking lot to admire his work, that hard run down that stretch of asphalt. He had conquered ground, "ate up space" just like Coach George said you always did in the ring, if you were a winner. He had started off by running from a gurgling ghost down that long road, across which the two little blonde honeys in their hot pants and bikini tops had crossed behind him.

A dude might as well take a look.

Joey’s chest heaved like a sail with its belly full of wind. An older fellow rode by in a white convertible and said, “Nice run, son—real nice run.”

Joey nodded respectfully, his hands on his knees and gazed back down the way he had run, at those tight little butts bending over on the berm.

About two hundred yards back down the road the two cute girls in their scanty attire were picking something up off the ground and looking at it in amazement, like they had found a fairytale palace or something. Then they screamed like the ladies did when they had won something on The Price is Right and pumped their feet like they were running in place, extended their arms, hugged each other and did a merry-go-round dance, hopping around in a squealing circle like the two happiest girls in the world.

Momentarily Joey wished that he could make a girl that happy one day.

“Wow, it must be nice ta find…”

Joey’s voice drifted off as he patted the pockets of his new cargo shorts and discovered—nothing. Both front pockets were empty. All that cash Vince had gave him to keep himself out of trouble was gone—and there went the two pretty little girls skipping back across the street, holding hands like the faggot lion, the plastic man and Dorothy, skipping down the Yellow Brick Road to wherever pretty girls with stacks of cash went.

Joey went numb, could barely stand, let alone walk. He couldn’t go beating up no women for his money and that’s the only way you got money—at least that kind of money—from those that carried it. Maw Maw said a man never hit no woman—not even Mom—though she deserved it some.

“Dude, you're such a dummy! Vince is gonna be pissed!”

Joey wrung his hands, slapped his forehead and paced in a small circle.

Then he saw the supermarket. It just so happened that Vince had hired him when he saw him packing groceries into cars at the Krogers back home. Granted, he didn’t work here at this Publix place, but he could get a couple bucks, at least enough for a Gatorade. Then he could call Vince.

“Darn, callin' Vince is goin' ta be so embarrassin'.”

Just like that Joey's worries washed away, which was perhaps the only really good thing about being Joey Bennett—that once you set your mind on a straight line, all that stuff other folks habitually fussed about faded into the vast inner distance that Maw Maw had always called Nevermind.

Joey Bennett had a plan for making it through the day, which was better than most people had, he reflected; some people didn’t even make it through the day, a sad some of them leaving it the hard way.

Reverent Chandler: The Saga of Fend

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