The note was written in a scrawl
Maggie and River Boy agree to go to Crooks Tail.
He's been there before and she wants to go

9) Maggie goes to Crooks Tail
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Maggie lied to her parents and told them her friends were going to the drive-in movie again.
Becky drove her to Main Street and River Boy picked her up.
He borrowed Top Hat's car.
It was Saturday.
Together they drove 85 miles to Lewiston, where Crooks Tail that set down close to the bayou.
At night you could hear the alligators bellow and birds scream in terror, except that iniquitous slice of town drown out the angst of those animals by delivering the ingracious ecstasy of human life.

On the way, she was full of nervous talk, half thinking it was not a date, but her first real outing with a man.
She asked, what are we going to do? It felt strange. She asked the same thing with Tad, but it wasn't filled with excitement like with River Boy.
River Boy, with his usual evasive, misunderstood, half-confused paranoid way, trying to avoid and not knowing what to say to this beautiful inexperienced girl, said, whatever you want to do.
He was shy and she enjoyed being in charge.
Feeling coy, she asked him, do you have a girlfriend?
Feeling equally coy, knowing there was no sense saying one way of the other, he chose not to answer, pretending to be busy with a knob on the radio.
Maggie took his refusal to answer as yes, and asked, is she pretty?
He answered, huh?
She laughed and looked out the window. The standoff continued as the two young foxes chased ... each afraid to catch the other.

They got to Crooks Tail after dark and had to be back in Trinity in a few hours. It was a long drive.
Maggie was excited. Both sides of the street were lined with buildings, like Trinity except old and disrepaired, with brightly lit doorways and dark windows.

They parked among hundreds of cars in the field. Across the lot were blinking signs.
Maggie jumped out and pointed. Let's go there.
River Boy could hardly catch her. It was above his control. There were knifemen and robbers and pickpockets. He should have warned her.
River Boy paid the 50 cent admission and they entered a tall lobby decorated with nude murals and bawdy colors.
The auditorium was full so they went up to the balcony. They had to sit two seats apart.
River Boy was white, the next woman was black, and the next man lighter skin, and then Maggie was white, and the old man at the end didn't give a shit because the music was great.

The stage had old-time variety acts.
The jokes were dirty, but jugglers and the band, shouting and cheering, and all those people wandering in and out amazed sweet Maggie.
Auditorium doors opened and closed, showing the people coming in and going past in the lobby.
Women were dressed with feathers, furs and hats. Men mostly looked ordinary, but some wore bright suits with tall hats, and some cocked, some decorated with stars or angled and twisted, or carrying advertising signs telling about another show, and one fool wearing deer antler pants, all trying to gain notice or sporting their attributes.

When they left the theater, Maggie said, somebody told me there's a room with holes in the wall.
They were both laughing. River Boy said, they have it.

Big Mak told him it was down one of the halls that ran behind the buildings.
Mak was a soft-hearted purveyor of lewd violent money and told River Boy about the perversions and secret passageways.
Mak's theory was Crooks Tail was the law.
It's just the truth, he said. Miserable souls should be here. Where else can they go?

River Boy and Maggie went into that stench hallway, dimly lit with red lights.
She was giggling and holding his arm.
He hushed her with his hand.
She might be filled with sex, but women got raped and men killed in that funhouse.

There was a sign pointing upstairs to a live show. River Boy paid the man $2, and they went up to a walkway with wood railing that crossed over the hallway below. Maggie stopped and looked at the people below before they went into another dark hallway.
The music drew them toward an open door. The far end the hall was unlit and River Boy felt eyes. They were looking at him, not Maggie. He was sure it had to do with the payments coming from Blacktown.

In the middle of the room, Cashew Lynn was laying across a red velvet table on her stomach with two naked men at attention.
Other men waited around the table watching her rock back and forth.
Holding her feet behind her with both hands, she serviced one man in her mouth while another spread her apart, bent over laying his face between her behind. Her taut buttocks flexed in rhythm with the man in front while the man from behind bobbed up and down.
She held firm her position while the man at her mouth pushed with spasm, and another took his place.
It was a carnival of carnality.
Maggie couldn't look away.
Then she saw the silver chain around the girl's neck. It looked like the one her mother gave Joddie.
Maggie moved to get a look at the girl's face.
Good god, it was Joddie.
She screamed, Joddieeeee. The girl looked without responding. She was the show, it was the attention she needed, it was the risk, the men, the hate, the lust, it was everything to her. And she didn't stop.

Maggie was hysterical.
Her sister Joddie was naked laying on a table having sex.

Filled with shriek, she ran into the night air.
Not knowing or caring what's next if only she could escape.
River Boy was behind her and grabbed her hand.
She broke away, running.

Her emotions were stretched.
Never imagining this moment of conflict in her life.
How could her sister, a married woman, do such things?
What power she had.
Her body.
All those men.
The whiff of incense never covering the lurid smell of whiskey, beer and semen on the floor.
Thick sticky vile slippery uneven floor.
It was the devils hand that sex.

And Bob where was her husband Bob?
They looked so wonderful together at Christmas dressed for church.
Bob wore the pinstripe suit and her sister wore that beautiful dress with the high lace neck, with her mother's cross on the same silver chain she was wearing tonight.
Her sister was always modest.
How could it happen?
What will her mother say?

She unexpectedly turned and laughed, while walking backward toward the car.
She watched his silhouette against the background light, same as the first time she saw him at the river. Except closer.
She grabbed his belt with fingers extending down the front, and said, I'm not wearing panties.
Of course she was.

The parking lot was dark, not that it mattered in Crooks Tail, she sat on the edge of the car hood, and they kissed. He pushed her back and ran his fingers over the top of her legs and pulled off the panties she was no longer wearing. And while River Boy let his tongue enter her maiden, she heaved one large deep breath. It was impossible yet the most wonderful moment in her life.
Sure hell fire righteous to the bone, sex had taken over that girl.

Maggie didn't even feel the drive home.
Twisting her head back and forth in convulsions not able to choose between laughing hysterically and screaming.
Slamming her fists against the dash Maggie began crying.
She had never been touched by a man in a private way. And now her virginity was gone, not just taken but destroyed, by the strange man she didn't recognize sitting beside her in the car.
Who was he? Why would he do such a thing?
Why would he take me to that place?

They passed the river bridge.
Her sanity was screaming for something common that she knew.
She wanted to grab the bridge and hold the past.
Only a few short hours before she felt none of this.

River Boy played a line of fire many times, but taking Maggie to Crooks Tail was a mistake. A woman in this virtue could yell rape and extract a proper rendering, except she loved River Boy in his senseless little way.
He started driving up Main Street real slow.
The beautiful little town with clean streets lit up with lights at each corner, calmed her. She told him to stop the car.
He pulled over in front of the hardware store.
Officer Ranny and Dack were coming from the opposite way. They saw River Boy in Top Hat's car and stopped the police car and got out.
River Boy knew those bastards with a cane but rolled down the window and waved.
Maggie could feel something was wrong between River Boy and the officers. They were nice to her family. The occurrence of a feeling aside from Crooks Tail electroshook Maggie's brain and she regained sanity.

The officers were eager to knock around a Negro.
River boy would be fine choice.
Until they saw Maggie.
Dack leaned over, putting his liquored face through the driver's window, all smiles, and said, Hi Maggie whatcha doin' here?

River Boy was sweating down his pants.
If she started screaming it was done for him.
She said, hi Dack.
We're coming back from the drive-in.

Oh what'd you see?
Good thing she lied to her parents and knew the features.
Dack said, that's a good one. Did you like the part where he kissed her?
That drunk sewer-smelling lawman was flirting with Maggie to push it against River Boy. Rann pulled him away, and Dack said, goodnight Maggie. We'll see ya later River Boy.

As soon as they drove away, Maggie said, what happened between you two?
River Boy said, it's built up over time. In the back of his mind, wanting fix Dack as much as Dack wanted to fix him.

She said, you have to get Joddie out of there.
River Boy was surprised. It was complicated because he delivered Blacktown payments to Crooks Tail since the trouble started between Spade and Top Hat. River Boy didn't know who else was involved in the problems at Blacktown, and didn't want to get cross-purposed and drag Maggie into that. But they were already in it.
If he refused, Maggie could tell somebody, and Blacktown would still suffer because River Boy was involved.
He said, Okay. Hoping to buy time. He was a good story-teller, but those guys in Crooks Tail were devils.

When Maggie got home, she ran straight upstairs without looking at her parents.
They knew something was wrong.
Joel let his wife take care of the girls, but he knew something was wrong.
Her mother said, oh don't worry she's growing up.

River Boy dropped off Top Hat's car.
Blacktown was unusually quiet as he walked back to Grandpa's.
Down the street, Mrs Washington was smoking on the front porch. She yelled, hey River Boy, I ain't too old I can't see yo white ass in midnight. He laughed and waved. That old lady was the heartbeat of town.

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