Henry at home in his Queens digs, writing all afternoon, thinking mostly about a road trip somewhere, anywhere, he needed to break out of his pattern, onward, outward and beyond.
He would take a bus to Florida— a sacred paean in honor of Ratso Rizzo's and Joe Buck's great escape from the frigidity of New York City soul in the winter.
In Henry’s north land, it was somewhere between 1970 and 1980, in the winter.
He packed an old Boy-scout bag. He didn’t need much, a few pairs of chinos, some t-shirts, a pair of Converse All Stars, hiking boots, and a Mexican poncho.
Henry goes straight to the Queen’s bus station from his apartment in the evening, buying a ticket on the night bus to Miami.
It would be a 4 day ride through the Mason-Dixon Line to a place where a coconut and pineapple could grow.
The bus was half full, he sits in the rear by the toilet— just a few steps away if he needed to puke.
As the bus begins to roll he could hear the sounds of the diesel engine as the driver shifted through the gears. It felt good to escape the city, soon the bus was at the Pennsylvania and New York State line.
Henry sitting alone pulls a 8 ball of brown junk out of his pocket and snorts a few lines, the lights in the bus are dimmed so people could sleep. He washes the heroin down with some Jack Daniels from a flask.
The junk knocks him out and he sleeps for half a day, when he wakes the bus is pulling into Hampton, Virginia. Henry gets off to grab a bite and to buy a bottle of whiskey.
When he gets back on the bus there is a alluring black women sitting in the window seat next to his seat. He introduces himself saying,
Hi babe, my name is Henry what’s your name?
why I'm Willisa Johnson doll and I’m going to visit my family in Magnolia Springs, Alabama, they grow hemp and cotton.
He looks Willisa over, she is in her 40s and built from the head down, built like crazy,
Henry could smell that sweet smell a Black girl has when she was wet between her legs.
It was night-time and the lights in the bus were dim, Henry asked Willisa if she wanted to get high?
You know a Niggas gotta get high baby, Henry I’m juicy, you know what I'm sayin?
Henry pulls some cocaine out and lays it on a small mirror, Willisa snorts the lines up and he hands her a bottle of Jack Daniels to swig on.
It goes like that awhile, back and forth and then Willisa covers both of them with Henry's poncho from the waist down, unbuckling his chinos, pulling them down to his knees— she licks his cock from top to bottom, up and down with her pink silken tongue, taking all of him, tea bag style, deep throat, he enjoys every minute and finishes quietly in her mouth, not wanting to alert the others on the bus.
The pair fall asleep, black on white, white on black in each others arms after snorting brown junk.
They sleep for what seems like days and the bus driver wakes them in the evening at Magnolia Springs, Alabama— it was warm out and you could smell Cahaba Lilies in the air.
Willisa walks arm in arm with Henry, when they get off the bus there is a larger than life Black man standing at the station wearing overalls and a baseball cap. Willisa gives him a big hug and he says,
Who in the name of Jefferson Davis is that with you? He looks pale sista!
She says laughing,
Big Walter don’t you mind, he be my little white boy.
They get into a rusted old Chevy pick-up and head out to the farm— Henry feeling safe, Willisa’s strong arms holding him tight like she would never let go.
After a short ride on an unlit dirt road the pick-up pulls into the family farm at 8PM. There is a two story wood house in need of a coat of paint and a wooden tobacco barn. Henry can smell ganja in the barn.
Big Walter and Willisa introduce him to their mama— a sweet as sweet can be old black women, her white hair wrapped tight in corn-rows, she says,
Lord help that little old white boy because none of the colored folks here abouts will take to him.
Mama Cane as folks call her proceeds to cook a southern style feast of Buffalo Head fish, black-eyed peas, okra and corn- bread. Henry places a bottle of Jack Daniels on the table and pours his new family drinks. Wallisa rolls a big size joint of ganja.
Everybody high by now, Mama Cane turns the radio in the kitchen on to a southern station WRZT out of Mobile. The DJ playing the music of Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Pride and Elvis, it was all color radio, anything that rocked.
By 2AM the family and their newly adopted white boy are way out there. Henry and Willisa say goodnight and go to her bedroom. Her room is draped with purple cloth covering the walls and hung from the ceiling. Her bed was covered with a hand made quilt. She throws Henry on the bed, talking off his clothes and then hers, standing over him naked she looks at him and says,
Baby, we are gonna rock n roll like we aint got no bone.
The bed springs playing a symphony of sound interrupted later by the roosters crowing at dawn.
Big Walter knocks on Willisa’s bedroom door at 8AM and says,
Get up you all we got work to do!
Henry doesn’t shave or shower, Willisa wraps her hair in a red doo rag, they go downstairs to the kitchen where Mama Cane has made breakfast, biscuits with gravy, pancakes with molasses, coffee and fried eggs, Henry says,
wow, you sure know how to eat, I haven't ate this good in awhile, Big Walter says,
Don’t fret boy you gonna work it off today.
After breakfast Willisa, Henry and Big Walter walk a short way to an open field on a pathway cut through bush to an acre of mature marijuana plants that are hidden by deep forest on all sides.
In the center of the ganja field is a small wooden hut with no windows, inside there is a card table surrounded by chairs with cushions.
Big Walter says,
Today you all are going to be trimmin, Willisa you show him what I'm talkin about.
They cut the buds from stalks of ganja that Big Walter brings in from the field.
Willisa rolls a joint and turns a small radio on to a gospel station.
Then a seriously loud and deep voice says,
get your hands up, you all is busted!
A black policeman carrying a shot gun ducks his head into the door, and says,
what you Niggas doin?
It was Willisa's brother Pinetop, who was a cop in Magnolia Springs, he was out looking for some trustees who had escaped from the city jail.
Willisa roll me a joint for the road baby!
He pulls some moonshine in a mason jar from a sack and hands it to them saying as he laughs,
hair off the dog that bit you all! Don’t forget my share now.
Officer Pinetop helped to keep the lid on the ganja farm, keeping the wrong people out.
Big Walter comes in the wooden shack and says,
come on you all lets go get some supper.
Willisa and Henry trimmed till dusk, they had filled a basket with ganja buds.
They all walk home, in the kitchen Mama Cane had prepared supper—Catfish, frog legs, hush puppies, beans, rice and ice tea.
Things went on like this— the same day by day till the end of the month, the family unit happy and productive together,
Henry and Willisa in a major groove.
Henry had to go get back to Queens for an appointment with the welfare shrink. It felt as though the trip was over before it began.
He knew Willisa didn’t want him to leave but he told her she could come to Queens when she wanted, in the spring maybe.
He was going to miss life on the ganja farm, the big meals, great dope and moonshine, the hot sex with Willisa—
New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. Lao Tzu