Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vanderbilt, Tequila King and Father

By Dylan Davis

His name is Vanderbilt. Or at least his last name is. No one knows his first name. The living only know him as Vanderbilt, or the Tequila King. He earned the title when he out drank four bikers in faded leather jackets from Utah, each man weighing slightly less than a hippopotamus.

Vanderbilt loved music and even more to play it. He had a Stratocaster, one with flames that flickered turquoise under the strumming of his wrist. Music didn’t pay the bills, so he traded his picks for screwdriver heads and his guitar for a hammer. The hammer rusted on the top, growing like a cancer down the hilt.

Sometimes, Vanderbilt would play a show or two at the bar, under cheap stage lights burning violet and collecting moths like street lamps. His friends would cheer, spilling their drinks and falling out of bar stools. He knew the crowd was biased and drunk and aged, but as was he. Women that were part of the audience looked at Vanderbilt lustfully. They said his beard, one that wisped up like a tongue, similar to a goat’s, was what made him. He would choose to be with whomever he found attractive that night, but never would he find himself in a relationship or in love. Vanderbilt was in love once, and would never love another.

His wife had played stand-up bass and smelled like crushed rose petals. She and Vanderbilt tied the knot when they were young, nineteen for Vanderbilt and one year younger for her. There were nights spent on his slick ’78 Monte Carlo’s hood gazing at stars with their eyelids half shut, the light glimmering off their lashes and raining down like fireworks. Moments like that confirmed for him that she was the one.

They were poor. With no high school diplomas, they didn’t have an income to support a child. So when she bore him, they chose adoption, in hopes they could forgot the terrifying feelings they had when he came crying and reaching and squirming from the womb. Vanderbilt reassured her that one day they would meet him again, when he was older and understood their decision.
Vanderbilt spent thirteen years in jail for drunk driving and killing his wife in a car crash. They had drank, tequila, and tried to drive the ’78 home on a rainy April night in ‘92. When Vanderbilt dozed off to the sound of pattering rain, a tree branch punched through the windshield of the car and drilled a hole through his wife’s skull. Her head, after the accident, looked like the apples on trees he used eat from as a child. They were blood red, glistening planets that hung from the branches and orbited around the trunk. Now, the apples wouldn’t be the size of his fist, but when he was young they were bigger, more filling.

Two years after he got out of jail, he met his son. The night he appeared on Vanderbilt’s porch, they had an exchange, one no louder than the crickets rubbing their wings in the shadows of towering grass.

“So you’re my Dad, huh?”

“Biological, yeah.”



“Somehow I expected this. This porch, this dog, you.”

“Well, you have smart genes.”


“Want a drink?”

“No, I’m only eighteen.”

“Oh, I gotcha.”

“So your names Vanderblit or something like that? The file only said your last name.”

“It’s Vanderbilt. Adolfo Vanderbilt.”

“Adolfo? Some name you got there.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

“Have a light?’

“You smoke?”

“I’m eighteen.”

“Right. Here you go. Menthol lights?”

“Yeah, makes it taste better.”

Vanderbilt is still the tequila king, and in fact, is now titled the Miller king. He still plays shows under violet moth winged lights for a crowd that will never boo him off stage. The hammer is still clenched in his hand and the beard that hangs from his chin still twirls, curls, and tangles. When he smokes now though, he chooses Menthol lights, because they taste better

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