Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Deal

I lurched awake, startled. My mouth was dry, I was in a sweat and my heart was racing like a maroon Ford Fairlane fleeing from a crime down a dark, rainy alley in Gotham City.

Mostly, though, I was disturbed that I would even have a thought like that. Fortunately it wasn’t totally purple prose, only maroon.

The dream was always the same. I’m in the alley. Ragged, grey rats on the prowl for something fresh eye me with interest. I throw my arms out suddenly: “Boo!” But, the rats don’t move. Instead they look at each other, break out in gleaming white rigor mortis grins and hunch their little rat shoulders up and down in gleeful mirth. Some rear up on their hind legs, throw out their forearms and go: “Squeek!”

“Ha, ha, ha,” I think, “and the horse you rode in on.”

At that point I become aware of a figure in the shadows.

“You’re late, Doc,” the shadow says, “that wasn’t the deal.”

“What deal?” I croak. I don’t remember a deal. “What deal?”

“The real deal, Doc,” the shadow says, “the real deal. Remember? You promised the real deal. So, let’s deal. You do remember, don’t you?”

Panic awakens in my feet and climbs my body like a thousand scorpions being chased by a flamethrower. I was losing control like a ’38 Packard careening down Highway 1 in California after a night at Rita’s all-you-can-drink Margarita Cantina. I had to get a grip on myself! I had to get a grip on my prose!

I’m running down the alley, past the rats, stumbling over old boxes and trash cans, fighting scorpions and flamethrowers and Packards, oh, my! And at the end of a blind alley I find myself pressed up against a chain link fence like a groupie at a Bay City Rollers concert, shaking. Fortunately, I’m not wearing much plaid.

I woke up a second time having not realized that I had transitioned from one dream into a second. Wowzer, a twofer. What a deal. The real deal.

Still shaking I swiveled around on the bed and willed myself to stand. Sandy looked up from the end of the bed. The light of a full moon reflected in his dark eyes as he watched me attentively, but with utter distain.

“Yeah, you miserable fleabag,” I whispered sweetly, “it’s yours.”

Sandy uncurled himself, arched his back, executed a much practiced yawn and proceeded to nonchalantly occupy my pillow where he groomed his tail with much licking and nibbling before he settled down into Curl Number Two for the remainder of the night.

Sandy knew that I wouldn’t return.

I padded into the kitchen on my way to the patio outside pausing briefly at the liquor cabinet to grab a bottle at random. I didn’t even look at the label. “Danger” is my middle name, soon to be replaced by “headache” as I held up a bottle of ouzo. Ah, Zorba, we meet again.

I took a deep pull of ouzo.

As the fiery, sweet liquor plummeted to my stomach like a cinder from Vesuvius and spread like lava through my veins I fought the urge to dance on a table.

I had a vision of a small boy standing in a corral. A cowboy is riding off into the distance. Tears streamed down the boy’s face as he cried, “Shane! Come back, Shane! We had a deal.”

I took another pull of ouzo as this scene replayed in my mind once again. How many times? How many times have I regretted what I did to Shane, a boy who trusted me as his friend and mentor.

It was a long time ago…

“Hey, Doc, what should I major in when I go to college? I was thinking of writing or theater or history. I kinda of like that stuff. You know arts and arty things. Maybe catering, I’m a pretty good cook you know.”

I puffed on my pipe and thought deep thoughts. A not so deep but infinitely humorous thought bubbled to the surface like a pocket of methane and hydrogen sulfide in a bathtub.

“Physical biochemistry,” I intoned.

“Say what, Doc?”

“Physical biochemistry,” I said, trying to look serious, “with a minor in calculus. That’s my recommendation. That’s the deal. A real deal, I might add.”

“Wow, Doc, I was thinking maybe I could build sets for plays and stuff, but, what was that again? Physical bio whatzit?”

…and many years later…

I wondered what kind of heartless monster would set an art major out on a course of physical biochemistry and calculus. It was a joke, a harmless jest. Not the real deal! Couldn’t he see that?

It was real enough to me, though, with the endless cycle of dreams, random booze and purple prose which oozed out of my fingertips like a rich, dark molasses on a hot summer’s day, sinking into the cracks between the keys on my keyboard like dark molasses would on a hot summer’s day if you spilled it on your keyboard.

As dawn arrived I heard a truck in the street out front, then a thump on the sidewalk as the morning paper was delivered. I staggered out, retrieved the paper and glanced at the headlines. Ah, Nobel prizes awarded for Chemistry. With a slow recognition I stared at the picture of the Nobel laureate in chemistry and saw a small boy. The article read in part…

…and I owe my success to my childhood mentor, who’s name escapes me at the moment, for suggesting that I major in physical biochemistry instead of theater. I owe my success to that probably long-deceased idiot savant who saw qualities in me others didn’t. But, you can’t take the theater out of the boy and I’ve written a play about a mentor who had faith and insight and who undoubtedly went into Science himself because he was such a bad writer cursed with Purple Prose Syndrome. I’m calling it “The Deal.

I put the morning paper on the counter, corked the ouzo, and headed back to the bedroom.

“Beat it,” I said to Sandy who hustled off the pillow and back to the foot of the bed, “I think I’ll catch up on some lost sleep.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! YOU are the reason I've worked in five restaurants, on three ranches, at a ski resort, a bookstore, a physical plant as a laborer, and as a graphic designer--continually FIGHTING the urge to design plywood stage sets? hmm.

Thanks! ..and touché.