The Mystery

Something has been bothering me since I couldn’t remember what H.L. swore I would never forget, and for a change it’s not You-Know-Who.  The guys at the bar were my last resort, since Steve was clueless about my inquiry. 

His reponse: What are you talking about?  We never went back outside the first day I showed up at your bar.  It was snowy as hell.

Snowy as hell.  Snowy as H.L.  He rides his bike up to Marlin’s Inn, no matter the weather.  What he wanted to show us might have had something to do with that.

When I arrived, I removed my winter garments and hung them on the coat rack, like we were apt to do.  I used to keep my jacket by my side in the early days because I didn’t know them from Jack Hanna.

Kilgore referenced the frequent guest of talk shows and host of Animal Adventures when I first met him.  Do you think Jack Hanna ever made love to a sheep?  You know, just to know what it was like?

I plopped down next to H.L. who was sitting at a table working on a jigsaw puzzle.  He was working on it upside-down because he considers using the picture to be cheating.

H.L., remember that day awhile back that you lead us outside to show us something we’d never forget?”

Sounds like something I might do.  He scraped through the pieces to find the remaining edges.  The frame was mostly complete.

“I think you were showing us something to do with your bike.”

Sounds like something that would be outside worth showing you.

“Could you refresh my memory about what it was that you showed us?”

He looked up from his gray cardboard shapes.  I’d have to build an entirely different machine to do that.

Defeated, I took my seat at the bar.  Santiago had my drink waiting.  Hank laughed.  I remember that day.  It was the first time you brought Snodgrass up here.

Snodgrass wasn’t an epithet Hank created for Steve.  It was his actual last name: Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.  His mother remarried when she moved here.  That’s how I met T.JSteve.  For the record, Ryan Antolini is his older step-brother, and my mortal enemy.  I never thought I would have one.

Steve Snodgrass asked about Fat’s name that day.  He asked what the H and the L stood for.  You told him, Fat

HorseloverHis frame was complete.  Onto the middle.

…and the prick didn’t believe you.

I can’t say I believe for certain in the validity of H.L.’s claim, but who am I to argue?

“Hank, do you remember what he showed us?”

Hank paused.  He tilted his head at me and spoke.  It sure weren’t no pussy because if you ever seen one in person, you’d drop dead.  Your poor ticker would loose all the blood to your little hard-on-that-couldn’t.  And–

“Ha ha.  You’re so effin’ funny.”

Did you just curse?  Did he just fucking say effin’?

Santiago was getting a good chuckle out of Hank’s rant, so he prepared a stiff drink, on the house.  You can guess where the next jokes went.

Aiden, Kilgore called to me.  He was the only one that referred to me by my first name.  I think I may have doodled in the stall.

His response kept Hank and Santiago roaring.  They definitely had caught each other’s contagious laughs, and they were soon finding it hard to catch their breaths.

“Be careful, old men.  Your lungs aren’t up to snuff anymore.”

In between gasps: Don’t say another word pipsqueak.  You’re gonna kill us both.

Kilgore stood up.  Let’s go to the john.  I’ve got something to show you.  The barkeep and the drunk lost all composure they regained when Kilgore dropped that bomb.

In the bathroom, Kilgore recounted that night.  I do recall meeting Steve, and I thought H.L. might have passed on into the next world.  It does seem some memory fragment is missing.

We opened the stall door and checked the wall to find this:


We could have scraped away Santiago’s paint, but by then it seemed like too much work.  Besides, we had drinking to do.  We rejoined the others and imbibed the remainder of the night away.  At one point, H.L. removed a small can from his coat pocket and headed to the restroom.  Upon one of my relieving sessions, the stall looked like this: