“Hey, fella! Hey! Hey! Buddy! Wake up! Hey! Hey! What the – ? Is he dead?” Guttersnipe bonked a little old man on the head.
The bonk woke him up.
“Wedding bells, Old Geezer, can’t you hear them? You know what that means? I mean, besides a bit of foolishness that will end in heart break.”
“Piss off!” said Old Geezer laying his head back down in the dust, “I’m sleepin’.”
“Just get up, would you? And unlock the doors, the wedding party will be here in fifteen minutes and we need to prepare.”
“Who are you?”
“Part of the wedding party – bartender to be specific. He delivers pizza, I’m the bartender and you, unfortunately, are the keeper of the key. Cleverly explained?”
Old Geezer strained his head off the ground and did a quick half nod, “Mmm.”
“Now that we’ve established identities we can thrive on, let’s get the door open.”
“Sleepin’, I said.” Old Geezer collapsed his head back into the dirt.
“Look! Hey! Look!” Guttersnipe kicked Old Geezer’s foot. “The bride will be furious if you don’t let me in and believe you me, she knows how to deal with people that upset her. You’ve heard of Gwen, huh? Gwen, the Bashing Bride? C’mon, give us the key.”
“Alright, alright,” said the old man rising off the ground in front of the Babylon night club entrance, “but I’ve never heard of her.” He yawned and did a tiptoey stretch.
“Aarggh! Put your arms down, quick!” yelled Guttersnipe.
“Smells like you just kicked a dead dog, old feller,” said Brynn sympathetically.
“‘Geezer’, ye bastard, ‘Old Geezer’. ‘Feller’ is my brother’s name. We’re always being mistaken for each other. Blame our mother, I suppose…” His voice trailed off as he searched his pockets for a key.
Vinnie screamed blue murder from the box on the bike.
“Good nose on that cat,” said Brynn.
“I think he just wants out,” Guttersnipe waved a finger towards the bike, “D’you mind? And untie him from that stupid car.”
“Okey-dokey, my lad, one freed-up cat coming up. Here, kitty kitty, come to Uncle Brynn, darlin’.”
The box, though not airtight, held back most of world’s light. Vinnie wasn’t afraid of the dark, but he was sure hot and uncomfortable. Plus he hated Brynn because he called him ‘darlin’.
“Time to slay the beast,” said Vinnie.
With outstretched arms and grotesque, smiling face, Brynn opened the box and yelled for Vinnie to come to Uncle. Vinnie was out in a flash, scratching Brynn with unbelievable anger.
Brynn thought Vinnie to be happy to see him and tried cuddling the cat. Vinnie, in possession of a first-rate dentist, bit down hard and cracked Brynn’s nose like eggshell lobster claws. Brynn didn’t like it and tried to protect himself by squeezing Vinnie really hard ’til he collapsed in Brynn’s arms.
“Now let’s get this motorcarriage off your body. Sheesh, pussycat, what a fuss you are.”
Brynn released Vinnie from his motorized flower bed and took him into Babylon. Vinnie reluctantly relaxed a bit and thought that maybe Brynn was okay. He started purring, and rubbing himself affectionately against Brynn’s trouser legs. Brynn was immediately enchanted and mooned all over the place, rubbing Vinnie’s nut, stroking his chin, and altogether giving Vinnie a good tickle.
“I could get used to this.” Perhaps Vinnie had found a new owner.
“Such a nice pussy…….CAT,” warbled Brynn.
“God! He’s serenading me.”
Vinnie thought on it a moment and decided to test the limits of ownership. He went absolutely berserk with affectionate rubbing, miaowing at the top of his lungs.
“Let’s see what Uncle Brynn does for this little sideshow. Heh, heh.”
Brynn howled with laughter, “Damned clever of me not to wear my velveteen trousers, eh, boyo? And so I ask you,” he yelled, picking up Vinnie and getting an affectionate tail-whipping on his eyes, “is pussycat hungry?”
Vinnie stopped cold. “He did it, he did the owner thing and offered food to me! I love this guy! No more Gwen, can you believe it? Oh happy day, you blessed cat! Oh happy day!”
Gwen and the wedding party were en-route via the obligatory waterfalls photo session to the reception hall .
“Cheh, cheh! Wan, two, tree! Cheh!
Inside Babylon the Rusks were already doing sound checks.
Guttersnipe’s eyes bulge in brief confusion before clouding over in deliberate ignorance.
“Get dem Tapir bah from de drums, eh? Get dem behine de stage na! Cheh! Wan! Two! Cheh! Cheh!”
Bob was all for Barney standing in for Eric as Eric bounced around looking for bargains in the markets, but he had to contain his ‘children’, especially during the gig. Barney had promised that they would be snug in the bus luggage nets right after the sound check but he hadn’t planned on Old Geezer checking up on the goings on and inadvertantly releasing them into the streets of Dar es Salaam.
Bob would later write a humorous song about the incident and become famous through Eric Clapton’s rendition of ‘I Shot The Sheriff’. “Someting from someting,” said Bob in a subsequent interview for a popular British pop music magazine. “Dat’s what Socrates rap about to ‘is frens. I an’ I dig de man, ye know? Intelligent. Not like de tapirs.”
“Yes but did you ever get the cheque cashed?”
“Um… but me need some identification wid a photo,.” he apologized, “so I use me passport. Yeah.”
In a dizzying run at the door, lummoxy even by tapir standards (leaping at menacing coloured lighting gels, attacking fuzz pedals, and chewing threatening microphone cables), the hardy but dim tapirs bolted through Old Geezer’s legs in a whirlwind of emotional outbursts the second they saw daylight.
Barney was not happy.
Nor Old Geezer, who’d given the most emotional outburst of the lot since it was his legs that had gotten bruised.
The tapirs had escaped out the door, ploughing immediately into the wedding party, sending Leo head-over-heels into the closing limo door. He chacked his thumb and howled in agony. The tapirs thought he was courting them and followed suit. The photographer kept the camera whirring and got some brilliant shots of the tapirs standing on two legs a few seconds at a time and Leo clutching his swollen thumb, all the while in apparent chummy sing-song poses.
Gwen refused to pay for them but the local gossip rag forked out thousands.
Barney dashed out to get his ‘babies’ and collided with Gwen. She couldn’t believe her eyes.
“Gwendolyn! My love!”
“Leo, my husband,” she replied, gesturing at Leo flapping around on the ground with the Tapirs as back-up singers.
“Say it isn’t true! Please tell me you jest and that I’m the one you love! Please!”
“Those creatures belong to you?”
“Yes, yes, they are…but tell me you joke! Oomf!”
“I’ve wanted to do that for a longtime now,” said Gwen with skinned knuckles, “It’s good, ’cause now I won’t have to go see my therapist about you. Thanks. Now what the hell are you doing at my wedding?”
“Drummer. I’m the drummer for the band.” Barney rubbed his mouth. “But I had no idea it was for your…” Barney looked incredibly sad.
“I hope this won’t interfere with your drumming abilities.”
“Professional, are you?”
“Absolutely professional, you bet.” Barney had snapped to a resolve to win back her heart and make her abandon her new husband in a fit of passion for Barney by being the best drummer ever to play at Gwen’s reception. Bit stupid really, since Eric wasn’t scheduled at all.
“Collect your animals and get to work then.”
It was a bit difficult to get the tapirs to stop humping Leo’s legs, but Barney soon enough had them up in their luggage racks, their minds fomenting dissent at having been rudely deprived of creating a namesake for themselves.
Like any other creature on earth, they wanted to be part of a loving family, and were willing to make one to feel such love. Plus it was mating season. They were starting to squirm again.
Barney started the bus and left it running. Tapir ecstasy! Barney went back to the club, leaving the tapirs to howl for nine straight hours then fall asleep after the bus ran out of fuel.
For Barney, being at this wedding reception felt like last year; working a thirty hour shift at the office whilst filled to the brim with flu and flu medicine. Only this was more hallucinatory in content…Barney thumping out a reggae beat for Heartbreak Hotel and being forced to watch Gwen and Leo swirl in loving embraces across the flashing dance floor. Listening to Bob improvise through the Elvis songbook with a mixture of lyrics from his own songs felt at times a trifle sci-fi-ish. Barney thought he’d lose his mind, especially at such reggae inspired screams of “NA, WOMAN, NO CRY…I JUST WANNA BE YA TEDDY BEAR, NAH!”
Of course, Leo loved every second of it, yelling for an encore at the hybridized classic Jailhouse Rock/Jammin’ tune which lasted a full hour. An encore gladly given, taking the song to a total length of two hours, with a brief dedication of the second time around being given to Leo.
Leo had never felt so empowered.
Barney had never felt so lost.
Between sets Gwen threw down the gauntlet of diplomacy and introduced Barney to her new hubby. She insisted on a fast three rounds of tequila shots then ripped off Barney’s shirt and had a good laugh at the recounting of the tattoo story. Barney blushed and ran off to hide behind his drum kit.
The reception continued on long past the bus running out of fuel, much tequila being consumed and much blushing from Barney, who had become a bit of a celebrity because of his tattoo story. He met a wonderful girl who caused his image of Gwen to pale. He invited her round the bus once the gig had ended.
“To see my Tapirs.”
“Don’t you think you are rushing things just a bit?” she asked.
“No, not at all. As a matter of fact, they’re probably starving. I really have to go see them.”
“More like children, really.”
“Oh.” She smiled and held out her hand.
Barney almost fainted from the thrill of it all. He walked with her for what seemed an eternity to the bus, his legs like blocks of barely solidified Jello. He felt vaguely confident about the future. He thought he’d take a chance on love and before he could really think about it, he’d invited her to dinner at his flat. She accepted. He was flabbergasted and backpedalled.
“Thing is, I don’t have a flat. Least, not in this country”
“Well, let’s get the paper and find you one, shall we?”
“Maybe even get a job, yes?”
“It would certainly help pay for the flat.”
He was intensely excited at this new turn of events. The flames of love dimmed momentarily when he thought about work visas, but quickly flared high when he thought of the general lawlessness of this part of the world.
“Yes,” she smiled, feeling the excitement Barney felt at the prospects of settling down for a while. She blushed a little, and looked at the ground.
“I’d better tell Eric that he needs to start drumming again, hadn’t I?”
“Come on, then,” she replied, taking his hand and leading him back to the club. “Eric. He’s the one that likes to shop?”
“Mad for it. As you can probably see from our swollen bus.”
“Do you know what I like? I really like mango-sticky rice. It’s a sweet dish from Thailand.”
“Never had it.”
They stepped over Old Geezer holding a glass in each hand, rosy-cheeked, and sound asleep at last.
“I’ll make some for dessert.”
Wine-stained and missing portions of her apparel but not giving a damn, Gwen was foetal-positioned, sleeping on a table.
Leo was face to face with Bob; who were involving themselves in a medley. Bob singing and Leo banging out noises from an electric bass guitar. Leo had just given Bob another large money cheque for singing a Bob Dylan song, a Neil Sedaka Song, and Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” classic. Which, incidentally, was the one to cause Gwen to curl up on her round banquet table, not, as the rest of the wedding party had done, fold up at the sounds of Neil Sedaka.
Our musical duo were rehearsing ‘til they got it right.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry!”
“Ney problem, na, Leo. Ye got ta be relassed wid ye fingers, aye? Like dis.”
“Relassed. Relassed, ye, mon, relassed,” Stressed Leo, hoping to catch a relaxed Farley vibe if he imitated Bob’s Jamaican accent.
“There’s Eric with his new t-shirt. I’ll be right back,” said Barney.
Larissa clasped her hands and sat in a chair to wait.
Eric was holding hands with Doris.
Doris sported the exact same style of t-shirt that Eric wore, and both had that vacant stare of freshly hatched lovers.
Old Geezer slept at the foot of the table on which Gwen slept.
Bob and Leo rehearsed and smoked gnarly big spliffs. One each. Leo’s wedding gift of Earl Grey tea was getting cold. Bob’s Red Stripe beer was already warm.
Guttersnipe was puzzled. He pulled Doris aside.
“I just got paid, didn’t I?”
“You were her bridesmaid?”
“I met Eric and decided to go shopping instead.”
“Oh, sure. Leave me to suffer the whole night -“
“I went to the wedding and that was enough, and as for us, well, now there’s Eric.”
“Yeah, we would never work out,” Guttersnipe said all too quickly.
Things went quiet for a moment as they reflected on the day. Barney stepped up to Eric and told him what was on his mind. Guttersnipe smiled affectionately at Doris, who smiled back.
“Pretty funny with Vinnie, wasn’t it?” he said.
“I got pictures of Gwen operating the remote control.”
“Love to see them some time.”
“I put them in for developing already.”
“God! I just love that cat!”
Guttersnipe paused for a millisecond then went for the throat. “So you like this Eric gent?”
“Nice enough, I suppose.”
“I’d like to meet him. What does he do?”
“He’s the drummer in Bob’s band.”
“But I thought?”
“He and Barney have an arrangement. “
“Oh shut up.”
“What? It’s funny!”
“It’s a lame joke, mildly amusing because I’m dead tired.”
“Ah. So… now what,” said Guttersnipe looking for the just-add-water-denouement to Doris’ tale.
“I dunno. Let’s ask Eric.”
Moments later Doris was in tears.
Eric felt compelled to stay with the band until they found another drummer. Barney and his damned nesting instinct. He was leaving the band. So they couldn’t go shopping tomorrow.
Doris blamed Barney for her crumbling love life and dealt him a violent blow to the head. Larissa, spun Doris around and dealt her the same. Though they saw Barney and Doris knocked cold, neither Bob nor Leo heard a thing over their guitar playing. They raised their eyebrows to each other, their drinks, then the volume on their amplifiers.
“If ye wannta be a professional musician, Leo, ye must be wit-ouh distraction. Meditate, I an I say.” screamed Bob.
“Or turn up the volume!” Leo screamed back.
“True enough, na,” laughed Bob. “But block out dese tings aroun ye.” He waved his arms around, “Dat’s de lesson.” Then, as if he’d judged the content of what he’d just said and had himself agreed to its wisdom, Bob looked over at the dazed couple climbing to their feet, thumped out an extra hard riff on his guitar and nodded, “Yeh, man.”