Sunday, May 17, 2009

Variations On a Theme, In the Old Style

The topic of discussion was bull frogs
I remember my father telling me about
him and his brothers when they were young
back in the late 1950’s
going out at night to the pond
with their crazy grandfather
who would smash bull frogs with a tennis racquet
as my father and his brothers
blinded them with a flash light beam
the kicker being that the frogs
would splatter every which way
through the grooves of the hard netting

this story always disturbed me
I loved bull frogs when I was a kid
often times frogs and toads were
some of my closest compadres
so I thought this thread of talk
was out of line.

(years later)

I remember sitting with her in a Chicago bar
off of Broadway
the L&L Tavern
ordering round after round of
Old Style beer
in the middle of the day
in the dead of winter
listening to the Boss on the juke
and smoking, smoking, smoking
as a few laid off teamsters brooded at the bar

“… and then whap! He would splatter those fucking bull frogs
from here to kingdom come! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

she laughed too
because the beer was good and hitting just right
and I laughed because I was drunk
and it was hitting me all wrong
one of the teamsters turned around and scowled
perhaps he was a lover of amphibians,
as well,
and a champion of all things small and slimy
and this sort of wild talk
disturbed him
as much as it did me
when I was young.

“… then (burp) they’s would wipe da’ racquet off and (hiccup) have a go
at another one of dem’ green fuckers … ha! and … shit
maybe get ten or twelve a goddamn night!”

She laughed
and I slapped my right thigh and roared
the Old Style was coming and coming
and I was comical misanthrope.

“Bartendar!”, I shouted, “A few more Old Styles! And give me the ones with
the Cubby twist caps or prepare to be whacked … like a bull frog!”

The teamsters weren’t amused
but it was me and her
and a footnote of moments
that belonged only to us
love and life and history
and a few hanger on’s
down on their luck
in that cold bar
as Born in the U.S.A.
boomed on from the juke box
in the pale light of a miserable

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