An Excerpt from DOUBLE INDIGNITY, Chapter 3, “Law of the Jungle”
It was high time for a tall, cool one at the Banana Peel. This was the joeys’ watering hole in Top Town, the kind of place where they have to take you in, because a slapstick doesn’t work so well on yourself. The last time I’d been there, I’d caused a bar fight that Hal Roach would’ve thought was over the top. But it was nothing new. There were fights in there most every night. When the pies and seltzer start flying, it’s the only place to be. It wasn’t a dukey run over to the ‘Peel, so wearing a piece of mangled, flopping footwear wasn’t difficult. But as I walked, the fear grew on me that I was starting to like stepping in meatloaf. Like my life needed more complication.
I made it to the bar in good time and pushed my way inside. The evidence of our last colossal fight had all been shoveled out and away, and the holes in the wall covered with girly calendars and old three-sheets from the Erickson Stupendous Show.
I recognized the joeys around the bar, nodding to a few and pantsing some others. Patchy saluted me by dropping his trousers, but that red-nose was always brown-nosing. I waved over the bartender, “Hey, Sid.”
“Hey, Stan, pull me a draft.”
“There’s a little issue of your tab, Koko.”
“What’s the issue with it?”
“It’s too damn big, is what.”
“Is that all? I thought for a minute you’d lost it.”
On either side of me, the joeys began to give Sid a rough time. “Hey, give Rex a drink and put it on my tab!”
“But your tab is too big, too!”
“That’s what she said!”
“If you want to get personal about it, you’re too short!”
“You tell ‘im, Raspberry!”
I gave Sid my best sad-clown face. “Come on, Sid, it’s been a helluva night.”
“Tell it to the Marines,” he said in his usual monotone. “I’ve spent the whole night trying to keep these guys from burning the joint down.”
“And how is that different from any other night?” I asked. Sid pursed his lips at my unassailable logic and gave me a beer. He should know by now that, even if I had the denali to pay off my tab, I couldn’t reveal it in front of a house full of zanies. It would be like a run on the bank without the decorum.
The gags and gossip and eye pokes around the bar were too much for me, so I picked up my schooner and headed to a table by the far wall. I inspected the chair for fresh glue or itching powder, but found none. As soon as I sat down, I felt the many scratches and scrapes I’d gotten from General. I may have been running on adrenaline a little bit, because parts of my carcass were aching with a vengeance. I was afraid to lift my pant legs to see in what kind of extreme shape he’d left my extremities. I wasn’t leaving little crimson pools where I stood, so I took it for a win and made a note to visit a tailor in the morning.
I didn’t hold any grudges for old General, finally. He was old and scared, and had been prodded too many times in his life to show how tough he was. Even as he was chewing on my foot – okay, this is only in hindsight – but even as he was snacking on me, I couldn’t help but be impressed by that huge head, those long teeth, that mane of stiff tan hair that made him exotic and imposing even in a place like Top Town. Not that he could just be plopped back on the savannah and left to his own devices. Now he was neither here nor there, neither wild nor tamed, but just lying under a tarp in a back lot, his huge fearsome head shattered and bloody, his muscles forever slack. It made me want to punch somebody, but that went against my strictly Buddha-like nature. So I tried to enjoy the taste of Sid’s flat lager, berating myself for not freeloading something stronger when I had the chance, and thought of peaceful jungles and half-dressed native girls.