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Cynthia Gentry

The Call of the Lone Star State


     Before they got married, her husband promised her that he would never bring Country-and-Western music into their home. Later, she realized that believing him was her first mistake: she should have had it written into their marriage vows or tattooed on his forehead. But he had seemed normal enough when they met. Even as they fell in love and eventually tied the knot, there were few signs of what was to come. She convinced him to wear buttoned-down cotton shirts and pleated trousers and drive a foreign car. He didn't have an accent, which also encouraged her.
     "I just tried not to get one," he explained to people.
     She was very proud of him. She thought she was safe.
     At first, he seemed to confine his musical inclinations to the blues, and this did not overly alarm her. She liked the names, herself: Blind Willie McTell, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Otis Rush. They spent many hours trying to unravel the mystery of Robert Johnson's death. He began buying blues CDs at an alarming rate, but she managed to round out their collection with jazz, a little classical, some David Byrne, even some Gregorian chants when the sound of Stratocasters became too much for her. He started referring to Garth Brooks as a "pork chop with a guitar and a corn niblet for a brain." He spoke scornfully of Hank Williams Junior. Satisfied, she became complacent, and she even cried when Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash.
     The signs appeared slowly. It all started innocuously: a Patsy Cline boxed set here, a Chet Atkins album there. She rationalized the appearance of a Texas Tornadoes CD because she could classify it as norteña music, even though only the presence of Flaco Jimenez put it in that category. Then came the Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys double-CD set. Faced with what others might see as irrefutable evidence, she instead decided that this was chic because the music was recorded before 1960.
     It also obscured what was happening to them, until one fateful Memorial Day party, when he snuck Asleep at the Wheel onto their friends' CD player and turned the volume on "You Better Dance With Who Brung You" up full blast. As the other guests examined her quizzically, she sank lower and lower into her chair.
     After that, he dropped all pretense, and she realized that her fate was sealed. He began to covet other people's cowboy boots. He became visibly excited over bolo ties. He had his parents send him the Texas state flag, and he began to have long conversations with his father about the best way to cook ribs. (This caused a barbecue the size of a steamer trunk to appear on their patio, courtesy of her in-laws.) He bought her a videotape of Texas-style dances, featuring the Texas Two-Step, the Schottische and the Cotton-Eyed Joe. Step together. Step together. Step touch. It rang in her head, day and night.
     When he found a bar that served it, he insisted on drinking Lone Star beer. He had her almost convinced that you could drink beer while driving in Texas as long as you had one less bottle than the number of people in the car.
     He began to talk longingly of Texas real estate prices (she had to admit that the 6,000 square-foot Tudor mansion on 40 acres of land for $289,000 looked pretty good); of Mexican restaurants that served "real" margaritas (she hated California margaritas anyway - too sweet, too weak); of a bar on the shores of Lake Travis where you could sit on a rickety deck and have an ice-cold beer while the sun set (the view from their condo was of a trash dumpster). She found notes on air fares to Austin in his briefcase (actually, a vacation was beginning to sound tempting).
     She began to wonder if there were good therapists in Texas. She began to wonder whether you would need a therapist at all if you lived in Texas. She decided that you probably wouldn't. She found herself using phrases like "I'm mad enough to eat bees" and saying "y'all" because it was gender-inclusive.
     One night, she heard her husband exclaim in horror from the living room. Rushing to his side, she found him staring mournfully at the television screen.
     "Willie Nelson is doing a Taco Bell commercial," he informed her. "That poor guy sure is getting screwed by the government."
     Before she could stop herself, she agreed.
     She froze with shock. There was no use denying it any longer.
     Her husband was turning back into a Texan, and he was going to take her with him.

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