The Doctor came in and sat. He sighed and said, Hello. He glanced over his round wire glasses, took Ty in and sighed again, this time with a tight half-smile. He opened the file he carried and read from it. He checked his watch.
Ty sat in the wood chair that faced the desk, but he watched an electrical outlet low in the wall. Nothing was plugged into it.
I do believe you, you know, the Doctor said as he scanned the pages. You do understand that, don’t you? He looked to Ty. We agreed on this last week, and the week before. Remember? And I want you to know that today is no different. No different at all. The Doctor paused, twitched a bit of another smile, and then lost it. How’s your fear today? Huh? Is it manageable? Is it okay, today?
Ty pursed his lips. He moved his eyes from the empty outlet to the empty wastebasket on the side of the desk hidden from Doctor Grayson. He wasn’t sure what the Doctor wanted him to say. Fear? What can I un-add to fear? But Ty didn’t speak. He hadn’t spoken in a long time. He didn’t realize this, but the fact was, the less he spoke, the more he heard the trees. It was The Rumbullion finally tinkering with that last literal link between the two worlds.
How about clarity? the Doctor continued. How’s our clarity level right now? Is it good? A strong level of clarity today? He watched Ty with a reserved professional distance. And it was this reserved professional distance that was his training. His scientific training. He knew this to be his great strength. As a board certified D.O. From William Carey College down in Hattiesburg. This scientific training helped him deliver his patients into what he called the Lodestone Zone, because the Lodestone Zone attracts facts like a magnet, and facts are crucial, and with clear facts, I can execute my scientific skills of observation and manipulation. He explained this to Ty once, early on, this Lodestone Zone. Ty said he got it at the time, but now he wasn’t so sure. Distortion. Ty cracked a barely discernable smile. Clarity. But the Doc knew Ty, and he’d expected this. He’d waited for it. Hoped for it, even. In his Lodestone Zone. You’re smiling. That’s good. That’s a fact. Why are you smiling, Ty? Huh? Can you tell me? Or is this a joke?
And Ty knew the Doc. He’d expected this. Waited for it, even, this tireless joke obsession. His clear joke fear. Ty shot his eyes back to the empty plug. Electricity. Free flow. Come and go. Sui juris. Ty was clearly afraid. Again.
The Doctor leaned back in his chair, clasped his hands behind his head. Am I a joke? Me trying to help you? I’m a joke. Okay. Why can’t you look at me? Are you afraid? You’re afraid. How can you expect to get better, or go home even, when you can’t even… The Rumbullion’s a joke. That’s the joke here… Doctor Grayson shifted testily in his seat.
And another thing, about your brother, Emile… okay? The Doctor flung himself forward and jackhammered the desk with his forefinger. Your brother, Emile, is an… He put you up to this, didn’t he? He’s telling you to not listen to me, right? I know it. I know it’s true. You two sit out there on that bench like a couple, a couple of jokers, a pair of co-conspirators, laughing it up, and conspiring and he encourages, hell, enables, you to ignore me, and, and he believes all your cockamamie crap about The Rumbullion… I know it, I know it! Everything’s a joke to you, isn’t it? I know it is! I’m onto you, man, I’m onto you!
Doctor Grayson paused and pressed on his temples with great force. He breathed a deep breath and looked up at the ceiling as he raked his palms down over his face. Okay… he said and flipped to the last page in Ty’s file. We left off last week with you, positing, that Joyce knew that Proust knew that Mozart, delighted in, all things fecal…
A gasp in the hall and the Doctor looked up to his closed door. Another gasp. He jerked up out of his seat, and that was not from his scientific training, but he quickly sat again. He looked to Ty. Then a burst of a woman’s scream. He rose and shoved his wheeled chair back and it bounced against the wall. He stormed through his small and conspicuously empty office and out into the big hall, slamming the door behind him. Ty froze and then shot a peek over his shoulder and the frosted glass read, ffatS tsirtaihcysP. Like it always did.
Doctor Grayson returned, opening his door like a scolded child. He didn’t shut it. He sat. He removed his glasses from his head. I can’t believe it… he said. Elvis died. Elvis Presley just died. He put his hands to his head and looked at Ty with newborn eyes. I don’t under… I can’t understand it.
The phone on his desk buzzed. He answered it with zero hesitation. Hello, yes? he said, scared and eager for comfort. Yes, yes, I just heard. Jesus. The Nurses out in the… I can’t believe it. It’s just, just, stunning. Tragic… Trust me, this is a death, a death of epic... Yes, yes, that’s what I said! Exactly what I said just now… to myself! Snap, snap, snap, snap...
Ty always looked at fingersnaps because he liked them, so he looked, and Doctor Grayson was turning away and snapping at him while listening to the shrill female voice at the other end of the phone. Grayson saw that Ty had looked and so he shooed him out the door with flicks of his backhand.
Ty got up and left with zero hesitation. He moved down the big hall, dodging the unhinged nurses and wincing from the blasting TVs. He made it to the main lobby and looked at Harriet, the front desk nurse. Her bosoms were perfect. Visiting Hours: 3-5 PM Monday-Friday, affirmed the sign behind her. Harriet was reading, A Stranger in the Mirror. She hadn’t heard about the King.
Ty walked out the side security door and the afternoon sun blasted him. He quick-shuffled down the gravel path, pumped his arms a bit, saw his favorite bench empty and sat. He checked his watch seven times in three seconds and started bobbing back and forth. He bobbed for a while, rechecked his watch, flitted some fingers by the side of his face and moaned. His watch read 3:07 and Emile was nowhere to be seen. Emile was late. Emile wasn’t coming…
Emile shoved on the studded leather door and walked in the bar. Hesitantly. The blasting white-hot light of the August day smacked into the brokenhearted bar’s dark coolness and then the door shut itself and that was that.
The sign by the bar’s front door had read The Lamplighter, and as Emile moved deeper inside, he thought it a good name. He liked to consider all possible meanings from bar names, and this one was good. But he wasn’t sure why. He walked on, scratched the corner of his small mouth when he didn’t need to, and hoped no one saw.
The song playing was Mystery Train, but an old crooning version, eerie and feminine. Across the fetid, medley-of-brown carpet, he felt as if to float. Past the same-old sad sack sots sitting on their stools, drooping down like whipped-dog gargoyles vainly keeping watch over their hopeless patches of forlorn floor.
He grabbed the next-to-last stool on the row, pulled it out by its risky underside and sat and reckoned yet again with the letter in his back pocket. The letter that brought this bar to him.
It arrived a while ago, gripping him, seizing him, forcing his imagination amok, and forcing him also to realize he had not the imagination to run anywhere near amok. He pitched to his left and pulled it out of his buttoned khaki back right pocket. He unfolded it and moved it into a slight pool of spilled light on the bartop. A spot just right for a tap dancing frog.
He backhanded away the peanut shells and popcorn orts, looked to his near left and right with that grade school gesture of what’s mine is not yours, and tried to read it but could not. His eyes continued adjusting, and as he waited, he noticed how loud the air conditioner blew. A voice of a sort, he thought; a white noise roar for us all. Angry. He breathed a sough and looked down his nose and mouthed the words yet one more time.
Dear Emile, I am your brother and this is a fact. I am not a lunatic. this is double double fact. The Rumbullion won’t lie. I live at Shepard hall and I need to see you. on the 16th at 3 sharp. And I need a ride. Cause I don’t have a license. To drive the car. I am not faking. No matter what he says. Best wishes from your brother, Ty.
Emile Sinclair refolded the letter and covered it with his hands. When he’d first read the scrawled note, he thought it a prank, then a mistake, then a mystery, and then a different mistaken mystery, and then a prankish possibility and then a distinct possibility. But both then and now, he could not say why. He just did. It felt right. He found the clock down low under the bar. Its red numbers read 2:57.
He slid the letter back into his pocket and looked up to the lineup of drink. They were all there, begging like stoic puppies, their overpromising labels ordering him to order wisely. Different drinks different drunks make. He thought short and hard on it and instinctively concluded that to choose unwisely was highly unlikely. So he calmed unto his stool.
But he knew he wasn’t going. No way. Never. His head sank, but that was comfortable surrender. He’d circled the block nine times, nine times in his white convertible ’76 El Dorado, passing by Shepard Hall, staring like a lunatic himself, eyes wide and glued to the pitiable front lobby. He’d even wondered what exactly it would take to be accepted to a place like Shepard Hall. Do you just walk up? Dizzy from the circles and lying to himself that it was the heat, he parked. Rested his head on his hands on the top of the wheel. Like a man with real problems.
Life. Because that’s all we have… and a smell came from the kitchen. He looked and saw her dimpled, rippled gargantuan ass packed tight into yellowing polyester slacks. She attended to a thin grey burger sizzling on the flat silver griddle. An old bottle of ketchup sat by with a crusted red rind under its white cap. A slimy jar of mayonnaise. A paper bowl of cut-up onions. Two halves of a Wonder bun on the counter. A green housefly meddling on the thinner one. But it was the spatula that got him. She had set it down and moved away. It was long and paper thin and shaped by three planes separated by two obtuse angles. Its wood handle forced the whole unit off balance, making it back-heavy, giving the handle a charred undertip because it’d rested too many times upon the hot griddle.
Emile was thinking about the spatula and all its scraping potential when she appeared. Tall sponge-cake yellow hair atilt to her left and screwed up lips to the right somehow balanced out the woman. And Emile knew her. And knew her well. Their long ago scene seared onto his soul, and the things seared into souls loiter in ways that are easy not to distrust.
The child-made banners on the wall. With quotes: Blessed are the Peacemakers; If God is for Us, Who can be Against Us? Thou Shalt Not Kill; the big room with little chairs and the stand-alone particle board closet in the back corner which housed the vain accoutrements of the dismal Sunday school classroom – construction paper, sparkle-stars, scissors, ribbons, stencils, crazy glue. Sniff it.
The teacher that day, a scab, was plying her skill from behind a bed sheet so it was her silhouette that moved. And her voice, Emile now believed she must’ve believed, would stand in for the omniscient voice of her god, and it was in this silly manner that she tried to sway the good children that this god saw all people as the same. We to see Him as The One, He to see Us as A One.
But little Emile cocked his little head. All he could do was watch the scab and compare her lesson to the huge lacey snowflakes they’d made the Sunday prior with the regular idiot teacher, when the lesson that day taught that all people are special, different. Unique. No two the same. Ever, under any circumstances. And as the scab droned on, Emile braced and mocked. Loudly. She stopped and stood up, busty and livid over her sheet. She braced, and snapped. She walked around her curtain of God and slapped him, and now that Sunday school scab stood before him yet again. At The Lamplighter. Ready to take his order.
Miss Perkins? Emile said.
It’s Lupus. It was Perkins. Then Rodriguez, and McSorely and Lackey and now it’s Lupus. Lupus. Do I know you? She stood there blank, the years since having been cruel. She dismissed all. Nonplussed by some fierce fiat not her own. Until now.
Um, I think you taught Sunday school that day when…
When what, son?
When, uh, you slapped me…
I don’t go to church.
You slapped me for… I mean, when I was a kid. In Sunday school…
I do not know what you are talking about.
You slapped me. In Sunday school. You were the teacher and I was…
You want me to slap you, son?
No. You already…
This isn’t that kind of place.
Look, Miss Perkins, it’s me. Emile Sinclair. You slapped me arguing when when you said...
Oh, my, lord. Oh, my god damned Jesus, Oh, god damned… It’s… you? she said, her eyes spreading into a grin of white frenzy. You. She stepped back, coiled up like a snake and said, You, oh, you… I pity you...
Yes, ma’am, he said with a bow of the head for yet another self-inflicted sin against a woman. Emile was well raised, and his mother would have been proud. To live now is to be alive NOW! It’s a great ERA! Emile shuddered.
Lupus moved in, flattening her palms on the bar. I remember it and you like yesterday. You and your god damn identically unique crap. Just couldn’t leave well enough alone, huh? Huh?! Well, we are not all identically unique, and we weren’t then and we never will ever be, and if you can’t understand that fact of nature, she said with a crooked boney finger-jab to his face, Well, then, I just pity the daylights out of you, pity you all the way straight into Satan’s damn pit of… Excuse me. I pity you. There. That’s enough. That’s all. No need for any more blasphemy. Or swearin’. She straightened up, looking for poise, but found only her flabby gut popping out between her polyester pieces. She yanked down on her sleeveless tan top. You’re the blaspherer.
Yes, ma’am. But all I was…
It’s the mystery, and you had to go and chide and ridicule it and me and the good word of the Lord. Well… hell. I’m not sorry I smacked you. You deserved it, you snot ass, and I’ll do it again. But since like I say, I pity you, now and I been working on that, among other things, like the types of men I seem to latch on and all, so I know how to turn the other cheek now. So I just turn it.
But you hit me. I should be the one who…
I know that! Glory to good god almighty, you just do not get it, do you? She stopped, stared and chewed her mouth as if she had something in there. Well, what’ll it be?
Is it happy hour yet?
We’re all god’s children. We’re all identical and we’re all very unique little snowflakes. Simultaneously. At the same time. You stupid fuck.
The barphone clattered three times before she broke her seething glare. The fourth clatter and she waddled to it and picked it up and said, Lamp. She then said nothing, nodded and hung up. She stood there for a moment, like a barnyard donkey. Shook her head slightly, as if a former minor irritant had now become a full-grown nuisance.
She moved her stool a bit and stepped on the foot rung and reached up and switched on the TV. All the sots looked, distracted by the fact that they could have been distracted all this time. The TV sputtered on with horizontal squiggles and when the picture came clear, it was clear of something serious. A frazzled reporter with bushy mop hair and fat plaid tie stood in the middle of a throbbing crowd.
I didn’t know the man, but I did, he said into his spongy orange microphone as his other hand secured his earpiece. If that makes sense, because nothing makes sense anymore, I can attest to that, and all the good folks out here, well, they can make no sense of this neither. Nobody can. Not the poets, priests or politicians. Prostitu… it just don’t make sense!
Police sirens burped and shrieked and the crowd swarmed and he looked and tried to find more words but he couldn’t so he kept on talking. And I know he loved his momma good. Real good. And she’s dead. And I also heard he had a brother, lost at birth, Carl, I think. But then, as I look around this scene, this scene of vacuum…ness, I think of, well, an empty Cadillac. Just an engineless Cadillac. Or Cadillacs. On blocks. In a yard, maybe. In the yard of an empty mansion, an empty mansion, high up upon a glorious hill. A musical, empty desolated hill. Estately like. And, and a microphone, lonely and ungripped, voiceless, little feedback maybe, reminiscing about the not-so, I don’t know, empty days. Clambake comes to mind. That was a good one. And so yet, when I look out here onto Elvis Presley Boulevard… he swept his hand out like a game show hostess and poked a woman in the face… Oh, sorry, you okay? We’re live, and, and the street that we so gratuitously gave unto tooketh of his name, took it by the hand, and, uh, as I look out over onto the thousands of people, the fans, all of them, empty, empty souls they are, looking for, shelter, sanctuary, a room at the Heartbreak Ho… A shirtless, long-haired man ran screaming across camera and the reporter doubled over and grabbed his foot and started hopping. Hey! Watch it, you mother fuh…!
The TV went to a test pattern and the sots sprang off their stools and ran out the front door like bank robbers. The rainbow pattern vanished and a thrown-together collage of Elvis pictures and the dates January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977, filled the screen. Alan O’Day’s Undercover Angel played over the glossy images and Emile looked around, under his stool and behind him on both sides. He turned back to the bar and the drinks he never ordered stood there. He dumped the tequila into his mouth and swallowed it and did the same with the whiskey. His mouth burned. His stomach protested, but his head thanked him. One’s equilibrium is one’s home. Emile did not know he knew this.
He watched the strange King tribute for a while and felt he was maybe being had. Taken. He wanted an explanation. A story. For all of this. Lupus. Elvis. The letter. No way this Ty guy could be real. But then again, no way The King can die. But he seems to have had…
A toilet flushed. A flimsy door slammed shut, like gunfire. A human’s exhale of relief whooshed and barreled out of hall leading from the toilets. A mighty stench billowed in, settling and bouncing around the end of the bar. It bathed Emile. The man caught up to and wallowed back into his own horrid odor and he sat on the last stool.
Emile looked to the wheezing mess of a man and saw a gargantuan effeminate urban Sasquatch in Prussian Military Walking Trousers tucked into knee-high, lace-up moccasin footwear, rust-colored. He wore a tight t-shirt with Marilyn Monroe’s face on it under a maroon satin cape. A 1950s Boy Scout canteen with scratchy rug sides hung from his neck and sat upon his lumpy bosomy belly. The man’s face was round as a pizza pan, but with a long bulbous nose, like a Proboscis Monkey. His one eyebrow sprung forth and draped over his eyes like a frayed mudflap; its ends twisted hard with spittle into spikes. It was a handlebar mustache on his forehead.
He met Emile’s look and smiled. His teeth were misshapen Tic-Tacs drifting about in a furry bowl of creamy spit. His smile was girly and his fat bare arms soft and pale. His beard wretched.
Regard! and the man flourished his right hand in a circle over his head.
What do you want, Lungsee? said Lupus.
I want the truth!
Well, you can’t have it. This is a bar. If you want the truth then you might should hit the road, you big fat…
Thus, perforce! I’ll take a…, but his eyes found the TV and he watched and he knew. His mouth sagged. The reporter had returned. Lungsee watched on as a stricken family in dated duds struggled to articulate the death, the loss, the emptiness and a ruined vacation, in ramrod English. The mother slobbered on in Flemish.
Shag up top, Lungsee said to Emile.
Shag up top. He fluttered a hand over his head.
It was ’71, and The King placed an order. One baby grand, Stein, white in color, to be delivered. Tuned. Graceland, baby. And I delivered, daddy-o. It was a real nice unit. Gold lettering, gold pedals, that TCB lightning rod right there on the hood. Order to end all orders. Like a dream. But the fucker was a tight fit. Had to squeeze it in between these two stained glass panels. Peacock panels. The Egyptian kind, man. Sign of sexual prowess or something, I guess, and then we shattered one of the peacocks with a leg, and one of his boys, Jackie or something, gets his panties all in a wad and starts screaming, and I call for five. Take five! I said. I asked for the toilet, and one of his other boys led me back to the crapper just off the kitchen and he said, Hope everything comes out okay, and I cackled. But like a girl you know, to be polite. So, I’m in there and I look around, make a face in the mirror and hop on it. But when I come out, he’s not there. No one. I mean crickets, man, crickets. So I decide to have a look around. It’s Graceland, man. So I go on through the kitchen and I see that he writes phone numbers on the wall just like I used to, and I pass by these secret-like stairs and then I find myself in this room that looks like a Polynesian pile of puke. The furniture looked diseased, man, and he had this dense, thick, furry hairy shag carpet, and damnedest shit you ever saw. Green. Asparagus green. Made you want to take your shoes right off.
Lungsee leaned in close to Emile, as if in confidence. And I looked up. And there it was.
There what was?
Shag up top.
Shag up what?
Shag up top.
What’s that mean? Shag up top. I don’t understand…
Shag rug on the ceiling.
Regard! It was there as I am here. And so I stood, alone, just a man and his mystery, pondered on the riddle overhead, the enigma above, and all I could say is… why? Why?
Emile and Lungsee looked at one another for a long silent moment. You’re asking me? Emile said.
Okay. I’m asking you.
I don’t know. Why did he put shag up top? said Emile, completing the absurd tete-a-tete.
He walked up there. That’s why. That man was no man, man. Lungsee stabbed his finger at the TV. He was a god, and he walked on his ceiling. Wouldn’t you rather walk on nice furry shag than bare cold tile? Wood? Linoleum, for fuck’s sake? And that is rhetorical, big brother. Lungsee scratched his armpit and wiped his fingers on his thigh.
Emile nodded but didn’t know why. He turned back to the TV. Lupus sat under it. She stared at him. Her lengthy cleavage split her doughy bosoms and he thought about sex with her, but he then realized it was pity so he looked away. Then down. His hands were not trembling. Elvis walked on the ceiling. It was exactly this kind of speculative intellection that Emile admired, ached for. An imagination literally run amok. But he couldn’t do it, but he didn’t know he couldn’t; so it was little surprise that he believed it. Just like that.
He turned to ask Lungsee a follow-up question, but Lungsee was staring at Emile’s right shoe. His brown loafer. Lungsee suffered a subtle tic, a bodily shudder, and his eyes dulled and rolled and he grasped the bar and steadied himself on it and his chest heaved like a machine was breathing for him, and he said, Loafer… and seemed to ascend into some kind of orbit…
I stood under that shag rug and I understood then and there all that I had been denying myself and he knew it because a voice behind me said, what’s the story there, big brotha? and I turned and there stood The King wholly nude save a pair of brown loafers. He flashed that Maui-Maui half-smile and I asked, what kind of vacuum you use? and he looked at me like I was a imbecile and said the Hoover fucking Constellation, man. What the hell you think? I smiled and he cocked his head and that movement alone would bag any girl in the world and he said what makes you ask, man? and I said, it just came to mind, and then the air between us turned cold and he didn’t seem to like something and he asked, what are you getting at, big fella? and I felt a bad vibe and I said I don’t know, but it’s getting at me. He said, who are you? and I said Lungsee and he stood there, buck naked but for his worn brown loafers and smiled like I was a long lost relative, a how-the-hell-you-been-smile, and next thing I know, two guys snatch me by the arms and drag me to the back door and I said, why are you doing this? and Elvis just watched and he didn’t have to say anything because I understood what he understood and I would have done the same, because... Out the front gates and I stood there and hurt. I knew he knew. I knew he knew I knew he knew. I hurt because I thought it mattered, but it was just a taradiddle, sucking off the Rumbullion, so I hopped the next bus and rode out to the last stop, out there in the country and then hopped a cross-county bus and then came on back into a brown suburb and then over to Cordova and then I just stopped thinking… stared out the window, the dead trees, the houses far back from the road with dim lights not really saying whether or not anyone was home. Frozen fields with frozen futures and the hard plastic ride came on in town and Summer Avenue was dead and soupy and scared and the motorhead shops and mattress joints and bowling alleys and rank motels gave zero hope to a newly crowned exiled king and the moon was ice and bleached and far away, useless to light my kingdom and so I got off the bus. Or maybe the bus got off me. Lungsee ended his gaze at Emile’s loafer.
I see, said Emile. You always think out loud?
The King got me. I get you. What you got?
What you got?
What do you mean, What you got?
You got something. What you got?
None of your business what I got or don’t got.
What you got?
What you got?
What do you got?
I just told you. Lungsee stared at Emile for a long time. His eyes did not dither. My dad asked me that the day he died. What you got? he said. It took three seconds to answer and three decades to… Now I ask you.
Emile scanned the bar. Lupus loomed. The TV droned. I got…, I got… this… Emile fiddled with and unclasped the silver button on his khaki pocket and pulled out the smooth, wrinkled letter from Ty. I got this, he said.
Okay, said Lungsee.
It’s a letter. From…
I know what it is. What you gonna do?
Huh? Do? You do? How could you…?
You got the letter. What you gonna do?
I don’t know. You got a cape. What’re you gonna do?
I’ve made my choices, man.
Emile looked at the bar, groped for a reply.
I thought so, said Lungsee.
Regard! You got the world in your khakis and yet here you sit. Imposter loafers and fully clad. A gingerbread boy. You’re no king, Lungsee said and his face steeled violent; because blessed lies the crown. Regard!
You say regard one more time, and I’ll…
Emile rose from his stool, stalked around the corner of the bar and into the kitchen. Lupus perked up but didn’t abandon her perch. She smiled at the possibility that the little snot ass had finally acknowledged his debt and was going to start work immediately. Emile grabbed the spatula off the griddle, chiseled up the burning smoking burger and flung it like a meat puck into the back screendoor where it clung like a meat spider. He moved back behind the bar, as if to serve Lungsee, and then slapped the massive man’s impossibly rosy cheek with the greasy spatula. It sounded like a beaver tail on water. Lungsee howled with pleasure, stuck his tongue out, wagged it and snagged some burnt beef off his chin.
Their sloppy fisticuffs lasted thirty seconds. It began with Lungsee yanking Emile over the bar and throwing him into a booth. Emile landed on his side, in the fetal position, and was surprised at the lack of pain. He opened his eyes and there stood the salt and pepper shakers. Fat, sturdy, harmful glass. He zinged the pepper-shaker and it donked Lungsee’s canteen making the big man look down. That what you got? That what you gonna do? Lungsee said. Pepper me with impotence? HiYAH! he screamed, and in he came hard with a soft moccasin. Emile watched it, saw the faux native sole coming, coming, and that was that.
The TV reporter was back on, rambling of Lisa Marie and how she must be hurting, rambling on like it was open mic night, about the primal forces of love and family and emptiness. The coolness of the bartop felt soothing to the throbbing left side of Emile’s face. Cool, and wet. Ice water trickled into his nose and he bolted upright. Lungsee held a glass with ice water and smiled the softest smile Emile had ever seen. The smile that meets the Christmas morning puppy. Emile blew and spewed the water from his nose. That’s it, that’s it, honk it out there, said Lungsee.
Emile was rigid. His right hand bolted to his back pocket and he felt the letter. He relaxed. I need a drink.
Lungsee smiled, nodded and reached down between his feet. You like rum? he said, pulling up an unlabeled and etched bottle with neither cork nor cap.
Lungsee whacked the bottle on the edge of the bar and the top of the neck exploded off. Not an ounce spilled. He then carefully unscrewed the cap on his dented canteen and poured the rum in. He ran the round tin opening under his nose and said, To you and The Rumbullion! Regard!
Sorry about that spatula slap, said Emile.
Lungsee smiled, winked and drank.