Back With The Old Men

It was my first day back to Marlin’s Inn

Yeah, there was that whole bit about me being in prison for lighting the bar on fire to prevent my mother from stabbing Hank with a busted catsup bottle, but that was all behind me.

It was around noon on a Tuesday like that one song by that one California singer that dated that bicycle guy, and I entered ever so casually.

The guys were having this conversation:

Kilgore: Sedentary is how you live your life.

Hank: It’s sedimentary!  Like how rocks are collected bits of sediment!  If your ass don’t move off your couch, you become a stalactite!

H.L.: How do you guys spell “cemetery”?

Kilgore: A stalagmite would grow out of a couch.  G for ground.  C for ceiling.

Santiago: I spell cemetery as S-E-M-A-T-A-R-Y.  No, no.  It starts with a C.

Hank: What the fuck are you talking about, Fish?  C is for couch.

Kilgore: Stalactites and stalagmites!

H.L.: I think you’re right.

Hank: I know I’m right.

H.L.: No, Santiago’s right.

Kilgore: No, he’s not.  None of you are.

I stood behind them as the battle reached an apex consisting of silence.  Santiago turned to the speaker controls behind him.  Unbeknownst to me, the jukebox had been playing this:

Kilgore angled t0 face me from his side of the bar.  We dropped about ten bucks in there waiting for you.

Hank didn’t face me and grumbled.  Not counting the twenty yesterday.

I didn’t realize I missed the place as much as I did. 

And vice versa.

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One Does What One Mustard

Since Kilgore had visited, two days had passed.  Two terribly uncomfortable days.

It was revealed to me in an unceremonious fashion that my fellow jailbird, Eddie Dantes, was Kilgore Trout’s long estranged son.

Don’t act so excited to see me, Pops.

Kilgore shifted awkwardly in his seat, an act he rarely performed.  Usually, he doodled when things went awry at Marlin’s Inn, but in your local jailhouse, the only paper you get comes on a roll, and the only writing tool you get is… well, it goes with the paper. 

Edward, I wasn’t aware you were in town.  The last I heard from your aunt, you were in Tulsa.

I haven’t been in Tulsa for seven years.

That’s about the last time I spoke with your aunt.

Is he one of yours?  Eddie thumbed in my direction.  I was slightly concerned what the yours referred to.

No, I only recently met his mother.  My mom – the reason I’m locked up in the first place.

The cryptic conversation kept up for awhile.  From what I ascertained, Kilgore quite possibly could be a modern Johnny Appleseed.  I know he claims to have left doodles all across America, but he may have also diddled.

When their method of catching up reached it’s end, Eddie faced me and asked: Has this old man done all right by you?

I didn’t know what to say, so I nodded.  He was the third person to visit me.

Eddie nodded back, knowingly, as if my word, or head nod, was enough to mend the pain, or the strain, or whatever the toll was their father and son relationship had on him.

I can visit when I get out.  It was a statement as much as it was a question.

Of course you can.

Eddie nodded to the guard, and he was lead back to his cell.  Kilgore looked exhausted, so I repeated Eddie’s actions and was taken away.  I looked to Kilgore to wave, but he remained lost in his buried memories.

So for two days, Eddie and I spoke nothing of the matter.  In fact, we spoke of nothing at all.  Our routine had come down to exchanging mustard packets for an extra bologna slice in silence.  (I gave him the condiment; he gave me the meat.  Maybe I shouldn’t say it like that, since I was in jail after all.)

I was 41 bologna sandwiches in when an officer stepped forward and opened my cell door.  You’re free to go.  I was hesitant, thinking it was some kind of beat down trick.  I looked to Eddie to wave, but he remained lost in his buried memories.

“How did this happen?  Am I cleared of all charges?”

It appears you have a judge working in your favor and waiting to see you.

A judge?  That worked in my favor?  And wanted to see me?  After I collected my belongings, I entered to the lobby to greet my liberator.

You’ll never guess who it was…

The Surprise Visitor

Prior to getting sprung from the coop, a group of my friends was supposed to visit me.  

It ended up being only Kilgore Trout.

Don’t act so excited to see me, kiddo. 

I had been locked up for almost two weeks, and I didn’t know when I’d see the light of day… other than through the bars of my very small cell window.  And on the way to, and while in, the meeting room.

“It’s not that I’m not happy to see you, Kilgore.  I thought, you know, it’d be everybody.  The guard mentioned I had people that wanted to see me.”

Yeah, that’s the thing about the thing.  Santiago, Hank, and H.L. were all set on heading up here.  But then I found out Santiago wanted to do you physical harm…

I watched for a smile to pass across his lips.  It did not.  Gulp.

…Hank decided he had to see a man about a horse…

This was Hank’s way of saying mind your business, I’m busy.

And H.L. made it as far as the doorway, but he opted out when he saw there was a metal detector.

It didn’t matter.  I was glad someone was there.  Anyone.  Whether my ex, Ashleigh, came back, or my mom.  It could have been Steve, or his good for naught brother Ryan.  I mean, of course, my great friend Ryan, for whom I will be standing up in his wedding to Ashleigh.  How stupid am I?

And I don’t mean to discount Kilgore’s appearance.  It was just, up to that point, we really hadn’t had any extra bonding time.  There was no bonus personal link.  Hank saved my life.  H.L. tries to invent things to make me forget about the woes in my life.

That’s when my next door neighbor and fellow inmate walked in – Eddie Dantes.

The guards told me you were here, but I knew in my gut it wasn’t to see me.

I stared at Eddie in mild confusion, and then faced Kilgore.  We were the only two people in the suffocating room.

Hello… son.

Mother’s Visiting Day

After a week in the pencell, as my incarcerated neighbor, Eddie Dantes, referred to our jailing, I only had one visitor (Ashleigh), and I’d had enough of Eddie’s revenge plots.  I asked the guard if it was true that I had one phone call. 

He told me, Yeah.  But it’s only valid for the first 24 hours of imprisonment.  Then he laughed in way that told me he was fibbing.

Truth be told, the biggest reason I didn’t ask to call anyone is I didn’t know anyone’s phone number.  Stinking cell phones!  Well, there was one number I knew by heart, but she… aaah!

Imagine my surprise at my next visitor, not-so-much in the way that Ashleigh shocked me by simply showing up, but at the amount of time it took for this person to show her face.  I gave it away didn’t I?

In the meeting room, my mom remained relatively quiet.  Usually, once her ramblings started rolling, she was like a vocal freight train.

I, on the other, was relatively quiet when we were together.  So the peace and quiet was nice and quaint, while it lasted.

Why did you go and do a thing like that, Aiden?  ‘A thing like that’ being setting the bar in Marlin’s Inn on fire.

“What was I supposed to do?  You were going to stab, Hank!”  With a busted catsup bottle.  Classy.

You remember then, don’t you?

“Remember what?”

Never mind.

“Never mind?  You don’t get to bring up something and immediately cancel it out?  What are you asking if I remember?”

So how many times has Ashleigh visited you?  I’m sure she misses you dearly while you’re in here.

“Never mind that for now.  What don’t I remember that you thought I remembered?”

My mom proceeded to bring up a bit about my father.  My father, whom I always assumed was a drunk.

You know why your father left us, right?  I stabbed him.  I came home drunk after work one night, and when he confronted me about it, I grabbed a nail file and foom!  Right in his srm.

I sat in silence.  Not only had I no inkling of such an exchange, but my entire understanding of the complexities of my parents’ relationship was completely wrong. 

And did she really use the sound effect of Foom! to describe her stabbing my dad?

She’s so melodramatic I want to poke my eyes out!

Guards Of Many Kinds

While I was spending a bit of time doing time for basically what amounts to overreacting, I was visited by a few people in my life.  Most were expected, though they appeared later than expected.  And one was completely unexpected.  Wait, completely is not quite right.  Utterly unexpected works better.  No.  Absolutely.

Hi, Aiden. 

There was a point in my life when those words from that voice would bring my world crashing down around me.  I think I’m still in that point.  “Hi, Ashleigh.  What brings you to these parts?” 

We were seated across from each other at a folding table in, I guess you’d call it the meeting room.  There was no plate glass between us – but there were armed guards which might as well have been plate glass between us.  And then there’s always the awkwardness that might as well be plate glass…

I heard through the grapevine about what you did.  I used to know well the grapevine on which we hung.  It was comprised of her parents, my mom, and us.  These days – I’m not so sure what the grapevine consists of.

“It’s a technicality, me being here.  The guys told me I didn’t have much to worry about.”

So they’ve been here to see you?

They hadn’t.  “Of course they have.  Us Marlin’s Inn guys stick together.”  I hoped.  When I was being taken away in the squad car, Hank promised he’d get me out of here.  At the time, I wondered how he was doing with that…

So the plans are going great for the wedding, in case you were wondering…

I wasn’t.  “Oh yeah, that’s wonderful.  I should be out of here well before, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

No, no, no.  That’s not it at all.  I just wanted to see you, I guess.

“And you figured I couldn’t go anywhere…”

She laughed.  Oh that laugh.  So I changed the subject.  “How’s Ryan?”  Or at least I tried to.

So, Aiden… does your mom still think we’re engaged?

She did.  “No, I’ve told her.  She’s known since you left me.”

Ashleigh sighed and covered her chest, nodding as if she misinterpreted my lie for something more.  That’s good.  The way she sounded on the phone…

“She-she just probably called everybody she knows.  Which consists of you.  And of course, me.”  For the record, my mom hadn’t visited me by that point.  I remember hoping she didn’t complete her attack against Hank.

Ashleigh nodded, and she bid her farewell.  She put her hand out to touch mine, and I retracted mine away.

I blamed it on the guards.

Catching Up And Catsup Bottles

Luckily, less than a handful of patrons frequent the Marlin’s Inn, so I doubt anyone’s noticed that it’s been closed for two weeks.  The reason being?  I will get to that in a moment.

Since my last posting occurred awhile ago, I feel I need to catch you up on things.  The reason I haven’t been writing?  I will get to that in a moment as well.

The day: a couple Saturday’s ago.
The time: early evening.
The occasion: Santiago (in my mind) was seeking out the love of his life.
The problem: I was left in charge of watching the bar.
The bigger problem: it was my mom’s birthday and I cancelled our plans.
The biggest problem: Mom didn’t like that.

As she burst into this safe-haven for drunkards and old men, neither group being mutually exclusive, Hank was berating me.  In reality, I overstepped my bounds with him by bringing up the possibility that his girlfriend, Grace, left him.  Not one to recoil from a slight or a fight, he became angry with me just as my matriarch walked in.

She said to Hank: If you ever threaten my son again, you’ll be leaving in coffee cans.

To which Hank replied: You must have me confused with Maxwell House.

I’ll still admit that was a pretty good comeback, and at the time, I laughed under my breath.  I didn’t dare let either of those titans hear me.

You’re coming with me, Aiden, right this minute.  Mom remained firm in her place and firm in her decision.

Sorry to inform you, but Aiden ain’t going nowhere.  He’s got work to do.  Hank slammed his beer and handed the mug to me.  Of all the times for him not to do it himself.

Do you work here, Aiden?

He’s filling in.

Why don’t you mind your own business?

This place is my business.

I turned to Kilgore and then to H.L. for any sign of confirmation.  Each of them shrugged.  Did Hank own Marlin’s Inn?

Mom hurried into the adjacent room, grabbed a pool cue, and held it like a weapon.  H.L. did something similar to me one time.

Son of a bitch, you let my son go.  As if I was being held hostage.

Hank must have been hankering to say this:

Funny you should say “son of a bitch…”

This is when things get a little fuzzy.  From one of the tables, Mom grabbed a catsup bottle and crashed it over the top.  And it triggered something in me… like in that one movie where the director throws a garbage can through a window.

I grabbed the cheapest liquor and splashed it across the lacquered bar.  From the glass full of matchbooks, I plucked one out and lit it.  The fire spread quickly.

From what I’ve ascertained, Kilgore escorted my mom out of the Inn; H.L. and Hank lead me.

So to answer the first question at the start:  repairs have kept Marlin’s Inn closed for two weeks.  

To answer the second: I’ve been behind bars…

…you know what kind I mean.