JUNE 8, 2021



So anyway it came around time for Javier's birthday again. Mindful of the violence of years past, all the Bay Area trauma centers stocked up on gauze, painkiller and sutures and assigned additional staffing to the ERs. The EMT's prepped the ambulances and filled their bags with those 5-hour energy shots. All PTO for the local police departments was canceled as everyone braced for the inevitable and probably explosive celebration of Javier's 63rd birthday.

The gang gathered back on the Island at the Parlor 33 1/3 belonging to the Native Sons of the Golden West since Javier's new whereabouts in Silvan Acres had become public knowledge among his enemies and his paramours, two groups that in his case sometimes became conflated.

At 63 one would think Javier had slowed down his rakish ways. Certainly the much younger Jose implored him to do so, but the old man kept his prescription for Viagra alive along with his dissolute reputation.

"Amigo," Javier would say. "You and all of your friends are decent, hardworking, pious testaments to your several devout abueltas. It remains for me to fulfill the stereotype of the passionate Latino and exhalt the Machismo. I could fix you up with someone quite exciting, Jose. Perhaps Carla. Or Roxanne."

"Roxanne of the double-headed broadax? No I think I would rather keep my cojones safe and warm!"

"Eh, well I plan to use my purring engines of delight as long as I can keep them. To be interesting you have to remain interested, as my friend The Most Interesting Man in the World often said."

Ever watchful for trouble, Pahrump, Denby and Martini posted lookout with walkie-talkies in rotation along the only approach to the Marina. That way they would have a good advance warning should any of Javier's ex-girlfriends show up. If the avenging Valkries closed off the exits, they would escape via the water on Wally's boat. In addition, Martini rigged up defensive IED's at strategic locations. There was also a well-placed tiger-trap. To be used only if necessary.

Denby had invited Patrick and Fatou from work, feeling that perhaps the presence of sensible people would result in a calmer celebration this year. Fatou talked about what it was like to be from Africa to little Adam and his eyes grew as large as saucers.

"Ah, madame, vouz et tray jolie adjourdui," Martini said to Fatou who responded, "Are you trying to speak German to me?"

in memory of the Most Interesting Man in the World

So it came to the late afternoon with the sun setting behind the towers of distant Babylon across the Bay and the boys were having a fine roister with Dos Equis in memory of the Most Interesting Man in the World and tequila and there was a fine chatter and a clatter inside the Parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West and there was all sorts of Feliz Cumpleanos and even a Pinata tied to the tree and someone had brought along a real mule on loan from the Dickenson Ranch. They did not know what to do with the mule exactly so they each took turns riding it around until it decided that it had enough and so refused to take another step further.

Javier gave it some vodka which it seemed to like and its mood did seem to improve according to some people who knew mules.

The mule's name was Tandoori.

Denby had just come in to be relieved by Pahrump on watch duty when he commented, "What's that odd noise?"

Indeed there was a sort of thrumming in the air and a distant "fwoomp! fwoomp! fwoomp!", getting louder.

"That sounds like a whirlybird," Patrick said.

They went outside and looked up to see an helicopter coming in fast.

"Oh no!" Jose said.

"Pahrump! Run for it!" Denby barked into his walkie-talkie. "Now!"

"What is it?" Fatou said.

"Trouble," Denby said. "Run for your life!"

Just as the chopper arrived overhead and three women carrying swords and other implements of destruction descended Special Forces style headfirst on ropes, the water boiled and women emerged wearing scuba outfits and carrying spearguns.

At the same time a speedboat tore into the marina to ram Mr. Howitzer's replacement yacht, The Indomitable II, as that vessel was slowly inching into berth, blocking all possible escape from that direction and the big ship took on water to settle its keel on the bottom. The women aboard the speedboat swarmed the Indomitable II, tying up the captain and taking Mr. Howitzer hostage.

"But I hate these people!", Mr. Howitzer said. "They destroyed my first yacht and they are lower income, despicable bottom feeders to boot.

For answer, Angelica slapped him.

"I say!" said Mr. Howitzer. "I shall sue!"

"We are women in love," Angelica screamed.

Hiding under an overturned rowboat with Denby Fatou asked who these women were.

Former girlfriends and associates, whispered Denby.

Somewhere something exploded. Then followed an awful lot of screaming.

"Why are they after him?"

"I think they are upset in not being invited to the party," Denby said. "And . . ., uh I think they have other reasons as well."

"This seems a rather extreme response to being snubbed," Fatou said. "What else can they want?"

"They want to either kill him, emasculate him, or get him married," Denby said. Which is all the same thing to Javier."

"I think I can speak as a woman that this approach does not bode well for matrimony." She paused for a moment. "You have very odd friends."

After a few more explosions and screaming -- apparently someone fell into the tiger trap -- the welcome sounds of sirens and police radio replaced the sounds of chaos.

The rowboat shelter was abruptly snatched away and Officer O'Madhauen glowered down upon the two.

"Why the hell are you hiding under a rowboat?"

The Indomitable II wallowed in the Marina, rammed by a speedboat. Smoke arose from fires at the Parlor and the trees at Crab Cove. People lay about groaning with terrible wounds. Jose had been impaled with a spearfish barb. Ambulances were arriving to tend to the wounded. Broken glass and blood lay everywhere.

"Cette lokal est tres romantique n'cest pas?" Denby said.

"Are you trying to speak German to the cop," Fatou said. "Your pronounciation is terrible!"

Later on, after the fires had been tamped down, the wounded removed for treatment, the FBI brought in to examine Martini's tiger trap, most of the wreckage removed and Javier once again having gotten clean away without a scratch, the Editor chewed his cigar to consider the involvement of innocent people like Patrick and Fatou. Both of whom returned home vowing to avoid any celebrations that involved Denby ever again.

The Time of the Virus, the Age of COVID, was coming to an end. All the Bay Area Counties were lifting restrictions next week and a terrible time of illness and of self-denial, which some people feel was worse, will terminate.

There will be other pandemics and other lockdowns coming up, for the relentless drive for profit will combine with the desperate usage of things like "bush meat" to release ever more virulent contagion's.

Looking down the rows of desks with their glowing computer screens in an office about to reopen after the long lockdown, the Editor wondered if we have learned anything, anything at all about the need for self-denial on behalf of the greater good when it comes to it, about the realization that the system for public health in country is broken or nonexistent when it comes with the problem of a pandemic and also in other areas.

He returned to his glass cube and the curtains of muttering darkness all around, his desktop pool of light, longing for evidence of a sane, like mind, doing all for Company.