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I was sitting at the bar of the Albatross Club, chewing the fat with my friend, Danny the bartender, a 30-year-old with red hair like a fireball and a face that looked like it had fallen off the back of a radish truck, about current politics, when a punk I recognized as a mediocre celebrity piped up. “You shouldn’t criticize the President.”

I turned to him and said, “I’m not criticizing. I’m just saying.”

“He’s the President. You shouldn’t criticize the President.”

“Is he above criticism? We’re not living in Soviet Russia. Last I heard this was still America where you can say what you want, McCarthy notwithstanding. Move along, son.”

“You’d better keep your mouth shut. Right, Danny?”

“I don’t know about that, Frank. I think Bill’s got some valid points about the prez.”

“What are ya? Some kind of commie?”

“No, not at all.” Danny looked at me and rolled his eyes out of sight of Frank, then wandered down to the other end of the bar and started wiping glasses, the way bartenders do in motion pictures when they want to look like they’re busy.

“So just shut up,” said Frank.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “What are you gonna do about it?”

Suddenly appearing behind me were two goons who were obviously associates of Frank’s. One was a huge gorilla in a dark suit, with a day’s growth of beard. It wasn’t a guy in a gorilla suit. The other was a smaller nervous type, chewing on a toothpick like a cheap hood in a B-movie, which he probably had been at one point. I sized them up, and figured the little guy would be easier to handle, so I stood up on the footrest of my barstool and popped the gorilla in the nose with a right cross. As he staggered backwards, I threw a left hook at the toothpick guy and knocked him on his skinny behind. I jumped off my stool, turned back to the gorilla, and delivered a swift kick to his cojones. He bent over double and I smacked him with a right uppercut to his chin, and he hit the ground like a sack of wet wheat.

I looked at Frank, who had backed up a little by this point, and gave him a grin.

I felt a hand on my shoulder, turned around, and there was John Wayne.

“Ya shouldn’t be... starting ruckuses,” he said.

“Mind your own business there, pardner,” I expectorated. “Frank and his little girlfriends started the whole thing. Can’t a guy say what he wants these days without some trumped-up pop singer turning his hired help loose?”

“Listen, kid,” said Wayne. “Frank’s a big star and... what he says... goes around here. Ya got that?”

“Ya know, I always thought you were a lousy actor who couldn’t say lines properly and now I realize you can’t help it because you talk like that all the time. How did you ever become a movie actor, let alone a star? What producer did you sleep with?”

Wayne didn’t like that, and started to seethe.

“By the way, I live in a world where ‘Duke’ means Ellington or Wellington, not a bad actor or a high-strung border collie.”

I could hear Danny chortling behind me. Wayne really didn’t like that either, and drew his fist back beside his ear. I gave him a quick left jab to his cheek and followed with a right cross that got him squarely in the mouth, splitting his bottom lip. He fell backwards knocking over a table. I stood over him, put my right thumb and forefinger into the shape of a gun, blew on the end of my finger, and put my gun back into its holster.

“Marion, where did you learn to box? Never ever bring your fist back that far to throw a punch unless you have a lot of time. You leave yourself too open.”

“What do you think you’re doing?” said a familiar voice in an attempt to be threatening. I turned on my heel and there was Marlon Brando, standing like he was going to be next in line to take a whupping.

“Ah, jeesh,” I said. “Mr. Method Actor. Oh, look at me. I’m so sensitive. I feel everything. I’m an artiste. Method acting, my sweet fanny. You and Dean are just over-actors who’ve convinced an unsophisticated public that full-blown histrionics is a suitable way to portray realism. Streetcar! Stella! Stella! Who allowed you to do that, ya big whining baby? Or was it supposed to be a funny line? Why don’t you go watch a Newman movie to see how real acting is done? Or study March and Huston. That’s solid, man.” I didn’t even wait for Brando to respond; I just punched him in the head.

He hit the ground at Wayne’s feet, who had gotten up by that point, and was standing there shaking, with a hint of urine dripping down his pant leg. Brando got up and he and Wayne backed up and remained spectators for the rest of the incident.

By this time, there was a bit of a crowd watching. I wasn’t sure whose side they were on so I figured I might as well just go whole hog. I turned back to Frank. “And you know, Frank, you should just shut up sometimes. You should stop mooning over Ava. She’s not gonna take you back. She’s a cool woman and, even though she drinks too much and gets angered too quickly, she’s still better than you are as a person. And why shouldn’t she be interested in other guys? What’s wrong with that? Women’s sexual freedom is coming, my friend, so why shouldn’t she do what you’re always doing? She’s sitting over there with a big grin on her face, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

Frank turned and saw Ava, who was smiling at Frank with a look of pure hate. She turned to me and cheered me with her martini glass. I nodded to her.

Frank looked back at me.

“Furthermore, ya has-been,” I continued. “Leave Betty alone as well. She’s not even over Bogie yet and you’re trying to get in there. She’s young and impressionable and you’re taking advantage of her grief. By the way, stop using the term ‘broad’. It’s really demeaning, women don’t like it, and it makes you look like an old fart. And mark my words, if you don’t clean up your act, you’re gonna end your career wearing a bad rug and singing paeans to over-rated cities and slightly incestuous duets with your daughter.”

The crowd laughed at that one and, for once, Frank had nothing to say. I turned and looked at all of them. No one moved. I looked at Danny. He winked at me.

I went over to Ava’s table, had a couple of drinks with her that Danny bought for us, and we left shortly after that.

The End


“Encounter At The Albatross Club” is a standalone excerpt from Bill’s recently published novel, “Farewell And Goodbye, My Maltese Sleep”. It was published in October 2023 by Close To The Bone Publishing and is available on Amazon.


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