Like someone said, a sign you enjoy eating is how much time elapses between bites . . .
It was one way I attempted to appear more civilized than I had been up until now.
Rocky came by, Big John introduced him as his roommate, I said I’d had the pleasure,
Rocky nodded, introductions were polished off and Rocky went to the bar to drink.
Barbara and Jack listened closely to Big John tell how Johnny and Betty had fared
in their search for the Mexican. Not well. They were sleeping in Johnny’s mama’s
brothel on St. Charles. I wondered how Betty could do that, Barbara read my mind,
asked out loud, Betty seemed to flow out of her funk, said she didn’t remember much.
Jack kept listening. He was drinking Jack Daniels. I never think about what people eat.
My eggs creole were finished, I had assumed my atavistic role as a mountain cave man:
I ate too fast when I was hungry. I drank nothing. Nor did Barbara. Betty was a little tight.
Johnny said he couldn’t drink now after what happened last night. He’d walked around
the Vieux Carre, Big John took him to a place on the wharf where they thought Gomez–
whose name they now learned from Barbara– . . . he might frequent one bar or another,
though it had been Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop where the three met, but he damn sure
would not be going back there for a spell, not after Big John informed his friend there.
Big John had been in the CIA and counted Allen Dulles, his old boss, a veritable saint.
You could get the head waiter to talk about the Kennedy assassination if you were careful
not to make it sound like you needed to know. Our friend Jack was a man without a past.
Barbara had a British accent, I noted now. Curly blonde hair fell in ringlets on her neck.
I invited her to see my hotel room, she said Maybe, I should run Jack here home first . . .
If she felt up to another night away from her bungalow, she would be sure to stop by.
She’d been combing the projects, doing her social worker thing, she said she had to work
doing something or she might as well leave town and find someplace in Europe to live.
Big John was listening to her. Betty was feeling better, laughing when Barbara mentioned
the Virgin Islands, where Betty had lived two years teaching and literally enjoying life:
literally was her word. Jack and Johnny kept quiet. After dinner, the four of them gone,
Big John offered to buy me a drink across the street. That’s how I met the young owner,
Ray Fox. He saved his money, put it together with a family stake, and bought The Saloon
outright. A hefty price, you can be sure, he said, adding, But anything on Bourbon Street
goes for more than even God might be willing to pay. Big John praised him up one side
and down the other. I listened, I’d learned how to from Jack. Barbara said she’d meet me
right here. I thought I might as well tell her she most likely would not care for HOTEL
HOTEL, she’d see it as a dump and me as even more a ne’er-do-well than she probably
already had pegged me for, so I’d buy something she wanted to drink or eat and suggest
we hang out a while at her place. Then, thinking of hotels, I wondered how Blanche was
and where. Then, of course, I wondered about Ruby and her daughter Delia. Ray Fox
and John Biggs the Third seemed happy enough talking about the way the street grew
just while they had been living here, which for Ray meant longer than he’d had The Saloon
since he was born and reared here and, Big John told me later, still lived with his mother
in her widowhood, one of those staunch Southern boys who looked after their parents
until they met their maker and then married, but not until. I nodded. I knew all about it.
(4 November 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander