Chapter 6

The West Texas pull was always the hardest, no matter whether you did it from El Paso to Dallas or El Paso to San Antonio. Long stretches of empty road made your mind wander, and that wasn’t good. Besides, the rain, which had started out as a light sprinkle, had grown to a full-blown winter thunderstorm and was pelting the front windshield of his van. The driver’s-side wiper worked fine, but the passenger’s-side blade had dry- rotted, and the metallic scrape of the blade was irritating and was scratching the windshield. Johnny slowed down as he approached an intersection near Van Horn, Texas, trying to make sure he got on the right road to San Antonio. He saw what looked like two hitchhikers in the driving rain and was going to pass them by when he realized one was waving a bandana and holding a bottle of beer. “Damn,” he thought, “that guy looks like Butch.” He slowed to get a better look and then slammed the brakes, bringing the van to a sliding stop. He leaned over and rolled down the passenger’s-side window. “Butch, is that you?”
Butch leaned his head into the van and laughed. “Man, where you been? I been waiting for you here for two days. You running late, John Raymond.”
“Get in, goddammit. Man, you’ve lost it.”
“Hey, what about my man Cal here? He needs a ride too.”
“Who the fuck is Cal?
“He’s my man Cal. He’s traveling with me.”
“Well both of y’all get in.”
Butch jumped in the passenger’s-side door, and Cal slid the van’s side door open. They were soaked and both their duffels were soaked. Johnny shook his head at the mess and put the van back in gear. “I think I have a towel back there somewhere if you guys want to dry off a little,” he said.
Butch jerked back over the seat and looked into the back of the van. “Cal, this is John Raymond . . . the best sumbitch in America.”

“Pleased to meet you, John Raymond,” Cal said, “and thanks for stopping for us.”
“Just call me Johnny. John Raymond is what this nutty motherfucker calls me, but most people just call me Johnny. What have you guys been doing?” He looked at Butch.
“We been smokin’ a little grass, chasing a little ass, showing a little class, and breaking a little glass,” Butch said.
“Oh, right,” Johnny said, “you’ve been being Butch—fucking up on the way home. Looking for mischief, looking for trouble, getting drunk, getting stoned, picking up Cal.”
“Say, John Raymond, don’t knock my man Cal. He’s a good dude.”
Cal was about Butch’s height but wiry and fidgety. He alternately chain-smoked Camels and pot. He had a pencil-thin mustache that made him look like a Mexican movie star. “Man, I’m glad you showed up, John Raymond. I was tired of being wet,” Cal said.
“Just Johnny . . . not John Raymond. John Raymond’s a Butch thing. Just call me Johnny.”
“OK, dude, don’t go all trippy on me. From now on it’s plain Johnny, you can bet your ass on that.”
Butch broke in: “Let’s smoke a joint, Cal. You want to, John Raymond?”
“Naw, I’m just the fuckin’ driver here, and I dropped a Molly a little while ago and drank my weight in coffee, so I’m fine.”