A day and a half after the engines died, one of the hot chics from a bachelorette party found Reg smoking a hand-rolled cigarette near the aft of the Valor. She wanted a cigarette, she said.
“I roll my own,” Reggie said. “But I’d love to roll one for you,” he added.
The chic twirled her hair with her fingers and then tossed the hair from her hand.
“Huh. Well. Are you Reggie Vray?”
He nodded. “And you’re some of the prettiest girlies onboard the Valor.”
She grinned and turned to look behind her. Reggie could now see her compadres, the attendants upon the bride-to-be, assembled not twenty feet away. The bride was wearing some nutty outfit: a tiara and a t-shirt with a blurry photograph of something vast and pink that Reg wasn’t too keen on inspecting more closely.
“Smart of you girls to come prepared,” the R.V. said, nodding at the bottle that the women were passing back and forth.
“Oh my god, do you want some?”
He shrugged. “Got any tequila?”
How easy Reg found it to break apart a woman’s restraint. He had long ago stopped wondering why a woman, such as this mamacita, would venture such a distance to approach him, pull back, and then lean in again, as if this woman was a vessel in unquiet water. Point is, the entire tango lasted one hour.
The ship had stalled and the engines had cut out in the early morning on the third day, not long after Reggie had finished his set and was cashing in his drink tokens for some 3 Amigos tequila at Neptune’s Bar. He held the shot glass for a moment and looked at the liquid, tilted his head back, and looked up at the northern lights. Along the paneling of the bar, and on the floor, were purple, red, green, and blue projections. More so than the stars above, these colors mesmerized Reg. This was it: the release from her. He smiled at the bartender, a man from the Philippines, Reggie thought. The bartender nodded back and smiled briefly. The pull between solitude and good old drunken times was a constant for Reg. He was alone at the bar. He supposed that he ought to keep his thoughts on the interior of his skull. He shook his head and laughed at himself over these ponderings. Here he was, one-time country gold, alone on the deck of a pathetic country music cruise while his ex-girl was having the romance of her newly married life in a penthouse suite below. No one knew, or cared, of his freedom from love.
But just to say the words, “beautiful evening,” to the bartender did not seem like too much of an imposition, and so he said it. At that moment, the northern lights went out. Emergency lights replaced the mystical place with a hallowed-out shine.
“Better that I mosey on down to bed,” Reggie said. He tipped back the rest of his tequila and left twenty dollars on the bar.
He woke up four hours later at sunrise soaked in sweat. The temperature in the room must have been nudged off, he figured. He experienced another discomfiting realization when he pulled back the privacy curtain: No mango juice. No thick white card inviting him to the morning’s invocation, either.
But the lift of last night by the fake Northern Lights made Reggie feel like a new man, despite the sweat, so he stripped down for a shower. Ice cold. Jesus, what was going on this morning? He distracted himself from the cold water by making up more lyrics to the next hit he was crafting: “Amarillo Baby.” The song began (in Reg’s mind) with open E-minor tuning, a little finger picking high on the fretboard to give it a nice Tex-Mex feel, then into C-G-C-Em, a hook in C and D, and then into the chorus where the tempo picked up. The song would be sexy, but like mature-sexy in the way that Maureen O’Hara was mature-sexy in The Quiet Man–a little sad, but also a little upbeat in the way that made you want to hop on top of something and scream.
Amarillo was the dust bowl that had cradled Reggie Vray and, damn it, with his ex-girl totally out of the picture and his latest flop in record sales, he’d write a song for his mama. At the very least, he would write something for the yellow rose of Texas.
He was whistling the open bars to the song while he walked out on the deck. Some courtesy of the Valor’s booking agents had placed Reg’s cabin far from the Caitlin-Tucker honeymoon lovings, but Reg heard her calling Reg’s name as he passed by the main floor chapel.
Part One of “The Valor Cruise Dud” was published last Monday.
Tune in to the PDXX Collective next Monday for the final segment of this story, and for a piece by our latest addition to the Collective!