The Great Farini

So very tired. Up since five thirty and didn’t get home from work until after eight tonight. Good news is that only two more days and then on vacation until after labour day.

I’m holding off until the last minute but I will be signing up for the NYC Midnight Short Screenplay Competition tomorrow. I like leaving it to the last minute. For some reason, my mind prefers keeping my options open in case something comes up. I’m better at getting things done than I’ve ever been but procrastination is part of my process.

I considered not posting today. I had an excuse in being tired. I knew I had to do something. One day would become two and that would turn into me neglecting this for another six months before being struck with inspiration and start all over again.

Admittedly, I’m rewriting an old story. I still remember it as a great idea but my execution was terrible. I think what I’ve done here is better. I’m learning that less really is more. I’m also learning that 2,500 words is a lot of words when you get rid of the needless ones.

“How’s that one taste?” Linda asked, wiping the wide expanse of the polished black bar around Linus. She wore a short, black skirt with a white work shirt a size too small, high heels and kept her thick auburn hair in a bun.

“You know what, Linda?” Linus asked in turn, spearing an olive from his martini glass. “It tasted like another.”

Before he could chomp down on the three bitter olives from his last drink, she had mixed him up another. He watched diners file in, in pairs and groups, lining up at the stir fry buffet then returning to their tables to slurp down their food. He had thought about it – ordering some food – but he knew he would just pick away, leave it to get cold.

“Thanks, Linda. What do I owe you?”

She looked at him with a hand on her hip, then nodded to the other side of the bar.

“Uh,” he said. “The martinis. What do I owe you for the martinis?”

She shook her head. He noticed her heavy eye shadow and thick eyelashes and liked the way it looked when she closed her eyes and shook her head.

“Nope. No charge. Someone’s already taken care of your tab for the entire night.”

“Bullshit,” he said.

“That guy over there,” she said, nodding in his direction again.

“A guy is paying my tab?”

“You got a problem with that? Half priced martinis around here are still eight bucks each.”

“Where’s that guy again?”

Linda nodded her head in the man’s direction a third time and took care to watch Linus closely as he took his leather sportcoat from his barstool and lumbered over to say thanks. The glassed in restaurant framed the two against the outside, headlights reflecting off polished cars, tail lights shining screams into windshields.

“Thank you, sir,” Linus said.

“My way of saying thanks. Please. Sit down.”

“Thank you, sir,” Linus repeated.

”It’s amazing how you did that tonight,” the man said. “It really is. I saw it and I still don’t quite believe it.”

“It’s amazing how they do that.” Linus pointed to the stir fry chefs on the front line wearing smudged white hats and protected by greasy aprons, wielding spatulas and squirt bottles. “Ever watch them?”

“To make sure they wash their hands?”

“No,no,” Linus said, then took a long drink. “Watch carefull. They don’t forget a thing and never complain. And do it all with a smile. And all his boss gives a shit about is how many meals he turned over every minute for the past month.”

The man shrugged. “So what?”

“What if that’s his only job? What if that’s his third job? What if this isn’t even what he wants to do for a living? He comes here every night and cooks, some customers he’ll see more often than he sees his own grandmother.”

Before the man could speak, Linus called out to Linda. “Could I get a glass of ice water? With a lemon?”

She smiled, let her bar towel fall gently on the bar and prepared his water.

“He’s sweating like a pig,” the man said.

“Yup. I bet he’s hasn’t even had a smoke break.”

Linda brought over a tall, blue plastic ice chip choked glass of water, single wedge of lemon trapped within, red and white straw stabbed through to the bottom. He chugged his last martini, then drew a long draught of water though the straw.

“Gives me hope for the future, you know?” Linus said.

“A fry cook? You seriously think what you did today comes anywhere close to what this guy is schlepping across that grill?”

“I think it’s the same thing.”

“Bullshit.”

“You ever hear of a guy called Willie Hunt?” Linus asked.

“Wha?”

“Willie Hunt. Tightroped across Niagara Falls in the 1800s. Guy would do somersaults on the tightrope, right over The Falls.”

“No shit.”

Linus nodded. “I read about him. Even went to the Guinness Museum, to see real pictures up close, you know. Guy worked with P.T. Barnum.”

“Never heard of him.”

Linus continued. “He didn’t call himself Willie Hunt, though. How could he?”

He sat straight and held out his hand for the man to shake. “Hello. Yes, my name is William Hunt and I was wondering if you would let me do a fucking somersault over Niagara Falls.”

“Why are we talking about Willie Hunt?”

“Not Willie Hunt. The Great Farini. What I’m telling you is that he changed his name. He had to. I bet he figured if he sounded Italian that people would think he really took tightrope walking seriously. This is a guy who did tightrope somersaults and flips and all kinds of shit.”

“You said that already.”

“Did I tell you that the Prince of Wales came to see him once?

“No, you didn’t.”

“To see ole Willie Hunt come to walk across Niagara Falls. But I don’t believe it.”

“Why do you say that?”

“No one watches someone walk a tightrope. They watch to see someone fall off a tightrope. But The Great Farini never fell. The more people thought he would fall, the more people came to watch. Right up to the King of England.”

“You said the Prince of Wales.”

“Whatever. But that’s why I think he stopped.”

“Why do you think he stopped?”

“He got bored.”

“How?”

“You want to know why I think he got bored and went on to cross the Sahara desert on his own two feet?”

“He walked across the Sahara?”

Linus closed his eyes and shook his head to clear it. “Yes, yes. Just another kind of tightrope for him. When you cross the Sahara it’s like crossing the Niagara. You’re still working without a net. You know why I think he got bored?”

“You were getting to that.”

“One time, he brought a metal wash tub out on his tightrope, lowered the tub into the water, brought it back up and washed twelve handkerchiefs. That’s why I think he quit. The whole thing became a chore for him. Nothing special. Nothing different than anyone else washing our dirty underwear.”

Linus waved it all away and downed the last of his water. He smacked his lips and rubbed his eyes, then stood up from his stool and extended his hand.

“You leaving?”

“Gotta fly.”

“You driving?” the man asked.

Linus looked at him. “I’d better. Too fucked up to walk.”

The man just stared and Linus laughed.

“Linda knows to order me a cab once I order my glass of water. I’m off. You know what, though?”

“What?” The maraschino cherries in the man’s whiskey sour had turned into blurry photographs at the bottom of his glass.

“Couldn’t tell you if The Great Farini had any kids. Hmmph. I’ll have to check that.”

The man shook his head. “Why?”

“Why what?” Linus asked, clumsily failing to shuck on his leather sportcoat.

“Why’d you do that?”

“Because they told me I had to do what they said. And I told them I preferred not to. Then I left.”

He walked around the bar, eyes to the ground, smiling, and put one hand to his mouth and rubbed his chin, touching his stubble like considering a shave. Linda rushed out to help with his coat. From behind, she kissed him on the cheek and whispered in his ear while he grinned and adjusted the lapels of his sport coat.

The man watched Linus leave through the double glass doors and get into the passenger side rear of the cab. Linus patted the hand that held the doorframe before getting in. After closing the door twice did the cabbie pass around the front of the car to get in and take Linus home.

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