The Town of Bluebonnet
Keith sighed heavily from the driver’s seat of his Toyota Tundra that unfortunately doubles as his personal vehicle and his work truck. His beloved city of Bluebonnet was not in the position to afford such a luxury, despite the fact that his own family built the town over 130 years ago. The Bailey’s owned almost every square inch of Bluebonnet and held every official governing position the city had to offer. It was a true monopoly over the town and the residents and the word ‘democracy’ was an absolute joke around these parts. The 800 residents that occupied Bluebonnet knew this but they were uneducated, lived in poverty, and disenfranchised and were either too scared to speak against tyranny or completely complacent. Most were fine with how things were as long as their day to day lives didn’t change and they were able to bitch and moan once a month at the monthly town hall meetings. Oh...and they could have their guns. The second amendment was just about the only one that the gun-toting residents of Bluebonnet could recite by heart, and all the others be damned. And around here, the constitution didn’t really matter unless it was used to directly benefit a Bailey and Bluebonnet never once claimed to be the home of the free and the land of the brave.
This was Keith’s first official year as the town’s sheriff and he wasn’t even sure that he received the position of his own merit. Yes there were other names on the ballot of course, but no one dared to check any box other than Keith Bailey. During his campaign, his uncles made sure that they visited the homes of the residents who didn’t sport ‘Vote For Keith’ lawn signs and banners and made sure that they set them straight. By the time they left the property, the homeowners either had a ‘Vote For Keith’ sign in their front yard or his opponent’s sign was no longer in sight. They also went as far as gently threatening those who didn’t seem to get with the program quick enough with the possibility of increased property taxes or unemployment. They planned on hitting the uncooperative residents where it hurt...their already struggling pocketbooks. Bluebonnet was easily the poorest city in Texas and it definitely showed. Those threatened barely had a pot to piss in and knew that Keith’s Uncle Ken and Klark would make good on their promises.
Keith wasn’t made aware of this until after his uncles bragged and took credit for him winning the election and if he had known, he would’ve gracefully bowed out. Well, he would’ve liked to think that he had the courage to do so but just like the townsfolk he swore to protect, he was a hostage himself and wasn’t free to make his own decisions. His father who was currently the town’s mayor allowed Keith a little taste of freedom when he allowed him to attend college in South Texas but once he crossed that stage and received his diploma he was called back home. Keith knew that he didn’t have a choice. It was either return home willingly or have his uncles find him and drag him back. It was never the easy way or the hard way with Percy Bailey and there was NEVER any room for compromise.
His younger sister Katherine was the lucky one out of the bunch. She escaped the depressing bleakness of the shantytown that they call Bluebonnet. She may have sacrificed some of her dignity and pride by marrying some asshole that was just passing through town but at least it got her out. From the last conversation that he had with her it seemed like she was genuinely happy and they planned on starting a family soon. His father had been on his ass lately about finding a suitable woman for himself and settling down. If his only pick of the litter was from Bluebonnet then he would happily remain single. At this point in his life he would much prefer to be a doting uncle instead of coming home to a loud mouth wife and crying children that drove him to drinking.
That’s how most of the women of Bluebonnet were: belligerent, loud, and uncouth, not to mention desperate. Keith damn near has to wear riot gear when he responds to calls for a “female in distress”. Of course when he arrives there’s always a single woman claiming to have seen someone lurking in the window or thought they heard someone trying to break in their backdoor. He would arrive and nine times out of ten they would be dressed seductively and have a meal fit for a king just so coincidentally laid out on the table. They would thank him profusely for responding quickly and ask if he’s eaten and comment that they know that there isn’t a Mrs. Keith Bailey at home so he might as well grab a bite to eat. He declined each and every time, hoping that they got it through their thick skulls that he’s eaten so many secret recipe homemade apple pies that they’ve all started to taste the same and theirs wouldn’t get him to put a ring on it.
Of course that also started the heinous rumor that he was gay and that’s why he hasn’t partaken in anything that the “fine” women of Bluebonnet had to offer. Why did he have to be gay because he didn’t want to settle for the bottom of the barrel? Not to mention all the women looked the same and there was no variety in the slim pickings. If the women weren’t blond then they dyed their hair blond. The problem with that was that they were too poor to even maintain proper hair maintenance and their brunette and sometimes red roots would come back with a vengeance. They couldn’t even go to Susie, the town’s only hairdresser, because she wasn’t licensed and Lord help her but she didn’t know how to read higher than a fourth grade level, resulting in her mixing some products that did not need to be mixed and therefore caused poor Emma Jean’s brunette curls to fall out in clumps in Susie’s porcelain rinsing bowl. Keith remembered that day like it was yesterday. He received a frantic call from the town’s only barber, Mr. Lennox, who reported an assault in progress. Keith arrived to find Emma Jean on top of Susie, banging her head into the floor. Everyone in town knew that Emma Jean loved her lustrous curls more than life itself so none of them were shocked that Emma Jean was charged with attempted murder, but later released.
Why did these women think that blond was the standard for beauty? When he left for college he was amazed by the diversity of women that Bluebonnet had never seen. Every resident in Bluebonnet was white and that’s how 99.9% of the residents liked to keep it. To Keith, all skin tones were beautiful and if he was being honest with himself, women with darker skin tones greatly appealed to him. Keith was less concerned with what a woman looked like and cared more for her principles and personality. Of course looks were somewhat important HOWEVER he much preferred an educated, free-thinking woman over a blond, size four debutante with eyelashes that were long enough to span across the entire county.
Keith sat outside Dusty’s Tavern trying to find the willpower to go inside and wrangle his 70 year old grandfather off of the rickety stool that sat closest to the jukebox that he’s claimed as his own. No one dared to sit in Old Man Jefferson Bailey’s seat, or they’d have to face the consequences of being banned from drinking at the only watering hole in town. Old Man Bailey was just as set in his ways as his father and was ten times harder to deal with sober, let alone inebriated.
Keith’s lips curled in disgust as he stared at his grandfather’s brand new truck that was worth more than triple his yearly salary. How could the people who built this town and lead this town hold so much wealth and watch as the people in their own town survive off of scraps. At least half of the town was on welfare and the other half wish they were because they were barely over the eligibility cutoff. Another reason why women threw themselves at Keith was because they thought that like his uncles and his father and his grandfather that he was just swimming in dough and that just wasn’t the case. He did alright for a single 29 year old man, however everything he owned he received through his hard work. He worked throughout college and saved knowing that once he graduated that he wanted a nest egg to rely on until he found the right job. The townsfolk thought that just because Keith was a Bailey that there were several zeros in his bank account and he was living the good life but in reality Keith was going to remain a couple of thousand over the poverty level himself until he assumed the position of Mayor once his father decides to retire. Keith didn’t want the money and he sure as hell didn’t want the position either and prayed that Percy Bailey was nowhere near retirement. Keith never wanted to enter law enforcement and had actually went to school for Accounting. He was always good at numbers and had dreams of becoming a CPA or something similar. He knew one day he was going to have the courage to leave the backwater town of Bluebonnet, but he didn’t see that happening any time soon.
Bluebonnet was of course named after the beautiful blue flower that grew rampantly throughout the town. They had fields upon fields of bluebonnets in the spring that would attract out-of-towners who arrived in droves to take pregnancy, graduation, and engagement shots in the fields. To be truthful, the bluebonnet tourism was the town’s main source of income. They’ll come and take their photos and then their curiosity will lead them to check out the rest of the dead end town. They’ll end up eating a meal at Martha’s Diner or buying fresh jams and baked goods from Ms. Judy who owns the town’s local bakery. Then they’ll travel to the general store and purchase assorted knick knacks or shirts with the word ‘Bluebonnet’ splashed across the front of the cheap cotton t-shirt with their town’s motto on it; “Bluebonnet..the bluest city in Texas”. Those shirts were overpriced and were made of the poorest quality but Keith would guarantee that every person in that household bought one of those $20.00 t-shirts, only for the stenciling to wash off after the first wash. The awkward tourists will even brave going to Dusty’s Tavern for a refresher, only to soon realize that it wasn’t their scene and quickly pay their tab and leave. To the residents of Bluebonnet they were eager to have the tourists...the white tourist that is. Anyone who was any shade other than fair, ivory, alabaster, or somewhere in between were quickly informed that they weren’t welcomed and would quickly show them the way back out of town. Keith always thought their way of thinking was asinine. Instead of collecting the revenue that was going to help feed your children and keep a roof over their head, they would rather turn away people who were different from them. It was the year 2020 and the residents behaved as if they lived in a perfect white sphere, isolated from the rest of the world that they believed threatened their existence. Truth of the matter was, they were all illiterate rednecks that couldn’t even ATTEMPT to spell the word illiterate if their child’s life depended on it.
“Just go inside and strongly suggest that it’s time for him to go home because Grams is waiting on him,” Keith muttered to himself as he slid out of the cool truck into the sticky heat of the afternoon Texas sun. He entered the poor excuse of a bar and wished that someone would retire the busted jukebox in the corner that struggled to play whatever Kid Rock song they played on repeat that day. And of course, his Paw Paw was sitting right next to it, drunk as a skunk, bobbing his head to the beat.
“Afternoon Sheriff. You here fer yer daily pick-up?” Dusty chuckled from behind the bar. Keith stared at him with a blank expression on his face. This is almost a daily task for Keith and that little joke became old after the first three times he told it almost a year ago. “Afternoon Dusty,” he managed to say as he made his way to the bar stool next to his grandfather. “Sumthin’ to whet yer whistle Sheriff?”
“No thank you. I’m still on shift,” he responded. He wouldn’t dare accept a drink from the tap here nor did he trust that the glasses were clean. The place was definitely hazardous to the brave occupants health and if the state cared enough to send the health department their way then the place would likely be condemned. The roof leaks when it rains and Dusty refuses to replace the roof and resorts to poorly patching it instead. Keith was convinced that black mold ran rampant in the roof and the walls and was probably the reason why Paw Paw had difficulty breathing in the first damn place. His lungs were surely riddled with mold spores and is the reason why he’s attached to a breathing machine at night. It was damn near guaranteed that by the time Dusty fixed your drink and slid it to you down the bar that there would be a gnat or two doing backstrokes through the filmy foam of your Budweiser. Everything in the building was sticky, from the bar top, to the floor, and let’s not even mention the bathroom. It’s best to go outside and relieve yourself than chance whipping your dick out for something to jump on it as soon as it made contact with the air. The bar stools were rickety and the leather booths were worn with permanent butt impressions along with gashes and cigarette burns. That was another thing about Dusty’s, you ain’t going home without smelling like you just smoked a carton of cigarettes. Keith was forever grateful that his seats in his truck were leather and had resorted to undressing in his garage each night and tossing his clothes into the washer before entering the house.
Keith didn’t want to be in the bar longer than absolutely necessary but knew that it was going to take at least thirty minutes to get his ornery grandfather out of the bar. “Boy why is you here?” his grandfather drawled in disdain as Keith took his seat next to him. “Paw Paw you know why I’m here. It’s the same reason why I’m here everyday. Grams has dinner on the stove and it’s time for you to go home.”
“Well you can call up Grams and tell her that she ain’t the boss of nobody and I’ll make it home when I see fit!” he huffed. Keith rolled his eyes knowing that he was going to have to spend the next thirty minutes listening to the regulars bitch and moan about how life ain’t fair and blame all their financial woes on minorities and Obama, who isn’t even in office any longer and hasn’t been for several years, but in their backwards way of thinking Obama single-handedly ruined America since 2008 and for many more decades to come. Emanuel Snyder, one of the BIGGEST racists in town, swears up and down that America will never recover after Obama ran the country into the ground and poor President Trump just has his hands tied fixing all of Obama’s errors and that’s why America isn’t so great right now and also the reason why he stays broke. Keith wanted to open his mouth and tell him that he was still broke because he couldn’t read worth a hill of beans and never even graduated middle school, and therefore was mostly unemployable. The jobs that he was qualified for were manual labor and of course he thought he was too good for that and once claimed that he wasn’t doing a spic’s or a nigger’s job. Shit instead of him worrying about making America great again, he needed to worry about the town that he claims that he loves and try to do something to contribute in the hopes that we could all make Bluebonnet at least decent. Great was too much of a stretch and probably would never be achieved in Keith’s lifetime.
“Come on Paw Paw. I’ve had a long day myself and I’m ready to get home. Let’s go.”
“Boy ain’t nuthin’ finna get me out my seat. Goodbye.” I was about to respond when Mike Pandor busted through the dilapidated front door of Dusty’s, panting and gulping for air as if he was just chased for five miles by an angry lynch mob. “Jesus Mike, take a seat. What’s got you so outta sorts?” Dusty asked, sliding him a glass of dirty tap water that was most likely teeming with harmful microbes and metals. Keith grimaced as Mike shakily gulped down the unfiltered water and was grateful that he invested in a water filtration system at home.
Mike slammed the glass down and ran his hands through his unruly hair, tugging harshly at the roots. “You know we s’pose to be gettin’ that new principal right?” The men in the room nodded in agreement. “Well I have been speakin’ to her ‘bout renting Widow Cooley’s place that’s just been sittin’ dere since she passed. She sounded like a real nice lady on the phone, real nice, really smart too. Her name is Tatyana Lee but I just got done meetin’ wit her and she is NOT related to our good hero and friend General Robert E. Lee if you catch my drift.”
The men looked around the room confused, waiting for Mike to expound. “I fucked up. She done moved in already because I sent her the key after I received her deposit along with the first and last month’s rent and we gonna have a hell of a time gettin’ her out.”
“Why would we want to run away the school's new principal?” Keith asked, curious to why Mike seemed so scared. “Because she’s a got damn nigger! She fooled me on the phone talkin’ all proper with her white woman soundin’ voice!”
Keith’s mouth dropped in shock. Not because Ms. Lee was a black woman, but because he knew that the dusty podunk town of Bluebonnet was about to raise all kinds of hell. Keith already felt sorry for the woman and knew that the town folk were going to run her out of town before the sun set and the stars were visible in the sky. The sound of wood scraping against wood caught his attention. He turned to his right and watched as his grandfather threw a couple of bills on the bar top and placed his Stetson on his head.
“Tell Grams I’mma be home much later than I anticipated. Tell her that sumthin’ just came up and me and the boys have to go handle that.”
“I’ll get right on that Paw Paw,” Keith answered, frantically calling the station. Keith ran out the bar before anyone else and jumped in his truck knowing that word was going to spread through town about their new resident and social unrest was about to begin. “Yello?”
“Trevor, it’s Keith. I need you and Finn to meet me at Widow Cooley’s property as soon as possible.”
“Oh is this about the black woman that called herself movin’ into town?”
“You got it.”
“Awright we’ll be dere as soon as we can. Hopefully they don’t lynch her before we make it.”
Yeah no shit, Keith thought to himself as he tossed his phone in the cup holder and picked up speed, flinging gravel and loose dirt behind his vehicle. He opened his center console and pulled out a Red Bull and popped the tab. “It’s gonna be a long fucking night.”