1964 found the oil business booming out in far West Texas. Rigs stretched as far as the eye could see and at night they sparkled against the black sky like thousands of diamonds. It was a time when a man could quit a job on one rig, go down the road and have a new one making ten cents per hour more before the end of the day. It created a new breed of men ― the roughnecks. But, it wasn’t the rigs that drove a man crazy sometimes. No, sometimes it was a need that ran deeper than the roots of the Mesquite trees. It could be aptly called obsession.
Charlie Riddle jumped out of the pickup truck almost before it came to a stop in front of The Dew Drop Inn. A neon sign blinked off and on, and snow flurries changed colors as they drifted in front of it.
“What’s your hurry, Charlie?” Robert called.
“Shit, man. I’m ready for a beer. I’ve got a week’s pay and a hunnert dollars of coke in my pocket. It’s time to party.” Charlie pushed through the door.
He stopped short three steps inside, then strode to the back of the bar. “Nelda Sue! What in the hell are you doing here?” He put his hands on the table and stared at the man seated across from her. “And with this damn oil bum?”
“Charlie Riddle, I have you know I am a grown woman. I can go anywhere I want with anyone I want.” Nelda Sue tossed her head. “Besides, until a ring is on my finger, you or no one else owns me.”
The man got to his feet. “You better just move on along, Charlie. I don’t want no trouble.”
Charlie stood toe-to-toe with him. The men matched each other in height at six-foot-two, but the similarities ended there. Blonde, tanned, and muscled, Charlie outweighed dark-haired Pete by fifty pounds.
“Just because your daddy owns the oil company, Petey boy, don’t mean you get to tell me what to do, you sonofabitch.” Charlie spit on the floor.
Nelda Sue pushed away from the table, reached for her mouton fur coat and took the man’s hand. “Let’s go somewhere else, Pete. There’s more than one bar in this town.”
Charlie grabbed her arm. “Come on, Nelda Sue. You don’t really want to be with this guy, and you know it. Come party with me. I’m off for forty-eight hours. You know we always have a real good time.”
Pete shoved Charlie. “Get your hands off her, Riddle.”
Charlie pushed him backward against the table and sent beer bottles flying.
The bouncer, along with Charlie’s friend, got to them before the men exchanged blows.
“Let it go, Charlie,” Robert said. “She ain’t worth it. Let’s get a beer.”
Nelda Sue tossed her red hair, tugged on her mini-skirt that almost covered black lace panties, and turned toward Pete. “Let’s go.”
The two hurried to the door.
Charlie yelled, “I’m gonna marry you, Nelda Sue! Do you hear me? I said I’m gonna marry you.”
Nelda strutted back to him. “Like I told you, Charlie, until there is a ring on my hand no one gets to tell me what to do.” She waved her left hand in front of his face. “Do you see a ring? Huh? Do you?”
Charlie didn’t answer.
“That’s what I thought.” She rushed back to Pete, and they pushed through the door and out into the night.
Robert slapped Charlie on the back. “Come on, man. Let’s get some beers.”
Charlie joined Robert at the bar, but he was mad. Dammit! He thought he had an agreement with Nelda Sue. He’d even paid her damn rent on the trailer in Monahans last month. He worked overtime on the rig, so he could buy her nice things. Surely that counted for something. And, she was damned good in the sack.
He chugged the first beer and slammed the bottle down. “Give me something stronger, barkeep.”
“Hey, Charlie, look who just came in the door.” Robert nudged his friend and pointed. “Ain’t that the two gals that came out to the rig last week?”
Charlie squinted. “Maybe,” he said sullenly.
“Well, if it is, we can get some guaranteed pussy.”
“Ain’t interested,” Charlie replied.
“Shit, you’ve got it bad for Nelda Sue. I think you better either forget her or marry her one or the other.”
Charlie shrugged and pounded on the bar. “Come on, man. A shot of whiskey. Make it a double.”
All he could think about was Nelda Sue’s satin skin, luscious lips, and the sway of her rounded hips under that mini-skirt. And, the fact that she was out with that oil company bum burned a hole in his gut.
After a while, Robert stood up. “You can sit here and brood all you want, but I’m gonna go find some action. Hell, it’s our days off. Enjoy ‘em. We’ve earned some fun.”
Charlie stared into the empty shot glass. “Go on, man. I’ve got some thinkin’ to do.”
Robert headed toward a table where the two women sat.
Charlie swiveled on the barstool to get a better look. Hell, he ought to go on over there with him. The brunette wasn’t bad looking. But, all he could think about was Nelda Sue.
He got to his feet and escaped to the men’s room. Inside a stall, he pulled out a plastic bag from his jean pocket, rolled up a dollar bill and made two straight lines of white powder on the back side of his wallet.
A shiver ran through him as the powder went up his nose. He wet his finger, wiped the residue off the wallet and stuck it along with the plastic bag back in his pocket.
He relieved himself and gave a quick glance in the mirror to make sure no white powder remnants could be seen. With resolve, he strode back into the bar to find his friend.
“Hey, man, I’ve gotta get out of here. You ready to go?”