Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 121 in December, 2009.
Henry looked down upon the blurred face of his watch and groaned pitifully,
"I am late."
He hurried down the High Street, skipping over wafting newssheets. The drizzle became rain that liquefied the homeless. Henry knew that Lapalus Tierney would moan and say Henry was thoughtless, so he started to run.
By the time Henry reached the pub’s doors he was soaked and breathing heavily. Two dollybirds leaving laughed cruelly and blew rings into his face. Their serrated teeth reflected the neon lights that advertised the happy hour.
"Cockaleg," Lizzy O’Keefe said, grimacing, sniggering lasciviously as though the order had been extremely rude.
A smoke ring floated softly upon the air of cockaleg scented with coconut and pork.
The two dollybirds lifted their coats over their heads and hurried out of the pub doorway. The sound of their highheels reverberated clickclickclockclick clickclickclockclick.
"A Lacanian romance of the errant paternal phallus," Lapalus Tierney said. He placed the cigarette once again carefully between his soggy lips.
The first wave of smoke undulated, ascending. The second caught up to the first wave and together they merged creating scenes magical, but ephemeral. Creatures unknown were given birth to and as the smoke drifted higher death came in the act of dissipation. The mystery was not difficult to comprehend. A hand dissolved the act before it could unravel.
"Ah Mephistopheles," Faust shrieked. His eyes magnified with pantomime fear, the last wisp of smoke caressing his left ear. "I should have expurgated you!"
Henry pulled his famous hopeless face and gesticulated with joined fingers and thumbs. The girl with Lapalus Tierney laughed.
"More drinks," said Lapalus Tierney in his phlegmy burr.
The girl with Lapalus Tierney uncrossed her legs. Lapalus Tierney had a terrible laugh; it went yak yak yak as his teeth clapped. Lapalus Tierney welcomed Henry affably, compared to the girl, who was aloof. He handed over his empty glass; Henry had to lean over and pick up the girl’s empty glass. Henry remembered that his friend had once been good at the disappearing hand in the old hole in the trouser pocket trick. The girl was a mystery.
"I am like a man yawning at a ball," Henry softly said, slurring, yawning slightly, belching, quoting Mikhail Lermontov. He had said the same quote verbatim in the mirror at home.
"In that book, didn’t he say that the British created boredom?" the girl asked now hyperventilating.
"Writers who say they are bored are so full of baloney," Lapalus Tierney said, puffing out his chest. His clenched bulbous fists lightly pounded the table, disturbing only the ashtray. "I am Topo atop of the holy Mountaintop ready to top topple to."
Luckily, the three young people were sat in a far away corner, away from the local drunks, the dollybirds, the war veterans, the bigmen, the prostitutes, the junkies, the thieves, the killers. The girl didn’t want to discuss boredom, it was puerile, but because she was so excited, her voice was so full of vim, the two boys believed she was extremely interested in the subject of boredom, and so continued.
"I think Byron was bored," Lapalus Tierney said emptying the dregs in his pint glass.
"Lermontov was shot in a duel."
"Byron collapsed on a beach in Greece."
"Lermontov fell off a mountain top."
"I am Topo atop of the holy Mountaintop ready to top topple upon two tits."
The girl tried to hide behind a curtain of diaphanous smoke. We all know that the slightest veils can hide the most beautiful of faces.
"Monty, the girl likes gin."
The girl smiled showing off her perfect teeth, so white, so even. Henry nodded his head; he was working, unlike the student, Lapalus Tierney.
"Life is too interesting for anybody to be really bored," the girl said handing Henry her empty glass; the lemon had been squeezed between those white, even teeth. Henry sighed softly, almost Shakespearean, maybe too Shakespearean, maybe a hint of the Sophoclean.
Although the girl possessed the best of teeth, she had an aquiline nose and her chin was prognathous; it protruded more so than Henry’s, but still she was beautiful. Henry could not take his eyes off her. He knew he was staring.
"Here’s how I learned to stop worrying and love Jane Austen," Lapalus Tierney said while licking the soapy lather off his pint.
Henry knocked over the girl’s drink; the three watched the ice cubes race to the edge of the table. The girl won the bet. Henry slapped his knee. Lapalus Tierney cursed his luck; the next round would now have to come from his barren pocket. Henry told a terrible joke that he had heard. The girl felt sorry for Henry, it was the kind of sorry that is analogous to a mother feeling sorry for a son or daughter who has won second prize instead of the first prize that was undoubtedly deserved.
"Here’s to a night of serious drinking!"
"Silly girl," Lapalus Tierney mocked, surreptitiously removing with long fingernails two cigarettes from the packet stationed before the blushing beauty. "A writer."
Lapalus Tierney lodged behind his left ear a cigarette for the long journey home.
Time evaporated; worries dissipated; fears were obfuscated. Henry grew diaphanous wings and flew.
"Come down here and make love to me," shouted the girl.
"We live in a juncture of boasting, blustering, bombasting, braggadocioing, bravadoing, exaggerationing, gasconadeing, grandiloquenceing, heroicing, pretensioning, aggrandizeing," Lapalus Tierney exclaimed. "And so, I’ve decided to boast."
"Let’s dance," the girl said, coolly.
Lapalus Tierney, Henry, and the girl danced. It was a funny dance.
They sat back down, and Henry sat next to the girl.Her inner thighs were glowing salmon pink.
Lapalus Tierney blew nicotine rings while crossing and uncrossing his legs. Henry couldn’t look at the girl any longer, maybe because he had been staring at her without blinking.
"I dreamt" - the girl hiccupped a smoke ring - "I was a prostitute and the Pope paid me for sex."
"In Greece they would call you a hetaera," Henry said, grinning fatuously.
"Everybody needs an intellectual for a friend," Lapalus Tierney said, aided with a smirk and a wink.
"It was the happiest dream I had ever had," the girl said morosely. The girl’s skin was green, although this could have been a result of the flimsy lighting.
"Hanging her washing Dulcinea del Toboso reveals her armpits," Henry waxed, and waned, sliding down the chair. "They are the most beautiful armpits in Barataira."
Don Quixote stood up abruptly military-style and placed a brimming ashtray upon his head. Dead cigarettes cascaded over him. He was unaware of the avalanche. NNext, ash-like snowflakes shrouded him. Unfurling, iridescent, coruscating, the snowflakes produced a myriad of metamorphosing faces: Don Quixote, Alonso Quijana, Don Miguel de Cervantes, and finally Henry. It was so magical.
"I love magic," said the girl, who was sitting on the floor. Twice she had to spit out cigarette butts. Around her lips there was a border of suds and ash.