T Ruth

Another bit from THM (I'm calling his segments The Heintzelman Maneuver), my old writing buddy from the Blue Moon, gone now, but I still have a few of his papers that he gave me. I think he had a book in mind, celebrating the folks he knew from the bar. I do much the same thing in "A Dream of Houses." I didn't know T Ruth (before my time?), but I think I recognize "Molly."

"I smell hair burning." The voice is heard above the din of the patrons at the tavern. Only the music continues, the drinkers are silenced. In unison each patron raises both hands to his or her head and tenderly pats their hair. Quizzical looks and sniffing result. Only two people know the origin of the odor; Ruth and Molly are still in motion. When the masses quite patting their hair, Molly has only begun. The voice that stopped everything rushes to her aid.

Ruth, a befeathered lady in a large sheepskin skirt, with bells, bags, and finger symbols hanging on cords from her waist shouts: "I told her to leave me alone, she should have heeded my words, I speak not in vain."

We all know Ruth. T + Ruth = Truth is sprayed in three foot pink letters on the side of her blue house. On the other side of the porch it reads, "Safeway Kills," in red. A beautiful black woman with large warm busy eyes, Ruth is a crusader, if not a practitioner of voodoo. What's in those pouches that hang from her belt? Cat bones? Herbs? Ointments and elixirs? Molly had tried to find out. She wanted to know about Ruth. Ruth is nothing if not interesting.

"I was only talking to her," Molly sobbed, "she's nuts, eighty-six her." Molly's voice reaches the hysterical. "She set me on fire with her lighter." Ruth claims she fired two warning shots with her bic before she felt she had no other option. The weight lifter who had yelled "fire" now tried to spread calm.

It's a cold night. Molly sees the world through a martyr's eyes. Ruth dances crazily around the tavern, then out into the middle of the street. When we leave at 2:30 A.M., Ruth's car is still in the parking lot. A lighter can be seen flashing on for fifteen seconds, passing back and forth across the windshield. Is it some pagan ritual performed with a Bic, invented by Ruth, or don't the defrosters work in her old Datsun?