Avee Chaudhuri : The King Under the Mountain (fiction)
Southern Legitimacy Statement: I spent some time in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I have made tasso from scratch, or at least been heavily involved in the process, even once arbitrating a disagreement as to whether or not our curing salt ought to be nitrite-free. I do not remember which side prevailed. I have taught Cajuns how to make curry, and in turn have been taught how to make butter beans. I have also gotten very drunk a hundred yards away from the Intracoastal Waterway, down in Cameron Parish. The IW was expanded during World War II, so that merchant maritime traffic could avoid German U-Boats in the Atlantic. The friend I was drinking with at the time remarked, “Remember when this country got shit done.”
The King Under the Mountain
I walk into a bar in Lake Charles around 10:30 on a Friday morning, and the bartender, this long waisted, fearsome son of a bitch says, “We don’t want your kind here.”
I shout back: “My kind, what do you mean, exactly? Brown People? Someone who looks like an off-duty ISIS field commander?”
The bartender is shocked to hear this. “Whoa buddy,” he says. “This is post-racial America. Maybe not in the rest of Louisiana. But here in this bar, in my bar, of which I am sole proprietor, I am an enlightened despot and I don’t see color or creed. Admittedly, homosexuals make me uncomfortable and transsexuals, especially their women, keep me up at night with strange lustful thoughts which turn to self-loathing, but I would never refuse service to anyone based on the color of their skin, or their infatuations, or their gods.”
“Well then why can’t I come in here for a drink?” I ask. “For Christ’s sake, it’s 10:30 in the morning. Who’s going to make daddy a drink?”
“I don’t want to serve you because you’re vain. I saw you linger in the parking lot and check your reflection in the driver’s side window of your car, to make sure your hair falls perfectly on your shoulders. What kind of degenerate narcissist are you?”
“Now wait one fucking second,” I reply “You hold on, sir! I’m not vain. Even if I were checking my hair, you’re going to carelessly extrapolate that one moment into an entire character flaw? What if I’m just having a lousy week and my stocks are plummeting and my girlfriend has left me for a Pentecostal preacher? And what if I just need a little pick me up, so I check out my hair after a bumpy drive down the causeway, in order to assure myself that at least one thing is going adequately for me?”
The bartender admits, “you’re right, I’m sorry. I pulled the trigger a little too quick on that one.”
“Besides,” I say, “I wasn’t even checking my hair. I was checking for spinach in my teeth.”
“Spinach in your teeth?” asks the bartender.
“Yeah, I had a spinach pie for breakfast. A big one.”
“That’s an odd breakfast choice,” the bartender says.
“I’m incredibly constipated,” I reply. “I need all the fiber I can get.”
“Well then you shouldn’t be drinking,” the bartender tells me. “For regular bowel movements, you need to drink plenty of water in addition to increasing your fiber intake. Whiskey and beer are not your friends in this situation.”
“Well, I drove all this way. I’ll have one whiskey,” I say.
“No,” the bartender says, firmly. “I don’t want you in my bar with a gut full of spinach and no water, stinking up the place with your flatulence and your constipated self-pity. I definitely don’t want your kind here. You go home and drink some water and eat some granny smith apples.”
“How dare you, you think just because you’re older than me you can boss me around. Oh, here comes Odin. Here comes Abraham!”
“Goddamn you, always trying to create strife where none exists. It has nothing to do with your relative youth. It is sound medical advice, offered in fellowship and peace. Are you always such an agent of chaos? Does the booze prevent these outbursts of yours and make you more sociable?”
“What if I have a few glasses of water here, then may I have some whiskey?” I ask, trying to compromise.
“No, you may not. I have a reputation to keep up in this place, as a dive bar full of hard drinkers who are wistful and lovely, with creased faces and grandchildren and tales of deflowering young virgins and giving those young virgins personal loans to start paddle board yoga studios, out on the Atlantic. You can’t be seen just drinking water in my establishment. That is asinine.”
“Fine,” I say. “I am going home to chug gallons of water and eat a lot of granny smith apples, and perhaps some other fibrous seasonal fruits. And when I have pissed torrentially and clear and have voided my bowels completely, to the extent that you could store the Hope Diamond in my rectum and when removed it will still shine brightly without a film of fecal matter to mitigate its brightness, its offering of beauty and symmetry to an insipid and cruel world never more radiant, when I have met these criteria, I am going to return here to triumphantly have a whiskey.”
“And I will be waiting with a chalice of bourbon and a golden comb and I shall untangle your locks,” says the bartender, “like the King Under the Mountain.”