Andy Roberts is a singing star in Nashville, Tennessee. He is sitting in a bar drinking and wanting only solitude, but an insistent reporter keeps interrupting his thoughts. So far, we know that Andy Roberts isn’t his real name and we know he lost his father to a coal mining accident when he was a young boy. He has a little brother, Timmy, who is mentally disabled and a sister, April, who is beautiful with long dark hair and violet eyes. When his father died, his mother fell into a deep depression and stopped functioning for the family. Let’s check back in and see how things are going. When we left them, Andy was about ready to punch the reporter in the face for insisting that Andy tell him his real name.
No kid should have to go through life as Norbert Angus. If I lived to be a hundred years old, I’d never understand what possessed Mama and Papa. At least, Papa had shortened it to Bert, but that wasn’t much better in my way of thinking.
From the corner of my eye, I spotted a voluptuous brunette who wiggled through the barroom door. For a split second our eyes met and she tugged at the fringed sequined tank top giving me an unobstructed view of her cleavage.
I sighed and looked away. It was all the same. The shows, the reporters, the whiskey, the women and worst of all, the memories…the memories that haunt me and won’t let me be.
The day the welfare lady returned to take Timmy was the one time I saw Mama show a spark of who she’d once been. She grabbed the lady’s dress screaming at the top of her lungs, fighting for her child. Timmy’s wails only added to the chaos. But, in the end, the welfare lady won and stuffed Timmy into the back seat of the Ford, spinning rocks and dirt as she took off.
We never saw him again. Guilt and shame rolled over me in waves as I gripped the whiskey glass, finally setting it down before I shattered it. Here I am, a big Nashville singing star, and never once have I tried to find Timmy.
Not long after that horrible day, April married the first soldier that came along and moved to Toledo, leaving just Mama and me. The memory of Papa placing his hand on my shoulder a few days before he died, and making me promise to take care of Mama, April and Timmy if anything happened to him, stuck in the back of my throat now like a bitter quinine pill. I failed him. I failed myself and I failed Mama.
The awkwardness of those days that followed would be forever branded in my mind. The way Mama stared through dull eyes into nothingness, the way I made clumsy attempts to feed us and the way I longed to escape.
Within a few months, Mama took to the bed sick. She never got up again.
Just before my fourteenth birthday, I was an orphan, facing the world alone.
The reporter’s whine jarred me as he dove into his second beer. “I understand that you came from Kentucky, Mr. Roberts. How did you get all the way to Nashville?”
I pushed the memories aside and faced Lewis. “I walked.”
“Walked?” He scribbled furiously.
“Got a hearing problem, Lewis? After my mama died, I went to Toledo to live with my older sister and her husband. I was almost fifteen when I struck out for Nashville. All I had were the clothes on my back and a beat-up Harmony guitar.”
“That’s a hard walk.” He took a long draw from his mug.
“You have no idea.”
TO BE CONTINUED……….