Lonely Street

SHORT STORY | LONELY STREET

"Louisiana rain is falling just like tears
Running down my face
Washing out the years
Louisiana rain is soaking through my shoes
I may never be the same
When I reach Baton Rouge

Well I never will get over
This English refugee
Singing to the Juke Box in some
All-Night Beanery
Yeah he was eating hard rock candy
And chasing it with tea
You should have seen him lick his lips
When he looked up at me"

"LOUISIANA RAIN" Written by Tom Petty. Sung by Bonnie Tyler.
Produced by Robin Geoffrey Cable, Ronnie Scott, and Steve Wolfe.

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"You were wild once…don't let them tame you.

…Isadora Duncan

(For Denise. B)

 

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Where ever you went along Hollywood's Sunset Strip in the sixties and seventies you could find music. At the Troubadour, the Cheetah, the Roxy, Largo, Ciro's, the Whiskey; there was music everywhere, and anybody who was anybody played there. The Byrds, Jimmy Hendrix, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Otis Redding, Poco, Buffalo Springfield, the Doors; you never knew who would show up on any given night. And parked dead center in the heart of that mad hatter insanity, tucked away in her own little niche somewhere between the whacked out folkies and the acid rock screamers, was a tiny little, small town girl from Thibodaux, Louisiana, Cassie McCain, "The Queen of New Orleans,", the best little, unknown singer and songwriter in Hollywood rock and roll history.

On one of those ruthlessly hot LA nights I went to see Cassie play at the Rainbow Bar & Grill, which used to be the old Villa Nova where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio supposedly had their first date. I don't know why I was there. Hell, I don't even why I was in California. Cassie and I had been divorced for over a year, but when I'd heard she was playing the Rainbow that night, I bought a ticket and there I was.

I had no clue how to control the hold Cassie still had on me. I knew it wasn't normal, but how was I supposed to know that back then? I must have been insane. Single, twenty-six years old, still too pathologically in love to pee straight, and stoned out of my frigging mind ninety nine percent of the time. But, after all, it was Hollywood where anything goes. And who said divorces are ever really final anyway?

Since the day she turned seventeen and got her first gig playing her own songs at a hippie bar called the Longbranch up in Abita Springs on the north shore of Lake Pontchatrain, everybody knew Cassie was special. And although her ferocious beauty could suck the blood right out of your heart, it was the way she'd lean over her old battered, upright Steinway and sing her guts out for tips and beer that could really freeze your bones. And when she'd turn up the heat and blast one those sad, sweet ballads of hers at you, nobody could touch her. Not Gracie or Janis or Joan Baez or Aretha or Joni Mitchell or Dusty Springfield. Nobody. She had the gift. And less than two years later, Rolling Stone would call her "Linda Ronstadt's heir apparent", and Tiger Beat would later dub her "rock and roll's answer to Patsy Cline." She just had it, and I don't know of anyone who'd ever gone to see her play that didn't fall haplessly in love with her.

The the last person I expected to see that night I'd gone to see Cassie play at the Rainbow, was Max Ravelling, a borderline, has-been talent agent who had just been fired from the agency I worked for, Laurel Canyon Music. Big Max the Jackass everybody called him. A slime ball, doper, and bullshit artist that nobody in their right mind should have hired, but nearly all of them did at one time or other. Every studio and agency in LA had fired him at least once, and since it had been Max who'd hired me, I knew I'd most likely be next. Not that I gave a shit. I don’t even know why I took that job. The only reason I'd even come to California in the first place was to watch over Cassie.

Big Max was acting jumpy that night and with his long, greasy, gray-streaked hair flowing in the stale air, he looked a lot more like a rum soaked wino rummaging through a barrel of garbage for a sandwich that a burned out, ex-super star agent and producer. Since he got fired, Max had been hitting the pop and rock circuit hard, trolling the bars and clubs, searching or another shooting star to ride back to glory: Someone naïve and young and desperate who he could hook his claws into and piggy back to the top of the charts where he'd once been a nearly permanent fixture.

It was no secret that Max once had the magic touch. He'd helped grease the skids for David Bowie, Neil Young, Carol King, Ziggy Pop, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Johnny Rivers, and a shitload of other creaky old Geritol rockers. Max could make you. He had that kind of juice. Unfortunately, he had no staying power. And sooner or later he always got greedy, and when things started going his way, he'd get paranoid and start throwing things. And he rarely missed. Max hurt a lot of people in a lot of different ways. He was callous and ugly enough when he got wasted, but when the drug du jour was coke, Max was Satan. But somehow he managed to hang on and keep hustling the tattered edges of the pop and rock scene, dealing goofballs, flamethrowers, and happy powder on the side while he dug through other peoples' trash for gold. Max was the honest to God quintessential predator and would have stalked kindergarten playgrounds for potential super stars if he thought one of the little bastards could sing worth a shit. Max liked them young, hungry, and ambitious, and when he first laid his blood shot demon eyes on Cassie, he knew he'd found his glittery new dream baby.

We all knew why Creem Magazine had once called Cassie "the pretty and extraordinarily talented queen of New Orleans," but when Max saw her pounding on those ivories on the darkened Ciro's stage for the first time, and watched those hammered, snot-nosed, Beverly Hills hippies with money burning holes in their pockets, stand up on their chairs and scream till they practically wet their pants, begging her for more like lovesick little pigeons in the park, I swear he must have lost a load right there in his pants.

I was there that night and I remember Cassie wearing nothing but a peek-a-boo whisper of yellow cotton cut half way up to Lafayette, and what there was of the dress was soaked with sweat, which left nothing between her and Max but his twisted imagination. And when the kids in the packed crowd started to rip each others' skin off trying to crawl up to the front of the stage, Cassie calmly fired a smoky ballad at them and they all sat right back down like perfectly potty trained little puppies. And then, just when she'd about lulled them back to sleep, she uncorked a hard core pop rocket that reeled them right back on their heels. If you wouldn't have known better, judging by the way she jerked those poor sucker's chains, you'd have thought you were in some backwater shithole at one of those Bible thumper revival meetings. Cassie was as much in control as the high priced, dominatrix hookers Max dropped a dime on once a month, and when he saw Cassie trembling under those hot stage lights like a rocking horse in heat, he knew he'd found the frigging mother of all Mother Lodes.

Why Cassie picked Max for an agent, and then let him talk her into signing with a loser label like Empire Records, was a complete mystery to everyone in the music business. Half the agents in Hollywood had tried to sign her one time or other. Elektra, A&M, Mercury, Epic, RCA, Big Tree, Decca; everybody wanted a piece of her back then, but she'd rejected every pitch.

Looking back, I guess the mistake they'd all made was assuming Cassie wanted it all, and that like every other jaw dropping gorgeous, gifted, dirt poor singer/songwriter from bum fuck nowhere, she hungered for the fame, the adoration, the sex, the money. Everything. All of it. At least that's what they all thought she was killing herself over. But unfortunately, Max knew something everybody else but me didn't. Cassie didn't give a rat's ass about money and she loved junk almost as much as she loved music, which put everything else she'd ever loved into a distant second place. And once she saw that I had no intention of flopping around in the Mexican mud with a needle in my arm, that included me.

Of all people, I should have seen it coming. We'd fallen in love fast and growing up had been a minor inconvenience neither one of us apparently had any time for. And to save time, I think we just sort of became the same person. And after awhile it got hard for us, or anybody else, to tell who was who. Even I couldn't tell us apart. I could have been her for all I knew. That's how obsessed we were with each other back then, and it would be years before we'd find out just how alike we really were.

But not long after we'd gotten married, Cassie started to change. She became a timid ghost wandering aimlessly from room to room, haunting our house, keeping an eye me, as if she expected me to turn into a werewolf at any minute. And sometimes, when she thought I was sleeping, I'd catch her staring into my eyes like she was afraid of me for some reason: as if she thought there was some kind of nuclear bomb about to explode in there. I don’t know what I did to make her feel that way, or what was happening to me, but as carefully as we danced around it, we both knew something had changed between us. I know she loved me. At least she said she did, but I don't really think she knew who I even was half the time. I didn't mind the couple acres of pot she smoked a day, but when she started blowing Peruvian flake up her nose by the truck load, there was no going back. I prayed that it was all just some experimental, adolescent phase she was going through, but I was wrong. And when it got worse, it got worse fast.

The final straw was when I found her in her dressing room after a one night gig in some acid-rock hippie bar down in the French Quarter off Chartres. She was sitting there with her semi-famous, psycho misfit collection of hired gunslingers that she only half-jokingly referred to as a band, shooting smack. After that something seemed to break down deep inside of me. I could hear the plates shift along the fault lines that ran deep inside of me like right before an earthquake hit, and I could hear the fragile shell that protected me begin to crack, keeping me up nights. I didn't know what to do about it. Time was running out for both of us. I knew, Cassie was already gone, she just hadn't left yet.
When Cassie and I got divorced that following spring, I thought that would pretty much be the end of us. I'd stay in New Orleans and finish up my business degree at Tulane and she'd go out to Hollywood to become a rock and roll star. End of story. But unfortunately that was only the beginning.

As much as Cassie loved the stage, and loved being adored like she was, she also seemed repelled by the worshipful adulation that came with it, almost as if she felt she didn't deserve it, or felt guilty about it in some vaguely neurotic way. After awhile, I think that paradox, along with her recently acquired taste for scag, nearly paralyzed her. And in a matter of weeks, you could actually see that toxic physical and emotional cocktail begin to drain the life right out of her. Who knew who she saw when she looked into a mirror.

In spite of the fact that Max was robbing her blind and had signed away nearly all of her songs at a fraction of what they were worth in some ludicrously obscene, under the table kick-back scheme, I guess Cassie got what she wanted from him. She didn't care if it was pie-in-the-sky he was selling. She just let him package her up like a goddamned box of soap and whore her to the highest bidder. Max's simple minded plan had always been to grease the wheels of fortune for her and then ride her right back down the yellow brick road to fame and fortune. I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd already written his Grammy's acceptance speech for producer of the year. And damned if he didn't almost make it happen. Almost.

It wasn't long before Big Max started laying Cassie out there on the table like a slab of meat so the Hollywood press could operate and then stand back and do nothing while they opened her up like psycho heart surgeons and ripped her apart, rumor by rumor, innuendo by innuendo. "The flipped out Teen Queen of New Orleans seen chasing the dragon in the women's' can at the Whiskey." "Rock Goddess hits rock bottom." "The smack happy, sleep walking, Princess of Pop stumbles off the stage at the Roxy." On and on. It never stopped. All Cassie ever said about any of that was in the words of a song I hoped she'd written with her tongue planted in her cheek. "Better load your gun with bullets, baby, better squeeze that trigger hard. You haven't had a hit in years and daddy needs a brand new car..."

Max knew Cassie had a heart of gold and he just kept right on drilling for the perfect vein. But even when he found it, he had no clue what to do with it, as if Cassie gave a shit. As long as Max kept her supplied with black tar he could have sold her to the devil for a deuce of China cat for all she cared. At least for awhile. But the lucky stars that had always seemed to protect Cassie, finally began to burn out one by one, and even Big Max the Jackass could no longer keep the runaway train she was riding on from slamming into the proverbial wall.

I was sure that Cassie had seen me come into the Rainbow Bar & Grill in Hollywood where she was playing that night. It wasn't a big club, but it was packed as usual. Cassie did her usual show, a round of her golden oldies, some covers, her newest hit, and, out of the blue, she played a song that sent shivers slithering up my spine. I was so rattled that I could barely breathe, and I prayed that no one could tell that the song she was singing was a word for word conversation we'd had right before our divorce in New Orleans. She'd turned it into a song called Nighhawk and turned towards me when she started singing, as if she'd known I'd be there. And when she wrapped those pouty, red, Bardot lips of hers around the words, I nearly fainted. "Like other birds of prey, you lie alone and fly by night. But you still wander like a river through my dreams from time to time. Then you flew off like a nighthawk and made the wind your home. What ever made me think I'd fixed your broken wings, I'll never know…" The last thing I expected to hear that night was a song about something thought had been private. It felt like she'd taken something precious from me that I could never get back. And I never got over it.

The first time I'd met Cassie, she'd come down to the Quarter to play a gig in some rhythm and booze shit hole near Bienville when I'd been a student at Tulane University, wasting my time studying business law and ethics, which seems like an oxymoron now that I think about it. After her show, when I went back stage to meet her and I swear when I saw her, I thought I'd found the Holy frigging Mother of God. She was that beautiful. To this day I don’t know what the hell she saw in me. At first I thought it must be my roguish wit, swashbuckling personality and devastatingly handsome face that got her panties in a twist, but after sobering up and looking into a mirror, I had to admit that the two cubes of black sunshine, two Christmas trees, half a dozen black mollies, and a blotter of Owsley's finest blue star acid in my pocket at the time could have had something to do with it. I don't remember shit about the rest of that night. But I do recall that when I woke up in a sizzling, blue velvet fog three days later, Cassie was still there, lying beside me naked, smiling a mischievous angel's smile, sucking contentedly on one of my toes like it was a candy cane. The rest of that day is still nothing but a blur.

We were young and dumb back then and didn't waste any time falling ridiculously, pathetically in love. And after her weekend gig ended that following Sunday, Cassie decided to take a break from the road and hang around with me in New Orleans for awhile to see what might happen. And before we knew what hit us, we got so trashed one night that we drove down to Mexico and woke up in the morning married. Just like that.

But a few months later, one furiously hot and humid night, Cassie just seemed to vanish. I mean, she was there, but then, it seemed like she wasn't. We'd just finished a quiet, candle lit dinner at Hillery's on Toulouse and had gone over to the Shim Sham Club. We were dancing to that old Elvis tune, "Love Me Tender," when I noticed a narrow sliver of fake, cobalt blue neon moonlight, shimmering on the surface of a tear that seemed to appear out of nowhere and fall lazily down her perfect, China doll face. She looked up at me sadly, as if she was a sailor's wife standing on a widow's walk in a violent storm watching for a ship that she knew had no chance in hell of ever making it back home. I remember exactly what she said that night. "I adore you, baby, and I always will. But I can't stay here with you any longer. I'm never going to love anyone like I love you again, I know that, but I have to go and you can't go with me. I'm sorry. But I love you too much to drag you off somewhere you don't belong. You belong here. New Orleans is your home. It breaks my heart but I have to go. I know what you're thinking, but please, please, don't say I never loved you, that's not true. I just never could quite find a way to prove to you I do." Shit. That was not exactly what I was hoping to hear on such a perfect summer night with the fake fireflies twinkling in the moody blue fake sky and me standing there with sweaty palms just about to kiss the only girl I'd ever loved.

Two weeks later Cassie moved out, and a month later we finalized a very civilized, amicable divorce, and that was all she wrote. I never said it was Shakespeare, it's just the way it was. "Two foolish kids lost in Wonderland" is how she put it. I had no doubt that I'd most likely hear that line on the radio some day. But, looking back, I guess she was right. We were awfully young and what did we know? I couldn't make sense out of anything anymore, and she'd always been smarter than I was. Too bad she couldn't have come up a way for me to stop loving her so much. It wasn't natural. And it was killing me.

I don't remember what happened to me after Cassie left for Hollywood. All I know is I could barely feed myself, and eventually it became impossible for me to go on living in New Orleans without her. So I finally just gave up trying to pretend I could and talked myself into a job in the legal department at Laurel Canyon Music in Hollywood. You never know. Things can change. People change.

The night I'd seen Cassie at the Rainbow on Sunset, even as far back in the crowd as I was standing, she looked like the shivering skeleton of a luminescent fairy, her skin so opaque you could almost see through it. She reminded me of a martyred saint tied to a stake who secretly hoped that someone would hurry up and light the goddamned match and put her out of her misery. I would have tried to crash through the crowd to save her, but I'd gotten there about twenty-one years too late.

The show had just begun, and dead center in the middle of her latest, smash hit single, she stopped in her tracks and turned towards Big Max, who was standing in the wings behind her. Slurring her words like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist", she growled, "I hope to hell you get into heaven before the Devil knows you're dead, Max." And then she walked off the stage. And she never came back.

No one ever saw Cassie after that, or ever heard from her again. There weren't any rumors about where she might be, or where she'd gone. It was as if she'd simply vanished, again, and this time, it looked like she was really gone for good. But I, of all people, should have known better. Nobody keeps Cassie McCain down for long. A short time after Cassie disappeared I left California and the music publishing business behind for good and went back home to New Orleans, too tired and too sick at heart to do much of anything else. Cassie had been right. I didn't belong in LA. And without her, I wouldn't have lasted another week. But if I had known then what was about to happen to Cassie and me, I would have just cashed it in right then and there.

It's two years later but I still drink and smoke too much. It's a wonder I haven't vegetated in the New Orleans steam bath summer heat by now. I've tried my best to sweat away all the pain and sorrow that I hoped I'd finally left out there in LA, but apparently that isn't going to happen. It's gooey and hot tonight and I'm thinking that I'll walk over to the Quarter for a quick drink at a local bar that I like called the Alley Katz which is just up the stairs from the Blue Nile on Frenchman Street. But when my eyes adjust to the light, I think I must be seeing things because, standing up on the darkened stage beside a pearl white, baby grand Steinway adjusting the mike, is Big Max the Jackass himself.

When Max recognizes me, he comes down from the stage to where I'm sitting at the bar and hugs me so hard I think my lungs are going to blow. Which is really weird because he'd barely said one single frigging word to me in like...ever. "Holy shit," he says, "you are gonna have a fucking stroke when you see who I got booked here tonight. You ain't gonna believe it. I swear on my mother's grave, you are going to have a fucking coronary!"

That very well could have been the major league understatement of the century, because when Cassie McCain walks out on that nearly pitch-black stage in nothing but a pale, nearly invisible white dress and squints through the blistering indigo blue spotlight at me, I swear to God I think I'm going to pass out. I really do. Just to make sure I'm not hallucinating, I shake myself so hard I rip the elbow out of my shirt, and when she starts singing the first verse of Nighthawk, I feel as if I've gone completely mad. Even through the smoke choked, violet haze, I can see Cassie staring at me when she sings, "…All I want is to be trusted, all I want is to be loved. But you never even told me what it is I'm guilty of. Don't say I never loved you that's not true. I just never did quite find a way to prove to you I do..." It was the same goddamned song she'd sung to me when I'd last seen her playing the Rainbow out in LA. It's word for word what she'd told me right before our divorce all those years ago. And then, in the middle of the song, she stops dead as if she's just been blindsided by a Greyhound Bus and staggers off the stage like Alice on her way to a very important date.

I think I must be having an acid flashback, because my ears are buzzing like jacked up mosquitoes on speed and I can see slashing, razor sharp colors that I've never seen before. When I look up, I see Big Max materialize from behind the dusty black curtains and stumble after Cassie like a clucking barnyard rooster, herding his favorite chicken back into the henhouse. I'm shaking so bad I spill my bourbon all over my damned shirt and have to ask my waitress to go get me a couple napkins. By the time she gets back Cassie and Max are gone. It's like they got vaporized by aliens or something. I rush outside and catch a glimpse of them ducking puddles on Iberville Street. It's raining hard, and I don’t have a raincoat or an umbrella, but what difference does it make, I'm already soaked.

When they slip into an old Victorian mansion on Dauphine I don’t know what to do. There's a green sign on the door with black letters on it, but it's really pouring now and I can't tell what it says. I can't stop quivering and my teeth are rattling around inside my head like Chiclets in a blender. My heart feels like's it getting ready to shut down inside my booze soaked clothes and I begin to seriously wonder if I really am losing my freaking mind.

This can't possibly be happening. Nothing's makes any sense but somehow I manage to screw on my courage and follow Cassie and Max into the house. I'd knock but the door is open and I just walk on in. When I get about half way down the hallway a tiny French lady, wearing what looks like a starched, white, Red Cross outfit, comes up to me and takes me by the arm. "Well, well, mon ami. I'm so glad you've come back. Vee were worried half to death about you. Thank goodness you've come back to us. Can I help you find a chair in front of zee TV? Ed Sullivan eeze coming on at eight and vee know how much you love zat show."

Whatever the hell it is that France's answer to Clara Barton is rattling on about completely baffles me, but I'm so confused and nervous and down right dumbfounded to have seen Cassie again that I pry the nurse's bony white fingers off my arm and sprint off down the hall towards the parlor, or living room, or whatever it is. It doesn't even occur to me until later how Clara Barton knows who the hell I am. When I rush into the room, I can see six or so people, sitting around in trances, their lost eyes glued to the TV. Some comedian who's chopping up a watermelon with a sledgehammer has them in stitches and everybody's all peeing their pants they're laughing so hard. I don't know what to do next. I ask a very thin man in a cream colored sports jacket, a pink bowtie, and white linen slacks what the hell is going on in this cuckoo's nest, and who are all these fucked up, drooling whackos babbling away at the TV. He just grasps my hand hard and stares at me like I'm his long lost brother who'd been separated at birth and he hasn't laid eyes on me since. He's got a grip like a frigging lumberjack. "Thank you, Jesus," he says, tears welling up in his eyes, "I knew you'd come back alive. I just knew it. Thank God you're safe. Goddamned yellow bellied Kraut bastards. Welcome home. We missed you so."

Holy crap, this Looney Tunes freak show just keeps getting stranger and stranger. I grab a tall woman who's wearing another one of those Red Cross outfits and carrying a tray filled with what looks like little Dixie cups full of pills and a plastic jug of water, and practically beg her to tell me where Cassie went. "Didn't you see her?" I ask. "You must have seen her. She walked right by you two minutes ago." I'm screaming at her now. "She's famous for Christ sakes!"

The tall, Red Cross nurse, or whatever she is, shoots me one of those somebody-just-wet-the-bed looks and starts speaking slower and slower, choosing her words very carefully, as if she's trying to calm down a disturbed three year old with attention deficit disorder. "Please, dear. Sit down. Ed Sullivan's coming on soon and he's got that lady singer you love so much on the show tonight. I'll get you something to drink. Maybe a fresh glass of fresh lemonade. Just find a good spot to sit and I'll be right back. Don't you go anywhere." I have no idea how all these perfect strangers seem to know who I am. I'm honestly thinking that at this very second I've either flipped out completely, or just entered the "Twilight Zone". Or maybe Alan Funt is going to show up any minute now and tell me I'm on "Candid Camera." Or more likely "Laugh-In."
Suddenly, I hear Ed Sullivan say, "And now, ladies and gentleman, live, right here on our sheeyou, the Creole Queen of New Orleans herself, Cassie McCain!" Everybody in the room is going nuts. Food and drinks are flying everywhere. They're stomping their feet and cheering, and they won't shut the fuck up. I've never felt so sick and scared. None of this is making any sense to me. I don't even know where I am or how I got here. I look over at the TV and nearly faint when I see Cassie walking through a shadowy blaze of lavender Klieg lights, striding across the stage in her tan, skin tight, leather bell bottoms as cocky as a proud lioness stalking the Serengeti plains of Africa.

Sitting down at her Steinway, she surveys the wall to wall herd of naïve, unsuspecting wildebeests and smiles her stunning, knee-buckling smile. She's smaller and prettier than I remember, not to mention, stone cold sober. No shit. It's really her, right there on the TV. I grab Nurse Ratchet, who nearly spills her pills, and I yell at her, "How is that even possible? I just saw Cassie playing the Alley Katz twenty minutes ago. It was her!" She pats my arm reassuringly and whispers, "I don't think so, little honey. That's her on the TV and she can't be in two places at the same time, now can she?" Ok, so maybe SHE knows that, but somebody better tell Ed Sullivan. He booked her. It's Cassie alright, the Magnolia Queen herself. She must have beaten smack and cleaned herself up. Her eyes are sparkling and clear. Aqua blue I think. Contacts probably. She looks like she's twenty again, bushels of long, jet black curls, falling wherever they please, bouncing up and down against her perfect little jiggling teats. Jesus, where did all that time go? It's a miracle she survived. But there she is, singing a song I've never heard before, although the words are awfully familiar; "Do you remember when we were young? And every sound was thunder, and every fever fire. And every light was lightning, and every spark desire? And every breeze that ever blew, was a hurricane to you, when we were young. Do you remember when we were young…"

And then she stops. Her voice is sad, but strong almost like a man's. If you were blindfolded you'd think she was Lauren Bacall lying across a piano, puffing on a French fag, purring something nasty in Bogey's ear. She turns toward the audience. "I'm sorry," she says, "but I've changed my mind. I'd like to sing you an oldie I think you might like." The camera pans to Ed Sullivan, who's over there by the side of the stage having a stroke. Obviously nobody told him shit about this in rehearsal. He's got no idea what to expect. Neither do I. But then, I haven't known what to expect from Cassie McCann since the day we met. When she looks up at the camera and says, "This one's for you, baby," my bones start to rattle so hard I can barely stand up. Then she starts singing, low and mysterious, sweeter than fresh cut, Thibodaux sugar cane; "You say I never loved you, but that's not true. I just never did quite find a way to prove to you I do. Even now you still remind me of a child I used to know. Wherever did that sweet child I thought I once knew go…"

The song goes on but I'm only half listening. I already know the words. God knows I've heard her say them to me enough enough. I don't know what's going on anymore. It's all I can do to keep from slumping over in pain. The cool, Jasmine-scented, Louisiana rain is blowing through the fluttering lace curtains, washing away everything that I ever thought was true. I don't know why I'm crying so hard, listening to Cassie sing that song. Who knows what's happening to me? I don't even know who I am anymore. I could be anybody. If I looked into a mirror, I doubt I'd see anybody in there I recognized.

After Cassie leaves the stage and Ed Sullivan signs off, Florence Nightengale comes up to me and takes my hand. "Come now, sweetie. You've had a big day. It's time for bed."

I don't resist. I'm just too damned tired to. Too tired to do much of anything. God I miss Cassie. I don't know why she left me. Or what I ever could have done to make her go. It's all just a schizoid blur to me now. I guess it could have been a re-run we were all watching. But what do I know. I hurt so bad I just can't think about it anymore. It's like that song called "Lonely Street" back in the fifties. I think it was Don Gibson or Gene Vincent who sang it;

"I'm looking for that Lonely Street
I've got a sad sad tale to tell
I need a place to go and weep
where's this place called Lonely Street
A place where there's just loneliness
where dim lights bring forgetfulness
Where broken dreams and mem'ries meet
Where's this place called Lonely Street
Perhaps upon this Lonely Street
there's someone such as I
Who came to bury broken dreams
and watch an old love die
If I could find that Lonely Street
and just by chance someone I'd meet
Someone who feels the way I do
and knows just what false love can do
I need a place to go and weep
where's this place called Lonely Street?"


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"LONELY STREET" Words & Music, Carl Belew/W.S. Stevenson/Kenny Sowder © 1956, Acuff-Rose Music.