I was sitting in the Café du Monde in the French Quarter, my beignet yet untouched. It was one o’clock in the morning and I was elbow to elbow with other patrons, the tables being less than one foot apart. Much hobnobbing, and I the only one with a space to myself, reading the financials page, no less. I’d just hoisted my cafe au lait towards my snout when the table rattled and everything upon it rose into the air and came down with a clatter. This included my own elbow. The one supporting my cafe au lait, no less.
I sighed and flicked out my monocle, letting it dangle from its chain. I rubbed my eyes in frustration. Not a moment’s peace. Not one.
“How on earth did you find me here?” I said.
“You can’t hide from me, buddy boy.”
“Do you see what you’ve done?” I said. “I haven’t even taken a sip. And here it is all over the table.”
A fat hand swept the puddles over the edge onto the concrete floor. The hand was attached to an arm. Which was attached to a forehead:
Dick lowered his hulking frame into the chair opposite me. He flicked his wrist and a folded piece of paper skittered across the table and into my lap.
Reluctantly, I unfolded the paper. It had the familiar blue lines (wide-rule) and the familiar jagged edge (torn from a spiral notebook) that I’d come to associate with the worst poetry ever written by anyone.
Mr. Hercules only smiled and leaned back shirtlessly. He hooked his hands behind his head and winked. His underpits were a sweat-soaked jungle.
I replaced my monocle in the crook of my eye, and this is what I read:
in a room without you
the more i punch these keys the less i understand
these words that are meant to cleanse,
I scratched my beard. I leaned back in my chair and drummed my fingers on the table. I looked up at Mr. Hercules and saw him grinning like a school girl who’d just scored her first goal in soccer.
I re-read his poem, then squinted through my lense once more.
“Not bad, sir,” I said.
His eyes went wide and he flashed me a thumbs up. He seemed to be waiting for his participation trophy.
“Not bad at all,” I said again.
His eyes got wider, which I didn’t think was possible, and he rubbed his thumb and forefingers together.
“Oh heavens no, I don’t have any,” I said. “I shouldn’t even be dining out.”
“Not from you, fancy pants. From publishment.”
“Publishment?” I said.
“You know what I mean,” he said. “Payers.”
“You mean readers?”
“Moulah, Mr. Walt. I need me some.” He reached across the table and grabbed my beignet. He stuffed the whole thing into his mouth at once, then said, “Get this one published, Waltypants.” Then he fist-bumped his own forehead by way of saying goodbye.
He stopped at every table he passed to “press the flesh.” And by that I mean he fist-bumped his own forehead, shook hands, and made small talk with the locals and tourists alike. They seemed to take to him. And no one seemed bothered by his lack of a shirt.