Red wine for sale in Lee County, Virginia, and not wild berry or fruit punch! A Merlot, don't you know, at the Minimart by the hospital. Bright markers on the store door name their wares, and, by juxtaposition, they seem to promise pepperoni night crawlers. I don't expect too much of the wine, though it's a marvel to find anything beyond Gallo white. There's a young guy beside me at the counter, but I haven't taken him in yet.
I kid with the clerk, "dry red wine in Lee county -- do I have to add my own sugar?"
She laughs a little -- I haven't paid yet -- and the guy says, "Gotta go the liquor store for 'at." I turn -- he's short, thin , wearing a camouflage t-shirt; has shaggy, auburn hair; and he's as full of energy as a windup toy with the key too tight.
He says, "I just got out of jail."
"Yeah, see this?" he has a patchy half-inch beard -- "They won't let you shave; afraid you'll cut your throat or something."
I remember they took away my shoelaces that one time, but I don't share with him. "How come?" I pause a little, to see if that was okay to ask. The irises of his eyes are 1/2 again normal size, bright green/brown muddle, and there's a lot of white showing around them.
But he's not shy, "flunked a drug test on parole, 90 days. Can't stay away from the herbaceous. I told RV, the sheriff, to his face, I'm not quitting. I don't care."
As usual, I remember several magazine articles, "They'll probably legalize it soon," I say.
He says, "Yeah -- you're getting wine in the daytime." I pay first, and when I take my booty to the parking lot I see a dilapidated blonde in this huge red pickup, and a guy who looks like my new buddy's cousin, seedy at the wheel.
As I'm sitting in my car, the little guy comes out, joins them, yells, "Wino!" laughs, holds up a Bud, "this here's the stuff!" and they zip off, happy as larks. Maybe next time I will wait till I make Kingsport. Besides, the wine wasn't much count.