by John Jonelis
Mark T Wayne hurls his cigar to the barroom floor and grinds it under his heel. “Lonagan, you’re a consummate ass!”
“Shuttup ‘n’ have anudder whiskey.”
“You sir are heavily inebriated.” Wayne’s voice resonates above the noise of the crowded bar. “I know better than to get tight oftener than once in three months.” He lifts his chin and peers down his nose at Loop Lonagan. “It sets a man back in the esteem of people whose opinions are worth having.”
“So whaddayuh think I should do?” His dog, Clamps, squirms in his arms and kicks wildly as Loop wrestles to gain a better hold on the 85 pound bull terrier. He finally locks an arm around the animal’s thick neck. Clamps immediately relaxes, bone in mouth. “Look Wayne—yer da one said I oughta take da guy in. So you tell me how t’ get ‘im out.”
“Hmm…yes, I see your point. Options are a bit scarce at such times. Your editor shows up at the door leaning on two canes, a bit unsteady on two new metal knees. Never refuse to do a kindness, unless the act will work great injury to yourself—especially when it’s a close friend and your employer.” Wayne pauses a moment and inspects Lonagan more closely. “But five months have elapsed since that day, and now I find myself sharing this fine bar with a sloppy drunk—a man utterly beyond reason or decorum, hugging a dangerous beast to his body like a rag doll.”
Loop plays with his dog’s ears. “The police don’t want poor Clamps tied at da curb again. Dey say he might eat a pedestrian.”
“Don’t blow smoke rings, Lonogan! There is only one course of action left to you! Claim back your domicile! Throw the execrable bum out!”
“Throw out Jonelis?”
“That, sir, is precisely what I say.”
Loop Lonagan slowly wags his head. “He’ll throw me outa da magazine. Then where am I? Gone, like a puff o’ smoke.”
“Where is your spine, sir? Can it be that abusive over-exposure to bitter hops has eroded it in total? Look at you, stroking that hideous beast as if it were some lovely young woman. Is that the proper posture for a grown man while seriously drinking? Get ahold of yourself! I say put the moocher out on the street!”
“Don’t ya think I tried? Sheesh, he moves right in with dat new therapy business. Pavlovian PT he calls it. Gals right outa some Hollywood movie swarmin’ all over da joint. I can’t get no peace er sleep. He fills my penthouse with exercise machines. And busy? If he ain’t liftin’ weights, he’s gettin’ a Swedish massage or an ice pack or he’s loopy on pain killers, and then he’s asleep er somepin. Can’t hardly talk t’ da guy. When I do, I dunno what t’ say.” Loop squeezes his eyes closed a moment. “Today dis crew shows up t’ move da resta my furniture out da door—where to, I dunno. More weight machines is comin’ in! Yeah, Jonelis finally graduates therapy. It’s strength trainin’ from now on! So insteada my nice penthouse condo, I got a swank health club.” Loop swallows a shot of scotch and immediately chases it with a slug of beer. The pungent amber liquid dribbles down his jaw.
Mark T Wayne
Wayne scowls at him. “You, sir, are mixing good medicine with poison. Give an Irishman lager for a month and he’s a dead man. An Irishman is lined with copper, and beer corrodes it. But whiskey polishes the copper and is the saving of him. You’ll do well without that swill.”
“Dat’s da best idea you come up with since I knowed you. No wonder my belly’s naggin’ at me. Bartender!” Lonagan shifts his dog so it can lap beer from his mug. Clamps knocks it over and yellow suds run down the counter. The dog leaps onto the bar and voraciously polishes the wet varnished surface with a wide tongue.
Loop lifts the animal from the bar and hugs it close. “Bartender! Gimme anudder scotch. Make it a triple. No more Blatz fer me!”
A muscular kid shows up with a towel and mops up the smelly mess while glaring at Loop under thick black eyebrows. He talks in a low voice with clenched teeth: “What’s with the dog?”
Loop makes an indignant expression. “It’s a therapy animal. You got a problem with that?”
A long scar on the kid’s cheek flames red. “Hold down the noise, mister, or you and and your dog and the guy with the white suit are outa here. Y’ follah?
“Big talk—yadda yadda yadda. Y’ gonna back it up?”
The bartender abruptly moves down the bar and serves another customer while Loop raises the fresh tumbler of whiskey.
Wayne’s finger idly traces the rim of his empty glass. “Certainly the Drone’s Club is near at hand. I believe they offer a gymnasium. You might mention the possibility.”
“Yeah, yeah, but dey won’t let ‘im bring in his Pavlovian PT team. Same with East Bank, Union League, ‘n’ all da udders. He’s too cheap t’ buy all them gals memberships.”
Both men stare into space. This goes on for a good two minutes as the noise of the crowd swells around them.
“Ah! A thought occurs to me…” Mark T Wayne draws himself erect, yanks his white lapels, and takes a step as if lecturing an audience, “Your domestic problem is transparently simple. Argue with the man! Pick a fight!”
“How’s a guy gonna do that? Jonelis treats ever’body so nice—so polite. No a harsh words, No foul language. No nothin’”
“Shout him down! You need not be logical or coherent, nor do you require provocation. Drown him in curses at high volume! If that brings no response, I happen to know that you are skilled in the fine art of fisticuffs. Pummel the man with blows! Violence, sir! That’s the ticket! Beat him senseless!”
“C’mon Wayne, he’s just outa surgery ‘n’ all…”
“That man is gaining health by the day as you lose yours!”
Loop Lonagan goes suddenly quiet and rubs his chin with a blunt fingertip. He drops Clamps to the floor and the dog immediately strains the limit of a heavy leather lead, lashed to the stanchion of the barstool. People immediately abandon the area adjacent to Lonagan and Wayne. The dog pants with teeth fully exposed, tongue lolling out—his way of smiling but people shrink back, forming a big empty circle.
After a minute, Loop pulls out a cell phone. “Hey Nick? It’s me. Remember our talk? Well, what about it?” Loop rolls his eyes as he listens. “Yeah…yeah. Okay! Done!” He pockets the phone and grins a satisfied grin. “I’m takin’ yer advice. If Jonelis fires me, you’ll find me right here.” He moves his arm in a sweeping gesture. “Dis whole place is mine now.”
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