Terms & Conditions 11


"Clinton, Mississippi, population 23,347." She held the book up in front of her face and kept reading.  I know when she's in research mode.  She does this every time she starts a new job.  I suspect that last night while I was watching TV she was on her laptop trying to figure out all that she needed to know about Clinton.  "The average temperature in January is forty-six degrees.  July's average temperature is eighty two degrees."

"Seven?" I say with a laugh, "What are you doing?"

We're sitting next to each other so I turn in my seat a little to watch her where I'm sitting. After protesting for almost a half hour about riding in the private jet that we're taking from Los Angeles to the airport in Jackson, Mississippi, she's now curled up with her book.  She's been reading for about an hour after taking an almost hour and a half nap.  I don't feel bad about her being occupied.  I've been ignoring her a bit getting into reading over the press releases that JIVE is sending out in the next few days.  Someone got word of my meeting and the possibility of more soundtracks and now the production companies and record companies are going wild.  The stack isn't that tall, but I have to comb through this stuff carefully or it'll end up out there that I've got six kids and that Chris loves to house sit so that he can baby sit them.  Or maybe it was the other way around.  Gossip these days is ridiculous.

"Reading."  She's in school mode and speaks as if she's reading Homer or something like JC would be reading.  I think the guy's name is Pablo Neruda.  What she is reading, from what I can tell from the cover of the book is basically a book that should be called Clinton, Mississippi for DUMMIES.  "I like to know about a place before I get there."  She stuck her tongue out and looked at the book again, "Year-round average temperature sixty-four degrees.  The average annual rainfall is fifty three inches and--"  Her eyebrows raised.  "AND the average annual snowfall  less than two inches."

I find myself laughing.  I can't help it.

"Stop," she said, "If I brought you out to Massapequa Park, I'd tell you all about it while we were on the way there.  Since you haven't told me much about home I've searched it out on my own."

"Massapequa Park?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, "That's where I'm from."

"Oh."  Why is it that I've been living with her for this long and I'm just learning these things?  I guess it just has to do with the fact that we're both busy and we both have better things to do with our time than play twenty questions.

"Mr. Bass.  We're going to land soon so please buckle up."

I look ahead into the cockpit of the plane and wave to the captain.  "Thanks Allan."

"No trouble."

*****

The car is parked just outside the Air Traffic Controller's office.  I tell Tammy to wait for me and I go in and get the receptionist to get me the keys.  This arrangement has been going on for so long that it's second nature to look for the keys with Karen at the front desk.  It's easier if Dad drops the car off and leaves the keys with her since most of my flights come in at strange times.  I wasn't sure yesterday what time our flight would get cleared so I just told him to park it at the Air Boss's office last night.

"What was that all about?"

"Keys," I say and move around to the back of the car to open it up.  The lock sticks a little as I first try to open it  I pull the back up and grab her bag and put it in the back end.  The Chevy Tahoe is new.  I've driven it exactly thirty days since I got it.  I only know this because I'm obsessive compulsive about counting how many days a year I spend in Mississippi.  Last year it was just under forty five days, but this year it should be more.  "Most of the time Ford, my brother in law drives it."  I explain.  "It does seem dumb to have it around, but when I come home it's here for me to use."

"I feel bad now--"  She kicks her foot into the ground.  "You have all this stuff here in Mississippi and don't use it."

"Yeah well," I shrug, "Other people use my stuff so it's ok."

We load up the car and as we drive out of the airport I push in the CD that is waiting for me in the player.  "It's tradition," I say when she looks at me fiddling with the stereo, "First we put the windows down and turn up the music."

Only a girl would think about this and only a girl used to the dry heat of Southern California would complain about it.  "It's so muggy though."

"It'll feel better in a second," I explain and turn onto the freeway just as the music starts up.

There's a painting of you in a beautiful light
That hangs on the wall of my heart
It will live there forever time after time
Like a priceless fine work of art
I don't wanna convince you, don't make me explain
All that I'm feeling baby you'll feel the same

One kiss for the night we met
One for the dreams we shared
One for the laughter and tears
One final rendezvous
One last I Love You
One lasting memory
One dance for all times
Girl, don't you think you and I
deserve one last goodbye

I flip the CD to the next song and take a deep breath.  I don't know why I'm still playing that song.  I played it to death when Carrah and I broke things off last year and now there I go again flipping out about the song again.  The CD is good, no more of those sappy love songs, but that one was the first.  My welcome home.  My remember what it's like to be here again kind of a song.

Well I was southern born and raised on the Good Book
My old boots are worn from the hard roads I took
And I'm proud to be my daddy's son
And momma taught me how to work and not to quit
Until the job's done
Well I may not be high society but I got all I need
And that's just me
The only way I know to be
That's just me
What you get is what you see

I can't help but start to sing along.  The chorus is the best.  It's so me I think that's why it ended up on this CD.  I can't even remember when I made this mix, but somehow it's stuck and I've been listening to it at least the last six or seven times I've been home.

Well they tell me I'm old fashioned
And that I'm part of a dying breed
I'd say I'm living in real good company
But that's just me

Her hand comes over and touches my arm. Just as I hit the overpass that leads downtown.  I'm trying to think if there is anything going on in Jackson this weekend other than Easter stuff, but can't remember.  By the time I look over she says something, but the music is so loud that I can't really hear her.  "What?" I ask.

She repeats herself.  "I like that one better."

"What?" he asked and turned it down a bit.

"I like that song better."  She smiles at me, but I feel the tension in her.  Not like the Oscar night tension, but more of nervousness.  Her hands normally will stay folded in her lap when we drive, but today her fingers are playing piano on her thighs.  She's nervous and she starts to babble a little.  "That  second song is totally you.  I mean not something that you'd probably sing really--or record rather--but I totally think you're part of a dying breed."

"Really?"

"You've still got all your southern charm.  I may not recognize it all the time, but it's there."

I don't want to shock her too much, but wait until she sees me in my hat and boots on Easter Sunday.  She might end up calling me hick for wearing my cowboy hat and boots, but it seems appropriate considering it's a special Sunday.  Everyone else my age will be wearing stuff like that.  We're not really cowboys.  More like suburban cowboys, but if it's an excuse to get a new hat and some new boots everyone will pretend for awhile that they live on a ranch or something instead of in Yuppie-ville.  "You haven't seen anything yet."

Her face scrunches up and some of the tension goes away.  "Do I want to know?"

"No."  I joke and lean and kiss her real quick.  Somehow when we're driving and I lean over like this our mouths automatically find each other.  It must be the connection between us.  Like this invisible road map that always seems to lead us in the right direction.  Lately I thought that theory was out the window, but today things have been going better.

I know I should keep my eyes on the road when I'm flying down the road at about seventy miles an hour, but I couldn't help but to lean over.  "Don't worry.  Seriously this place is so laid back.  They won't bite."

"I know that," she says nervous laughter coming out in between words.  "But this is the first time I've really met your parents and your sister and being in your home town doesn't leave me with many allies."

"You don't need allies--"  I so badly want to roll my eyes at her.  She's acting as if this is some kind of a job interview or something.  She's in my life and will be in my life for as long as we can keep things going.  Her getting to know my parents is not a test she has to pass or fail.  She just needs to meet them so they can put a face to the name, "You have me and my parents are going to love you and my sister will love you and her husband will love you."

She settled back in the chair and looked at me nervously still, only a slight smile graced her cheeks.

"Here we are," I say and take the turn off into Clinton.  At the bottom of the exit ramp I pause for a long while.  Of course it's because of the red light that's keeping me from turning off on Bellerman, but I could have done a left turn during a red and made the route home faster.  I sit there staring at the Texaco sign across the street and wonder if I'm ever going to move back her permanently.

"It's green."

I look up again and notice the light has changed while I'm off in la la land.  "Thanks."

I steer the car through the streets as if I do this every day.  First taking a right on Drift Road before turning down Peachtree then back up again on Lake before I reach find my street.  The route from the freeway to the house is just under a mile, but it feels as if we've been going through the neighborhoods for a lot longer than that.  I slow down at the beginning of the street to make sure that I don't run over the Youngstown twins on their bikes and turn at the mid point of the road and turn into the driveway.  "Home sweet home."

By the time I get out of the car and Tammy gets out the Youngstown twins come flying up.  I love these two kids.  I remember when they were born.  The Youngstown's had a party for them and since I was leaving town to go do my first recordings with NSYNC the neighbors turned it into a block party and we all just hung out in the street and barbequed.  It was so Leave It To Beaver around here back then.  Now it's gotten a little less liberal, but everyone still knows everyone else.  "LANCE!"

"Hi Myles."  I slap hands with him and then with his sister.  "Hi Millie."

They both were bouncing up and down on their toes.  "Are you home for Easter?" Millie asked.

"Yeah."  I have to laugh at them.  They're so hyperactive.  I turn and see Tammy looking a little worried about the reception home.  "They're harmless."

"Myles.  Millie.  This is my girlfriend Tammy."  I look at them get a bit shy for a moment.  "Tammy, this is Myles and Millie my neighbors."  I can almost count how long it takes for their mother to see them gone out of the yard and soon I hear Mrs. Youngstown calling for them.  I give each of the twins a hug.  "You guys better go.  I don't want you to get in trouble."

"Ok."  They wave and run off down the street.  "See you on Sunday!"

I watch them run down the street again and wondered if my kids will ever have that.  I love living in Los Angeles and I like the house I have in Orlando, but Clinton is really the best place I can think of to raise a family.  It's nice and slow and really protected from the outside world. 

"They're cute."

I turn and look at Tammy who's fanning herself in the sun.  "They don't bite either," I joke and move to the back of the truck to pull out the bags.  I take hers and walk towards the door pointing the way as I lift her bag up.  "What do you have in here?"

"Stuff," she says with a smile.

I set her bag down and unlock the door then push it open and motion for her to go in.  "Welcome to Mississippi."

There isn't really much to say about the house in Mississippi.  When I got some of the money from the group I bought it.  Mostly it was out of respect for my parents.  Every time I'd come home I'd end up having a party or two and they basically were kicked out of the house.  When the neighbors moved away I bought the house and spent almost two years rehabbing it and my parents house.  I figured I wouldn't want to live anywhere else and living next to them seemed ideal.

"This is amazing," she says and walks into the house.  I set the bags down and close the door.  The house was featured in some magazine a while back for being a great house.  I just think of it as home.  The couch is comfortable, my stereo system works and the electricity is on when I need it.  I shrug at her.  "Really.  No wonder you wanted to come here."

"My parents just redecorated it," he said, "I've only been here for maybe a month since it changed."

She looks around again and I wonder for a moment if she's worried about how small our condo in LA seems compared to this.  True when we're in LA we're always working and barely ever home, but the place in Mississippi seems like a mansion compared to that.   It's a fairly big house, four bedrooms with a pool and two car garage, but it's nothing like Justin's huge thing in LA or JC's house on the hill.

"It's nice."

"You want to go see my parents?" I asked.

"I think the question is do you want to go see your parents?"  She smiled, "I know that you do so we should go."

"They're just next door.  Settle in for a minute and I'll see if there's anything to eat."  I walk into the kitchen and open up the fridge.  It's fairly well stocked with a few meals that I'm sure mom has put in here.  Tupperware containers are on every shelf.  "Do you want something?"

"What do you have?" she asks and slides up behind me and puts her arms around me and leans to kiss my cheek.

"Wouldn't you like to know."  I flirt with her, turning in her arms and move to kiss her.

Her lips are soft on mine, but her attitude towards kissing me is fairly aggressive.  Maybe it's the southern air.  I think my mother once said something about southern heat that drove people to be more sexual down here, despite the teachings of the church.

Just when I'm about to move her across the small space of the kitchen to prop her up on the counter so I can kiss her better I hear the front door opening.  A small knock sounds through the quiet house.  "Lance?"

Footsteps are heard, but I ignore them and move closer to her.  I don't really pay attention to what I'm doing and soon I have pressed her up against the far counter.  Her leg starts to lift a little to curl around the back of my leg and pull me even closer, but just as she wraps it around me I hear another noise.  The sound of the door shutting.

"James?"

I pull back just when I think that the person coming in the front door is going to see us and take a deep breath.  "Sorry," I whisper.  I kiss her forehead and take a deep breath and try to calm down about things.  While I'm sure throwing her down on the counter and screwing in the kitchen is really what we both want, I know that whoever is on their way in here isn't going to want to see that.

"You here?"

"YEAH!"  I call out and turn around to face my visitor.


Tammy gets her information about Clinton, Mississippi from:  http://www.usachamber.com/clintonms/
The first song Lance plays in the car is: One Last Good-bye by Richie Sambora

The second song Lance plays in the car is: That's Just Me by Tim McGraw


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