Frank Sinatra Lonergan, Lucky Lotto Winner Number 1 — Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

The serial story continues.  To read the first EIGHT parts, click here.


The man behind me on the bus out of Millwood finally asked why I kept staring at him. I lied and told him that he looked like someone I knew. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he looked like one of Mama’s hogs. The man smiled, pressed me, asked me who it was. I chuckled and said, “the grand general of the black pig army, sir.” He looked at me cross ways, squinted his eyes, offset his jaw to the right and told me that if I couldn’t give a straight answer he’d carve me up like a Christmas ham. This time I laughed and noted, “ironic, I reckon.” Without breaking gaze, I pulled my cap slowly down over my eyes and reclined my seat.

We cruised along the highway, making the occasional stop at a small town bus station or diner. From time to time I’d switch buses, make the connections that would take me to New York. Through it all, the pig general followed along with a small stack of Kerouac books and Time magazines. I didn’t figure him much for a lover of Kerouac. Then again, he probably didn’t figure me for the lover of a full-figured, full gospel woman.

In Portville we boarded a bus full of hippies. They carried travel guitars and smelled of marijuana. They sat near the front, sleeping off some kind of funk. Moving further to the back, I chose a seat next to a large woman who could have been in Janell’s church choir. She smelled of boiled peanuts, coconut oil, and RC Cola. She asked me if she could bum a smoke but I told her I didn’t have none. She said that was a shame and told me I smelled like Kansas. I asked what that was supposed the mean. She just patted my arm and asked me what I was running from. Nothing, I said. She smiled and asked, “you running from love or your mama?” I told her it wasn’t like that. She turned to look out the window and lulled, “mmm-hmmmm.”

The air brakes released and as the bus eased out of the station, I thought about Janell, about the possibilities of life together. At only twelve weeks, her body wasn’t showing the changes yet. When she told me, I immediately took to planning. We talked about which side of the tracks we’d call home, asked which side had the smaller throwing stones. We considered the possibilities, considered sticking it out with the spiritual singers of Janell’s church but we knew it wouldn’t work. After all, Millwood was just like the rest of 1967 America. There were only two unpardonable sins—fascism and miscegenation.

On the Saturday before Easter, we visited Elder Johnson. We had planned on asking him to marry us quietly in his home. We’d threaten to live in sin if he wouldn’t. But when we arrived mama and little Mary were sitting on his couch, Mama visibly uncomfortable with the black protestant feel of it all. She came right out and asked us whether Janell was pregnant, said she’d heard rumors, said she wouldn’t help raise no mixed up son of a whore. Elder Johnson stood in the corner of the room. It was the only time I had ever seen him powerless. Mary, ran to my side, hugged tight to my leg. Janell fled, crying. I shook Mary free and followed after Janell. The storm door slapped shut. I looked over my shoulder through the window. Mama had taken to yelling at the Elder. Mary watched me from the window, begging me not to leave but understanding that I had to.

I caught up with Janell a couple of blocks down the road, told her I’d hop the next bus out of Millwood. She planned on taking the train. Traveling separately would help us avoid suspicion, make it more difficult for our folks to track us. Neither of us knew nothing of New York, so we chose Grand Central as our meeting place. I told her it could work, sold her infinite possibilities—her singing for money, me working a blue-collar job, us raising our child as the face of the new America.

Mary was my only regret.

The bus lumbered slowly through the Appalachians. One of the hippies in the front of the bus pulled out his guitar and started lazily strumming that stoning song Bob Dylan wrote about rainy day women. “Shut up,” the pig general yelled, “some of us are trying to sleep back here!” And without missing a beat, the hippy quickly transitioned into a more appropriate tune,

It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why babe
If’n you don’t know by now
And it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why babe
It’ll never do somehow
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’ma travel’n on
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

Ghosts are made for giving up. But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

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16 Responses to Frank Sinatra Lonergan, Lucky Lotto Winner Number 1 — Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

  1. can i just say that i think this random lil group makes an amazing team?

    i think the fact that Frank originated in your mind really comes through in his voice when you write him, seth.

    i love the extended time in the back story, and am so glad you filled in some big holes we’d left vague and did so with true Frank-spirit. Frank is just taking shape for me, and after this installment, i think i like him a little more than i thought i did. he seems very real and rings very true.

    i just hope janell is okay.

    • sethhaines says:

      Thanks, Abby.

      This is hard because although I figured on this being a short story, I feel like a graffiti artist who’s been given the Great Wall as a canvas. I felt like more flesh on the back story might help us a little.

      I have also been thinking about the turns that Frank took. When Frank “originated in [my] mind,” I never expected love to be part of his story. I never saw Janell coming. Wouldn’t have ever put him in a bus. Wasn’t anticipating New York City. So I feel like Frank’s life is working out a lot like real life. Taking organic turns. It’s fun to watch the unexpected happen in his life.

      Matt Brock’s up next. Holy Smokes! Can’t wait.

      • I feel like we are cresting, like his journaling the bus ride is some kind of movie-montage leading to a conclusion, maybe not right away but in the next 20 minutes of screen time.

        But I could be way wrong. It’s up to Frank, really 🙂

  2. Matt Brock says:

    i don’t know how much longer i can stay in this. i’m the guy who pretended to like the Clash when liking the Clash was the cool thing to say. All along i’ve been afraid of being found out. I ripped that off of something similar from High Fidelity, but you get the point. How much longer can a pig put on lipstick and dance around with the peacocks? I’m just saggy skin amongst deep blues and greens. Oh well. Guess i’d better go and kill off a character or two huh?

  3. hamster says:

    I’m loving this piece. The brevity here is fierce and nearly dizzying. You start with this intense dark humor and end in this calm dark unsurety. It’s beautiful. Right when I finished reading this, I thought about my friend Chelsea who used to write me letters that were so grand I would carry them in my back pocket and read them when I had a few minutes waiting for someone to show up or for my shot with the cashier. (This was before text and Tweeter and Angry Pigs.) And I was thinking that I’m about to be reading this several times over. Love the Dylan tie in at the end. Love that last narrative line. If you could’ve done anything different here, it might have been bringing in Janell’s voice in the backlog. We haven’t heard from her yet. And I only say that because we’re here to craft each other’s writing as much as we’re here to craft the story. And that’s the only critique I can think of right now. We could talk more later, but I’ll need this in my back pocket for a couple days before I have more than that. Matt’s got good stuff coming. And I’m stoked.

    • sethhaines says:

      NOW I’M STARTING TO LIKE THIS SPACE! That constructive feedback just took me back to the common guild days. Remember those? Remember when you had a blog that was killer and you erased it? You murdered that blog, by the way, but I guess that’s another story.

      Looking at it now, you are right. I wish I would have played with Janell’s voice more. She’s almost a marginlized character at this point, though perhaps the most important in the story. When you dropped that on me, I immediately Homered (“Doh!”). Good words, Kev.

      I definitely want this to be a place where we discuss craft, voice, etc. May the spirit of the CG live on. And may the spirit of your former blog RIP.

  4. Matt Brock says:

    i am feeling forced to bring janell’s voice into my next piece. Or i can kill her off. I’m trying to decide…

  5. how do i get my crapping picture to show up with my name? i registered, downloaded, put a website link. What else do they need from me?

  6. HA! ok, working now, never mind.

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