Two Blind Men and a Fool
by Sherman Smith
Chapter 40: There Is No We
Earl had slept at the piano, not that you could call it sleep; bad dreams had clouded his mind. Not war dreams, nor the one he had of being a child and trapped underground in what had been a poorly covered well. No, these dreams were new, terrifying and undefined, fleeting thoughts about the dark roads ahead.
Life had been sweet at Adam’s Place. Stella, Henry, Gibby, and even Brooks. They had become a family of sorts. He had beaten his serpent, at least so he thought. He had played and sung to his heart’s content, and then some.
No doubt he had walked a little on the edge learning to bartend — a legend in his own mind. Hadn’t that been a hoot, the best of times. He had fallen in love with Stella, his nightingale. Then she was gone, without word one. Gone. Not a whisper. Not a note.
Sometimes life deals you a bad hand, and you just have to grin and bear it. He had survived the loss of his sight, and adapted. Things happen in threes. First Henry left, then Stella disappeared. Gibby died. Damned inconsiderate. He felt abandoned, alone, adrift in a pitch black whirlpool without a lifeline.
Earl had spent the night drifting back and forth caught in this whirlpool of hopelessness, his chin resting on his hands as they pressed heavily down on his faithful ivories. What next? The word he did not want to think, let alone speak, Homeless. And so the ivories had remained silent. At this moment he could find no music within him, not even the blues.
“Earl?” Brooks tapped down three times on a piano key near where he had heard Earl snoring. “Earl?”
Earl wasn’t asleep, he just didn’t want to face the waking world. He especially did not want to answer Brooks. He knew what Brooks wanted to ask, and he hadn’t any answers.
“Earl?” Brooks found his shoulder and shook it. “Earl, damn you. I’ve sat here all night, without one drink, waiting for you to tell me what we are going to do. Earl, what are we to do?”
We? Earl thought with a certain amount of anger. We? He lifted his head, neck stiff, fingers almost numb. His mouth dry as cotton and tasting of things he did not want to contemplate. “We?” he flared. “There is no ‘we,’ you bloody moron. It all ends here. I am not and will not be your keeper. I have my own goddamned problems. So... so... go drown yourself in as much booze as you want.” Earl waved his hands wildly in the air. “There is plenty here, pal. Don’t let it go to waste.”
Brooks stepped back, barely resisting the need to smack Earl upside the head. Instead, he quietly walked over to where he knew the cash register to be, rang it open, and took out a handful of bills. He did not know what they were, but what the hell did it matter? He found a pint bottle and stuffed it into his coat pocket. “You sorry bastard,” he muttered as he shuffled his way towards the front door. The only sound that marked his exit was the soft crunch of peanut shells.
Outside, the fog was cold and bitter. Couldn’t have asked for better, Brooks thought as the door closed behind him.
Which way are we going? Desperation asked.
Does it matter? Mr. Dark laughed.
Not one damn bit, Self-Pity piped in.
“Shut the hell up,” Brook demanded. “I don’t need nor want help from any one of you, especially that miserable prick Earl Crier. The next time I see him, if he is frying in the fires of Hell, then the trip will have been worthwhile.”
The wind ripped at his silken mask. He shivered as he brought a hand up to keep the cloth from sailing off. For a brief moment he thought of going back. The thought flickered and died like a moth in a flame. “No, sir, it ends here,” he said with little conviction. He took five steps forward.
“Hey, watch it, asshole!”
He heard someone scream in his face and a deafening, sudden, shrill of a car horn threw him back. Stumbling, he fell, landing painfully on his left hip against a cement curb. Desperation and Self-Pity mocked him as he screamed out. “Can’t you see I’m walking here? Goddamn that—”
The screech of car brakes interrupted his thought as he struggled to find his feet. Another car honked, only farther away. A car door opened. A hand toughed his arm. “Hey, Mac, are you all right?” The supporting voice added strength to the grip that helped him to his feet.
“That was close. Did you get the license? Jesus...” Brooks heard the man gasp as he most likely saw his mask. “What the hell? I mean—”
“It’s OK, mister, I’m blind. It was my fault. It was” — he laughed at his own expense —“it was my fault. I didn’t see it coming.”
The man helped Brooks to his feet. “Where are you headed, pal? I’ve got a car and plenty of time.” He steered Brooks towards the car.
Brooks did not argue but he did have to think for a moment about where to go. He dusted off his tux. “Well, I’m all dressed up, so I might as well go to one of the best gin joints in town. What do you recommend?”
“The Tonga Room is always jumping. Perhaps the Top Of The Mark? The Mark Hopkins might be better for you, it’s a little less crowded, has a great view, and great music.”
“View, you say?” Brooks chuckled. “That would be nice. Do you know if they might have a piano?” Brooks stretched his fingers. “I think I’d like to play.”
Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith