The laziness of summer causes my days to run together, but then I remembered today is Saturday, which means a story from Bob.
Tear Gas Didn’t Go Over at Sonny’s Soul Kitchen That Night
Though the details on your arrival are a bit fuzzy, the terrain is not all that unfamiliar, so you are not that surprised to find yourself in a place called Sonny’s Soul Kitchen at 3 a.m.
The day has turned to night for the second time in a row, a flashing kaleidoscope of color that makes two a.m. become six a.m. somewhere in your sodden mind. But you are not ready to admit that you have crossed the line, so you order another Cuba Libre and case the joint for the companion that brought you to this place.
Sonny’s Soul Kitchen usually serves good barbecue and pretty decent soul food up until midnight, but it is past that time now. Instead of the band, a little three-piece combo is cooking to the strains of “Crawlin’ Kingsnake.” The blues fill the air as the tenor sax overrides the down home beat of the bass guitar. The raw feeling of pain in the singer’s voice seems to reverberate through you. You listen intently, lost in a world of your own.
A small wizened man in a too big shirt covered with red parrots comes in with a wash tub and a piece of baling twine attached to it and a mop handle on the other end and sets up with the band. He starts to beat out a double bass rhythm keeping excellent time. “That’s Duhon,” said the bartender. “Some nights he sits in with the band.”
Yours was one of the few white faces in attendance this morning, everywhere you looked there were black faces from the almost blue-black blend to the straight aquiline noses of the red American Indian. Smiling, sweaty faces that gave a glimpse of gold whenever they laughed or told one of their many jokes. The joint was definitely jumping.
The dancing was getting wilder now, none of this two-stepping, fox-trotting business either. There was a rhythm to the music now, it was getting jerkier, more lust driven. Short cries and loud shouts accompanied the dancers as they vied for more room, more attention on the dance floor. I felt a deep driving urge to join in with the dancers, but by now my tongue felt like an iguana had been using it for a chew toy, so I told the bartender “more rum and ice, heavy on the ice.”
I had come in here with Stone. Stone and I try not to see each other as much as we would like because we bring out the worst in the other. He plays Jekyll to my Hyde. Or Neal Cassidy to my Jack Kerouac–it just depends on who you believe. Stone is the kind of man who would be in a place like this at this hour of the morning.
His mission in life is to have as much fun as possible in as little time as possible. Stone’s only fear is that they may be having more fun at the place we just left or the place we are heading to.
The impromptu thrill that you felt when he showed up at your place with Lynyrd Skynyrd blasting from the stereo was beginning to wear a little thin.
A platinum blonde is dancing wildly with a neat little black man wearing a bright red shirt that reminded me of Patrice Lumumba. He is doing an involved dance step while the blonde held her arms akimbo like a hula dancer, an intense look of concentration on her face. Hbbbbber body jerked back and forth to the conga rhythm, now and then she would spin, her plaid skirt flaring out full around her like a colorful fan.
I raised my glass to them in a silent salute, and decided it was time to join the dancers. I asked another pale face if she wanted to dance and she looked at me as if I had spiders nesting in my hair. She turned me down flat and went to dancing with a spade bearded man. I stood alone in the middle of the dance floor and thought about the tear gas canister that was hidden under the front seat.
I had bought the grenade shaped tear gas bomb in a Army-Navy store in Oklahoma City the week before. I’d remembered Stone asking me something about Beirut when he saw the small bomb, I’d laughed and told him to expect the unexpected.
The dancing had reached a high in debauchery as I came back inside with the tear gas bomb. The sax screamed and the drums beat out a harrowing rhythm as the crowd yelled and groaned their delight, I thought the old building would cave in under all the noise and shouting.
I made a pass around the crowded room sounding like a leaky tire as I held the handle down on the bomb. Fog followed me as I made my way to the front door. I’d planned on getting back to Stone’s pick-up where I could witness the exodus undisturbed.
I got outside just in time to witness Stone’s tail lights as he made the far corner of the block. By now people were boiling out of the place, it was every man for himself as the caustic gas began to take hold.
I got whipped like a rented mule that night. I had no place to run and I felt my nose crunch as the first of several blows caught me right on the button.
My lips felt like two pieces of chopped liver, and I couldn’t see out of one of my eyes. Somewhere in the melee one of my tennis shoes was ripped from my feet and thrown at my head.
I was never so glad to see anyone as the bartender in my life. “Big boy, it’s time for you to go,” he said laughing quietly. I stumbled off down the dirt street telling myself that I’d had a good time no matter what had happened.
I gave a growling German Shepherd a big right-of-way as the early morning sunlight hit my one good eye like a mother’s wrath.
I heard what sounded like a young voice humming Brahms’ “Lullaby” in the distance.