tales of the hotel st crispian, chapter 121: modulations of a bar napkin
by horace p sternwall
illustrated by roy dismas and eddie el greco
editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo
"what are you doing to that poor bar napkin, that never did anything to you?"
rooster had found a pencil stub in his pocket and was scribbling something on a curiously pristine napkin he had found wedged under the jukebox selection in the booth.
"i'm writing a poem, what else would i be doing?"
"writing a suicide note, maybe?" sniffy blew a perfect smoke ring, but it was barely visible in the bar's murk.
"ha ha. that's not funny," rooster replied without looking up.
"you gave your life savings away to those so-called poet clowns and now you decide to write a poem yourself? a little late, isn't it?"
"i was suddenly inspired."
"great. i'm suddenly inspired myself."
"oh?" rooster added a word or two to the napkin.
"i'm inspired to think that maybe our friends the bills aren't going to show up and maybe we should look elsewhere. instead of just sitting here like a couple of cockroaches under a sink."
"well, that was always a possibility. i mean, that's life, isn't it? possibility."
sniffy sighed. "no philosophy, please. check out those idiots over there, will you?"
she looked over at the bar. the irish poet seamas mcseamus, the western poet howard paul studebaker, the nature poet frank x fagan , and the romantic poet hector phillips stone were huddled together. their drink-ravaged faces, barely visible through the smoky haze, were lit up with laughter - laughter tinged with desperation, but laughter all the same.
"can't you see what they are doing?"
rooster followed her gaze. "having a good time, i guess. why begrudge them?"
"they are laughing at you! doesn't that bother you?"
"look, you walk past thousands of people every day. or see them on the subway or in elevators. how do you know what they are thinking when they pass you? any of them could be thinking - that guy looks like a complete idiot - or that girl has no fashion sense at all and should be thrown in the river. and you will never know it. you start caring what people think and you'll go crazy." rooster kept his eyes fixed on the napkin as he delivered this soliloquy.
sniffy blew another smoke ring. "you're hopeless. let's get back to serious business. i think one of us should stay here and wait for the bills and the other go out and try to score someplace else."