(Modified monologue – inserted in frame)
Rick was always the man that sat in the corner of the bar, drinking one and a
half beers a night before going home. He was too well dressed for a place like
The Red Baron, which always put other people off. We speculated that he had a
Being as nosy as I am, I could not resist the temptation to ask him one day on a slow night, even though Tommy the Bartender glared at me to keep away. Tommy didn’t want to lose the one patron that gave his little tavern some class.
When I offered to buy Rick a beer, he looked at me as if studying me for flaws, and apparently satisfied, agreed.
When I asked him about himself, Rick smiled, and then started talking, handing me a parable rather than an explanation.
“I didn’t think it would happen to me, despite what the statistics said,” the
man told me, sipping his beer slowly, carefully patting away from the foam from
his upper lip. “My friends warned me about it, citing every myth about going
He gave a short snort of a laugh.
“I didn’t listen. I figured if I could survive
The gun was one point but the unreality of it another, me standing watching it happened, knowing it was as much a part of city life as buying the newspaper or catching the subway. I wasn’t supposed to stop it. I was supposed to let it happen.
“Afterwards I felt stupid, trying to explain it all to the police, unable to say whether the man was white or black, or even if there really was a gun. They weren’t exactly cold about it, just unsympathetic, taking the facts down as if it all was routine for them as I suppose it was. It happened so often to make it all seemed routine.
it wasn’t routine for me. I felt empty and embarrassed, as if the mugger
had walked off with more than just my wallet. I wondered how I was going
to go back to
I got through it. I got home, did the endless repetition of tale telling
which graphically depicted the event in no way the police had only taken it
down his facts. It seemed it was rehearsal for the courtroom, though in
truth the odds against finding the man were so remote, I didn’t put much weight
on it. I left the whole thing to die its natural death, covering up the
discomfort of the talk with the aid of clownish behavior, often exaggerating
the offense depiction into farce. And then when it was all nearly over I
got a phone call from the police. They wanted me to come back into the
city to see if I could identify the mugger, apparently they had defied the odds
and blasted someone. Maybe I should’ve told them to forget it. I
didn’t want to go into
“No shell shock is a better word, looking over my shoulder, waiting for the hand to strike in some new face to ask me for my money. But it was the old face I saw in the lineup. Less haunting and terrible as my imagination had made it. Smug, yes, but rather pathetic, to. Like those self-deluded tough guys in high school who no one takes too seriously, doing bigger and more foolish acts until they finally do what it takes to make the big-time and go to jail. I pointed my finger and went home, but I knew I would have to go back again later many times, and pictured myself telling and retelling my tale the way I had with my friends.
“Only I never quite got a chance to say anything, I went there all right, suffering through the various machinations, through the cancellations and the postponements, losing work to see justice done. But each time I was sent home before I could speak my peace. Sure, I could’ve written it out in a deposition, but it seemed the court already had too many documents of that ilk, which told only of the facts, and not the feelings of the crime. It didn’t seem adequate to the sense of violation I felt as if the mugger had not just stolen time and money but had stepped inside me and rooted through the dusty draws cluttered closets of my life, leaving what had been an organized chaos in shambles in shame. I needed to say this for myself one human to another. But as I said I never got the chance. The man, mother, rapist, pathetic villain coped some lower plea and was off to jail.
Just like that. No one say anything to me. No one asking me if I thought this was appropriate or right. No one ever look to me twice as I shuffled out of the court room, as confused as I had been after the mugging, and doubly ashamed.
why I eventually went into law. That’s why I work as a prosecutor in
Rick never said why he came to the Red Baron each night before going off to his
home, most of the boys in the bar presumed the worst, and kept their talk low
whenever he was in the bar. No one every messed with him, not even the toughest
of motorcycle thugs. Most figured with a chip like that on his shoulder, the
man might just decide to get even with us for the two muggings he’d suffered
one from the creep in
Me, I just kept buying him beers. I figured a little insurance couldn’t hurt.