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Well, if it isn’t Donny Moss, Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year for 1979. Your six-foot frame is reclined comfortably like the King of England in your office’s high-back, leather chair. Go ahead. Plop those custom-made python-skin cowboy boots atop that mammoth desk you bought on Royal Street in New Orleans. No one will ever know how much you paid for the boots or the desk. But you will know, and that’s all that matters.
If only everyone could see you now while lighting your Cuban Monte Cristo #2 with your gold, monogrammed lighter. I see you laugh as you smoke and admire your luxuriously decorated office and agree. What could be more fitting the brilliant, charismatic president of the fastest growing trucking company in the South? Yes, you anticipated laughter when you took control of this backwoods transport company but even you didn’t dream the company would come out of left field within three years to supplant larger firms as the go-to transport company in the region. Your competitors weren’t too happy when their customers dissipated faster than raindrops on a tin-roofed barn in August.
Go ahead, Donny, laugh out loud. You deserve it. Now canvass your office walls. You know, the ones with pictures of you with politicians, athletes, and even some of the hottest stars and starlets in Hollywood. While you are at it, admire those championship ribbons and trophies displayed in the huge, wall-mounted, glass encasement above the leather sofa that your Arabian horses back at your farm earned. Life indeed is good, isn’t it, Donny.
You are enjoying that cigar, aren’t you? It has a full, robust flavor and aroma, just like you like them. Not just anyone can get Cuban cigars. And most people couldn’t come close to affording big, fat Cuban cigars even if they could find them. You can. That’s because the same people who get those fabulous smokes financed many of your complicated, get-rich-quick schemes you presented them that proved to be enormously profitable.
It takes someone with superior intelligence to be as successful as you, Donny. Of course, operating outside mainstream ethics and banking regulations helps. Others can only guess how you became such an essential player in the market so swiftly. They know your money and influence originated somewhere but can’t figure out from where. Meanwhile they must credit you, the handsome, folksy, and charming CEO who was preaching the Gospel in rural Southern Baptist churches throughout the Deep South only a few years earlier.
Take a minute and relish just how far you have come, Donny. Turn around. Right above your beautiful credenza is your high school diploma. You were a popular, athletic stud who doubled as a pretty good student. Remember? You and everyone else knew Donny Moss was going places. How you arrived was only a minor detail. Someone of your intellect and savvy would figure the details out later. Better tap your stogie on the edge of the ashtray, Donny. You don’t want ashes on your desk or carpet.
Next to your high school diploma is proof of your bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Yes, Donny, those degrees and your educational deferments kept your ass in school and out of Vietnam while your high school buddies went to war. Yes, while you were partying and screwing your way through college, those dumb, poor bastards, as you called them, were coming home maimed, with more than a few marbles missing in their heads, and, even worse, in flag-draped caskets.
It seemed as if the war would go on forever, didn’t it, Donny? You couldn’t remain in college forever, so you devised a different strategy for staying out of Nam. You’re opening that bottom desk drawer and pulling out that framed certificate from the Baptist seminary. Yes, the one that pleased your mother and father so. Who else but Donny Moss would pull a fast one and claim to be called by the Lord to become a Southern Baptist minister and head off to seminary to avoid the war? You outdid yourself that time, Donny.
Of course, playing on the emotions of others has always been your strength. So why not become a preacher? You could wait out the war while developing relationships that could one day possibly lead to some serious income. Meanwhile, you could bilk those church members of yours without them ever knowing it. Being raised Baptist, you know church members never question the actions or wisdom of their pastor. All you had to do was put on a good show on Sundays and pretend to give a damn about those poor peckerwoods who were paying your salary. You wonder if other men who break their backs to support their families can appreciate the genius of using a divinity degree to grab control of a trucking company. That was a path only you could travel, Donny. And to the chagrin of your many doubters and haters, you executed it flawlessly.
Dolores, your secretary, just bounced into the office. As she kisses you on the mouth, you smell that drugstore perfume she bathes in. You’re moaning now, Donny, as you raise your arms and pull her closer. “Is everyone gone for the day?” you ask.
“Everyone last one of them, Boss,” your sometimes lover replies as she circles around you and parks her pear-shaped behind in your lap. You ask Dolores how long you two have to play. “Long enough,” she answers. “Though Jimmy will be home early. Tomorrow they are conducting inventory all day, so they plan to close up early today.”
“Perfect,” you smile and reply as you run your hands up and down her curves that fill that clingy, low-cut dress this auto parts salesman’s wife bought to impress you. She begins unbuttoning your shirt and kisses you again. Then she runs her fingers through your thick brown hair. “Door locked?” you ask.
“Uh, huh,” she mumbles as she continues to kiss you. You two waste no time squeezing out of your clothes as you get up, grab and lift her from around the waist and place her atop the desk while kicking the desk chair back and out of your way. Dolores wraps her firm thighs and ankles around you, Donny, and grabs the back of your neck, and pulls you toward her in a rhythmic motion. After only a few minutes, you grunt, your movement slows, and your grasp of Dolores eases.
Dolores looks up at you with adoring eyes filled with a devilish satisfaction she must hide from her husband, whom she will see in less than an hour. You pull away and fasten your pants and button your shirt. Dolores hops off the desk and searches for the pantyhose you snatched off her and tossed to the side. She finds them, picks them up off the office’s plush, shag carpeting and orders you out of the way so she can sit in your chair and climb back inside them and slip on her pumps.
While picking up your cigar, Dolores asks, “So what are you doing this weekend? Got a hot date?” You adjust your belt and grin, letting your secretary and part-time lover know Donny Moss will always have someone nearby to satisfy his urges. “Anyone I know?” she asks slyly. “I’ll bet it’s someone’s wife or maybe the daughter of someone who would kill you if they knew. I’ve seen how you look at the mayor’s daughter when she wears her cheerleader uniform on Friday nights,” she says half-jokingly.
You continue puffing on your cigar, then blow smoke over Dolores’ head and wink. If Donny Moss is sleeping with a high school cheerleader, he damn sure will never admit it. But if your little auto parts salesman’s wife wants to think that, so be it. Doing so will only make her and the other women whose carnal needs you satisfy want you even more.
“I had better go, baby,” Dolores says as she plants one last kiss on your lips as you grab her plump bottom and pull her closer.
“Are you sure you have to?” you ask, letting her think you actually want her around for a few more minutes. That’s what is wonderful about married women, isn’t it, Donny. They will leave without having to be kicked out.
“Yep,” she replies. “Got any time for me this weekend?”
“Not sure. We’ll see,” you answer without limiting your options. “Got a bunch of things to take care of before Monday.”
“Oh, that’s right, I remember,” Dolores responds. “You’re being recognized at tonight’s game for your support of the school’s athletics programs. I hope for your sake no one finds out how supportive you probably are of those high school girls and teachers!” she exclaims with a mischievous laugh.
You escort Dolores to the door and kiss her on the neck. “Be good now, ya hear?” you say, pretending to give a damn about her.
“Honey, it’s much too late for me to be a good girl. Just like you, I’d rather be good at it than good!” Dolores pinches your cheek and walks out the door. “Call me if you need me tomorrow to help with anything. I’ll be home all day. Alone,” she adds. Dolores blows you a kiss and starts walking to her car. “Oh, by the way, I almost forgot,” she says as she turns around. “Your ex called earlier.”
“Yeah? What did she want?” you ask with a grimace.
“She said to tell you someone you know will be on Meet the Press Sunday morning. She said since you won’t be in church, you should watch.” Dolores then climbs into her silver Cutlass and heads home to see her family, who couldn’t be more proud of her for landing a job at one of the most profitable companies in town.
That damn holy-roller ex-wife of yours! You dumped her, what, over four years ago? Still, she keeps trying to convince you to revert to the life of poverty you had together when you were a simple redneck Baptist preacher. You have to give her credit, Donny. She doesn’t give up. Deep down, you will always have feelings for that pretty, blond gal with the bubbly personality you married while in seminary. The problem is she still wants the preacher she married years ago. She just can’t seem to grasp that the Donny Moss whom she knew and loved is long gone. You had hoped she would evolve. Instead, she keeps a prayer vigil going for her wayward ex-husband in hopes you will one day repent and return to the Lord so the two of you can continue your service to Him together.
Hitting the door is only going to hurt your hand, Donny. You want to hate her, but you just can’t. You would like nothing better than for her to let you live your new life. You deserve that at the very least, don’t you? You can’t worry about her, Donny. You have places to go and people to see. So turn out the lights, lock the door, climb inside your customized pickup, and head for that luxurious estate of yours on the banks of the Pearl River. Remember, you have a ballgame to attend tonight. Don’t fret, Donny. You might just find someone worthy of your company while there. You know whoever you choose will consider themselves lucky because Donny Moss knows how to treat a woman. And you keep secrets better than anyone.
After a long, hot shower, you feel better now, don’t you? Now throw on that candy-striped cotton button-down shirt and tuck it inside those stiff-as-a-brick, starched, cotton khakis featuring 1.4″ cuffs that break perfectly atop those dirty bucks you purchased in New Orleans. After running a brush through your hair and splashing Aramis on your cheeks, you’re ready for showtime. Get in your truck and head for the football stadium where the home team will be battling your alma mater. What could be more fitting, Donny, than having the folks from your old hometown see you recognized for your financial support of the local high school’s athletics programs?
After parking, make your way through the gates of the football stadium and smell that freshly-popped popcorn and hot roasted peanuts while feeling the cadence of the drums reverberate inside your chest. You stop, speak, hug, and slap folks on the back as you move toward your reserved seat on the fifty-yard line. Go ahead and laugh because there isn’t a politician in the world who can work a crowd as well as Donny Moss. Maybe if this trucking company gig gets boring, you can run for political office yourself. No, you’re right Donny, that’s foolish talk. Way too much baggage and far too many skeletons and girlfriends in your closet. Meanwhile, the husbands of the very wives you have bedded are coming by to shake your hand while their wives smile nervously and look the other way.
As you turn to the field, you see the mayor’s daughter, the head cheerleader, a short and buxom brunette who indeed is no stranger to your charms. First, she gives you a quick smile and a quick wave. Then she performs an extra-high leg kick you know is especially for you. Meanwhile, a few of the female high school teachers you have come to know intimately wave and smile as you pretend to watch the action on the field.
The home team is leading 14–7 at halftime. As the teams leave the field and the high school bands gather along the sidelines, the high school principal motions for you to come down onto the field. In your patented, faux-modest fashion, you rise and walk down the bleachers and onto the field. After the bands perform, you’re escorted onto the playing surface by the mayor’s daughter and another cute cheerleader. There, the principal presents you with a plaque recognizing you for your generous support of the school’s athletics programs.
After receiving the plaque and shaking the principal’s hand, you are again escorted off the field by the two cheerleaders. The mayor’s daughter whispers to you she will be by to see you later. By later, she means after her parents are asleep so she can sneak out of the house. “I’ll be waiting,” you say as both girls run off to join the other members of the squad on the sidelines.
With the ceremony for you over, why don’t you fake a trip to the concession stand? Then, while no one is looking, you can ease through the front gate and get out of here. There is no sense in dining on some cold hotdogs when you can pick up something more fitting for you. Once home, you can chase it down with a couple of stiff drinks while that old grandfather clock in the living room counts down the hours until your company arrives.
That three-hour nap came in handy, didn’t it, Donny? At two o’clock, you finally got the mayor’s daughter out of your bed and sent her home. She nearly killed you, didn’t she? Now it’s nine the following day, and you are still sore and tired when your maid arrives and makes you a big bowl of Cheerios for breakfast. After eating, you’ll grab a shower and head to the office, and pretend to tie up some loose ends.
Around noon you catch your second wind. You remember Dolores is at home alone, so you call and ask her to travel over to a particular little motel off the beaten path where the two of you spend the next few hours. An afternoon alone with Dolores has you warmed up now. You return home and decide to drive to Hattiesburg for the evening and get a good meal. After plenty of steak and wine, you’ll drop by your favorite bar for some drinks and dancing. Your luck has always been good there, hasn’t it, Donny? There is no reason to think tonight won’t be any different. You will walk in like you own the place and pick from a bevy of divorcees sitting at the bar. You know each one will pray for you to pick her.
You are awake early for a Sunday morning, Donny. The tolling bells of the nearby country church reminding its flock it is time for service must have caught your ear. You roll over and that cute, bleached-blond girl who followed you home last night is still lying there sound asleep. Aren’t you glad, Donny, she still looks pretty in the morning? Though not good enough to wake her up for another round. You get up, throw on your silk robe, slide into your slippers, and rush to the kitchen to make coffee.
Your bunkmate for the evening finally walks into the kitchen wearing the Oxford-cloth shirt you wore the night before. You pretend to be glad to see her and give her a quick kiss and a cup of coffee. Before long, you make up some excuse about needing to go to the office and put her in her car and send her home, wherever home is. But not before promising to call her, “real soon.” Now you can enjoy the solitude of the day while savoring your many conquests during the past twenty-four hours. For the incomparable Donny Moss has been busy.
After refilling your coffee mug, you should turn on that big, Zenith television of yours and see what is happening in the world. Find Meet the Press on the NBC affiliate station. Weren’t you supposed to watch Meet the Press for some reason this morning? Oh, that’s right. Your ex-wife said someone you know would be a guest on there.
The program’s moderatorbegins his usual introductions of the panel of reporters who will question the guest de jour. Then, the camera flips to the guest, Senator Richard Mullen, the junior United States Senator from Indiana. Does he look familiar, Donny? I am sure it will come to you.
Judging from the grin, you must remember. Richard Mullen was in junior high school when you baptized him in the tank that arose from behind the choir loft and pulpit of one of those tiny South Mississippi churches you pastored. He sure has changed, hasn’t he, Donny? Gone is the pimply-faced, red-headed kid who was always the first in line to volunteer for any church activity. Hell, there were days when you thought that kid would follow you around forever. Now, little Dickie Mullen is a polished, young man with dashing auburn hair, a flawless complexion, deep brown eyes, and refined good looks. Across his impressively broad shoulders is a stylish, charcoal-gray suit complimented by a striking maroon, polka-dot tie that adds to his impressive air of confidence and charisma. It is easy to see how little Dickie Mullen became a successful politician after his family moved to Indiana back in the mid-1060s.
The Senator’s appearance isn’t the only thing impressive about him. The moderator says Mullen is a decorated Vietnam veteran and served in the Indiana statehouse before becoming a United States senator. In addition, he graduated from Northwestern University and earned a law degree from Harvard. Impressive indeed. As the moderator continues listing his accomplishments, the Senator sits stoically, looking directly into the camera as if he is staring straight at you, Donny. And still, the distinguished, young man has yet to utter a word. Let’s listen in, Donny, as the reporters ask him questions.
“Senator, you are now one of the most popular and respected members of the United States Senate. People use the term ‘Kennedy-esque’ to describe your appeal across both sides of the political aisle. Even though you are serving your first term, there is already mention of your party drafting you to be its nominee for president. Many, Senator, believe you have the ability to bring this country together. Care to comment on this speculation?”
Look at him, Donny. Mullen just gave the camera a Cheshire cat grin while aw-shucking his way right out of answering that question; a sure sign the presidential speculation has merit. He has responded to every question as if each were a softball he knocked right out of the park.
“For our last question,” the moderator says, “Senator, you are mentioned by many as an inspiration. Please tell us, Senator, who during your youth inspired you and helped make you the person you are today?”
Finally, after taking time to reflect, it looks like the Senator is going to answer. That’s right, Donny. Turn it up a little so we can hear this.
“There are many people who have influenced my life,” the Senator begins. “My father, mother, grandparents, teachers, friends, and colleagues, to name a few. However, there was one man whom I idolized while growing up. Because of his encouragement, I went on to get my education and serve my country. As the pastor of our small community church in Mississippi, this intelligent, gifted, and caring minister encouraged those who didn’t have faith in themselves to pursue a better life, even while most of us were wearing second-hand, hand-me-down clothing.
“Although I haven’t seen or spoken to him in many years, I can honestly say no one outside my family inspired me more and had a greater impact on my becoming the man I am today. So wherever you are, Pastor Donny Moss, I want to say a heartfelt thank you, and may God bless you.”
After a momentary pause, the moderator says, “Thank you, Senator Mullen, for joining us today on Meet the Press. Tune in next week for another edition of television’s longest-running news program. A pleasant Sunday to you all.”
Careful, Donny, you’re spilling coffee all over the floor! You’re going to burn yourself. Holy Shit! is right. I’d be dumbstruck, too, after hearing a United States senator and possibly the next president of the United States name me as the greatest inspiration in his life on national television. So what’s the matter, Donny? I’ll bet you are hearing your ex-wife laughing her ass off. Yes, she’s thinking about how hard Pastor Donny tried to leave his preaching days behind. Now, thanks to a United States senator from Indiana whom you barely remember, Donny Moss, Southern Baptist minister and shaper of young, impressionable lives, is a national celebrity and hero. It’s only a matter of hours before that phone on the wall starts ringing, and reporters from all over the country are knocking on your door wanting an interview with the great Pastor Donny Moss. But there’s a problem, isn’t there?
Just think how your friends are laughing. They know Pastor Donny isn’t who he used to be. Hell, he doesn’t exist at all anymore! They are going to be calling and dropping by to harass you about your new notoriety. When those big-city newspapers and magazines come calling for stories about Pastor Donny Moss, every stone will be overturned, revealing what has become of this man of God and all you have been up to since the Senator was a young boy. The many women you bedded and every man you conned will have a story to tell. Oh, you’ll be famous, all right. But not like Pastor Donny is now. Once all your dirty laundry is aired, every person in the country will know what a cad you have become, Donny.
But that isn’t what’s really bothering you, is it, Donny? No, you are more concerned about what this attention will do to your new life. It doesn’t look good, Donny. Who in the world will want to deal with you after hearing about all the people hoodwinked and swindled? Think that the New Orleans mob is going to back your deals now? Or are they going to turn the tables on you and take advantage of that media scrutiny you’ll be under. Yep, things are going to be different now, Donny. The life you worked so hard to create might as well be over. No more women or expensive vehicles, no successful business, no peace. Essentially, you will have no life, will you?
I’d panic too if I were you, Donny. But what can you do? Renounce your new hedonistic lifestyle, repent, and return to the ministry? Nice try, Donny. We both know that will never work. Even the smooth and cunning Donny Moss won’t be able to finagle his way out of this quagmire and put the genie back inside the bottle. Nope, not this time. You can’t go forward, and you can’t go back. When the national media get their arms around just who Donny Moss truly is, you will have only two choices: leave the country or, well, worse.
Go ahead and scream at the top of your lungs and throw that coffee mug at the television screen. That’ll help, I’m sure. Where are you going now, Donny? Straight to the gun cabinet? I should have known. Nice collection you have there, by the way. I see you picking up that silver-handled .45 and loading a bullet in the chamber. Just one shot, Donny? Well, you’re right. I guess one is all you will need for what you plan to do. Drop that pistol inside your robe pocket and step outside onto the patio. The fresh air might do you some good.
Get a big whiff of those fragrant, sweet olive bushes and pine trees. Nice, aren’t they? Now you are walking down to the river, Donny? I guess the view of the Pearl River flowing southward on its way to the Gulf of Mexico is comforting; to most people anyway. You could fall into that current and float like a feather out into the ocean where no one would find you or where you could never hear them laughing at you. Look at you, Donny. You are walking directly into the water like preachers used to do when baptizing new believers. As you pull that pistol out of your pocket, you look up and see the cloudy sky has opened just enough for a single ray of sunshine to pierce the clouds and hit you directly in the face while everything else around you remains overcast and shadowed.
Remember what your mama taught you, Donny? The Lord works in mysterious ways. But go ahead and laugh at what your dear old mama taught you. Now curse that single beam of light and everything it represents. So you are wading further out into the current now? Are you sure you want to do this? I can forgive you for ignoring me as you put that pistol to the side of your head, cock it, and pull the trigger. What a deafening sound it makes ricocheting off the trees and riverbank!
Your entire being falls into the current at the very moment when the national media is looking for you. For Pastor Donny Moss, anyway. But the man who was Pastor Donny is no longer. Unfortunately, neither is his latest incarnation that prided himself on being more intelligent than the average Joe and someone who could inveigle his way out of anything.
In the end, Donny, you are floating like a forgotten piece of driftwood on a lonely path southward with no say in your course or eventual destination. You will never enjoy or lament your new notoriety caused not by some act of chicanery but by long-forgotten acts of kindness and the mysterious ways of your mama’s Lord.
Well, time for me to go. Bon voyage, Donny, and thanks. Your enigmatic ride through life has been one helluva good show.
B. C. Murray
B. C. Murray is a native of Columbia, Mississippi, a graduate of Ole Miss, and the proud father of two sons. He has authored three novels set in and around Columbia, Mississippi, during the 1970s. The author's essay, A Boy, the Moon, and Camille, appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Mississippi Magazine. His essay Rendezvous with the Red-Headed Nurse appeared in the November/December 2021 of Mississippi Magazine.