[This is a one-act play I wrote in 2009. It was published in Outsider Writers. I also posted it here, but it's somehow disappeared from here. So I'm posting it again. Maybe it will stick this time.]
Sure, pal, it does get weird, but what else am I cut out for? I'm an observer by nature, and I like serving. Call it my calling.
Get a load of this...last night...guy, real melancholy fellow, slips in here like a fugitive, like he's loving the shadows...took that bar stool at the very end where the light ain't frisky.
He's looking shriveled, sort of famished.
I ask him: “Yep?”
He sez: “Gimme something new.”
I sez: “You mean invent it, on the spot?”
He sez: “Sure, surprise me."
I scratch my head and get to work. Guy seemed okay for a freak. Or maybe that's a bit harsh. Just...he ain't my ordinary fare.
I like a challenge, sometimes...when I'm in my element. So I start from scratch, taking my time.
Joe – I'll him “Joe” – gets real quiet while I'm creating. Then he makes this strange sound, like a ghost is chokin' down in his larynx. No...more like an oyster moaning up a pearl. Hey! How about that? I'm a poet!
Anyways, I'm thinking, I'm mixing, glancing over at him time to time. Then he looks up and smiles, grin looks more like a grimace.
And he says, right out loud, as if he was on the stage or something, “Why must I tell a truth I don't know myself?”
Sez me: “What's that?”
“Why must I tell a truth I don't know myself?”
'Course I heard him the first time. ButI figured he wanted to repeat it. After all, I'm an observer. You get the hang of this stuff. Psychology. Tricks of the trade.
Sez he: “It's all gluttinous, man.”
“Gluttinous? What's that mean?”
“It's all slimy and sticky -- glutenous. And all so hungry -- gluttonous. Put em together, ya got 'gluttinous,' well close enough, I think. It's all simply a crime, merely grime smeared on a tiara. Everyone's talking at me, but I can't hear a damn word they're saying.”
“Umm...you okay, buddy?” (See I was beginning to think this freak was a lunatic.)
His eyebrows got darker and pinched down toward his nose. I lost his eyes in the shadows, or it was more like his eyes turned inside out...you know, looking at something inside and giving him a hollow expression. Finally he laughed.
“Yeah...I'll be all right. Just need to unwind. Need a new drink. Need a new key. Everybody thinks I think in simple majors. But it's more elliptical, more pungent, ain't whole or true...got an accent vibrating in the superstrings. Call it F#. Yep. It's just off...like an orange rind or a banana peel getting just a tad aromatic...Ha! Or – ditto -- desperation turning into Aramaic! And I'm sick of receiving sugar-coated messages. Call it a 'confectionery disdain.'”
His look turned sarcastic, but he kept smiling.
“Well, here you go. Give this a try. If it don't kill you, I'll take out a patent on the recipe...heh.”
“This looks evil, whatdaya call it?”
“Hmm...how about this: 'To Be Used At Least Twice.'”
“That'll work. 'To Be Used At Least Twice.' Hey...you're a dandy barkeep.”
“You staying around here close?”
“Two blocks. The Palace. Ironic, ain't it? Decrepit. Looks more like Hell now than in the old photo
behind the desk. But at least they got hot water and a clawfoot bath tub. That's means a lot, means the world to a guy coming hard off stress.”
“Say...what's your name, bub? I mean...if you're gonna be a regular customer....”
“Bub? I like that. I like slang down here, like words slung over the shoulder. Bub...yeah, call me 'Beelzebub.'”
I felt a chill running up my spine because the whole thing didn't feel right from the beginning. But he wuz just kidding.
“So, what's your line of work?”
“I have two jobs. One, being a loner. Two, trying to track her down.”
“Femme fatale, I bet. Seems everybody's got one stirring things up. Giving no peace.”
“You got that fucking right.”
I think my new invention was beginning to have the intended effect. He was almost finished with the second one.
“See...it's like this. She don't even exist. I was just there and compelled to make everything up. But I couldn't make her up. You people don't know how lucky you got it. So, I've been chasing a dream, and she's so ephemeral that no proper name will stick.”
By now, he was officially soused, and I hoped he would stop at two drinks. But he ordered another, going past the “At Least.” His words were slurring, and I thought I saw a tear running down his gaunt cheek.
“Yes, she's my dream. She keeps me going now, keeps me moving one step ahead of Nietzsche's assertion. And since I can't hold her with a simple name, I had to beg Yeats for suggestions. He came up with a doozy.”
“Yeats...ain't he the guy runs The Palace?”
“Nah...that's Bates. Yeats...well, it's a long story. But he nailed it. Captured her in just a few lines. And now my dream has grown more tangible. At least I can now put an image to feelings, a form to needs. She dances inside my dreams now, a gypsy made of fog and furtive glances. Here's what Yeats wrote for me...
"In the mirrors she moves, a phantom
of pure holy feeling. And those mirrors
move, shift with myriad facets of a face. I Am
her silent troubadour, walking beside
the wandering minstrels of her own dark eyes."
Things got real quiet for a while after that. But he finally came to his senses.
"So...ya shovin' off? It ain't closing time yet. And look, it's starting to rain."
"Don't matter. I gotta go. Here......does this square us?"
"Sure thing pal. You take it easy, okay?"
He gives me this peculiar smile, then turns and walks unsteady. Out the door, into the rain.
I gotta tell ya. Whole thing was creepy...actually weird mixed up with a whole lotta sad. Fellar needed a dame real bad...and seemed like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.