Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tarquin Rises Up

A small, skinny bald-headed fucker listening to tunes on his iPod and carrying a laptop carry bag came looking for me at the place I was having breakfast. It was kind of my local, where I ate once or twice a week, and the staff knew me and could almost predict my order. Call it my comfort zone in the morning before I faced the day. It was not the place I wanted to have to dodge anyone much less someone who was there specifically for me.

The baldy came in, looked around, walked past me to the back and then turned around and came to a stop in front of me. I had just scooped up a forkful of perfectly scrambled eggs. He put down the laptop bag and removed the earpieces from his ears. He was bald simply because he'd shaved his head and, if I were any connoisseur of male pattern baldness, that he would soon be hairless for real. In a freaky kind of way he resembled Moby the American musician who once was a punk and then became a guru of electronic beats. The look could have been cultivated. Maybe he liked the idea of people doing a double take when they saw, wondering whether he was not perhaps that famous guy.

Baldy stared at me. I chewed my eggs.

"Hey," he said.

"Hi," I said. I gave him the raised eyebrow of 'can I help you, fucker?' but this did not deter him.

"I'm Craig", he said.

I was very happy for him.

"Craig," he said again as if I had not heard him the first time.

"Hello, Craig. Was there something?"

My eggs were getting cold so I had another mouthful while I waited for Craig to alert me to his mission status. He may have beamed in from Planet Bald-headed Freak for all I knew. I wondered what he had been listening to on his iPod. Maybe he was not only a Moby lookalike but perhaps he also only dug the guy's music.

"Are you still up for the thing?"

The Thing? The Marvel anti-hero from the Fantastic Four comic book? Or was it a thing in the sense you always hear Mob guys refer to the movies when they want to be clear as mud?

"Please sit down, Craig, have some coffee or something. Then you can tell me all about it."

"I don't like coffee. The thing ... are you in?"

In or out, out or in. Why must there always be this dichotomy of choice spelt out in direct opposites? Craig seemed like an overly serious and obsessed individual. Moby is or was a Vegan and I think Vegans are kind of kinky in the weird eating habits they have. It's not like I am a voracious omnivore but I do like my food non-organic and fattening at times.

"Look, mate, I do not know you. I do not know anything about your thing and I don't think I care too much about it either. What is your thing?"

Maybe his thing was nude disco dancing or steroid enhancement.

Craig was not a happy Craig. He was meeting resistance he had apparently not foreseen, which is strange considering that he was confronting a total stranger with some total crap question. I suddenly wondered whether this was an attempt at picking me up. Craig, you are just not my type, my dear. I prefer them slightly more hairy and voluptuous.

"Are you Carl?" Craig asked.

"I am not," I said, for I was not. "I believe you might have the wrong number."

"Why the fuck are you wearing a black T-shirt?"

Now, now, Craig, what has that got to do with anything? Of course I wear black T-shirts. All of the T-shirts I own are black in colour, okay, by now some of them are close to grey, but they were all black once. Maybe Craig is the Fashion Mafia representative in these parts. Guilty as charged. I wear black T-shirts. I guess I will soon be sleeping with the fishes.

"This is my fashion statement for the day," I said. "Life is bleak and tomorrow we die, or our loved ones die. I am a Black Metal fan. Back in Black by AC/DC is my favourite album. Paint it Black is my favourite grim yet catchy Rolling Stones tune. Black Consciousness is my favourite political movement. Enough reasons for you, Craig?"

"I'm supposed to meet Carl here and he'll be wearing a black T-shirt."

"I guess he is not here yet. I haven't seen anyone else in here with a black T-shirt while I've been here. Maybe he is running late, or was way too early for you. Sorry, kid, I am the best I can do for you at the moment. Pull up a chair, have something to drink that is not coffee and we can talk some more."

"Fuck, no," Craig said. "Weirdoes like you freak me out."

Craig re-inserted the headphone earpieces in his ears, took his laptop bag and went to a table at the rear where he set up his laptop and started messing about on it. He completely ignored me now. I finished my eggs and ordered a café latté and sat staring off into the middle distance for a while.

Just as I was about to drain the last of the coffee from my mug a tall, tubby guy in a black T-shirt and baggy shorts came in and sat down at a table between me and Craig who looked up and immediately perked up. My guess was that this new arrival could well be the hitherto mythical Carl. He looked like a parody of a heavy metal drummer with a long ponytail of dark hair and a stupid cap.

Craig got up and went over to the new guy and spoke softly to him. This trick worked. The two of them exchanged exuberant handshakes and the new guy followed Craig to his table where they sat hunched up around the laptop and talked softly amongst themselves. They ordered health juices from the waitress.

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