The Song On the Radio A man discovers his own personal hell in the words of a country song.

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Aug 7, 2018 No Comments ›› admin

FICTION
By Lynn Woolley

Editor’s note: In 1975, I had written and recorded a song (as “TwoFolk” with college roommate Robert Malsbary) that I thought told a pretty interesting tale of a busted love affair and a man, broken-hearted, who just wants to go back home. So I expanded it into a “loop” story, using the lyrics of the song as a plot device.

George Reamy glanced at the speedometer and saw he was traveling at sixty miles per hour. He eased off the gas just a bit having no desire to be stopped by the Highway Patrol. Up ahead, a sign read: AUSTIN: 98.

Reamy had been driving for quite a while, and his eyelids were beginning to feel heavy. He had stopped for coffee a few miles back, but the drowsiness was continuing to creep in. He thought maybe some music would help keep him awake. He reached over and turned on the radio. One of those clear channel Mexican stations was playing a country song:

It’s three hundred miles to Dallas.
I’ve been driving most of the day.
Went drinkin’ last night in Laredo
In a lonely border café.
Still 98 miles out of Austin.
I’ll make it there some time today.
But the city I’m bound for is Dallas.
It’s three hundred miles away.

Reamy thought how the song seemed to be talking to him. He was in Laredo last night. He remembered crossing the border into the little Texas town and looking for a place to stay the night. He remembered how he had found a motel that seemed private enough, and then had searched for a place where he could get a drink and unwind. 

The Terlingua Café seemed as good a place as any. A small band was playing country songs on a wooden stage. About thirty people were inside, mostly men and mostly drunk. Reamy made his way through the smoke up to the bar, and asked for a cold beer. The first one went down fast, and made way for another and another. As the night grew longer, the smoke grew thicker, the music became louder, and the beer flowed freer. After a while, the band announced break time, and the bartender switched on a radio station to provide music until the band was ready to play again. The drinking and merriment continued to the sound of a country disc jockey for ten minutes or so; then the news came on.

Reamy became tenser with each story the announcer read. He complained to the bartender who informed him of a recent brawl that had put the jukebox out of commission. The announcer kept announcing, and Reamy kept complaining until finally he sent his beer mug flying through the air. Broken glass, beer, and pieces of the radio came tumbling down from the shelf. The newscaster halted abruptly in mid-sentence, and the resulting silence was loud enough to turn every head toward George Reamy.

The bartender motioned to two men. One of them grabbed Reamy, twisted his arm behind his back, and held him tightly. The other removed his wallet from his pocket, and handed it to the bartender who removed the money from inside. Then, Reamy felt the hard wood of swinging doors against his body as he was ejected onto the pavement. After he managed to pick himself up, he decided to sleep off the beer, then get out of town. As he remembered, the song on the radio continued its story:

Oh the highway is long.
And the memories are strong
Of a girl down in Old Mexico.
And the future, it seems
Is lost in my dreams.
But I’ve still got a long way to go.

Reamy reached down and turned the radio up. He blinked his eyes in an almost futile attempt to stay awake, and he flinched as the scratches on his face stung with every motion. He couldn’t help thinking that the incident in the café wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the girl in Old Mexico.

Her name: Maria Sifuentes.

She wasn’t particularly pretty, but she was friendly, and a friend was what Reamy needed more than anything else when he first came to Mexico. Most of the women is his life were distant – but not Maria. From the very start, she was anxious to know more about his past, and what he was doing for a living. Their meetings became more frequent, and Reamy felt himself falling in love with her. The relationship ended abruptly one evening when he returned to his apartment to find her going through his things.

He decided to leave the country at once.

Reamy’s mind returned to the present. The verses of the song were still emerging like tentacles from the speaker of his radio. He wondered if the station could be the same one that ignited the incident in the Terlingua Café the night before. No matter. He was too engrossed in the lyrics of the song to really care:

Three hundred miles, I know,
I’ll make it my own.
Three hundred miles
Till I see my home.

Home was Dallas, but home would have to wait. Today, he would go only as far as Austin. There were friends there and he could stay the night. Tomorrow, he could get an early start to Dallas with bacon and eggs in his belly instead of beer. The song on the radio progressed to its final verse:

It’s three hundred miles to Dallas.
Been a year since I went on my way.
Now the past is haunting my memory,
Long ago, and just yesterday.
And the highway is long and it’s lonely.
And I never liked being alone.
It’s three hundred miles to Dallas.
I’m three hundred miles from home.

Reamy chuckled. This was HIS song. The memories WERE haunting him. Memories dating back to his first trip to Mexico, and memories of the Terlingua Café in Laredo where he’d gotten bounced the night before. But his memories ended with the final note of the song.

He reached down and gave the radio dial a sharp twist. Suddenly, he heard the voice of an announcer at an all-news station out of San Antonio:

Mexican authorities have intensified the search for a man believed to be the murderer of a government undercover agent. The agent, a woman, was shot to death yesterday after she had confiscated illegal drugs from the suitcase of a man she’d been investigating. Mexican authorities refuse to identify the suspect, but believe he may have escaped across the border and may be heading for the Dallas area. The dead woman is identified as 27-year-old…

Reamy gave the dial another twist. This time, a country station out of Austin emerged from the speaker. The disc jockey announced a new record. It began to play:

It’s three hundred miles to Dallas.
I’ve been driving most of the…

HIS song. But even so, it was no longer palatable to George Reamy. Again, he twisted the dial, forcing it to another station:

…day.
Went drinkin’ last night in Laredo.
In a lonely border café.

He muttered a curse word, and turned the radio off. A sign up ahead read: AUSTIN: 98.

THE END

© 2018 by Lynn Woolley. Song lyrics from “300 Miles To Dallas” © 1975 by Lynn Woolley. BMI. All rights reserved.

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