Gentleman Dan the Fairing Man showed up to all underground challenges throughout the Chicago area. He was known as the person most likely to keep things fair, thus his nickname. So it was that when word went round a drink-fight would be ensuing, Gentleman Dan donned his top hat, and proceeded to the location of this alcoholic pugilism post-haste! Not only did he wish to enjoy the spectacle, but he knew such contests always required a mediator, someone to act with impartiality. Said referee often finding himself in the good graces of all involved, whether that meant the company of amorous ladies, free drugs, or money.
Gentleman Dan waved his hat to get the crowd’s attention. The steady chatter settled to a low murmur. The two opponents accompanied by their compatriots met in the middle of the bar as Gentleman Dan climbed up top.
The Gentleman produced a coin from his waistcoat pocket. Pointing to Malcolm Brennan he said, “Call it.”
Brennan spat out, “Tails.”
The coin flickered as it spun in the air. Gentleman Dan caught it, held it a moment for dramatic effect then declared Malcolm winner of the coin toss. Half of the crowd erupted with glee while the other half booed. Larry, though, waved the whole matter off. He hadn’t won the first time around, didn’t expect to on this occasion, and that was good. It meant he had a solid idea where things were headed, a chance to move strategically.
Gentleman Dan asked Malcolm for his preference. The king’s neck fat rippled joyfully as he announced, “Burnout.”
The whole room cheered. Jeanie X. grabbed a fire extinguisher, demanding to know what was burning. George C. explained the mistake to her, and she thanked him for being neon penguin shoelaces. Sophie D. rubbed Larry’s shoulders whispering to him, “You got this, you got this…” Marcy sat in a corner alone, watching it all from a distance. She winked at him. It was all he needed.
“Let’s get as think as you drunk I am!” Larry shouted.
Gentleman Dan waited a moment to let the mob roar before gesturing for a bit of silence. When the cacophony died down he announced the rules:
“Ladies and gents, tonight’s pub crawl brawl is a burnout. For those of you tragically unfamiliar with such things, the burnout is a slow and steady battle. It starts out meek, builds to nightmare without warning, and by the end leaves the loser crying in a puddle of his or her own sick.
“Both opponents will be required in the beginning to go through a one, two gauntlet, pint and a shot for a half hour. There is a minimum of at least two before time is up. That means at least two pints and two shots boys, and as soon as you finish one drink you must start another, finishing it before the time limit.”
Someone shouted from the peanut gallery, “Sounds weak!”
Gentleman Dan held up his hands, “Indeed it is, sir, but that’s just for starters. Don’t you know my friend as the night goes on the time limit gets shorter and shorter, the drinks harder and harder? By round fifteen we’ll have these boys slugging rocks glasses full of vodka with Malort chasers, only five minutes to hammer the lot.”
A cheer arose from all assembled. Marcy blew Larry a kiss. Some sad eyed Puerto Rican girl kissed Malcolm on the cheek. The king grabbed her ass, hard enough it seemed to leave bruises in addition to his greasy palm print. She did her best to look pleased.
“In addition,” Gentleman Dan continued, “Each fighter will be allowed one gagger for the whole bout.”
As the Fairing Man elaborated on gaggers Larry kept his head in the game. The point of the gagger was to make the other fighter puke, sort of a knockout punch as it were. Last time Larry used his gagger at the wrong location. It didn’t pack enough punch for the knockout. Worse still it backfired, stirring up his stomach causing him to pop during drink-punches of brandy and root beer Schnapps. Larry lost the drink-fight, but worse than that was the aftermath.
“Are you ready?!” Gentleman Dan bellowed.
“Back out now little man,” Malcolm said.
Larry smiled, “Bartender! First round’s on me.”
The bartender served up overflowing pints of lager. Both men went with whiskey shots to start. Gentleman Dan eyed a pocket watch to get the half hour right down to the second. He counted off – “5, 4, 3…” – the crowd joined him – “2, 1! DRINK-FIGHT!”
Larry tossed his shot into the pint and slammed it all in eleven seconds. Malcolm took his time. Although the crowd cheered for Larry’s epic start, he knew well enough not to keep to such a pace. But this was all part of the strategy. He wanted the king to think he would be an easy defeat. By the end of the first half hour Larry had put away five pints and shots to Malcolm’s three.
“Aaaand time!” Gentleman Dan returned to the top of the bar, “All right boys. Good show, good show,” – the room applauded the contenders – “Now let’s see where we’re off to next.”
He took off his top hat, tossed in a few slips of paper, and had a lovely lady take one at random. She held it up for him to read. The Fairing Man announced the fight would continue at Rose’s, a short two block walk. The crowd poured out of the Lighthouse in a hurry.
At Roses’s Gentleman Dan wrapped an arm around the wide inviting curve of Sophie D.’s hip as he spoke:
“Round two is another half hour, but it is a pure booze battle. No shots, however, you have a half hour to put down at least three Scotch rocks.”
Malcolm frowned, “I thought this was going to be a fight.”
‘Just like last time,’ Larry thought. However, on this occasion he wouldn’t rise to the bait. Last time he let loose with his gagger, the Burnt Mexican Chicken – tequila, whiskey, and the hot sauce. For his plan to work, he needed to wait for the Oasis to get the hottest hot sauce possible.
Larry said, “You talk a big game king, but so far” – he slugged down the two Scotch rocks the bartender had already set for the two opponents – “I ain’t seen a lot to worry about.”
The crowd roared with approval. The king frowned, but he knew not to let the mob get away from him. He ordered a pint glass, filled half way with Scotch, nothing younger than 12 years old. He killed the drink in a steady series of swallows. Settling the empty aside, a touch of drool rolling down his chin, Malcolm leaned closer to Larry:
“I will break you little tramp.”
George C. shouted from the jukebox, “It is indeed on!”
As if on cue, the box blasted out chest rattling bass. The whole room erupted in delight. Marcy removed herself from the edges of the onlookers. Snaking her way through the crowd she came up beside Larry. She kissed him on the cheek.
Whispering in his ear she said, “You’ve got him worried, but don’t be stupid. Slow down a bit.”
Larry nodded, “I hear you.” – he placed a hand on her cheek and smiled – “But now that I’ve got you back there’s nothing I can’t do.”
Marcy looked puzzled, “What do you mean back?”
“Nothing,” he shook his head and let loose a fierce yawp.
Four hours later the mob stumbled into the Oasis. After Rose’s Larry paced himself, and stuck to the minimum for the rest of the night: vodka martinis, Rob Roys, Irish funerals, rum and cokes, pilsner pints, lemon drops, tequila, brandy, schnapps, various bombs, and something from a milk jug that tasted like candy but burned like fire. Along the way King Malcolm tried going for the knockout with a Nazis Suicide. The shot felt like a snake spinning inside his stomach for a moment before Larry managed to take hold of his guts.
At last they came to the Oasis, a dive bar like no other. It was rumored the psyche wards from nearby hospitals let out their less violent patients, and sent them to self-medicate at the bar. To a certain degree this was true, but only insofar as hospitals let their less violent patients leave the psyche wards at night to self-medicate at local bars. The fact they all tended to congregate at the Oasis was merely a coincidence.
Before Gentleman Dan announced anything Larry announced, “Gagger.”
“You can’t call for that now,” Malcolm croaked. He wiped his streaming forehead with a handful of dollars.
“Hell I can’t,” Larry said.
Gentleman Dan the Fairing Man shrugged, “There are no rules which say he can’t.”
Malcolm extended the sweaty wad, “There are now.”
Gentleman Dan shook his head, “That’s not how I do things. He wants a gagger, he gets a gagger.”
The king frowned, “Very well. What’s your gagger boy?”
Larry smiled, “Burnt Mexican Chicken.”
George C. clapped his hands together, “Oh snap!”
Sophie D. shook her head, “Fucking lunatic.”
Jeanie X. drew cannibalistic flowers attacking a garden on the window with her lipstick.
Marcy grabbed Larry by the shirt front and kissed him hard on the mouth before throwing her head back and shouting, “I love my mad man!”
The crowd murmured, uncertain about what was coming.
Larry stepped towards the bar. Each foot went in its own direction, and he fell to the floor. He popped up as the bartender started peering over the side.
Grinding his teeth Larry said, “I did that to prove a point.”
The bartender cocked an eyebrow, “Fair enough. What’s this Mex-i-can Chicken?”
Larry said, “Funny you should ask. Three layers. Tequila, whiskey, and the hottest hot sauce you got.”
Those familiar with the Oasis realized the gambit. A slow murmur passed through the crowd as the information was relayed. One of the regulars at the Oasis sometimes ate at the bar. On such occasions he brought with him a bottle of Saint Satan’s Liquid Ghost Pepper. The hottest hot sauce in the bar…
The grizzled old woman handed over her bottle of hot sauce with a smile. She even said she looked forward to watching them go mad from the heat. Larry waved, thanking her.
While the bartender prepared the Mexican chickens a few drops of hot sauce fell on the bar. The wood burned sending up wisps of smoke in the shape of screaming ghosts. Malcolm shuddered at the sight. Betting started up among the spectators. It seemed the moment of truth was at hand.
Larry smiled. Last time he went for the gagger at Rose’s where the hottest sauce on hand was Tabasco. All the shot did was unsettle his stomach. This second chance gave him the opportunity to do things right. However, he wasn’t sure if he could handle a Mexican Chicken this late in the game.
He waited for Malcolm to down his shot first. The king made a show of being brave, but his eyes gave him away. Even before he swallowed it was clear the shot had done the trick. Larry sucked down his own, and braced for impact.
Malcolm convulsed. His body jiggled after each tremor. Sweat rolled into his eyes. It felt as hot as the liquid Ghost Pepper. There was no resisting it. Swearing, he shouldered his way through the crowd out into the street. The big man fell to his knees and filled the gutter.
Inside the Oasis the crowd roared. The king was no more. Gentleman Dan grabbed Larry by the wrist.
Raising the hand of the champion he called out, “We have a winner.”
‘Indeed,’ Larry thought, ‘And if I can change this, I can make everything right.’
No loss lingering in the back of his mind Larry wouldn’t be on edge on the next few days, wouldn’t be irritable to the point Marcy took a gig in Milwaukee just to get away from him for the weekend. She wouldn’t be at an after party… having too much fun. He could fix things, save her life this time.
Hey, hey, hello. Will Snyder here. I was there the night the king died, and it was great. Seriously that ended up fucking killing him. He went home that night and died. Some say he died of shame. I don’t really care how. He was a shameless bastard you ask me. But, yeah, I was there with my buddies Max, Pete, and Amy. Of course, Amy wasn’t Amy at the time, she was Nick, but that’s a whole other story.
At one point the guy from LSDelight and Company slammed a forty. He out chugged the King, then he stuck his middle finger into the bottle. Holding it up in the King’s face that dude said, “Sit and spin on my might beer-finger.”
Funny what can change ya life. Hearing that was like having lightning hit my brain. I mean, I dunno, in that moment I had a vision of where my life was headed, and where it could be headed; keeping a cubicle warm or getting plowed on a Tuesday to prove a point. So the next day I quit my job. Friends and I started Beerfinger, the rest is going to be history.
This is the first song we ever wrote. Is always a crowd pleaser when we got a crowd (speaking of which we’ll be playing this weekend at Hamburger Larry’s open mic night. We’ll also have copies of our EP for sale, Uncle Bumble’s Mumble Juice). This is PUB CRAWL BRAWL… enjoy.
Pub Crawl Brawl
Amy Vance: drums
Max Strict: Guitars
Will Snyder: Bass, vocals.
Lyrics by Beerfinger
PART 4: THE SONG TEASED AT THE END OF LAST TIME…
…and yes it was finished before the deadline for this week’s post. Otherwise, this would be a huge dick move… a cheap ploy to slack off next week and simply post an already completed piece... Why you gotta be so suspicious? BEERFINGER!