My cousin Colton Welles was starting to get up on Thurman's last nerve. Thurman and Burney's romance was heating up at a pretty good pace, and Colton didn't seem to want to notice. He was always over at her house and pestering her while hanging out with her brothers.
When she got up for breakfast in the morning, he was there eating with her brothers. When she came home at night, he'd be sitting out front with Oogie. She'd be at work, and he'd make it a habit to swing by there too.
One day, she'd gone to Hartford to buy some clothes, and Colton just happened to bump into her by accident in the women's clothing department of a store. He told her he had gotten lost while looking to buy himself some underwear. She told Thurman that Colton was the only male creature in whole store and gave off the appearance of starving wolf among a herd of sheep.
"There was this madness in his eyes that scared all the ladies who saw him."
Thurman asked, "Did he scare you too?"
"Hell no! He put a hand on me, and I would've scratched his damned eyes out."
It was making Thurman furious, but for Uncle Bill's sake, he was keeping his temper under control. One day though, he was coming off of work and happened to see Colton and Oogie standing out in front of Billy Lee's house. Billy Lee worked with Thurman at the Wellbos Farms's tractor shop. Thurman pulled over to the side of the road and flipped a U and headed back to where they were standing. Colton saw Thurman turn around, and he and Oogie beelined into the house, a tiny little two bedroom green painted cabin with a wide porch. When Thurman knocked on the scarred and battered red door of the house, Billy Lee acted like Colton wasn't there.
Thurman pounded on the door, and Billy Lee answered without opening the closed red door.
"Billy, this is Thurman. I want to talk to Colton."
"He ain't here, Thurm. I ain't seen him in a while."
"Then why's his car parked in your driveway?"
"I couldn't tell you. I just got up. Worked an all nighter."
"Fuck you say, I was there not ten minutes ago when you got off of work. Why don't open the door and talk to me face to face?'
"My wife would have my ass, Thurm. The house's a complete mess, man. She told me before she left for work a minute ago don't be letting nobody in."
"Billy Lee, I just saw Colton and Oogie both go in there."
There was a long silence before Billy answered. Thurman could hear the anxious whispering coming from inside. "I don't know about that, Thurm. Ain't nobody in here but me and my wife. Like I said, I ain't seen Colton in a good, long spell, or Oogie for that matter."
"You just told me your wife went to work. You do know that you going to have to face me tomorrow at work?"
There was another long silence. Billy Lee had to be weighing the consequences of his actions out. He worked at the same place Thurman worked and couldn't help running into him in the course of a day.
Thurman got tired of waiting for Billy to tell him another lie, "Billy Lee, you can deliver Colton a message from me if you see him?"
"Yeah! I can do that."
"Good. You can tell him he can keep his ass away from Burney Bush."
After a moment, he asked, "And iffn he don't?"
"Just give him the fucking message. Yeah, and tell him he got two fucking tires flat." With that Thurman stepped off of the porch and walked over to where Colton's car was parked. He pulled a tool out of the pocket of his work coat and removed the valve stem from the left front tire of Colton's green Ford sedan.
The door to Billy Lee's house suddenly jerked open and Colton came out on the porch followed by Oogie. A scared Billy Lee hung in the doorway. He was about 6'2" but was skinny as a rail, He was balding on top and wore his thin blond hair in comb over. He was still in his dirty work clothes.
"Don't you dare touch my car fucker!" Colton screamed from the porch. He had a hammer in his right hand.
Thurman went around to other side of the car and let the air out of that tire too. Then he acted like he hadn't heard Colton or noticed the hammer.
"What was that you was saying, Billy?"
The question caught Billy by surprise, " I didn't say nothing, Thurm. That was Colton talking."
"Now that kind of confuses me. I don't how Colton could be talking when he ain't here. You just swore that you ain't seen him."
Billy just stood there in the doorway with a dumbass look on his face. Colton was tense and gripping the hammer tightly. He didn't speak though but just stood there staring daggers at Thurman.
Thurman stared at him defiantly daring Colton to say something else. Colton was mad, but he was scared too. He knew about Thurman's reputation as a fighter and generally prefered to do his own fighting from the back or coming out of the dark. He looked over at Oogie, and, at that point in time, Oogie probably looked about as stupid as he had ever looked in his life, and that was a pretty high bar to beat.
Thurman took stock of the situation and finally turned on his heel and walked back to his truck. He opened the door, but before he stepped in, he turned back and said something. Thurman was looking right at Colton, but he was addressing Billy Lee, "Billy, whenever you see Colton. You might want to tell him to be careful where he parks his car. Someone poked two holes on Billy John's tires just the other night. There's surely some stupid people in this world."
Billy stepped out from the doorway, and started to tell Thurman that he could deliver the message to Colton hisself, as he was standing right in front of him, but before he could even get started, Colton raised the hammer at him.
Thurman lips curled into a grim smile, "Will you give him that message, Billy?"
Billy Lee looked over at Colton, and threw up his hands in frustration, "I'll see that he gets it."
That incident didn't stop Colton from bothering Burney though. He just went on about his business like it never happened. Uncle Bill came and mentioned it. He said that Colton told him that Thurman had flattened his tires out of spite and should be required to pay to fix them. Thurman explained how Colton had been bothering Burney and how he had poked holes in my tires. Thurman said that Uncle Billy came near to crying over the frustrations that his boy was causing him.
"I know the boy's a damned fool, Thurm, but he's my only son."
"Maybe he'll change some day, Uncle. Mama used to say that long as we draw breath, there's hope."
Uncle Billy smiled sadly and mumbled, "Your Mama was a good hearted woman, but a lot a good it did her." He then reached out and placed his hand on Thurman's shoulder, "You all be careful, Thurman. There's no telling what that crazy fool might do."
The whole mess got a little bit weirder that same night. Burney stopped by for breakfast the next morning and told us that Colton had woken her up about two in the morning by serenading her from under her bedroom window."
"Serenading? Was he drunk?" Thurman asked loudly.
"Sure looked it. I heard this noise, and looked out of window, and there he was strumming on a guitar and singing."
I was curious, "What song was he singing?"
Burney laughed, "That song that Bing Crosby sings. It went like this, 'Someday, when I'm awfully low, And the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you, And the way you look tonight.'"
Thurman's eyes turn stormy then. I could almost see little flashes of lightning in them, and his cheeks turned fire red.
I thought the whole thing was kind of funny, "How did he sound?"
Burney saw how jealous Thurman was getting and decided to have a little fun with him. "I don't know. It sounded kinda nice, I guess. I really ain't got nothing to judge it by. I ain't never had nobody serenade me before. He woke daddy up too."
It kept getting better, "What did your daddy do?"
"He came out with a gun to see what was making the dogs bark, and when he saw it was Colton singing outside my window, he said, "Boy if you gonna sing, least sing something by Jimmy Rogers. Then he turned around and went back inside and turned the lights back off."
Thurman snapped, "Well, what did you do then?"
"I didn't know what else to do, so I just thanked him."
"You thanked him!"
"I was just being polite, Thurman." When that answer didn't suit Thurman, he grunted loudly and sat back hard in his chair with his arms folded tightly across his chest. Burney got a little mad herself and told him, "I didn't know what else to do. Like I said, I never been serenaded by a man before. It caught me a little off guard. It ain't like it ever crossed your mind that a gal would like to be serenaded a time or two in her life."
I thought that Thurman was going to blow a gasket then. Instead, he stood up, and threw his napkin down on the table, and stormed out of the room. It surprised the rest of us, Mr. Jenks watched the whole thing with his mouth hanging open. We heard a door slam, and then we started laughing at once.
That night Thurman woke me up out of a dead sleep and had me drive him over to Burney's house. When we pulled up, everthing was quiet and all the lights were out. He quietly opened the back door of the car and pulled out a guitar. I didn't know where the hell he had got one, or if he could even play one.
The rusty gate screeched a little when he opened it and walked over to the side of the house where Burney's upstairs bedroom was located. There was just enough of a moon that I could make him out. Damned if he didn't start strumming that guitar like he knew where he was going. He sang for a bit and nothing happened, so he started singing louder.
Then suddenly the lights came on in the window above his head. Seconds later, a window opened and Burney appeared. She was wearing a white gown, and her long brown hair hung down across her shoulders. I could make out her laughing eyes and her bright smile even in the dark.
Turns out my big brother had a surprisingly pleasant voice. He sang, " I'd sigh for you, yes, I'd even cry for you, yes, I'd tear the stars down from the skies for you, If that isn't love, well skip it, it'll have to do, until the real thing comes along."
I didn't even know that Thurman even liked music much less could play a guitar and sing. He never seemed to listen to any music on his own. I recognized the tune because it played on the radio at the cafe all the time, and Jeannie would sing along with it whenever it came on.
Thurman was still singing when the front door opened and Mr. Bush came outside in his pajamas and a dark blue bathrobe. He saw me sitting in the car and walked over to the fence.
"Billy John, how long you think this silliness is gonna last?"
"Wish I knew. I need some sleep."
"Well, if keeps up much longer, I might have to put up some bleachers and charge tickets." With that, he turned round and walked back, slipped inside the house, and shut the door.
Thurman and Burney talked a while after he quit singing, and about ten minutes later, he gently placed the guitar back into the back seat and jumped into the front beside me. He wearing a great big ol smile that lit up his face.
I just looked at him, "Damn, Thurman you just one big assed mystery after another, ain't you. I didn't know you could play the guitar. And how you know the words to a Fats Waller song?"
"There's a lot of things you don't know about me, baby brother. Now let's go home and get some sleep."
I backed slowly out of the driveway, pulled onto the road, and turned on the headlights. There was this big Eucalyptus tree on the corner of the Bush property. Damned if Colton Welles wasn't sitting astraddle it with his angry eyes and unsmiling face just a screaming that he wasn't very happy at all.