[ Free Me From This Bond: Chapter 4 ]
This is back in 2007, before my tragic downfall and memory loss (and consequent breakup with Larkin, albeit unintended but necessary). The month was January. I was standing just outside the entrance, with the leather curtain between myself and Hades (otherwise known as “The Hole in the Wall Saloon”). Having my usual friendly debate with steadfast and proud atheist (whose name I forget, but let’s call him) Alvin. Unbeknownst to me, Larkin is on the other side of the curtain, listening in.
Forgot what our conversation was about (possibly Leon Trotsky; who knows), but I bring up the topic of Larkin (which I often do, much to Alvin’s and everyone else’s chagrin):
“I hear that Larkin’s a nasty drunk. Is that true?”
Before Alvin can say a word, out pops Larkin from between the black, heavy drapes:
“WHAT? ME, A NASTY DRUNK? WHO EVER GAVE YOU THAT IDEA?” he exclaims in dramatic prose, towering over me like a giant about to crush my bones into dust.
“Whoa nelly, calm down now,” I respond in partial laughter, and press a flat hand against his darling belly (he’s so trim!). “It was only something I heard. I’m sure it was just gossip. A lot of that goes on around here.”
“OH, WELL THAT’S OKAY I GUESS,” retorts Larkin who lights up a Marlboro while standing between myself and the Atheist Wonder. It’s suddenly rather cramped in this narrow entrance to Satan’s Lair. Alvin decides to step back inside where barkeep Gary awaits, along with his bar stool and a fresh shot of Maker’s.
“I’ll leave you two love birds alone,” he remarks before vanishing back down The Hole.
Larkin steps further outside, to sit on the fire hydrant and enjoy his smoke. I remain in the doorway savoring the moment, and the chill fog that blankets South of Market. We both gaze at each other while Larkin puffs away. He is the Master of Silent Intercourse. Though almost twenty feet apart, I feel like he embraces me with the dearest affection I’ve ever felt from anyone else’s physical hug. (So you can imagine how exceedingly delightful his actual embrace can be!)
Several minutes later in this beatific spell, I decide to pay My Sweetness a compliment:
“Larkin my dragon, I want you to know that, thanks to your watching over me here at The Hole, to make sure no one harasses or injures me…I do not need anyone to protect me when I’m elsewhere. Because I care so much about your friendship, I make damn sure I don’t get into any messes, so I’ll remain all in one piece for your sake.”
He suddenly jumps up from the hydrant: “WHAT? YOU SAYING YOU DON’T NEED ME ANY MORE? MY PROTECTION ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH?”
And with that, he tosses the still-lit ciggie into the curb, and storms right by me and back into the saloon.
Obviously he misunderstands my intent, I think, or maybe I used my words poorly.
So I rush after him to apologize and sort things out. Larkin is sitting on his designated bar stool (right at the front end towards the doorway and before it makes a 90-degree turn to accomodate two more stools). His ruddy-mopped head is lowered in disappointment, over a bottle of Budweiser.
“Sweetheart!” I exclaim. “That’s not what I meant at all. Of course I need your protection and kindness. I always will! You are very dear to me, that will never change.”
He mumbles over the brewsky: “Well that’s not how you sounded to me. Leave me be, I don’t wanna talk right now.”
“But…” I interject.
“LEAVE me alone, I said!”
I touch his shoulder, but he pushes my hand away.
I am so disoriented and hurt by this unexpected response, I decide to march on home to think things through. As I watch the gray sky dim into sunset through my grimy window, I surmise that I absolutely must clear up what seems to me, a gross misunderstanding and rejection of my great affections for this Wonderful Specimen of Gaelic Manhood.
So in a hurried pace, I trot nine long blocks back up Market (then Eighth) Street, and into The Hole, and to My Beloved. By the time I arrive, it is nightfall. Along the way, I purchase a gift of $40 worth of marijuana, in hopes this will soothe his jangled nerves. (Mine are already too jangled to discern that the bag of pot I just purchased is nothing but a mix of stale oregano and dried dandelion leaves plucked from a vacant city lot.)
There’s my Larkin at his usual bar stool, chatting up what appears to be a Vietnamese or Thai twink. So I approach them and address My Better Third (Randolph being the Second):
“‘Scuse my intrusion but I really need to talk with you, Larkin.”
“Fuk off,” demands the SE Asian twink who, no doubt, feels quite full of himself at this moment, considering the undivided attention showered on him by My Bodacious Hunk of a Dragon. Larkin must be desperate for someone to buy him drinks, I silently observe.
Ready to bust out in peals of hilarity, I apologize to the rice-poof: “Sorry, I will only take a minute, then you’ll have this gutter-tripe gigolo back in your arms again.”
Larkin stands up and pulls me a few feet away from the bar stool. “Okay, what’s going on, Gene?”
I stare up at those dark, smoldering orange-red eyes, and his fiery crown of auburn hair. (Talk about Ireland’s Greatest Glory! Were his visage impressed upon the Blarney Stone, everyone in the world would give up their life savings to travel across the globe on their hands and knees, dressed in rough, scratchy, blood-letting horse-hair burlap, just for a single kiss!)
“Larkin,” I begin, “I am so sorry to upset you, but I think you misunderstood me. I was paying you a compliment. Maybe I chose my words wrong, I don’t know. But the last thing I ever want to do, is cause you any grief or anger!”
My Dragon says nary a word, but keeps looking down upon my trembly soul, with a pensive finger to his chin. So I continue:
“What I meant to say was: how much I appreciate your kind company and protection whenever we’re together.” Then I choose my remaining words most carefully:
“And that when we aren’t together, I’ll make damn sure to stay out of trouble, to cause you as little worry as possible.”
I then extend my right hand to offer the entire baggie of ersatz marijuana which (most fortunately) he pushes back into my chest.
“Apology accepted?” I beg.
“Hmm. Alright.” He replies. Then adds just before returning to his free-drink twink link:
“Just don’t do it again.” (I notice a wry slip of a grin on his darling mug. What’s up with that?)
Well, now that I’m back at The Hole, I figure, I may as well toke up back here, and enjoy the night, the music, the alcohol and, of course, Larkin’s antics. Then it hits me:
I’VE BEEN PUNKED!!!
Larkin never was upset; he’s just having a bit of mischief at This Little Dragon’s expense! Now that I have it all figured out, what next?
In a few minutes, the twink disappears back into the woodwork, and I take up the vacant seat beside Larkin. (That puts me to his left, BTW.) Set my vodka tonic down close to his coke and whiskey, and watch My Darling Trickster carom a green-stripe billiard ball into a corner pocket. Coyly, I polish his barstool seat with a clean napkin before he returns to await his next round at the table.
“That’s better,” he remarks, upon seeing me wipe a patch of debris from his chair.
Now seated, he notices the proximity of my well-drink to his; so with a deft hand propels my glass down the bar top like the expert barkeep he will never be. Not a slow wit myself, I halt the drink with my outstretched left hand. Smooth moves on both our parts!
I want so badly to enfold him in my arms, bless him with infinite kisses. Instead, I say:
To which he abruptly replies:
Another patron standing close by grins beatifically: he witnessed our little skit from start to finish.
Now, jump ahead five-plus years. Remember that we’ve hardly associated most of those years (or at least it seems that way, due to my memory loss), until just several weeks ago. Remember Chapter 2, where we are back together again after so very long, talking even, at Moby Dick? And I buy him a drink.
Larkin raises his glass and clinks it against mine. “Cheers asshole,” he declares.
Of course, ditzy little space cadet that I am, I think I heard him say: “You’re an asshole.”
Not that I’m offended by that remark, but those are the words I thought he spoke. So I reply with a shrug:
“Well, I don’t think I’m an asshole, but whatever.”
To which he quickly responds: “I said cheers asshole.”
“Oh, yeah,” I chuckle. Then clink my glass right back at him: “Cheers asshole”.
Isn’t till later that night, long after I’m departed from Moby Dick, that I realize the reference he intended. He had reversed the two expletives (from that “twinky” evening over five years ago) to this present time, where he said “Cheers asshole”…and I was supposed to reply: “Cheers muthuh fukkuh.”
That’s My Belov-ed: Sharpest Dragon in the Pack!
Larkin: I can’t wait till the next time I buy you a drink! Make it soon, please. Please please please please please please please please please please please please please please please. Muthuh fukkuh.
THAT’S MY SEAT!
Just how funny is this guy I call My Guardian Dragon? Well, I just gave a good example of his mischievous wit in the tale above, where he faked being upset at this love-struck dummy. Now, here’s another example that I can only describe as “Classic Larkin”:
It’s a blustery, sunshiny day in March of 2007, when I step into Hole in the Wall after my power walk along Frisco’s South Beach promenade. As I enter (and my eyes slowly adapt to the gloomy interior), I can’t help but notice a man barely three feet tall without legs or arms, perched on the bar’s end stool. Thalidomide baby, I figure. He is decked out like a leather daddy, motorcyle cap, chaps and all. His drink is clasped securely in a metallic claw that extends from a short, steel armature.
What a courageous soul, I note. Self confidence like nobody’s business! I further muse: Were I in that compromised shell of a body, doubtful I’d have the guts to parade in leather and be just one of the boys. Mazel tov to you, brave fellow. Mazel tov.
Still early afternoon. Patrons are sparse and bartender Gary dotes on his large, ridiculously friendly black lab stretched out on the oakwood floor: long pink tongue draped over a jowl, paws up in a desperate plea for belly rubs. Gary interrupts playtime in order to serve me my usual cup o’java and a glass of tap. Friendly banter ensues between us for several minutes before he returns to his beloved pup, and myself to a bench along the wall, in a dark corner. AC/DC’s Highway to Hell is booming from the overamped speakers, as I sip the robust mud and drift into heavy-metal coma.
Appropriate to the song’s theme (backdrop to the tiny drama about to play out), Larkin’s tall, gaunt figure bursts through the black leather curtains like a giant offended and seeking his prey. Dragonly smoke fumes out his expanded nostrils from a Marlboro just tossed into the gutter. He glares at the limbless leather-dwarf and declares:
“That’s MY seat!”
In a flash he rushes up to the hapless target who remains in calm poise, imbibing his rum and coke…and peremptorily lifts Thalydomide Daddy from his present seat and sets him on the one right beside. The victim of Larkin’s outrageous antic retains his calm as if nothing untoward has just happened, and continues to sip his drink.
OMFG, that’s hilarious, I think. And almost tumble off the bench, poop my pants, and spurt coffee from my nose. All at the same time.
If laughter truly is the best medicine, then Larkin is The Mother Of All Physicians.
BLACK MAGIC BILLIARDS
[ Okay, this passage has little to do with Larkin, but I figure inserting it here is more appropriate than placing it anywhere else. ]
One evening early in 2007, I play a round of pool at The Hole with a regular named Jared. I’m not a very good or experienced pool player, though Larkin had given me some tips on how to improve my skills in that department. Upon my third round, the cue ball is situated in such a position that all my balls are impossible to make a pocket. All my opponent’s balls block such an outcome.
Jared BTW is a rather handsome lad of about 35. With a blond crew cut and full, pouting lips…not to mention light gray eyes, a robust chest and thighs and calves to die for.
Now, I could choose to just tap the cue ball with a light touch, hopefully to position it so that Jared won’t be able to gain a pocket in his next round. Instead–seeing as any winning shot for my side is not even remotely feasible–I decide to declare a ludicrously hopeless shot that even the most professional pool player could not achieve. (I’m stripes BTW.) So I declare to Jared:
“I’m gonna strike the 9 ball, where it will carom off the far bank, then smack the 11 ball which will ricochet off the right bank and hit the 14 ball. Which will then strike the near-end bank, bounce off the left bank, and drop into the far-right corner pocket.” I indicate with my cue stick, the exact trajectory.
Realizing just how absurd is my declaration, Jared decides to take a whiz in the urinal while I make my unlikely shot. Expecting a failed result, I then line up the stick and smack the cue ball. Lo and behold, here is how it all came down:
The 9 ball caroms off the far bank, strikes the 11 ball with an impressive “thock,” which ball bounces off the right bank, and knocks the 14. Which ball hits the near-end bank, zings off the left bank, then waddles into the far-right corner pocket. IOW:
My totally impossible maneuver succeeded!
Though to my chagrin, Jared never witnessed it. A moment later he returns to the table (with bladder cleared), figuring I forfeited, and prepares to make his next shot. I abruptly extend a hand to halt his move and declare:
“Whoa buddy, I made the shot! I go again. If you’re in doubt, just ask Devon.”
As it turns out, Devon seated at the close end of the bar was the only one to witness My Astounding Feat. He is a good looking 52, with dark brown eyes framed in square glasses, a trim David-Niven moustache and dense shocks of wavy black hair.
“Wow, you’re a really good pool player!” declares Devon as he takes another gulp from a bottle of Anchor Steam.
I then lay my cue stick on the table and approach him: “So you saw that shot, didja?”
“Sure did,” he replies. “Did you sell your soul to the devil or what?”
“Ha ha,” I retort, “I’m certainly not a good pool player. I guess the angels are on my side. Or devils, as you say.”
Then I commence a second shot…also equally impossible due to the layout of my opponent’s balls, though differently arranged. And once more I make a ridiculous claim:
“Okay, now I’m gonna hit the 11 ball, strike it against the right bank where it will spin off the 15 ball. Which ball will carom off the far-end bank, strike the near-end bank, then whack the 12 ball. Which will hit the left bank and drop into the near-right corner pocket.”
Again, I never dreamed of pulling this off, but think: what have I got to lose? So here’s what happens next:
I make a powerful lunge of the cue stick, which causes my right wrist to be flayed against a jagged piece of metal protruding from the pool table’s frame. And start to bleed profusely. Yet the balls I indicated with the cue stick all respond once more, exactly as I declared!
Infuriatingly, Jared had again turned away, this time to order a second drink. So once more he does not witness My Miraculous Bank Shot. Yet I notice Devon’s surprise at my continued good fortune. So I walk up to him, raise my bloody wrist to his face, and declare:
“There’s your blood price!” and guffaw profusely: “Mwa-ha-ha-ha!” He raises his shoulders and chortles.
Barkeep Gary provides me with a half-shot of vodka and a bandaid, that I may cleanse my wound in the urinal. He confides:
“We need to hammer down that loose metal strip. You’re not the first to be cut up by a cockeyed cue shot.”
I don’t think Jared believes I succeeded in either shot. But that’s just how things go sometimes: when you achieve a great goal, often there’s no one around to witness. But if you’re lucky, there’s at least one.
Though sometimes your sole witness doesn’t even remember. Especially if several years pass before you ask him to vouch for the miracle.
Thank you, Larkin, for those pool tips!