A couple of years ago, I met a guy named Lloyd who owns a fleet of school buses that he races in rural Arkansas. We were both attending an idyllic farm wedding of a couple he had, on occasion, chauffeured by way of his party bus side business. On the night of the wedding, he was in charge of shuttling guests back to their cars after it got too dark for drunk people to walk successfully on unpaved ground.
The ceremony was outdoors, at a beautiful spot tucked beneath Petit Jean Mountain. The couple said, "I do," and the crowd released the contents of pressurized confetti tubes onto the grassy field around us.
Cows grazed in the distance, just beyond a barbed-wire enclosure. A 10-piece soul band from Memphis brought serious grooves to the stage. There was an adorable canoe filled with beers, and I ate many helpings of pimento cheese from miniature Mason jar containers. It was a party.
Lloyd rolled up to the scene after the ceremony. He had driven over from his hometown of Morrilton. My sweetheart at the time, Max, and I were immediately drawn to him.
We chatted with Lloyd for the better part of the night, infatuated and entertained by his vibe. He was a real good ol' boy, and a dreamer, too. He gave us a tour of his party bus and humored our questioning with enthusiastic and heartfelt responses. The interior of the bus was graffitied with the signatures of previous passengers, the rows of seats replaced with little booths, like in Waffle House. The front console had been gutted and replaced with bumping speakers. On the tail end of the bus was a slogan that read, "Don't be Tardy to the Party."
Lloyd himself looked just as you'd expect — handlebar mustache, cowboy boots and starchy blue jeans. He was tall with a modest but present belly, and his favorite filler word seemed to be "yu-up," with a wide dip in the middle.
Back in the day, Lloyd and his buddies operated an outlaw school bus speedway in North-Central Arkansas. He told us he still owned 19 buses, and he invited Max and me to Morrilton so we could experience the thrill of the dirt track. "You can go as fast as you want," he told Max. We were mesmerized and excited to have a new friend.
Weeks later, we couldn't stop talking about Lloyd. We wanted to drive those buses. Over dinner one night, we decided to give Lloyd a call to scheme our trip to Morrilton. On speaker phone, his twang rendered his words a little muddled and distant, but he was still the character we remembered. He asked what we were cooking up, and I answered: chicken and dumplings. We quickly finished the call with no concrete plans. Maybe we'd visit. Maybe we wouldn't.
Two days later, I was at the Container Store shopping for a laundry hamper. My phone dinged with a text message.
It was from Lloyd: "Been thinkin' 'bout them dumplin'."
I never spoke to him again.