Brother Ray

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y only encounter with a celebrity happened in New Orleans. I was seventeen, and I’ll never forget it. Ray Charles had been my idol since I was old enough to pee standing up.

It happened like this: a friend and I were driving through the downtown. We had no intentions of staying, we were only passing through. Bourbon Street terrified the Budweiser out of us. We were as babyish as green tomatoes back then. The wildest party we’d ever attended involved three girls, a pig, and a can of shaving cream.

We wouldn’t have known what to do in the Quarter but gawk and eat popcorn shrimp.

I rolled my truck to a stoplight. Something gargantuan pulled up beside me. A tour bus.

“Hey look,” said my friend. “Is that who I think it is?”

“It can’t be.” I rubbed my eyes.

It was.

Overcome with excitement, I did something foolish. I cranked my window down and waved to Ray Charles himself.

Without missing a beat, Ray lifted his sunglasses and waved back at me.

I nearly passed a kidney stone.

Ray leaned out the window and shouted, “Hey honkie, the light’s green.” Then he laughed and the bus drove away.

You could’ve knocked me over with a cotton ball.

That was years ago, and I’m nothing like that seventeen year old anymore. God knows, they couldn’t pay me enough to be that age again. But my friend still keeps in touch. He sends me a birthday card every year.

He addresses it to Honkie.

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