THE BIG DAY
a Jack Cap Adventure
"It seems as though the two of us are always trying to get married, you and I. We toddle and waddle, in sickness and in health, in penguin and white, up to the altar before the cleric's very cassock, lifting veils, buying vows, slipping and sliding rings, but every time we lean in for that kiss of bliss, some odious outsider's odd interference prevents us from sealing the deal. Wedding bells are music to my ears, but, alas, shall I ever get the chance to ring your bell?
"Billy 'Shakes' likes to say that parting is such sweet sorrow, but ours is a sorrow of a different cut - we can hardly part ways, for we never arrive. What gyves? We could blame Lady Luck. We could blame Mook. We could blame the Nun, or Hammerneck, or Sapper, or Wand, or Judy, or Dial, or 'Shakes', or MacKinac, or Flip, or The Dandy Man, or Marzipan of Zanzibar, or Vemuri, or the Hunch, or the 'Kernel', or Wraith the Rake, or the Paraffin Terrapin, or any of the other hooligans belonging to that clutch of criminals known as the C.S.C. Chaps. And blame them we shall, for the fault lies with every one of those goons and their nefarious stratagems to despoil and foil our nuptial plans.
"Do you recall that brisk and silent evening constitution way back in mid-November? The Season of Violence had come to pass; the White Ghost suddenly recoiled and retired softly to Apt. #A, thereby terminating his tromp of terror. A squid's handful of us had dodged his bullets, and we were now able to traverse the Unter den Linen (Nattering Park's historical trot-a-long) without fear of 'noodling' (a method mastered by the White Ghost where two random captives were extracted, twined together in tandem, skin and all, then the twins, now tied to a tether, would be tattered, reduced to rags, julienned, and finally, served with gunpowder spices to the Ghost himself).
"There we were, unnoodled, sweetly strolling in the strews of the ruins, hand-in-hand. Our walk in the park wasn't exactly what you'd call a walk in the park, but no bother. The long-term effects of His biological devastation had not yet sunk in and, for the time being, the dust had settled down, enticing a clean-up crew of invisible carpet beetles to paint vermicular patterns on the nuclear shadows fossilized on the concrete. The stillness of that mum and somber mid-November night nightmoved me and, as we crossed over the Warbler's Bridge, I grabbed you all-thumbedly by the wrists and looked into your paperbag eyes: 'Oh, darling, no more adventures. None for me, thanks. No more gangbusting, crimesolving, or flatfooting. No more run-ins and shoot-outs with jailbirds, lowlifes, blackguards, bootleggers, flimflammers, misfits, miscreants, wildcats, heels, and calves. I'm calling it quits.' And to prove to you that I was through sleuthing, sweet Bethany, I threw my badge overboard into the River of St. Stephen. How we stood there, entranced, as the boiling murkiness that is St. Stephen's River (more like a sour stew) swallowed it like a somnambulant spider swallows a fairyfly.
"After we had been, together, transfixed, hand-in-hand, thumb on thumb, for quite some time, three hours, long hours, of time passing and stillness, like an eternity, but not, because it was really only three hours of transfixion, as we were, mid-November, warbling, entranced, covered head to toe with paperbags, and not an eternity, and not an eternity of three hours spellbound, but now, the trance scythed, by the warbler's belch, I continued:
"'And furthermore, Bethany, let's get hitched. O, how I've longed to kiss your suite lips in the penthouse of Honeymoon Hotel. Ever since I've laid eyes on your ruddy lips, I've laid plans to plant a kiss on 'em. How often I've said to myself, in paperbag drag, looking into the mirror, pretending I was speaking to you, "One day I shall nibble your garden of olives, Bethany." I can abstain no more, my parfait amour. If our love is, say, a skinned chicken, basted in an easy bake oven, then, ding, time is up! The clock is surely ticking in this, the eve of the eleventh hour of our eleventh year of our courtship. Begging you pretty please on my knees, pretty Bethany - you are the bee's knees, let's get married!’
"How we stood there, entranced, as the boiling murkiness that is your paperbag pair of eyes (more like a pungent stew) chewed on my proposal like a Jotnar flinting a dog tick.
"After we had been, together, transfixed, hand-in-hand, thumb on thumb, for quite some time, three hours, long hours, of time passing and stillness, like an eternity, but not, because it was really only three hours of transfixion, as we were, mid-November, warbling, entranced, covered head to toe with paperbags, and not an eternity, and not an eternity of three hours spellbound, but now, the trance scimitared, by the warble fly's belch, you continued:
"'Sounds good, Jack.'
"So we set the date (eleven years from next mid-November), and, man, did we celebrate that evening. Without delay, we skedaddled outta Nattering Park and spit our asses into the Figure 8, a bar owned by Lew "Lay Low" Lambert. Lew's dive was not our first pick any day of the week, but since our choice watering hole, the Glim Bulb, was closed, due to it being Veteran's Day, we mirthfully dove into the Figure 8.
"'Two brews, Lew'
"While we waited and salivated, for three hours, transfixed, Lew the Leer grabbed our suds. We interlocked our eager thumbs as two paperbags will do when filled with engagement.
"Then, quite an extraordinary thing happened. Our thumbs began to transubstantiate into olives.
"However, before our thumbs turned green, Spanish, and stuffed with pimientos, Lew plopped two bubbly bottles down on the bar top. Splashes from their foamy heads made contact with our greening thumbs, and, one chemical reaction later, our thumbs regressed to their original lunchbag tawniness.
"'Lew, you're a genius, we're cured!'
"'Ah, go climb up your thumb.'
"'Now, Lew, there's no need to get salty. Just trying to give thanks for saving our asses, or, more accurately, thumbs. Things were getting a little too briny on this end of the brass, if you know what I mean. A bit jarring. We thought for certain our fat fingers were destined for the pretzel bowl and pickled sausage end of things, to be gummed over by the nincompoop patrons of your brokedown box. Instead, our thumbs are up an at 'em and as thirsty as we are, so, without further ado, we're going to toy with these brown-bottled brewskis while we chews where to hold our grand ceremony. That's why, Lew, I say, thank you.'
"'OK, kid, don't mention it. It was gnaw-thing,' Lew said, then turned and ambled over to the quiz machine."
The air inside the Figure 8 was stale.
The air outside of the Figure 8 was plain rotten,
due in part to Lummox Town's Paper or Plastic Factory, due in part to that obnoxious man with noxious breath pasting the 8's plexiglass.
breath on the plexiglass, Mook's breath, yet again, ready for action and breath, breath, and more breath: the bullhorn and the grease.
Mook, spying on Jack and Bethany, was up to no good. He couldn’t hide his “no good” being louder than his bad breath, louder than halitosis.
Mook was fixing to spring a Hail Mary.
Mook had plans for Jack; plans that made him laugh inside, to snort aloud, as overheard by the overhead birds.
…and so on and so on. I’ve included an excerpt from Jack Cap’s paperback babble, The Big Day, as a “CAUTIONARY TALE” to any young, aspiring alcoholic writer. The choice is yours, kids - put down the bottle or put down the bic. I’d prefer you do both. The world is already bloated as a beer belly with rotgut fiction such as The Big Day by Jack Cap. If you refuse to lose the pen or potation, then cheers to you, kiddo. You’ll be slogging away, drowning in a watered-down well of would-be wordsmiths. Welcome to a sad saturated future of “Hey, Harvey” dipsomania and redundant dime novels. Of getting pissed off piss water without a pot to piss in while writing piss-poor fiction. Of losing friendships and abusing language. Of filling both paper and porcelain with emetic overflow.
Listen up lolligaggers. If The Big Day by Jack Cap didn’t totally make a teetotaler out of you, then this excerpt from Ramona by Jack Cap ought to straighten you out, you sapling saps. Hell, Jack Cap’s buggy chatter would make a saint out of Errol Flynn.
And off we go, with what I present as a “CAUTIONARY TALE”, and what Jack puffs up as another adventure:
a Jack Cap adventure
I've been sitting here on this same barstool ever since November and I've failed to notice the woman sitting right here next to me until this afternoon.
"Oh, hello there. I didn't see you come in."
"Hey there yourself Jack."
"You- you know my name?"
"Sure I do, Mr. Cap. After all, I've been sitting right here next to you since November."
"Dear me. You must find it terribly rude, us sitting right here on these two barstools next to each other since November and I haven't even had the decency to say, 'Oh, hello there.'"
"No bother, Jack. Your mediocre manners concerning common courtesy have been on mute since November. Up until this afternoon, that is. You're making right right here right now. Gosh, already you've said, 'Oh, hello there,' twice on the same page. That ought to account for something. You know what they say, 'Two "Oh, hello there"s in the hand is worth one in the bush.'"
"For atonement's sake, all the 'Oh, hello there's in the world won't be enough. Let me really make it up to you. Let me buy you a drink." I motioned to Lew. "Lew, give the lady whatever her heart desires."
"Sure thing, Jack." Then, turning to the woman sitting right there next to me until this afternoon, Lew asked, "So what'll it be, sister?"
"I'll take a Boilermaker."
"And I'll have a Pink Lady, Lew."
"You got it, gang. One Boilermaker and one Pink Lady coming right up."
I recall my first encounter with a Pink Lady. The languid evening, at the edge of Nattering Park, listening to the bubbling boiling brooks of St. Stephen, sipping a Pink Lady in-between stolen smooches between me and my “puppy love”, the prohibitionist. Oh, sweet Bethany, where are you now. Are you rowing through the rapids of St. Stephen in search of passage, the secret garden of olives? Or perhaps you are in the bluegrass, serenading fairyflies and paperbags with birdcalls. Maybe you are at home on a Sunday, determinedly solving the crossword, that ironwill of yours that I’ve always admired still burning firedly. No, I remember where you are these days, Bethany. You are dead. You are buried in an unmarked grave, with all the rest, another casualty in the Season of Violence…
"Snap out of it, Jack. Time to catch a buzz, not catch some zzzz's."
I snapped out of it. There, in front of me, in the flesh, was a Pink Lady.
I sampled the sacred sauce through a flexi-straw.
"Snap out of it, Jack. You've just had a brief but violent tonic-clonic seizure."
Completely Mr. Magoo-ed in an amnesiac whitewash, I suspiciously scanned the mise-en-scene. I rested my hand on my "right hand man", my .44 magnum, ready to aim and fire if any trouble was afoot. I made an attempt to gather my surroundings as quickly as I could, firstly noticing Lew "Forever Jung" Lambert grinning like a missing persons piano, his watered down whiskey bottles lined like nipples on a sow, the bar top sauced with a glaze of bar rag beer, sweet and sour mix, spilt Chocovine (no using crying o'er it now), and an unidentified teriyaki-color oil slick with a potent perch-like aroma. Secondly, I noticed a lot of other things, but you get the picture. I realized I was in Lew's bar, the Figure 8.
Alright Jack. Settle down boy. So you're a little jumpy. Maybe that's because you had another grand mal. No big deal. No cause for alarm. No trouble afoot. Safe and sound. Just Lew and you, same as always, chewing chips and talking cheese. You're just sitting here on your barstool, the same barstool you've been sitting on ever since November until this afternoon. Hmmm. Something is a bit off. Think, Jack, think. Hmmm. A-ha. I know what's puzzling to me. If I had a seizure, why, when I came to, was I just sitting right here on the same barstool I've been sitting on until this afternoon enjoying the finer points of a Pink Lady instead of sprawled out on the floor with the dogshit and the pistachio shells and pretzel crumbs like I normally am when I “come to”?
I realized I couldn't solve this one alone. Wasn't up to snuff. Perhaps the blackout and total memory loss had something to do with my slight fatigue.
"Hey, Lew. here's a real chin-scratcher. Could you explain to me how I'm just sitting here right on the same barstool I've been spitting on ever since November, right up until this question I’m asking you, sipping on a Pink Lady right after having a seizure?"
"You had a seizure, Jack?"
"You just told me yourself, didn't you? You said, 'Snap out of it,' and I did, only to discover I'm just right here sitting on the same barstool I've been sitting on ever since November sipping a Pink Lady right after a seizure."
"I dunno. I was in the back, Jack, in the kitchen with Dinah. I didn't say nothing about a seizure or snapping. Wasn't me, no sirree."
"Then who, Lew?"
"Gee, you ain't the … are you, Sherlock? Who, you ask? Maybe, if I were to take a wild guess, maybe it was the woman sitting right there next to you on a barstool since November sipping a Boilermaker? Maybe her?"
"Lew, you mean to tell me that I've been sitting right here on this barstool sipping seizure and Pink Ladys since November and during this sentence while a woman is sitting right there next to me on a barstool sipping a Boilermaker?"
"Take a look for yourself, smart set."
I turned my head to the left, and got quite a surprise. Lew wasn't pulling my leg after all. There was a woman sitting right there next to me on a barstool since November. Only difference was, she wasn't sipping the Boilermaker, she was downing it. And in-between gulps, she made sounds resembling the death rattle of a boar, a sound previously of which I had not had the displeasure of hearing.
I turned my head back towards Lew. "I'll be damned, Lew, you weren't pulling my leg after all. There is a woman sitting right there next to me on a barstool since November."
Lew, always the bilingual mathewitician (meaning he spoke two languages: money and wit), demonstrated his handle on the latter, "No shit, Sherlock."
"Kitchie Ki-me-oh-my, we've got a real fishy, specifically perch-like, mystery on our hands. Hell, we're swimming in it!" I blurted, then bottomed up another Pink Lady.
"And what mystery might that be?"
"The mystery of how I'm just sitting here right on the same barstool I've been sitting on ever since November sipping a Pink Lady right after having a seizure and failing to notice the woman right there on the barstool next me downing a Boilermaker until this afternoon."
"It's no mystery, Jack. You musta just missed me or sumthin'," spoke the woman on the barstool right there next to me,
I jumped and chilled up. The woman knew my name! Very fishy. A mystery, indeed.
I turned my head to the left again, this time to address the woman who knew my name while sitting right there next me on a barstool gulping Boilermakers since November.
"How - how did you know my name?"
"That's an easy one, Jack. Don't you think that a woman on a barstool sitting right here next to you blitzed on Boilermakers since November would at some point catch your name? I overheard Lew say it."
"Lew's lips sink ships. I must teach that barkeep to keep his snapper shut. And speaking of snapper, does it seem as though the perch-like aroma is growing more intense by the second?"
"That's an understatement. It's overwhelming to the loin….." said the woman, factually.
"I hear that. Say, can I buy you a drink?"
"You betcha. Lew, I'll have a Boilermaker!" she called out to Lew "You Know Who" Lambert.
"And I'll intake a Pink Lady!"
"No prob, bob. I'll have 'em slapped together like a pair of bobby socks in zipp-o zero time."
My second encounter with the Pink Lady happened when I was 16. Once again, you were there Bethany. Yet our puppy love had become a mangy pariah. The smooches no more, now there were cracks in the pavement, our cracked hands, unheld, unnoodled. We had aged, and our love not so sweet. Not as sweet as the grenadine in my Pink Lady. Nothing could be as sweet as a Pink Lady. And so, my second Pink Lady led to my third Pink Lady, led to my fourth through fifth through fifteenth, on that evening in mid-November. Through a rose-colored fog of tearing eyes and Pink Ladys (and the occasional Monkey Gland), I see you, Bethany, buried in your grave, in your coffin, in your skin. Skin as cold as the cold November Earth. Dead and gone. As gone as my love. As gone as my second Pink Lady, and my third, and my three-hundredth. But this fog is thick and perch-like, is it not Bethany? Come to think of it, you were not with me at age 16 with my second Pink Lady. Nor were you with me at age 12 with my first Pink Lady. No, you were never with me, dear dead Bethany. You were never with anybody, not me, not Pink Lady, not even with yourself. For you are not real and never have been. You are not a real person, Bethany. I have made you up. I have made up the Pink Lady. I have made up thousands and upon thousands of Pink Ladys, then drunk them up. A Pink Lady is made up of gin, lemon, applejack, egg white, and grenadine. It is vigorously shaken with ice, then strained into a cocktail glass, and garnished with a sweet cherry on top. I hope Lew makes me up another Pink Lady while I am engaged with this flashback…
"Snap back to Lew's shack Jack. What're you on, crack? I lack a liquid snack so don't slack. Howza abound another round, clown? Let's slake the thirst and awaken the worst."
"Mi Sir Lew, you heard the bird, and the bird's the word. Spew the deluge on this boozy crew. Spoil her with Boilermakers, and poison me with Pink Ladys. Lift up the anchor!"
Jack Townsend, on the Pink Lady: Aside from the young ladies at their infrequent soirees, the Pink Lady is drunk to some extent by the seekers of the gay life along the Great White Way. Somehow, to the boys who were brought up looking at the flamboyant circus posters on the side of country barns, a Pink Lady connotes something halfway between their early dreams of a lady acrobat in white tights and a scarlet woman.…..
…and so on and so on. Jack keeps this cheap rambling up for another one hundred and fifty pages before the mystery is ever solved. To be more accurate, not a solution is presented, but rather a punchline, and a rather lackluster one at that. For the spoilers out there, eager to skip ahead and skip Mr. Cap's penny-pun babble, worry not, I have included the final lines of the immemorable Ramona:
"By the way, babe, what did you say your name was?"
Well, I’m sure all that “adventure” has sobered you sophomores up. And so, having made my point, I shall now make my departure, but before I leave, I shall leave you with one final little “fun fact”. Those of you young buckaroo bubblers, who have, and I am sorry for you, read through The Big Day to the end, are able to confirm this fact, that Ramona and The Big Day, share the same final ineffectual (and in the case of The Big Day, entirely unrelated to the plot) lines.
Until next time, chaps!
Yours in sobriety and piety,
(There you have it, folks. Mook came up with a Big Plan on Jack’s Big Day. He pulled a Rufus Griswold and slandered Jack. Mook started his grassroots defamation of Cap’s character on the soapbox, moved to the street corner, graduated to professor at C.S.C. community college, before finally overtaking Jack’s novels and ghostwriting, in the supernatural sense, hefty chunks of them, steering them into Jack smear campaigns. Before long, the accusations stuck, and Mr. Cap was, as far as the reading public was concerned (all ten of them), a certified “drunkard”. The irony is that Jack Cap himself was a teetotaler, and incorporated alcoholic elements in his curious tales of mystery in order to give them a sense of “realism”, not to encourage members of the younger demographics to take to the bottle.
After Mook began haunting Jack’s heart like a demon in a pig, Jack’s acuity and grasp on reality began to diminish. At the onset of the possession, Jack could tell very well when Mook was ghostwriting and when Jack was writing, but the lines blurred as the years curred. Jack could no longer tell who was writing what and when, or, for that matter, if anything was being written down or if Jack (or Mook) was just thinking something had been written down. All the while, Jack kept pumping his thistled tales out, word after word after word after word, publishing them in various illicit, mentally detrimental magazines such as the one you hold in your hands.
But what Jack didn’t know about who was writing who, the public and the critics sure knew less. To make matters worse, Jack’s sister Bethany, who looked after Jack as he drifted farther and farther off (Jack had picked up the heavy bottle by this point), sometimes played the role of ghostwriter, in the traditional sense, in order to meet the deadlines and therefore pay the bill collectors on time. Between Jack, Mook, and Bethany (as well as Jack’s editor, Jack “Butcher” Stern, whose influence upon the final manuscripts is unavoidable), it’s easy to see why we at A.L.L. T.H.A.T. J.A.S. (the Ample Living Library for Tales of the Happy Alcoholic Teetotaler Jack Appreciation Society) have a tough time sorting through Jack’s mess of a bibliography. Was The Big Day in fact all penned by Jack? Or, to some degree, small or large, do we also find the voice of Bethany, Mook, and Jack? Is Jack in The Big Day at all? It’s a real puzzler. After years of intense analysis, literary criticism, cryptological reasoning, readings and rereadings, cross-references, footnotes, and book groups, it’s safe to say, we don’t know Jack.
"By the way, babe, what did you say your name was?"