Chapter 6 – Politics

“I’ve been thinkin’,” said Bandolero, looking cautiously at Blacky. He never knew how Blacky would react to thinking. Blacky wasn’t big on thinking. He preferred doing, as a general rule.

“‘Bout what?” asked Blacky cautiously. He never knew whether Bandolero was thinking about something that would never result in anything but more thinking, or about something that might result in doing. He had special terms for Bandolero’s propensity to think too much: anythink and nothink. Sometimes at a bar or a campsite or a bank they were robbing he would point at Bandolero and whisper to anyone close enough to hear, “He’s anythinking again.” “What do you think he’s anythinking about?” that person would ask cautiously, not knowing what it meant. “Nothink!” Blacky would exclaim and indulge in a fit of laughter until he noticed that the person had a blank look on his face because he didn’t get it. “Idjit,” Blacky would mutter.

“Politics,” answered Bandolero.

Startled by the directness of Bandolero’s answer, Blacky snapped his head so he could look directly at Bandolero and perhaps fathom if he was serious. This was something new. He had never before snapped his head like that, and it caused the previously unnoticed and undiagnosed yet progressive degenerative arthritis in his cervical spine to bark a painful protest.

“Damn!” shouted Blacky.

“Whoa!” responded Bandolero. “What’s wrong with thinkin’ ’bout politics?”

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” screamed Blacky in agony.

“I guess this isn’t a good time to discuss politics,” suggested Bandolero.

“Holy mother of Christ!” exclaimed Blacky.

“Okay! Okay!” said Bandolero. “We can talk about it later!”

Meanwhile, Dandy, who was usually slow on the draw when it came to divining the meaning of conversations between Bandolero and Blacky (which in fairness could be said about most people), after watching Blacky intently during the apparent dialog between him and Bandolero had, surprisingly, divined the cause of his outbursts.

“You want a cold compress or a warm towel?” he asked.

“Whiskey!” demanded Blacky. “Gimme whiskey!”

“That’s not going to solve anything,” offered Bandolero, still ignorant of the real cause of Blacky’s outbursts and thinking he just wasn’t in the mood to discuss politics.

“The hell it ain’t, you ignernt sumbitch!” yelled Blacky, unaware that Bandolero was still talking about politics and was ignorant of the real cause of Blacky’s outbursts.

“Well, that’s just like you,” retorted Bandolero. “You always think alcohol is the answer to everything.”

This was actually an unfair characterization on Bandolero’s part. Blacky turned to illicit drugs as often as he turned to alcohol when searching for answers to life’s problems and, indeed, for the meaning of life itself.

“That’s unfair,” injected Smitty, who had been silent up to this point. “He turns to illicit drugs as often as he turns to alcohol when searching for answers to life’s problems and, indeed, for the meaning of life itself.”

“Got safe me!” screamed Blacky.

“What?” asked Dandy and Smitty in unison, with confused looks alternately directed at each other and at Blacky.

“He meant God save me,” muttered Bandolero who, after years on the trail and on the run with Blacky was familiar with several of the word transitions that sometimes afflicted him under conditions of extreme duress.

“What?” asked Blacky, Dandy and Smitty.

“God save me!” yelled Bandolero, believing they had not heard him and that he needed to raise his voice in order to be heard over Blacky’s outbursts.

“That’s what I said,” said Blacky, thinking that Bandolero was mocking him, adding, “And you freakin’ retorted me again! You know I hate being retorted!”

“What?” asked Bandolero, having forgotten his retort.

“I daresay y’all have got off on the wrong foot,” offered the stranger sitting alone at the table in the darkest corner of the bar, leaning back on two legs of his chair with one boot propped on top of the table for balance. Only strangers who didn’t know better sat at this table which was perpetually off balance due to the unequal length of its legs, or perhaps due to the warped floorboards it was set on, nobody ever really cared enough to analyze the problem or fix it. He held a whiskey bottle in one hand, because it would fall over sooner or later if set on the table top. In his other hand he held a Peacemaker, a name well known in the West, but known in the East as a Shotglass.

All eyes, being those of Bandolero, Blacky, Dandy, Smitty, the bartender, the waitress (who would in later years be referred to as the server), several other bar patrons, and a fellow who had just entered with six cases of beer precariously balanced on a dolly, having illegally parked out front instead of the alley to make his beer delivery, turned in unison in the direction of the voice that sounded like it had come from the dark corner, squinting in a coordinated effort to pierce the darkness and discern the stranger whose voice had come from that general direction.

Silence permeated the room like the odor of a huge fart that results from the consumption of three bean burritos and four beers with rum chasers interspersed with Slim Jims and jalapeños and overwhelms an unventilated room such as the bar in which our heroes had been discussing politics and the meaning of life.

“What was that you said, stranger?” asked Bandolero.