back to Writings index

Author: Kentucky Woman
Title: Bourbon, Straight Up
Type of Work: story
Source: CMv1 #39

Copyright 2002 Pamela Montgomery


When you grow up in a small southern town like Bourbon Kentucky, no matter where you go or what your experiences are, you will always call it home. I left home at a very young age, 18 in fact. After enrolling in college, I met the man that I decided I was going to marry. I did just that! I quit school, had two beautiful sons, lived, laughed, loved and unfortunately learned to disrespect my husband and myself. I guess you might call it one long learning experience. After almost 20 years of marriage I am now single and working as a freelance reporter for whichever newspaper happens to want my story. I had the good, or bad, fortune to be brought into this world while one of those celebrity Christmas shows was on the air in good old black and white, so I am named Andy Williams. Now, I realize that is not a real southern name without the middle name (Lou). This is one of those facts that is kept as secret as possible. Kind of like when my mother never told any of her three daughters that her real first name is Bertha. We love our mother dearly but there is no one who can drive us up a wall faster. My sisters, Sandy Sue and Candy Dew (yes, we all rhyme) would rather have a root canal than spend more than an hour or two with our Mother.

Now you must understand that when you are from a small town, the stereotype follows you everywhere. When you return home to a small town, especially one in the south, another stereotype follows you home. Since the place I came home FROM was Los Angeles California the majority of the older people in town think I am on a first name basis with every television, movie and rock star they have ever heard of. This was used to my advantage many times to sell some of my articles to the local newspapers. For a small town girl I have seen a lot of big city stuff and yet none of it can come close to the “events” that go on in small town America. I returned to Bourbon when my sons were grown and my divorce was final. I was broke, starting over at 45, and scared to death, but more determined than ever to make it on my own. Then I got a call from Jeopardy! I somehow made enough money in a few days to help me do the things I love, like painting and writing. And I get to spend a lot of time with my sisters and their families. After all that is why I made the culture jump back home. Sometimes it feels like I brought back some of L.A. with me, and at other times it feels as if it is a million miles away. Most of my reporting is so mundane that I write it while in a stupor. Half of the time when I read it, I wonder who wrote it. But after all that has happened in the last two weeks, things are about to change. Little old Bourbon has recently been hit with a rash of unexplained disappearances. All in the middle of the day with all of the missing persons being women over the age of sixty. Each and every one of them had been to the beauty shop, their hair was done, their nails polished and they were dressed in their Sunday best. I call them disappearances because at the moment it is unclear whether these “mature” ladies left of their own accord or if someone “granny”-napped them. It all started the day Leroy Stokes called the sheriff out to his farm because his wife Vertie May wasn’t home and he was hungry. This may sound chauvinistic, but for 45 years Vertie May had Leroy’s supper on the table when he came in from the barn. His supper was never late, never cold and always on the table, served by Vertie May with a smile. Period. The last person to see Vertie May that day was the town’s beautician Miss Myrtle Barrett. Everyone has called her Miss Myrtle since she was five years old. She knew even then what she was going to do with her life. She took the kitchen scissors and gave every doll in her house a “hair cut”. Miss Myrtle said she saw Vertie May Stokes get into a big old long black limousine. She wasn’t real sure if Vertie May had gotten in voluntarily or was forced.

“Now take it easy Leroy”, Sheriff Charlie Wayne (C.W.) Lofton said as he wished he were anywhere else right now. “Maybe Myrtle met up with some friend of Andy’s.” Just because the Jeopardy show sent me home in a limousine everyone assumes if a limousine is in town it has to do with me! “Let’s you and me go on out to the Williams place and just see if maybe she got star struck or lost track of time”.

“C.W., you know my Vertie May better than that. She ain’t that kind of woman. Y’all might be real impressed with that Andy Lou just cuz she went to California, but me and Verite May remember when she was just a little snot nosed tom-boy.” At this comment Leroy turned and spit a shower of tobacco juice half way across the parking lot. “I reckon Vertie May would feel right uppity ridin’ in a limo-zine. And as for goin’ out yonder to the Williams place, why on earth would she do that?”

“I can’t rightly say ‘til we get out there and see what’s goin’ on now can I Leroy?” C.W. Lofton was ready to go home for his own supper and was getting a little irritated at Leroy’s whining. “She ain’t no little kid, we can’t even officially look for her for 48 hours.”

“Forty-eight hours! Jist what am I supposed to do about my supper? I been working all day and I could eat a horse” Leroy said, as he was getting so flustered that his already naturally red face was starting to look unhealthy.

“If you don’t relax Leroy, I’m gonna be spendin’ my time takin’ you the hospital, instead of trying to find Vertie May. I said 48 hours through official channels. I didn’t say I wouldn’t go lookin’ for her myself. You come on home with me and Louise will make us some supper and then we’ll start searching.” Since supper was all that Leroy seemed to be concerned about, he took the sheriff up on his offer.

As the two men were climbing into the sheriff’s oversized Chevy truck, they were so preoccupied with supper that they didn’t happen to notice a shiny black stretch limousine going down Lakeside Road and away from town.

BARBARA SUE ENGLISH

The disappearance of Vertie Mae Stokes was the talk of the town. Since most people know each other in Bourbon, there were theories galore. Some said it must have been (what else) aliens. Others said it might have been some religious cult that had brainwashed and kidnapped Vertie Mae. All Leroy wanted to know was who was going to cook for him now! As the town gossiped the stories grew more and more outrageous. I wondered myself what could have actually happened to Vertie Mae. Then it happened again.

Barbara Sue Story married her high school sweetheart, Donny Joe English a month after graduation. They had been inseparable since their freshmen year at North Bourbon High School. Barbara Sue was the town librarian, while Donny Joe worked for the lumber company, as he had done since graduating high school, 40 years ago. Donny Joe came home for lunch on Friday to find Barbara Sue all “gussied up”. When he came home at the end of the day, she was gone. The first thing he did was call her mother Mary. “Mama Mary, is Barbara Sue over to yore house” he gruffly asked his mother-in-law. “Naw she ain’t here Donny Joe. I reckon she could of gone down to the washateria to do the laundry, did you check there?” “No Mama Mary, she did the wash yesterday after she did the cleanin’. You don’t reckon that them aliens captured her like they did Vertie Mae do ya?” “Donny Joe, you know better than that. They ain’t no such thang as aliens. Hit was that there CIA or FBI that done took Vertie. She was always a writin’ them letters ‘bout one.

Since being a reporter is as close as you get to being an “investigator” in Bourbon, the sheriff decided I would know what step to take next. Of course I was also curious about all these ladies disappearing so I decided to see what I could find out. What I started uncovering was absolutely unbelievable.