Muhammad Ali Training, Ken Regan, 1974.
The chillest of ducks
The chillest of jogs
It’s six thirty am and The Local has officially reopened its doors. The crowd of early morning drunks ambles in; the bartender does the crossword. Jake takes a seat near the bartender, orders “Irish coffee,” and scans the red, broken faces of all the men, all men, that line the joint’s darkness. Many sounds of phlegm, a sneeze, coughing, hacking up coughing even, a spit here or there. Degenerates. It’s seven am. Nobody’s really talking. Jake starts sipping his coffee, starts to find himself again. The word “human” rings in his inner ear and he sits up straighter.
Down the bar, a couple of guys (who were doing most of the coughing) have just finished their second beers. Now they’re sizing each other up. They have a similar build, and each has a face that might be forgotten. One wears a red hat; the other a mustache.
Red Hat says, Hey. Don’t I know you? You from the East side?
Mustache sips his beer. You think you know me? How the fuck should I know you know me or not? You a fucking process server of something? You must know I’m from the East side, you asking me like that.
Red Hat sits up. Look, no, yea. No, I’m no process server. But. Wait. You from around here? Lincoln High?
Mustache frowns. Hold it right there, yeah, I went to fucking Lincoln High. What’s it to you?
Red Hat shifts. I went to Lincoln High.
Mustache grunts, angry now. Oh yea? When you graduate?
Red Hat spits: 1967.
Mustache shakes his head. This better not be any fucking joke, you hear me? I graduated in 1967.
Red Hat. So where’d you live?
Mustache. Harold Street.
Red Hat laughs. I lived on Harold street. Jesus.
Mustache sits, incredulous. Jesus, yes. Get the fuck out. Harold street what in the fuck. What in the fuck is this? The fourth degree? Look at the fucking clock buddy. Harold street.
Red Hat nods, points his finger. Yea no it was Harold street.
You said that already, Red Hat. You believe this guy, Nick?
Nick the bartender grunts.
Jake gets Nick’s attention. What’s going on down there? I mean, Jesus.
Nick straightens up, cracks his back. Them? Ahh, it’s nothing. The Thompson Twins are just shitfaced again.
The Disk, by Jorge Luis Borges.
An exercise in reading aloud.