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Bobby Joe Does Polling

John W. Pinkerton


Bobby Joe kept one eye on the door and one eye on a window which he regretted not opening before Bennie and Tommy arrived at his doorway and brushed past him placing themselves like ambassadors on each end of his LSU purple and gold couch which Bobby Joe had inherited from the house's  former occupant; needless to say, it had seen better days.  Bennie and Tommy didn't speak: no need; Bobby Joe knew the reason for their visit.

Bobby Joe didn't seat himself as his guests had but continued to move to a different location in the little room thinking his movements might come in handy if the silver of his tongue failed him and Bennie and Tommy decided to speak with their fists.

Bobby Joe was familiar with Bennie and Tommy from visits to the Geaux-Geaux Club which included watered drinks and strippers and universal odor of desperation.  Like Bobby Joe's couch, the Geaux-Geaux had seen better days.  In fact a conversation one evening at the club was the germ which had propelled the triumvirate  to this moment.

One evening while Bobby Joe was avoiding work and ogling the dancing girls,  Bennie had quietly sat down next to Bobby Joe at the bar.  Because Bennie was large and had an old service station smell,  his presence had made Bobby Joe a little uneasy. 

“You a college boy, ain't you?” Bennie had enquired.

At that moment, Bobby Joe didn't know if he should confess or lie about his educational credentials.

The awkwardness of the moment made him confess, “Yeah…LSU.”

He hardly thought of himself as a “college boy”: it had been ten years since he last set foot on campus and although his memories were, for the most part,  good, he felt himself regretting a little his time there.

When he graduated from LSU in 1960, a college degree, any college degree was a door opener for any number of occupations.  Bobby Joe had settled for the life of a banker.  Unfortunately, he began having sex in the vault with the bank president's daughter, a seminal moment for Bobby Joe's downward spiral in the banking world.  He quickly found himself unemployed and unemployable---at least in the banking world.  It seems that the “fat old Nazi” was quiet influential in the local business community.

Being that Bobby Joe was slight of build and not inclined to physical labor, life had, to say the least, not been easy for him…which was exactly his goal.

His salvation had been Linda Sue, not a beauty, but good enough for everyday use and, tada, her father was wealthy.  The lumber magnet, a self-made man, cast the stink eye on Bobby Joe from day one, but being that Linda Sue was not the most dazzling young woman and a little dull, and he suspected that she had given herself to more than one “lowlife” already, he had no objections to the marriage.  He even threw in jobs for Bobby Joe.  He was never given a “position.”  Just about quarterly, Bobby Joe was a given a new assignment.  One week he might be traveling representative for the Orville Lumber Company and the next week he would be second in command in a field operation---never first in command.  He really didn't have his heart in any of the positions but showed up for each one performing his task well enough not to get fired…the sum of his aspirations.

These experiences are probably what made Bobby Joe sell himself to Slim Grotto as an expert in polling which he knew next to nothing about.  A visit to a public library brought him up to date on the subject…more or less.

After Bennie heard the answer, “Yes,” he was escorted to a private room in the rear of  the Geaux-Geaux Club where he met Slim Donovan.

Bobby Joe was barely able to restrain a laugh which wanted to betray him at his first vision of Slim behind his huge, presidential size desk with one shaded light fixture lighting the gentle face of Slim who looked to Bobby Joe like his eighth grade Math teacher, Mr. Miller.

“You do Polls?”

At first his mind went to the poles that the  aged “girls” used in the front of the club.

“Polls.  You know to find out what folks are thinking.  I hear it's all the rage.”

“Okay,” was all Bobby Joe could manage in response.

“I need to know how the state representative race between Thibedeaux and Ryan is going to turn out.  Right now...right now I can't make heads or tales of it.  I need you to figure that out for me.  You get the right answer and I'll pay…$200.”

Bobby Joe almost asked if Slim's need to know had anything to do with gambling, but thought better of asking.  Probably a wise decision.

Bobby  Joe without realizing the full import of what he was agreeing to nodded his head in a positive direction, and Slim dismissed Bobby Joe with a wave of his hand.

Bobby Joe left the Geaux-Geaux Club a little dazed.  He knew the election was a week away, and at this moment he found himself needing to know all about polling.  The public library was his solution.

After his study of the subject, he settled on the telephone as the instrument to acquire the $200.

After a half day of ringing random numbers from the telephone book, Bobby Joe decided that the task was beneath him and recruited Linda Sue to do the work of calling and questioning folks.

While she was performing the task, he was off performing his latest task for his father-in-law boss, second in command in the shipping department.

Between slow sips of Old Crow, Linda Sue continued the telephone calls for a week and reported the results to Bobby Joe: Ryan in a landslide.  He in turn phoned  the results to Slim and awaited the election and the payoff for his efforts.  He thought to himself that polling might be easier than working for his father-in-law.

“THIBEDEAUX in a LANDSLIDE”  was the headline Wednesday morning.  “Oops,” Bobby Joe thought.

Later the same day, Bennie and Tommy were found to be comfortably seated in Bobby Joe's living room on his school colors.

Bennie and Tommy obviously weren't big talkers, but they seemed to be excellent listeners, and Bobby Joe went on at length about the vagaries of polling the whole time pacing the room in a professorial manner, his cigarette whirling in between his index and go-to-Hell finger as smoke curled about his head.

At last Bobby Joe paused his lecture to assess its effect on his guests.

Bennie responded to the pause with a loud “hrump” to which he added, “Mr. Slim don't want you comin' around the club anymore.”

Bobby Joe waited for more of the message but none came.  Bennie and Tommy departed the domicile.

After the door slammed behind the two departed guests, Bobby Joe stood perfectly still, smoke still curling from his cigarette.


Bobby Joe thought to himself that that had been a close call.   He thought to himself, “Well, that's a lesson learned.”

Of course, it wasn't.