"Borrow me a dollar, mister?"
"You mean loan you a dollar, don't you?"
"I need it to play some music on the jukebox. Borrow it to me."
I gave her a dollar. What the hell, it was only a bit after noon, and I was already more than a bit drunk? My car had a fried water pump, and I was stuck way out in the middle of nowhere until the mechanic could have a replacement pump sent there on a bus. I'd already spent an uncomfortable night at the run down motel right across the street from the bar where I now was situated.
Thanks. You want me to play any special song for you?" I shook my head no to her question. I wasn't much into music. Mostly, I had been sitting in my booth, drinking bourbon and seven, wondering how much longer I was going to be stuck here before my car was repaired. I hoped it would be soon, so I could get back out on the road.
I was making a fair living at the time, traveling across the country selling those moving neon lighted advertising display signs. They weren't too expensive to buy, and many small business owners got excited about seeing their sales message tracking over and over again across the screen. For every four displays I sold, I'd pocket two hundred dollars. I made extra from making up extra sales messages if the purchaser wanted to have a variety of messages to display.
Many just wanted the single message that came with every display purchase, but some opted for multiple messages. Each needed its own stencilled belt. I had the stencilling machine in the trunk of my car. It usually took me about ten minutes to get a new belt stencilled. I paid a dollar for the extra belts, and sold them, stencilled, for ten dollars each.
After getting the dollar changed from the girl behind the bar, the two women walked over to the jukebox and started pressing their selections. The first song they played was "Born To Lose" by Eddy Arnold. I watched as the two girls started swaying their hips in front of the music player.
After that first song was nearly finished, the girl who'd hit me up for the dollar came over and slid herself into the booth across the way from where I sat.
"I let Dee pick out half the songs. She picked that one we just played. I picked this one." As she said this, "Everybody Loves Somebody" by Dean Martin started playing. "Why don't you ask me to dance, mister?"
"I would, except I can't dance." This was almost true. I could dance, but didn't want to make a fool of myself by staggering around with her while I was already more than half in the bag from all those earlier drinks I'd finished. "What's your name?"
"I go by Sue Lee. I don't much care for the name my mother saddled me with. Earlene. She named me after an old aunt of hers." She made a pouting face as she told me this. "If you don't want to dance with me, then you ought to buy me a drink, to make up for my hurt feelings."
There were several small bills sitting on the table near where my cigarettes and lighter were. I grabbed another dollar and pushed it over to her. Taking it with a bright smile, showing a very white, and surprisingly even mouth full of teeth, Sue Lee bounced right up from the booth and went over to get herself a drink. She was back in a minute, a tall drink in one hand, and a quarter in the other, which she set down alongside the rest of my other change. She slid back into the booth's bench before taking her first sip of the cocktail she'd just purchased.
"Do you come in here often, Sue Lee?"
"I practically live here. I'm the one who cleans the rooms over at the Motel, then I help Dee out some at night, if it gets busy. We work for Walt, the man who is fixing that car of yours. He owns everything around here, including us."
"He owns you?"
"Near enough as not to matter. We do what he tells us to do. If we didn't, he'd send us away. Mostly, he lets us do whatever we have a mind to, just as long as we don't cost him any business. Like now, he knows that I'm in here keeping you company. He can hear that music playing from the box, and he knows it was you that put the money in for it. The more money you spend around here, the happier he'll be."