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Monday, June 24, 2013

The Wild, Wild West (2) by John von Daler


                The John Wayne discotheque interior looked at night the way other night clubs look in the daytime, worn down, tarnished, colorless and gloomy. The small mirrors revolving from the middle of the ceiling sent off sparks of light that ignited nothing and no one, but seemingly caused many of the customers to wince inadvertently. We found a table for six and Thor asked what we would like to drink. He left to place the order and we leaned back tentatively in our wooden chairs, smiling politely.

                Thor came back followed by two waiters bearing two trays. D. had ordered a Fernet Branca and I a Tuborg; we got a tray-full of each, maybe twenty all in all on each tray.
                The rest of the group got one drink each and lifted them up to say skoal as D and I gingerly fished one glass each off our trays and raised them too. Someone proposed a toast and we had one more. The talk started flowing.
                D. got to asking Thor about his work, about what it was like to fish out in the great North Sea. Thor didn't say much. He sat there in his white shirt and tie looking more or less like a stockbroker who had just picked up two hippies for a couple of laughs.
                After another Fernet Branca D got almost poetical and started describing in vivid words the dangerous and idealistic life of the fisherman fighting against the elements in order to put fresh food on the tables of no-good musicians like ourselves.
                Thor squirmed a little in his seat listening to this ode and finally when D paused in his monologue he ventured a reply:
                "I hate it!"
                D took it in and then tried to package this white elephant of a statement in some ribbons and bows:
                "You mean, all that work really gets to you. I understand that. It must be trying, having to put your life..."
                "I hate it," repeated Thor. "It's an awful life."
                No one spoke.
                D opened a new Fernet Branca and turning his great oval eyes towards the fisherman, reached out and caught a hold of his shoulder.
                "Well, I can see that. That's all right. Tell me what you'd rather be doing, Thor."
                Thor looked the star in the face and after a moment of thought he answered, "I'd rather drive around Denmark in a car and sing The Coffee Song."
                D looked very, very sad and tried to mumble something about that that was a really trivial way to make a living. I got lost trying to think through just what my opinion was, fisherman or musician, when I felt the need to rid myself of a few of the beers I had taken off the tray.
                I got up from our table and made my way shakily toward what I thought must be the Gents when I suddenly ran right into a huge, male chest on the level with my eyes. Looking up warily, I met the irate gaze of a man whose lips had just started forming the first words of a question I often had asked myself, "Who the hell do you think you are?!"
                Before I could stammer out my answer to this more or less existential question, two men forced their way into what already was the minimal space between me and my giant questioner.
                From in front of me, Thor and Olaf each took hold of one of the giant's arms and slowly and expertly guided the man away to the other side of the room. I watched them quietly disappear with their captive and then made an attempt to find a bathroom, but ended up standing on the long, broad street that led from the John Wayne Discotheque past my hotel to the harbor.
                I stumbled along in that direction with only one thought in my head: if the fishermen hadn't come, what would I have answered the big guy? Probably nothing, you whimp, I thought. I let the street carry me down toward the Mission Hotel; it might just as well have been Main Street in Laramie, Wyoming. Since it was deserted at this time of night, I decided to walk in the middle.
                Right then I felt a big hand on my shoulder. Good old John Wayne fell in along side me. I guess he had been keeping an eye on his discotheque that night.
                "Yeah, you'll never know what might have happened if you had had a chance to answer that guy. But I'll tell ya one thing, mister," he said, and stopped me with his paw. "Courage?" he said and paused, tipping his hat back and gazing off past the square houses on the broad street toward the North Sea, where valiant fishermen, vikings and other heroes were waiting to mix it up.
                "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." He turned and stared into my left shoulder. "And it takes guts to play one hell of a mean fiddle, kid."
                Then he looked me right in the eye, winked and flew into the air like a balloon lost by a careless child. I watched him disappear into the dark sky and then ambled, no swaggered, on back to the hotel. Nobody messes with this fiddler.
                                            The End 



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