Sunday, August 13, 2006
A Land Shark's Tale--part the second
The heat (told Land Shark) of late summer is a heavy and oppressive thing. It does not hold the promise of freedom and adventure of those first few warm days in early June. The city holds the heat like a vile tea cosy and brews a stinking broth of acrid humanity trapped in the close confines of despair and petty aggression. I leave the relative safety of my office and head west along 49th toward The Bishop's Taint, a seedy bar on the outskirts of the garment district frequented by old haberdashers and disgraced lawmen. The Bishop has the two things most cherished by a private detective; a foul blended scotch and information. I needed them both and it didn't matter which I got first. Why? Murder, that's why. Three fish in as many days in various states of decay found floating in the east bay. An old trout found belly up after a domestic spat. Two young cods decide to head to the lower east side looking for some of the hard stuff and end up getting fried...signs of assault and battery. It never changes in the city, life is cheaper than laughs. I enter The Bishop through the tradesman's entrance so as not to cause undue arousal. To my surprise the main bar is almost empty. Harold Sham, the daytime bartender, has his back to me as he cleans his glassware with a filth encrusted rag. An old drunk slouches in his stupor, taking long sips through rotted teeth from a stained glass of slow suicide. He doesn't know I'm there. Well, in fairness, he doesn't know what day it is or what planet he is on. He doesn't know he's alive, and well, maybe he's not. Not any kind of alive that you or I could understand, or recognize, or want. I hate and fear him more than you could know. How tenuous is my grip. How much more heat and dirt and murder and whisky can I take before I am there beside him, or instead of him. Maybe all he is waiting for is me to take his place. I need to shake these thoughts from my mind and remember that I am here for a reason, two actually. I try to smile and call to Sham's still turned back, "A double Old Sheep Shagger on the rocks my good man." Sham turns and looks into my forced grin. "Christing Fuck a shark!!!!!" he screams as his glass shatters on the hardwood. "Oh my shitting Jesus run for your lives!!!!!!!" he continues as he bolts through the front door and out into the late summer heat. I turn and see the old drunk wink as he takes a sip from his filthy glass.