Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ category

Don Flamenco

March 23, 2008

One of the few Nintendo games I ever beat, back in the day, was Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. It’s still on my list of favorite games and I would probably play the hell out of it now, if I could get my hands on it. In the game, there are many colorful characters, but one stands out above the rest. His name is Don Flamenco. Don wore a wispy scarf and tiptoed around the ring with a rose in his mouth. Was this a gay Nintendo character? I have no idea, and as a kid, I never even noticed. Don was just another crazy character in a lineup of crazy characters. Ah, to be young and naive again. Could Nintendo get away with having such a strong homosexual stereotype portrayed now? Probably not. But I do know, or at least I believe, that it wasn’t a frivolous or baseless stereotype. Because, you see, I met the real Don Flamenco, in a seedy little bar in the middle of Japan.

Before I get to it, I would like to preface this story with a little background. If you had read “The Easiest Money”, you might just know a little about the bar I used to frequent quite often. For the first six months of my first year here in Japan, I never went out except to go to work. I would just go home to my cockroach-infested apartment and read. Sometimes I would try to watch some Japanese baseball on the telly, but there’s only so much bunting to advance the runner a guy can take. One day, my friend Paul called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to the bar.

How did you make friends if you never went out?, you might ask. I have no obligation to answer your petty questions, but I will anyway. It was Paul’s job I took when I came over from America. Not only was his contract not renewed, but Paul was also forced by the company to show me the ropes. He could have been swearing at me the whole time, but luckily Paul was from Manchester, England, so I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. I think he liked me though, so he called me.

We went to a foreigner’s bar called “Hunter”, and had a blast. After that first night, a breaking of the seal, if you will, took place. I went to the bar almost every night for the next year. Within two months of my introduction to Hunter Bar, I was playing guitar every Thursday night, making some good coin, and meeting some good friends. And that leads me into the story.

Hunter bar was like any other dive in any other city. Islands of yellow light shines on the green felt of the two lop-sided pool tables, surrounded by dark booths and cast-iron benches. And in the far corner, next to the karaoke machine, was a little alcove where I sat and played my heart out. Usually my friends would come out and give a listen, although, because the were from various countries like New Zealand and Australia, they would inevitably call out Crowded House or Midnight Oil for me to play.

So, on this particular evening, I could tell when I first entered the building that it would be a slow kind of night, the kind where I could play just about anything and get piffling applause at best. It didn’t matter to me though. I had already downed my four shots of tequila. (After four shots, I sing like a god, after five, they need a forklift to get me off of the floor.) And I was getting paid, if they paid attention or not. I played my first set, mixing in some Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Bob Marley. Every once in awhile, someone one would sing out with me, but overall it was turning out to be a nice and quiet gig. How deceived I was.

My second set started up with some old-school Creedance. Up tempo, with a beat you could really bug out to. And that’s when Don stepped in front of me. There was no rose in his mouth, but everything else was the same. The scarf, the tiptoes. But the most amazing thing was he was actually dancing the Flamenco to CCR. It would have been laughable if he wasn’t so damn good. Twirls and hand claps, stomping off beat. It really was an amazing thing to watch, and the whole bar, which had filled up since my first set finished, turned to watch this man dance in front of me. He was alone. No one else dared join him and look like a fool.

I looked around at all of the faces in the bar. Mostly drunk and happy souls. Alright, I thought, this is a bit weird, but people seem to be enjoying it. That’s when I felt a little tug at my ankle. I didn’t want to, but I looked down, and there was Don Flamenco looking back up at me with “come hither” eyes as he placed three, thousand-yen bills into my left sock. He stood up and walked towards the bar, turning around once to give me a wink. And that was the last time I saw Don Flamenco alive.

But the story doesn’t end there, as much as many of you would like it to. It was such a surreal scene that I felt I needed another shot of tequila.

But Schmeichel, you may ask, wouldn’t that push you over your limit? Yes, yes it would, and it did.

How were you able to finish your set? Stupid pride. You see, after I set my guitar down, I walked over to Jason and one of my other friends, Darren. Darren was on the floor, under the bench, laughing so hard tears were rolling down his cheeks. Jason just held his face in his hands, eyes wide and unblinking through his fingers.

“Not a fucking word,” I said, pointing at both of them. This seemed to be the proverbial pin in the balloon, as Jason burst out laughing, spit flying through his fingers, some of it hitting Darren on the cheek. I had to get back on stage and finish it, just to shut those two up.

I don’t remember much after that, but I do recall my two friends, Jason and Darren, periodically dropping ten yen coins into my socks.

Bastards.

The next day I was all too lucky to wake up with a clear head, and only an 62% memory recovery of the night before. As I rode my bicycle into town, I saw my private dancer, Don Flamenco’s face plastered across telephone polls and community bulletin boards across the city. I smiled then, and thought about the evening before. So what’s the moral of the story?

I don’t really know. But I guess it would be something like this: Although it was awkward at the time, how many of us can say we had the chance to play for a professional flamenco dancer? At least it wasn’t Mike Tyson.

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A Cold October Night

October 31, 2007

Again, I felt the soft words stick and move behind my eyes but I could never quite see or recognize. A silent moon glared at me through it’s close-shaved halo. The stone bridge was slippery and she had to hold onto my elbow as we crossed.

“What does cool have to do with it?”

“I don’t know. It just does.” I said, “and if you’d only open your eyes, you would see.”

“My eyes are open.” she replied, staring saucer-eyed like a zombie; a beautiful black-haired, blue-eyed zombie. “Intimidation is not cool. I wish you would have told me this earlier.” We stopped on the other side. She let go of my elbow with a little squeeze.

“How do I tell you, the strongest woman I have ever met, that you intimidate me?” She just shrugged her shoulders. The moon shimmered in small circles on the surface of the water. I stared at it for awhile, until it’s brightness blotted out all other details. I knew that if I got the courage to look up into her face, her eyes would be gleaming just like the water-moon.

“Are you cold? You didn’t bring a jacket.” I still couldn’t look up at her.

“If I were, I’d tell you. And I don’t own a jacket.” She shivered a little. “You know, you really scared me back there.” She said, peeking over her left shoulder.

“What? That whole thing about arms floating down the river? I don’t think anything scary is going to float down that river.” She was holding my arm again. “The only thing you have to be scared about,” I looked to my left, then around her to my right, “are the Hill people. and they only come out when there’s a ring around the… Oh.” I looked up slowly and cautiously.

“Stop it.” She said, with a smile.

“Alright. I’m cold now. Can I have your jacket?” She ducked down, using my body as a wall against the strengthening wind.

“Of course. Keep it. You need it more than I do.” We started walking again. The wind was strong and bitter and we still had a long walk ahead of us, but I’d never felt warmer.

“Hey,” she said, “I’m hungry. Want to go to Taco Bell?” I turned to see her looking all sly.

“How do you do that?”

“What?”

“How can you read my mind so quickly? We’ve only really known each other for a few hours.” I really wanted to know. It was a question that had been poking at me like a broken rib all evening.

“I’ve known you since the beginning of time. Didn’t you know that? Haven’t you realized? ” She said, as if I were the dumb and blind one she had to lead.

“Yeah. I guess I have.”

She placed her golden lips on my blushing cheek and said, “Good. Now let’s go get us some burrito supremes.”

– Halloween was never a very important date for me. Sure, I loved stealing candy from my brother and sister for months afterward, but it was just a sweeter version of any other ordinary day. Now it is one of my favorites. Although this true story actually took place at the beginning of May, 1993, it’s a cold October night here in Japan. Happy birthday, Sara. I hope that someday you get to read this. For everyone else, Happy Halloween.