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BILLY BRAGG Goes Riding With Me

Don't be coy, Billy

By Nicole M.

I didn't want to be at the stupid country club. Mom and Dad had dragged me out of bed at 8:30, which was very early for a Saturday. Then they told me that we were going to the country club and to shower and get my tennis raquet.

I was scowling in the back seat of the Volvo for twenty minutes, until we finally arrived. Dad lifted his golf bag out of the back and then handed my Mom and me our raquets. I shuffled towards the clubhouse to show my displeasure. Dad must have noticed my leaden feet, because he gave me a playful push and said "Move it Nicole. It will be dark before you get there."

When we got in the door, Dad immediately walked up to his golf buddies and left with a tiny wave to Mom and me. Mom excused herself, too. Her three friends from the PTA were waiting for her in nearly identical tennis outfits. There was nothing for me to do?I could have found a tennis partner, I suppose, but there wasn't anyone that I knew well and liked enough to ask.

I was scouting out some magazines in the TV room when I peeked into the lounge. A familiar-looking man was sitting at the bar drinking a pint of bitter ale and watching a soccer match. I'm not allowed into the lounge, but I had to break the rule just this once. Boldly, I walked up to the man at the bar.

"Are you Billy Bragg?" I asked the man.

He turned to me and smiled. "Yes, I am. And who are you?" he replied in an English accent.

"I'm Nicole Molineaux, and I'm a big fan of yours. You even say my last name in 'God's Footballer.'"

"That's right. I suppose that I do," he said. He leaned over and picked a guitar case off the floor. "What's your favorite song?"

"My favorite song is 'Ouija Board, Ouija Board' by Morrissey, but you're my favorite singer overall. My favorite song of yours is 'Greetings to the New Brunette,' especially the version off of your latest CD."

He fiddled with the tuning pegs on the neck of his guitar, than he began to play "Greetings to the New Brunette," but the words that he sang were different.

"Nikki, it's quite exciting to be here in this bar room, Nikki, could we get in some tennis before noon? Nikki, you know that we could also go riding. Nikki, how did you find me where I was hiding? Sometimes, when were as close as this, It's like we're in a dream What makes you think you could beat me out When you can't even make the tennis team?"

It was funny and really sweet. After he was finished Billy said "Let's hit the courts. I've got me raquet right here." He dug around in a black leather gym bag. After retrieving his raquet, he handed the guitar case and the bag to the bartender.

"Watch my stuff for me, would you, Jim?" he said as he handed the bartender two dollars.

We walked out onto the tennis court and Billy served a super-fast ball right into the back corner of my service area. Naturally, I couldn't hit it.

"Ace! Ace!" yelled Billy as he danced around the court.

"If you hit it that hard, I'll never be able to return it. That's no fun!"

"Just having a bit o' fun with you, Nikki. The next one will be playable. I promise."

And he was right. He played very fair for the next hour. We chatted as we played, and Billy said that he was in town because he had attended a birthday party for his friend Wiggy, who was now living a few towns over. He was Wiggy's guest at the country club. He could have won easily because he's so strong and fast, but he didn't. He was the perfect gentleman, even letting me win two sets. We were both pretty grimy at the end, and I said that I wanted to stop. Billy said that the morning was still young and that we should do something else. I said that it couldn't be too strenuous, and he suggested that we go for a horse ride, like in his song. I said that I would like that.

We went to the stable (after I borrowed some jodhpurs from a friend) and picked two horses. I picked my favorite horse, a big chestnut stallion named Red. Billy selected a palomino named Reesy. We rode off down the trail. Billy sped his horse up to a trot, so I signaled to Red to also pick up the pace. Then Billy had Reesy going into a full gallop, and I didn't want to fall behind so I sent Red into a gallop as well. Soon I was being thrown a full six inches off the horse's back only to come smashing down into the saddle at every cycle.

Eventually, we came to the stream and Billy stopped and dismounted. I got off of Red and wobbled over to where Billy was now sitting, on a big rock near the stream. We both lay across it, with our heads upside-down near the water. The ends of my hair kept falling into the stream. Billy and I chatted for a little while, and then I noticed that he was holding my hand. Eventually, we had to get the horses back to the stable, but Billy gave me his personal email address and cell phone number. Now we email and talk often, and visit whenever he's in the neighborhood and once when I was in England.