Read episode three here
Frank walks into the bar and sits down next to Bertie. Bertie hacks out a wheezy, longtime smoker’s laugh and offers no greeting.
“You still get any noise out of your bass?” Bertie asks as if they’d been in the middle of a conversation, though the two men haven’t spoken in months.
“A little,” Frank says.
“Bring it by the practice space sometime, if you’d like.”
“I’d actually been thinking about doing that. Tony tells me you got a downsized kid with a prosthetic right side playing keyboards.”
“Yup. He actually can’t play worth shit, but you can’t argue with a robotic claw when it comes to stage presence.”
“I bet that sets the yo factor on blast.”
“And even a blind chicken gets a kernel once in a while.”
“You got that right,” Frank says. “What are you doing drinking alone in this shithole on a Monday night?”
Bertie reveals a quick flash of annoyance but hides it with a grin. He’s up to something, Frank thinks, and he can’t decide whether to let me in on it.
“Waiting for Ronnie,” Bertie says. “He should be along soon. I hope.”
“What are you guys up to tonight?” Frank asks, hoping for some hint.
“Plans and schemes,” Bertie says, grinning and concealing. “Let me buy you a whiskey.”
Frank is about to answer in the affirmative when a blow to the center of his back knocks some breath out of him and almost upends his stool. His eyes water from the pain, and he looks up to see the large, meaty hands of Ronnie digging into his shoulder. The large man’s face is the color of a Roma tomato. He laughs heartily and wraps his arms around Frank and Bertie.
“I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight, Frank,” he says. “What’s new and exciting, chief of staff?”
Frank rasps out his greetings, still trying to catch his breath.
“Where the hell you been, Ronnie?” Bertie asks, irritated yet curiously anticipating Ronnie’s excuse.
“You would not believe this shit,” Ronnie says, pulling a stool out from the bar and forming a triangle with Bertie’s and Frank’s stools. “I was getting my afternoon drunk on, to be ready for my evening drunk, and I had to take a piss. So I go to the bathroom, and I start to take a piss. And I look down, and I watch myself pissing for a few seconds, and I get kind of a funny idea. I think how hilarious it would be if I karate-chopped my urine stream. So I did it. I brought my hand down and I karate-chopped my urine stream. It was hilarious, man. Comedy gold. Of course, I ended up getting piss all over my hand. I didn’t think that part through. So I walk over to the sink, and I turn on the faucet, and nothing. There is no running water. Apparently, a water main broke on my block, and they picked right that moment to fix it. They just shut the water off like seconds after I karate-chopped my piss, so I have urine all over my hand and no way to wash it off. Only in America, am I right? So I zip up and button my pants with the hand I didn’t piss on, which is my left hand. That took about ten minutes. It’s not so easy to button your pants with one hand. I mean, don’t even ask me how I did it. At this point, the urine has dried on my hand, but I still really want to wash the hand, so I just start walking down the street until I get to a convenience store. I decide I’m going to wash my hand in the bathroom in there. This is about six blocks past my house, so they have their running water. I asked them. I made sure before I went in there. I didn’t want to get burned again. Here’s where it gets ridiculous, though. Just as I’m about to walk over to the bathroom, I run into my old friend Phil, and he reaches his hand out to SHAKE MY HAND! The hand that is covered in urine. I couldn’t do that to him, man. Phil’s a good guy. He fed my dog when I went to Lower East Crustville for a week last year. But I didn’t know what to tell the guy. I couldn’t think of some excuse to get me out of shaking hands with him. I can think of at least ten now, but my mind was drawing a blank at that moment. So I just turned around and started running. I ran all the way back home, and thankfully, the water was back on. But what the hell am I going to tell Phil now?”
“What the fuck?” Bertie says. “What did you just tell us?”
Through his intense laughter, Frank notices a sea change in Ronnie’s face. He glares at a tall, thin man with a white scar running from the left side of his nose to his bottom lip. His hands curl into fists and he narrows his eyes.
“I can’t believe this asshole shows his face in here,” he says and walks in the man’s direction.
“Uh-oh,” Bertie says. “I might need your help here, Frank. The two of us might be able to hold him back.”
“Wha?” Frank says, confused.
“Hey, child-beater,” Ronnie snarls at the man. “Beat your kids today?”
The man smiles at Ronnie and rubs his scar in an almost sexually threatening way.
“As a matter of fact, I did,” he says. “What are you going to do about it?”
“Let’s see how you like fighting a grown man, child-beater,” Ronnie says, jutting his chest forward and bumping it into the scarred man’s chest.
“This is getting tiresome,” the man says. “Beat your kids a couple times and everybody calls you a child-beater. I’m also a Seventh Day Adventist. Nobody ever mentions that.”
“Talking time is over,” Ronnie shouts. “Smashing time is now!”
Ronnie lunges for the man, and Frank and Bertie lunge for Ronnie. They are able to hold his arms back, and the scarred man leaves.
“Calm down,” Bertie says. “Save it for Devendra.”
“Okay,” Ronnie says, breathing heavily. “You’re right.”
“Wait, what?” Frank says. “Save it for Devendra?”
Ronnie and Bertie look at each other conspiratorially, then sheepishly.
“Should we tell him?” Bertie asks.
“Might as well,” Ronnie says.
“Tell me what?” Frank asks.
“You want to tell it?” Ronnie asks Bertie.
“OK.” Bertie says. “Frank, I found out some disturbing news yesterday through the friend of a friend. It seems Devendra Banhart has discovered, or more likely been tipped off about, the location and existence of Crustville. He has plans to make a compilation album of the so-called Crustville ‘freak folk’ scene and sell it aboveground. They’re going to find out about us up there, and our way of life is going to be over. Reliable sources indicate that he’s entering Crustville at midnight tomorrow night, and we’re going to be waiting. With lead pipes. We’re going to beat the fuck out of him. You in?”
“I’m in,” Frank says, and smiles. “The boys are back in town.”