Bobcat and Taterhead were roommates. They were both named Bob (Robert), they both worked at the same volunteer fire department as emergency responders, and they both worked as scaffold crew foremen for the same contractor at various chemical plants during the daytime. They went by Bobcat and Taterhead everywhere they went, so as to reduce confusion when someone needed to address or discuss either of them. I worked with them during the Summer break after my freshman year in college, back home to save money so I’d have some to spend later during the school year.
Bobcat’s name fit his demeanor (and I never got the story on who ascribed the moniker); he was short and muscular, with a buzz cut and a thick cowboyish handlebar mustache, seemingly highly animated –almost physically buzzing with energy– his entire waking hours. Bobcat had Little-Man/Death-Wish Syndrome compounded by a severe case of Likes-To-Party and Likes-To-Fight. Taterhead was somewhat aptly named as well, considering the size and shape of his cranium, and something gave me the impression that Bobcat was who came up with Taterhead as that Bob’s AKA. (I have since figured it likely their wide use of those aliases was what kept some of their stories from ending with the sound of a jail door slamming shut. It may also have helped that one or the other (or both) of them may or may not have been at least temporarily(?) deputized by the sheriff of some Louisiana parish or another as part of a posse to help catch a perp from one of their cases from the volunteer fire department.)
When I started as a Summer temp for the company that employed Bobcat and Taterhead, it was recommended that we share rides “in” each day, as we lived reasonably close to each other, and the plants we worked were typically 40-60 miles away from Baton Rouge. All three of us sat in the bench seat of Taterhead’s pick-up, and they switched off driving duties between the two of them. It was during these rides that I heard all manner of stories, and later got drawn into a few of them to a small degree. Between and throughout repeat plays of the various mixes of “Bust A Move” that were on the cassingle that stayed in the deck during that Summer, I heard stories of their exploits from the weekend or night before. Some were drinking stories, and some were stories about whatever incident they responded to the previous night.
On the morning of my first day “riding in” to the chemical plant, they were both sleepy from having been up late into the late night filing paperwork on a case involving a fellow who had injected (too much?) horse tranquilizer into his arm, and died on the toilet. I remember them saying they looked at each other nervously when the call came over the radio because the address was for their apartment complex. Apparently at least one part of the gay couple next-door to Bobcat and Taterhead was into needle drugs, and the not-dead one came home to find the dead one, then called 911. Bobcat said when he and Taterhead got to the scene, the dead one still had a syringe sticking in his arm.
Another episode they told me about included Bobcat getting drunk and getting into a fight in some redneck bar with a big fellow who’d been “looking at him sideways all night.” Words escalated into a shoulder-shoving match, which the bartender said to carry outside. Bobcat was the first out the door, and figured he was about to get his ass kicked. When the other guy came out of the bar door to fight, Bobcat’s back was to him. This was because Bobcat was unscrewing the hood-mounted radio antenna off one of the trucks outside the bar. Bobcat assured me: “If you ever need to whoop a guy’s ass who you think you’d never be able to whoop, let me tell you, the radio antenna is your friend. I went after that bowed-up dude like I was a deranged sword-fighter. I was swingin’ that antenna at him as fast as I could swish it, and I had him on his belly scootin’ up under his truck BEGGING me to stop whoopin’ him before he even knew what was happening. I didn’t hurt him too bad, but I did keep him um… shall we say subdued… til Taterhead got the truck and got me the fuck out of there.”
After several weeks of riding together, late in the Summer I finally caved in to their repeated invitations to come grill out and swim with them at their apartment one evening after work. When I got there, Taterhead and his girl had decided to go somewhere else, so it was just me and Bobcat and his extremely good-looking girlfriend grilling wings and getting in and out of the apartment complex’s pool. They were drinking lots of beer, and I was not drinking. I still don’t know if Bobcat thought his girlfriend was flirting with me as much as I thought she was, but she invited me to comment on her bikini –and eventually her body in different poses– each time Bobcat went back to the apartment to get more of something. While I did find her bikini and her body extremely attractive, I wasn’t about to get into a detailed discussion about that with her (nor with both of them), so I tried awkwardly to switch subjects as soon as possible. During Bobcat’s repeated absences, she talked about how glad she was to meet me, and how she hoped we’d get to spend more quality time together before I went back to school in a few weeks for the Fall semester. As she rapidly escalated her showing off, turning and doing stretches and bending over and repeatedly adjusting her bikini top –all while looking me directly in the eye, I started to wonder if Bobcat was going back inside so often just to give her time to be this forward with me. It eventually became so awkward that I excused myself somewhat abruptly upon one of Bobcat’s returns, and then drove back to my folks’ house rather than seeing what other weirdness the evening there might hold.
The next day we drove in together, I thanked Bobcat again for having me over, and told Taterhead he’d missed a good time. “I bet”, said Taterhead, and he kind of looked at me out of the corner of his eye. Bobcat didn’t say anything for a couple of seconds, then he said he and his girl had enjoyed it, too, and they were both sorry I had to run off so early. Bobcat was driving, and he popped in the Bust A Move cassingle. Between singing along and dancing while driving, he glanced at me and asked, “Do you and your girlfriend like to play games?” Wondering what kind of trick question this was, I replied that I liked to play Spades and Gin and Pente and Othello, if that was what he was talking about. “Well, no, I was talking about sex games. My girlfriend and I do.” Bobcat just kept driving, and Taterhead kept silent, but I could see Taterhead glance sideways at me in the rear-view mirror and raise his eyebrows in a don’t-go-there expression. I finally said, “I guess I don’t know exactly what you’re talking about, but probably not, now that you bring it up in conversation on the way to work.” Taterhead chuckled and said “You’re fuckin’-A right, there, buddy.” Bobcat smiled widely and kept driving.
Bobcat continued by saying his girlfriend was a superfreak who liked to get it more often than he was capable of giving, and that they had come to an agreement that she’d try not to have sex with other people without his permission if he’d try some of her more risqué fantasies. He went on to describe a plan she whispered into his ear while they were having sex one night, a plan that he was describing as if he had apparently recently carried it out. The plan involved him, at some unannounced day after the initial discussion, “breaking in” to their apartment with a ski mask on (he broke a window latch and snuck in while she was sleeping on her day off, dressed in clothes that were not part of his wardrobe, so as to further obscure his identity), backing her into a corner and masking her eyes, violently tearing off her clothes, and “raping” her on a day that he was supposed to be working out-of-town, and then removing both of their masks to expose his face to her during the heated sex session that resulted. He sounded really excited, and said it made her really excited. My response was that games taken to that level sounded like a good way for someone to get killed or do some kind of really serious psychological damage. He laughed and said she’d since been pleading for him to take it further, and we sat quietly busting moves with our shoulders as he drove along til we got to the plant for work.
As it drew closer to time for me to go back to school, I decided to quit the construction job and have some “me” time, so I wasn’t seeing the Bobs at all, and I figured that chapter had drawn to a close. Two days before I left, I received a call at my folks’ house. It was Bobcat’s girlfriend. She put on a cutesy voice and told me she’d been missing me since we met, and that she’d been thinking about me a lot, and that she felt we’d both really enjoy it if we met for drinks when she got off from work that afternoon, and then we could maybe find something fun to do after that. I made up an excuse about a previous engagement, and mentioned that I also didn’t want to run afoul of her boyfriend, Bobcat. She kind of purred, and told me she’d be just as excited to have me come over after my other engagement, for me not to worry about the time, and we could skip straight to the fun stuff, finally mentioning that Bob wouldn’t be around and wouldn’t know anything about it. I played the mental image of such an evening through in my mind, mentally pressing >>FFWD>> on the memory of the previous bikini-and-flirting scene past the point of no return, and then imagined Bobcat jumping out of her closet (with a camcorder? with a gun? with a radio antenna? with a ski mask?) just as I crossed the line with his scantily-clad and very eager girlfriend. I stuck to my story about my plans for the evening, told her I was sincerely grateful for the invitation, and suggested maybe we’d see each other on my next visit home. Days later I was back at school.
Over the holidays three months later, I was back in town, and I ran into Bobcat at the Wal-Mart closest to his apartment. We talked about the construction job he and Taterhead were working on, and about the recent medical hardships of the guy they got their moonshine from, and conversation eventually rolled around to the subject of his girlfriend. “Well”, Bobcat said, “I don’t hear much from her these days; don’t even know how to find her, but she calls and talks dirty to me every couple of days. Ends up her daddy was deep into some backwoods mafia shit, and he took out expensive insurance policies on her and her momma and her sister,and then he tried to hire an FBI informant to kill them all so he could get the insurance money. Her dad was even THERE when the guy was supposed to show up and kill ’em, just to make sure it got done. It was in all the papers, and now the women of that family are all somewhere else in a witness protection program.” I thought about my history with Bobcat for a second, and I came back with “Damn, Bobcat, you never told me your girl had a sister! You been holding out on me, Dude! Is she as hot as your girl, and did she play games with y’all, too?!” He grinned widely and winked at me, and we switched subjects to talk about grilling out and drinking again in the Spring, but that was the last time I saw either Bobcat or Taterhead.