She told me he’d been heavenly, back before the war.
“He was almost too pretty for a man,” my friend said. “Almost beautiful.”
The first time I found him, Joe was not too pretty, curled up in a flannel-shirted fetal position, lying on a thick plank of a lacquered wooden table, with his mouth hanging wide open, as though he’d invited all the neighborhood flies in for a landing party. His eyes were closed. His feet were naked. Under the low-watt yellow light bulbs, he looked just about dead.
And he didn’t look too tasty either, unless you happened to like the taste of those bloated, pickled eggs that sit in large jars in corner bars in run-down urban pioneer parts of town, like this place was. The kind of bar that seems really cool when you’re young and you like to listen to the people on the barstools in the bar talking, solving the world’s problems by the seats of their pants. ‘Cause what they have to say seems so refreshingly candid. So real. Then you go back years later, and the same people are still sitting there solving the latest world problems with the same shtick solutions. And the eggs in the jars look like they may be the same ones as well, except maybe they’re a tad greener. And those eggs are distinctive in taste, all right, but who really wants to eat one?
Well, I couldn’t imagine anyone really wanting to take a bite out of this guy either. Not anymore; pretty boy’d been buried under a pile of drunk. So this flannel, fetal, pickled egg of a man and I were alone there in this bar, in the middle of the day, and she’d said Joe’d be there, tending bar, said it was for certain, so I guessed this was Joe, and I looked down at him and I mean I really looked him over, the way you can only look someone over when you’re sure they’re asleep. But he wasn’t asleep.
He wasn't asleep like my father was never asleep when I snuck back into the house after curfew at the ripe age of sixteen. That was the age when driving around for hours, bashing mailboxes with baseball bats while drinking cheap domestic beer made us men, men like my father.
He made sure I didn't still think that, when I got home and crept past his faux-stupor only to see him rise like a zombie in those movies that were popular before the war. His belt lashed against me like a granite statue of Thomas Jefferson, one that somehow managed to wrap around my father's waist after he was done with me. He whupped me good, just like he whupped the Germans during the war. That is, until he whupped a land mine, and for the first time in his life, someone whupped back with an explosion that made it possible for them to carry him back to us in a shoebox.
They'd be able to do the same to us, me and this pickled Joe, if I didn't tell him about the bomb and get us out within two minutes. As I idly wondered how long I'd been here staring at his yellowed, not-too-tasty skin, I heard an eruption of flames behind me. It erupted like the stove after--
Opening: Robin Sinnott.....Continuation: Chro