February 23rd, 2005


Street Conversations: Words for Friends.

Words for Friends.

How does it go?

Let me think.


We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats.

Hunter S. Thompson, dead at sixty-seven.

Placed a gun to his head like Hemingway.

You never could trust an author.

Live without compromise. Drink to that?



What did the Doctor say?

One, maybe two months. If I take treatment, maybe five, maybe twelve.

But no treatment?

I’m eighty-five. I’ve seen what it has done to our friends too many times.

They said it would save my Denise.

It didn’t.

No. No, it didn’t.

Who am I going to drink with when you’re gone? You probably didn’t think about that, did you?

It completely slipped my mind. Sorry.

No, it’s okay. Just…

I know.

You could always drink with your grandson and his friends.

He has enough trouble talking to me, much less drinking around me. Not that it’s surprising.

It’s not like we drunk with our grandfathers.

I have nothing to talk to him about. The books I read at his age are out of print, the music out of style, and the actors are dead and their films butchered in remakes. Even worse, now a younger generation of men like Hunter are going.

All I have is the war, and I can’t talk about that to him.

I don’t like to talk about the War myself.

No, but Denise did.

When he was ten, she would tell him about how the Germans dropped landmines from planes so that they would explode in the air. She’d describe how they’d fling shrapnel out in hot pieces that would spread out around the streets and create this mass of destruction and how we’d hide in the doorways of buildings as if it were a big adventure, one eye on the sky—

And the other watching London burn.

He liked her stories.

Little boys always like war stories.

If I still didn’t dream of digging children out of that bomb shelter, I might be willing to believe that it was nothing more than a story.

Who would take orphanage children to a bomb shelter? That’s what I always asked.

Everyone knew the shelters were a target for bombers.

One of the boys I pulled out of the wreckage was missing everything below his waist. He was still alive. I watched him die without saying a word.

What could you say?

All I could think of was Denise telling me to stay out of the bomb shelters. It’s all I could think to say.

It wasn’t what the Navy told you.

No, but the Navy was full of lies. It was War, after all.

Still, after that day pulling dead children out of the wreckage… there was no way I could stay in London after that.

Yeah, but your answer was for the three of us to come to a Penal Colony.

Yes. Still, it hasn’t been bad.

No. It hasn’t.

Does it hurt?

I feel a little cold. That’s about it.

Drink more.

That’s what my Doctor said.

I saw a lawyer this morning, by the way. I left everything to you.

All your junk?

With Mike gone, there was no one else to inflict it upon. I figured Denise would be happy that you’re finally getting some clothes made after the sixties.

I suppose I can get my son to sell it on ebay. Old poofter wear is in style, apparently.

Just not the autographed photo of Stalin. You know how much that means to me.

That mustache thing you had took you to strange places.

You say that now, but at the time—

I said it at the time, but you were in Russia.

I still have those letters. I refer to them as the anti-mustache letters.

Where did you find this whiskey?

I’ve had it for years. Mike bought it back from the States in the seventies. He bought back an autographed copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on the same trip.

After Hunter’s death, I dug out the book to read, hence my ability to quote the opening lines. It reminded me that I still had some in the garage.

It’s awful.

I know.

The poor boy was swindled. He paid an astronomical amount for a case of it, under the belief that anyone who liked whiskey would love it. I never had the heart to tell him how truly awful it was.

Love makes you lie.

He was such a sweet man. The truth would have crushed him.

But this is awful whiskey.

It was made by criminals.


You’re sure, no treatment?

No treatment.


Would you, if you were me?

Probably not.

What I remember most about Denise in those last days was how her mind couldn’t focus on anything. It frustrated her so much. She kept pulling at the tubes and whatever else that they’d put into her.

She screamed when they picked her up.

It broke my heart.

I know.

Still, I guess the living are selfish. I would have spared her that pain, but I still would have wanted every moment I could get. Like now.

I know. But…

I’m eighty-five. It’s been a good life. The best.

Except for those parts we hated.

Except for those.

What are your plans?

I’m going to live decadently.

I’m going run up my credit card. I’m going to get an advance on my pension. I’m going drink every day. I’m going to eat at expensive restaurants. I’m going to have bacon on toast every morning.

And I’m going to buy a bag of viagra and pay beautiful young boys with mustaches to have their way with me.

Whatever is left of me at the end is the Devil’s.

Sounds good. You want to live at my place?

If it’s not too much trouble. The retirement village frowns on mass whoring.

It’s no trouble. Plus, I’m going to eat that bacon and drink with you.

What about your heart?

What about it?

Your pacemaker.

Don’t worry about my heart.

You’re sure?

Would you worry about your heart?

I was always too busy worrying about yours.

(Street Conversations is an eight part series. This one I'm not so sure about, but it's Part Three. I update every Wednesday if you're local, Tuesday if you're on the other side of the World. Previous entries were Wires and Jesus.)

Selling Bits of Me.

In cool news, the fine people at Ticonderoga Online have bought my story 'the Dream of a Russian Princess'. The piece is a stylish little revenge story, and I reckon that people who have read only my recent work will be a little surprised, which is good. I like change.

It'll be online and free because I love you all.*

* And, you know, that's how Ticonderoga is presented.
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