:: Article

Strait Street

By Paul Kavanagh.

Henry did his best to keep up with Jason. Jason had said he knew the way to the harbour. They had been drinking in Larry’s bar. Henry had two whiskeys. Jason drank beer he told Henry he could not handle whiskey with the heat. Henry could not hear the sea. Jason‘s excitement about seeing the sea could be read in his hurried gait. Upon Henry’s brow sweat had started to congregate. Henry did his best to keep up with Jason. He would have caught up with Jason had not anger flared up.

A cat stopped looked at the two men and hurried on.

Jason stopped. Henry caught up to Jason. The anger that had flared up subsided.

Continue, said Jason.

The cat was a stray. In the paper there had been a report about the stray cats being poisoned. There was a warning about entering the public gardens. Supposedly dead stray cats were everywhere in the public gardens.

Where was I, said Henry.

Tragedy, said Jason.

Henry wiped the sweat off his brow. The heat had been known to cause temporary amnesia. There was no relief in the shade. Henry looked heavenward, not a cloud.

Tragedy is complete. Comedy is incomplete, said Henry.

A car’s horn blared loudly. In the rain there were plenty of car crashes. Jason thought it was fun to ride the buses in the rain. If the bus went so far as Armier Bay Jason did not think about the return journey.  Henry once caught Jason inspecting the wheels of a bus.

Tragedy is complete. Comedy is incomplete, said Jason.

Yes, said Henry.

Jason laughed. It was not a mocking laugh. Henry smiled.

A man falling down is comedy. A man falling down is incomplete, said Henry.

It was approaching siesta time. Henry yawned. Jason hated siesta time; he could not comprehend the need to sleep during the day.

A man falling down dead is tragedy, said Jason.

Yes, said Henry.

Jason needed water. If they did not hurry the shops would be closed for siesta time. Henry rolled up his shirt sleeves.

His shirt was discolored with sweat.

A man falling down dead is complete. The complete is concrete. The incomplete is not concrete, said Henry.

The air was filled with salt. A bead of sweat stabbed Jason on the bottom lip. With his thumb he inspected the stab wound for blood. There was no sign of blood.

The incomplete will become complete. The complete will become incomplete, said Henry.

Henry watched Jason lick his bottom lip. Henry did not want to drink. It had been Jason’s idea to go to Larry’s bar. Henry did not like drinking during the day. Drinking during the day left Henry sleepy. For the rest of day after drinking Henry only wanted to sleep.

The incomplete is not beautiful. The complete is beautiful, said Henry.

What was that you were saying, said Jason.

I could do with a cigarette, said Henry.

Whiskey made Henry smoke.

Jason handed Henry a cigarette. A lace of smoke briefly obscured Henry’s face. Behind it Henry yawned.

It had been Jason’s idea to catch the bus. Henry had wanted to call a taxi, but Jason had been steadfast about the idea of catching a bus.

It was Henry’s idea to get out of the rain. Jason paid for the bus tickets. Jason sat down, he was smirking.

The incomplete is not beautiful. The complete is beautiful, said Henry.

The rain tapped on the window like child begging for money. Henry felt a chill. Jason gripped the edge of the seat. The bus was empty. It was now siesta time. The bus driver yawned.

Death is complete. Life is incomplete, said Henry.

Carry on, said Jason.

Hello is incomplete. Goodbye is complete, said Henry.

Henry stood up. Jason smiled. Jason followed Henry off the bus. The bus driver did not notice the two men leaving the bus. The bus pulled away without Henry and Jason.

Larry’s bar was still open. Henry and Jason sat at a table. Jason stood up and went to the bar. Jason sat back down, he was smirking. Henry took a tentative sip of the whiskey.

Henry wished he had ordered a hot cup of tea.

Carry on, said Jason.

Boethius’s wheel is complete. The pain is incomplete, said Henry.

The man behind the bar looked as though he was sleeping.

The man was not Larry. Larry was dead.

Henry wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep. Jason saw a long night a head of him. Jason quickly finished his drink.

Tell me about the fight last night, said Henry.

Jason laughed loudly.

Well a Maltese man smacked a German girl in the mouth. The German girl was knocked out. I asked the Maltese man why he had knocked the German girl out. The Maltese man told me to go away before he knocked me out. I slapped the Maltese man across the face. The Maltese man was in total shock. I slapped the Maltese man again across the other cheek. The only reply the Maltese man had was to drop his trousers and show me a tattoo he had upon his inner thigh.

What was the tattoo of, said Henry.

Daffy Duck, said Jason.

Strait Street was once a busy street lifted with jazz music. Sailors got wild and drunk and visited the street hoping to pick up girls. There were once many brothels. Jason longed for the jazz, the wild sailors and the pretty girls.

Paul Kavanagh has been published in Sleeping FishBurnside Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, American Drivel ReviewPen Pusher, Year of the Thief, Better Non Sequitur and Marginalia. Soon to be in Evergreen Review and Upstairs at Duroc.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, April 17th, 2009.