I got home kind of late the other night after a wonderful evening of food and cocktails with some friends, only to find Bill Shakespeare standing at the end of my driveway yet again, at once both resplendent and foolish in his outrageous attire. I resisted my childish impulse to chase him down, mainly out of fear of damaging my old and beloved Porsche, but before the garage door could close he ducked underneath it and I found myself at his mercy.
Didn’t you see me standing there, Little Brother? he asked coyly. I’ve been waiting for you all night long. You can’t tell me you weren’t thinking about her when Midnight Train to Georgia’ started playing. He smirked with a charming devilishness as his greasy hand began fishing through my inner pockets in search of a smoke. I know everything there is to know about these matters of the heart. I am an expert in this field.
Aw, Bill, haven’t you said enough already? I asked. She and I both feel bad enough about this without you adding to it. And how do you know what was playing anyway?
Whoa, Little Brother, he theatrically exclaimed. Take a chill pill. I’m here to help. He lit his pilfered cigarette and grandly blew a thick cloud of smoke as he sat down on the hard concrete floor. You know, there was a lot more to my life’s work than just tragedy, murder and deceit, although that seems to be about the only thing you people want to remember about me. That, and my exemplary manners. Please sit down and let’s have a quiet little talk.
Knowing full well that escape was all but impossible, I sat down beside him as I’ve done so many times in the past, and I noticed that he looked a bit more tired than usual, more careworn. His unhealthy pallor was an even starker shade of ashen, and I warily wondered if he had anything of a contagious nature lurking about his unkempt presence. He was vigorously scratching at himself in a manner that defies all polite description and I resolved that this would be a very brief visit for us.
Dude, listen, I read that self-pitying drivel you typed the other night and all I can say is: Muffin! Poor Muffin! He laughed, and his laughter quickly degraded into a spastic fit of coughing, heaving in and out like a convulsing human bellows in a TB ward, blowing his rank and poisonous air in every direction. Then, recovering surprisingly quickly for a fellow who’s been dead for a couple of centuries, he asked: Do you think you’re the first Bozo to come down the pike feeling shortchanged by circumstance? For crying out loud kid, you’ve got to learn to relax. Now gimme another smoke. I handed him my last cigarette. He looked warily into the empty pack, and I could see him calculating his future prospects. You have more of those, right? he asked coarsely.
Now Hanzy, after a lengthy and time-consuming discourse focused on assuring him that I indeed had another pack stashed in my car, a temporal pack, one of our world, he continued. You know, when those dandy literary types start yammering about my work all they ever focus on is the human tragedy, the unrequited love, the betrayals, the seedy and darker side of humanity... blah, blah, blah. But I wrote all that stuff just to keep the critics happy, and of course to keep myself in wine and women. You know, Little Bro, women love poetic types, and a little wine goes a long way when delivered with a nice verse.
I considered slapping him. I know, Bill. I’ve been there. But this was something different. I didn’t have to pretend to be someone other than who I was and neither did she. She was just so easy to be with, and I found I was actually interested in talking with her.