Hard Rock has a soft spot for my girl. I understand. He sees in her the same things I do. She’s compassionate and funny, strong-willed and a natural beauty. She’s too good for either of us, but things just worked out right for me. Sometimes things just work out right for one person and not for another. There is no easy explanation. Not a lot of things seem to have worked out for Hard Rock.
Good luck in rural Alabama has something to do with being born into the right family, or maybe it’s about not being born into the wrong family. That ain’t everything, but it gives a person a fighting chance to make it to the starting line. Hard Rock looks like he had to whip every dog in the county just to get to breakfast. He’s dirty in a way that can’t be easily washed off, and he is too young by many years to be missing his teeth.
Hard Rock assesses me with a cold eye, seeing a bespectacled man in a fuzzy sweater who gets to hold hands with the girl he admires.
He pulls a pistol out of his camouflaged folds. He wants to sell it to me. I feared he was only going to offer me the bullet. He wants $150 for it. The pistol will accommodate a 45 slug or a 410 Shotgun shell, but I decline. He shrugs, “Suit yourself” then asks cordially of our life in Tallahassee. We shake hands. “Nice to meet you Hard Rock, I’ve heard a lot about you.”
We have a beer and chat by the fire, as Hard Rock is primarily an outdoor guest. He’s completely full of shit, as good storytellers must often be. He gets a check every month, but it doesn’t go far, which is why he really needs to sell that gun.
I don’t know a lot of people who would open their doors to a guy like a Hard Rock and treat him as a friend. He does what friends do though, he lends a hand, bums a smoke, and tries to tread lightly when the women are around. If he asked you for change on a street corner you wouldn’t give him a nickel.
Bobby, my girl’s daddy, has a soft spot for Hard Rock, and don’t let him catch you bad-mouthing Hard Rock. Bobby sees the man inside the man, which may be his gift. He is the one who gave Hard Rock his name, recognizing that his old name had not done him much good to that point.
I think about the siege of Sarajevo, when good citizens got murdered in the streets and starved as polite society collapsed around them. It was the miscreants, the criminals, and the outcasts who rose up and defended the city.