Author's note: Sandy Martino and Shoofly should have written this. It was their idea. And Tippi gave me a line. (Okay, I stole it. Maybe she'll come over and beat me up. Hmmm?) Sandy says she's not a poet, and I'm not either, so don't blame Lacroix for the drivel at the end. The Beat, Beards and Berets Why had Nicholas asked him to meet him in this beastly, tedious place? The poets were pretentious, the music, such as it was (bongos (bongos! What a ludicrous word) and a flute), simply hashish inspired meanderings. Actually, he had spent some time in other ... beatnik establishments. The women tended to be freer here, more inclined to enjoy the advances of a ... strange man. The late '40s, early '50s had shown a distressing tightening of the American moral character. At least outwardly. The crowd, lounging at their tiny, invariably teetering tables, snapped their fingers as the latest poet, at last, brought his saga to a close. Trying for a Ginsbergian Howl, it had come out more a whimper. Lacroix chased the melting ice around his scotch on the rocks with one finger. Finally, he felt Nicholas enter the establishment and he looked up to impatiently watch his son cross the room, weaving his way gracefully through the crowd. The boy wore a black turtle neck and trousers much like his own. As was almost every man in the place. He found it typically mortal that a group of people attempting to express their own individuality wore a uniform. Nicholas was sporting a beard, quite charming really, closed clipped and pointed. Much like that Raleigh fellow, oh, just a few centuries ago. He was still trying to decide whether to shave off his own goatee. Last week a woman had told him it made him look like the Devil. She had certainly seemed to relish the image, he remembered with a smile, but he wondered if other women found it off-putting. Sometimes there was no fathoming the feminine mind. Such as it was. Nicholas flung himself into the chair across from him, of course bumping the table and slopping the scotch. Nick tossed a flat, black circle of cloth at him and Lacroix plucked it deftly from the air. "Here, daddy-o. You need one of these," he declared with his impish grin. Lacroix studied the object, a beret, with some distaste and contemplated wiping up the scotch with it. Instead he said, "How thoughtful, Nicholas. And it isn't even my birthday." Nicholas leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table and slopping the scotch again. "Isn't this a great place?" "If you like being bored to tears." "Yeah, well, some nights are better than others," said Nicholas, peering though the haze of cigarette smoke at the woman with long stringy blond hair whining into the microphone. "Did you want something from me or is dragging me into this place a not so subtle form of revenge for some imagined wrong." "Actually," Nicholas said, looking down at his hands. He was fiddling with his fingers again. Tiresome habit. "Actually, I wanted to ask you something." "About?" Lacroix prodded impatiently. "Janette." "Janette." Lacroix lifted an eyebrow. "The person you should be asking about Janette is Janette." "Well," Nicholas confessed miserably, "she isn't speaking to me." "Ah." "Do -- do you know why?" "Well, Nicholas, perhaps you should think back. Is there anything you have or have not done lately that Janette might take offense at?" "No. No, in fact, I just sent her this great book, _On the Road_ by Jack Kerouac. It's one of those books that really make you think ... what? What?" Lacroix couldn't contain himself. He laughed in Nicholas's little boy bewildered face. "Nicholas, she _detests_ the man. She met him last summer and let's just say he did not make a good impression." Wiping his eyes with one knuckle, he continued, "And you know how she is when she perceives a woman wronged. He abandoned his wife and children for his little road trip. Really, Nicholas. To send her that book with glowing recommendations. Hee, hee, hee." He mopped his eyes with the beret. "Lacroix, what am I going to do?" "Well, you could always grovel. Groveling is good." "Grovel. Yeah, I can do that." Nicholas's brow furrowed as he began reviewing his groveling skills. "Well, now that that's solved, I'm leaving. I'm hungry." Lacroix stood and placed the beret at a jaunty angle on his head. He took his dark glasses out of his coat pocket and put them on. Then he strode up to the microphone, which had just been abandoned by the whining woman. He gave the bongo player, sitting cross-legged on the floor a not too gentle kick. Snapped rudely out of his hashish haze, he squinted up with blood shot eyes at the tall man leaning over him. Lacroix slid his glasses down his nose, peered at the man over their rims and said, "You will be silent." The man's hands, moving automatically on the drum heads, became still. The flautist received similar treatment. Idle chatter among the crowd ceased as Lacroix stood radiating darkness on the make-shift stage. Into silence Lacroix spoke, savoring his own words as they fell from his lips. "Seeing, hearing, touching Nothing Empty Fleeting Fading ghosts I hear you on my tongue Chemistry fizzles, baby Falls flat We talk I'm talking to the air A scent sometimes Faded roses But I hear you on my tongue Your blood sings to me Sings through me All else Is silence I hear you on my tongue." No fingers snapped as he walked out of the club. But three women followed him into the dark night.
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Most recent revision Friday, June 21, 1996