MARCH 16, 2008

The mornings begin pre-dawn with the loud hoot of the foghorns as the ships come in through dense seasonal fog. After a brief dockwalloper here, the high winds have pushed all the wet clouds away, leaving chill sunshine. The Snow Bunny report returns continuous nighttime temps below freezing in all areas with daytimes rising no greater than 48 degrees. Rain is forecast for Mount Shasta early in the week.

Down along the Jack London the evening train has been howling much as usual as it passes through along the estuary to points south and east.

All day Saturday, Lionel -- having recovered from the St. Valentine's day debacle -- did brisk business selling green bratwursts at the Pampered Pup on Park Street and the annual parade went off without a hitch in Babylon despite the fact some religious hardcases had stuck some kind of Ramadan-like fast-thing in the middle of the weekend, and walked about exhorting temperance on St. Paddy's day.

Temperance on St. Paddy's day? Might as well enjoin the Germans to forswear sauerkraut and sausage. They'll be demanding the swallows to file official flight plans at Capistrano next.

Padraic and Dawn had decorated the Old Same Place quite nicely with cardboard shamrocks, leprechauns and gold pot donation jar for crippled IRA veterans medical bills while Suzie looks fetching in a tam and green miniskirt. It being the Day of the Green, both Padraic and Dawn worked the bar while Suzie waited tables and as the place was hopping with brisk business, raked in the tips.

Tommy and Toby were there, and each wore charming emerald t-shirts, black button-down seaman's trousers, pointy books and -- in token to the North -- orange scarves. Over at the next table, residents of Andre and Marlene's squat all roistered in a game of paper "foosball". Wickiwup, a black setter, set up a little howl and a woof after every touchdown. A rattling and a clattering outside announced the arrival of Susan with Lynette who came in, still wearing their bicycle helmets.

"Nice legs, girl!" Commented Lynette to Suzie. "Y'oughta shuck them cowgirl jeans more often."

"Anybody messes with you, we start by breaking both their arms, Susan said. "Jameson's. On the rocks."

Mr. Howitzer stuck his head in the door, but seeing the crowd and Suzie glaring at him, continued on down to McGrath's where nobody knew him. Those two had been on the outs ever since Suzie's Irish boyfriend had gone back to Wicklow. It's a long story.

A group of Not From Heres occupied another table, sipping their green beers modestly.

Everything was going just grand, when the door opened and a little man about three feet high walked right up to the bar and climbed up on a stool. He wore a trilby that sported a diamond stickpin, was well bewiskered, and otherwise was nattily dressed in a checkered vest, slacks and oxfords. He ordered a beer and a shot. Green beer? None of that crap, he said. ESB. He then set his hat on the bar, revealing a full head of black curly hair.

"What're you lookin' at?" he snapped at Eugene, who sat at the bar next to him.

Eugene was wordless.

In response to Eugene's wordlessness, the little man said, "Hmmph!" and turned back to his beer with a morose expression. He could be heard mumbling to himself and seemed to be a man in a bad way. A strange and terrible power seemed to emanate from his being.

"Where ya from," asked Padraic.

"I am from where a man aint appreciated for his talents, that's where I am from." The stranger said, bitterly.

"I see, and what is it that you do?"

"What do I do?"

"For a living, I mean. "

Before he could answer the little triangle foosball flew from the back table and struck the man square in the back. His eyes opened very wide and he swiveled around on the bar stool. "Who threw that?" snapped the little man.

The room became silent.

The stranger repeated his question.

"Suh . . . suh . . . sorry, " said Occasional Quentin. "It was an accident."

"Say that again?" said the little man.

Occasional Quentin apologized again, then suddenly started babbling, quite outside of himself, as his companions gaped with astonishment, about his failure of a life, his incapacity, his lunacy, his wretched boyhood, his no future existence and the general misery of all things Quentin.

"Is that how you feel?" said the little man.

Quentin's jaw shut with such a snap that the back glasses rattled on their shelves and he said not a word.

The little man repeated his question.

"Yes. Doesn't everyone?" Quentin said meekly.

The stranger climbed down from his barstool, picked up the foosball and, holding it between thumb and forefinger flicked it with the other hand. The wad of paper shot from his hand to the wall, where it rebounded to the bar, striking the donation pot with a solid ring, bouncing from there to the doorhandle only to whiz off that to the center of the dart board and then go cartwheeling once again across the room to ding off of a bottle standing on the table occupied by the speechless Not From Heres and then smack squarely into the forehead of Occasional Quentin before dropping lifelessly to the table there.

The little man stood before Suzie. "You, also, have some issues," he said before bending a tad and putting his hands upon his knees, still looking up at her. Then he stood up and said, before turning to walk back to the bar, "That pattern does not suit you."

"Beg pardon?"

"Black and white polka dots. It does not suit you."

In response, Suzie abruptly pressed down the hem of her miniskirt and turned beet red.

"I'm a performer," he told Padraic. "I do magic."

"I see." Padraic said, heaving a sign of relief.

The little man down his drink with a long swallow, set down his glass with a contented sigh, burped and leaned back with his eyes half closed and a half-smile upon his lips.

Dawn asked him if he wanted another and he shook his head. "We . . . We are peaceful people here, sir." She said, twisting the wedding ring on her finger round and round nervously. "We mean no harm."

"I know," said the stranger. "That's why I came here. To the Golden State. And for the good craig." He then put on his hat and announced, "Well! Time to go."

The little man climbed down from his stool, leaving some dollar bills and coins under his glass and stood in the middle of the room where he performed the following motions.

He sniffed. He straightened his vest. He winked at Suzie. He clapped his hands three times, quite deliberately and stamped his left foot twice.

Just then, the lights went out.

But only for a second or two. During which Suzie was heard to gasp in surprise. When they came back on, there was not a trace to be seen of the stranger and every single person in the room wore a cap of gold. Everyone wore a cap of gold except for Suzie. The caps were the style sometimes called "driving caps" that usually are made of tweed or wool and appeared to be woven of gold fibers and all of them handled these things with amazement while Suzie ran to the restroom.

Dawn buttonholed her behind the bar and the two commenced whispering urgently to each other there.

"Um, next round on the House," Padraic announced, and he set his cap on his head jauntily.

"Gold? Gold?" Dawn said. "How'd he do it?"

"I don't know. It happened so fast."

Gradually, the room regained, save for the sparkling hats, a semblance of normalcy. Dawn's bouffant hairstyle kept making the thing fall onto the bartop, so she hung hers on a peg behind the bar. Occasional Quentin seemed to come out of a daze and he laughed and joked with the others about the little man, but Marlene kept asking him if he was all right. Something did seem to have changed in him.

The Not From Heres table gabbled with intense animation. "This sort a thing never happens in D.C.! Is that what they mean by California having a lot of 'fairies'?" Jab. "Owww! I was just asking a question!"

At the end of the night, after the last customers had left, Suzie toyed with the fronds of a potted narcissus by the window. Swellings foretold future aromatic glories at the tips for it had come to that time of year.

Wiping his hands with the towel, Padraic said, "Are ye still moonin' after that Wicklow lad, now?"

"No. I am over him. As of tonight, I am over all that."

"Ah, you'll get another. No trouble at all. They're all the same. Plenty of fish in that sea. An' yer young yet."

"I know. I feel . . . it will be all right now."

"That's the spirit!" He nodded to Dawn and went out.

Dawn came up to her. "He's such an omadhauen sometimes, that man. He could make a hames out of spinach salad. How ya feeling? Really . . .".

"O I am fine. Really I am. I kinda feel like everything is starting all over again."

Dawn stood up. "Well if gold knickers did that for me, I'd change my entire wardrobe tomorra. Good night and sleep well, child."


"Good night."

Outside, even though the chill of winter still gripped the Island, a freshening wind brought in a balmy air not felt for some time. Early freesias had exploded all along the fence, wafting a pungent scent to her as she walked back to her flat while tall spikes of unknown plants hinted with damp swellings of a glorious green Spring in the moment of arriving each second. Far off, across the water, the train passing through Jack London Square hooted and rumbled.

Inside the dark and shuttered bar a pair of gold hats gleamed from an honored place on a hook beside the big mirror. Beside them hung a gleaming pair of obviously golden underthings. Size six.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.