Absolut Lion

I climbed down from my barstool, prepared to concede the rest of my manhattan to the lion.  My date was 50 minutes late and officially AWOL.  I stood, waiting for the bar to clear out, letting the panicked crowd clear the way.  As Bellyburst rushed off I saw she’d wet her pants. 

I expected to see Brad in the company of Bellyburst but instead he was marshalling his forces behind the bar.  This was his bar and he wouldn’t abandon it, not without a fight.  With furious intent he tested the weight of a half-full vodka bottle (Brad was an optimist).   

I slid toward the exit, hoping to flank the lion and slip out unseen.  From behind me I heard a grunt and then a bottle went spinning through the air.  The bottle—a fifth of Absolut—landed five feet in front of the lion, splintering to pieces on the white marble floor.  I admired Brad’s moxie but he needed to work on his aim.

The lion continued in our direction, and after nearly being tagged by a full bottle of vodka he’d grown agitated.  Absolut Lion.  I heard Brad oh-fucking again, preparing to toss another bottle.  I didn’t feel like entertaining Brad’s death wish so I continued my retreat, but something—masochism, a death wish, morbid fascination at Brad’s plight—held me up at the exit. 

The lion didn’t seem to notice me.  His eyes fixed on Brad.  With a growl the considerable feline announced his intentions.  Brad made another desperate heave, this time a bottle of Quervo.  Strike two.

I took one last look at Brad.  He had opted for a smaller projectile and now held a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  I called out in appreciation. 

‘Good luck!’ 

I don’t know if Brad heard me.  The lion perked his ears and stopped advancing and looked with idle curiosity in my direction. 

Brad took advantage of the distracted lion.  When he threw, he threw hard, letting out a final desperate cry.  The bottle exploded at the lion’s feet, eliciting a yelp.  Homerun.  The lion came scampering out of the bar, head low, embarrassed.  He’d gotten caught right on the nose.  I saw blood drip on the white marble.  The lion stopped and turned back to Brad.  Another bottle of Sam Adams came hurling out of the dark bar, striking at the lion’s feet.  The lion scampered back a few yards further before turning to face the bar.  I heard a final oh-fuck from Brad and saw his shadow duck into a back room.  A door slammed behind him.  He must have realized that eventually he’d run out of bottles.

Without Brad as prey the lion was bored, listless—Existential Lion.  Too distracted to flee, I stood at the center of the white marble lobby, watching and waiting.   I knew I should run or at least get away but my curiosity took control.  I stood still and watched the forlorn lion, twenty yards distant, as he licked his paw and rubbed at his nose.  The lobby was quiet and otherwise deserted.  Even the gamblers had known when to fold ’em. 

I considered the possibility that I’d be gored.  What a mess it would make.  Blood all over the white marble floor.  They’d have to close down the casino to clean up and it would cause a public relations disaster.  Would anyone know who I was?  Doubtful.  It was better if my friends never found out I ended up as cat food.  Better to fade away, only remembered during Spartan drinking binges, when my absence would be noted.  ‘Who was that guy,’ they’d say.  ‘Lived with the mannequins and the stoners.  What ever happened to him, anyway?’ 

‘Hey, if I get eaten at least I won’t have to make up any more excuses about why I don’t want to get married,’ I said out loud. 

The lion was happy to help me escape my relationship.  He’d finished licking his paw and was now watching me.  He got back on all fours and began to pad in my direction. 

‘I think I’m going to eat you now,’ he said.

‘Why do you want to do that,’ I said. 

‘What difference does it make?’

‘I suppose you’re right.’ 

‘I’ll let you go but only if you go home.  Mississippi is no place for you.’  His mane bristled.

‘I don’t catch your meaning.  My whole family’s from Mississippi.’

‘But your whole past is in California.  And, if you so choose, your wholel future. Explain that.’

‘I had to leave all that behind if I wanted to get to the bottom of this damn family mystery.’

‘What role do you have other than causing trouble?’

‘What do you know about it?  My motives are my own.’

‘Maybe you’re right.  I’m just a lion.’

‘Yeah this talking-lion shit is no good.  Get back to the basics.’

‘Fine, I’ll just eat you then.  I’m hungry as hell.’   The lion grinned and I could see his long white teeth.

‘I have a low pain threshold.’ 

‘Too late for that—I gave you a chance.’

I spent the moment before the lion reached me wondering what Helen would say at the funeral. 


The bold voice froze the lion mid-step.  I could have kicked the panting beast in the head.  I saw his feline eyes fix on something behind me.  I turned and saw a short bearded man wearing a red, double-breasted jacket, tan pants that flared at the hips, black boots, and a black top hat.  He held a whip in his right hand, which he cracked with authority as he marched toward us.  He was thin-faced and bearded with prominent cheek bones.  Close-set eyes glared down a Cyrano de Bergerac nose.  He spoke with an unspecified Eastern-Block accent. 

‘Come, Tristan,’ he said to the lion.  ‘Come to Fuco.’  The lion—Tristan—obeyed, prancing past me to meet his tamer halfway.  Tristan sank to his haunches and extended his head for a pet.  Fuco scratched the golden chin and began to whisper in the lion’s ear. 

I walked toward the odd duo.  Tristan sat, obedient, examining me with a feline detachment.  I wouldn’t really have eaten you.  You just needed a scare.

 ‘This is my Tristan,’ Fuco said by way of explanation.  ‘My child of sorrow.  His parents were killed by poachers.  Tristan witnessed their death.  That is why he is this way.  He is my little brat.  I have others who are better behaved.  Tristan—he is the joker.  He cannot be serious about anything because the serious makes him sad.  But he is young still.  He thinks he is King of the Jungle.  Ha!  He is not even King of His Cage.  Give him a chance and he takes charge, but he is a scaredycat.  He knows Fuco is really in charge.  But I see you are confused, my friend.  We have a show next weekend.  Fuco the Magnificent.  In the main auditorium.  We were rehearsing.  Tristan snuck away while I attended Brünnhilde.’


‘The ape.  She is my princess, my oldest daughter, my inspiration.  Fuco the Magnificent would be only Fuco the Great without Brünnhilde.’  I nodded, still confused. 

‘Well I’m Jackson Calvert.’

‘My friend.’  Fuco affectionately gripped my right hand with both of his hairy mitts.  ‘I am Fuco.  Let me show you the circus.’


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