Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Lunatic Returns

Construction was almost over and the decorating was underway. The Reverend was truly working magic with her paintbrush. I’d never seen such a colorful bar (not that I’ve seen many drab ones). The general construction was finished. All that remained was the furniture. I had worked out a deal with Al for bar stools and tables. He and Sarah were getting quite curious about what exactly this bar would be like so I was able to buy him off easy with a few free drinks. He was even going to throw in a cabinet in which to keep our glassware (once we had some).
The summer was rapidly approaching. With school almost over as well, Crazy Angie and I were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to spend more time working at the bar. Still, with the crowd we were planning to attract I didn’t think the two of us could handle it alone, especially given the mental capacity of my partner.
“We need to hire some bartenders,” I said while gently wiping the sawdust off of our beautiful new marble slab bar.
“What for? We can handle it.”
“Actually, I hope not. I hope we draw such a crowd that there are just too many for the two of us. Besides, I don’t know anything about drinks or how to make them. Do you?”
“Well, no. I see your point. I could whip up another ad.”
As much as that thought made me cringe, I was afraid that would be all we could do. We had pretty much depleted all of our earnings on the construction of the lab.
“Well, we’ve got a little while. Let’s not jump the gun. Our liquor license isn’t even here yet and everything is dependant on that. Besides, we have tons of other things to do. We need to get going on the cleaning up. There’s sawdust everywhere. Why don’t you work on your sweeping?”
Her eyes lit up at the prospect of being useful. I handed her the broom and dustpan and watched for a few seconds while she tried to recall the instructions I’d given her before. It wasn’t long before she was slowly making a pile of dust in the middle of the floor.
I looked around the bar. The Reverend was really doing a spectacular job. Covering an entire wall was a picture of a wolf baying at the moon. I walked over to where the Reverend was still painting.
“Wow. That really looks great.”
“You like it? I call it, The Sadness of the Lonely Wolf.”
I stood there, analyzing the painting. “How do you know he’s sad?”
She looked at me strangely as if to say, ‘how dare you question my interpretation of my own painting’.
“Well, it’s obvious. I mean you can tell just by looking at it.”
I studied the painting again. There was the wolf, the moon at which he was clearly baying, an open green field—that was really all.
“I’m sorry, Rev. You’re gonna have to help me out on this on.”
She let out a heavy sigh. “Well, if you must have things spelled out for you—the wolf here is very sad because his lady wolf has rejected him.”
“What lady wolf? I don’t see anything else except the moon.”
“That’s because you have no artistic vision.”
“What?” I stood there, shocked and appauled. “How can you say that? I’ve created the cure for boredom for pete’s sake!”
“Yes, well, that is quite creative and artistic. I’ll give you that. Though I must say the Authentic Lunatic was far beyond the boundaries of modern creativity. That truly was a brilliant interpretation of the mentally diseased.”
“You have got to be kidding me!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I looked at her, and she seemed to display an aire of complete seriousness. “Fine. You like crazy people. But how on earth can you expect someone to look at this and so easily derive that the wolf is pining for his female version?”
She was clearly exasperated and let out a noise that was a cross somewhere between a sigh and a grunt.
“From the other wolf!” She was near shouting and had extended her hand toward the painting.
“What other wolf?”
“THAT ONE!” Now she was shouting. I looked carefully at the painting. Near her had far away from both the moon and the baying wolf, was a small grey speck. I got as close as I dared to the painting to get a better look. I suppose if I stared at it long enough and had an incredible imagination (which I do) I might be able to conceive of the possibility that this grey speck was another wolf.
“Whatever. Looks great.” I walked away, fearing that I might have an outburst of my own if I stayed to argue for much longer. I guess artists are supposed to be a little deranged, but given that she was a minister I guess I expected more. As long as it looked good, what right did I have to complain?
I went back to polishing what little furniture we had when all of a sudden Crazy Angie came running up to me waving her arms above her head shouting. I’m not sure what she was shouting, but it was definitely very loud.
“What! What!” I said.
“It’s here!”
“What is?”
“Our liquor license!” I gasped my excitement and tore the mail from her flailing arms. Sure enough there was an official looking envelope. I ripped it open and unfolded the contents. We were now licensed to sell liquor. The judge had come through for us. I decided that a little lunacy was in order and I joined Crazy Angie in her wild flinging of arms and shouting of undeterminables. We danced around the bar, caring not for the strange stares from the construction workers or the Reverend. Our dream was fast becoming a reality.
That evening, I took it upon myself to review our financial situation. Now that our liquor license was finalized we had a lot more work to do. Money was low. We were going to need to buy liquor in which to sell and I was convinced that we would need to hire a bartender, who would need to be paid. It was time to break out the authentic lunatic. We needed a fund raiser. After that, we would advertise for a bartender.
I felt so blessed at that moment to have a friend like Crazy Angie. I knew I could depend on her to work as hard as she could to get our project going. Her total devotion to our mutual venture was uplifting.
At school the next morning, we met at our usual spot—my locker. I don’t’ know why we always me there. It was sort of our congregating place. Our high school had three floors and a basement. Her locker was on the third floor and mine was in the basement. Almost everyone stayed in the basement when classes weren’t in session. Maybe that was it. I don’t really know, but that’s where we met.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking and I think we need the Authentic Lunatic. How do you feel about another show?”
“Great! Amen Hallelujah Chunky Peanut Butter!”
“Right. Well, how about this weekend? That will give us a little time to organize and prepare. I’d like to observe it this time if you don’t mind. I’m really trying to explore the artistic vision that everyone says you have with this thing.”
“Yeah, sure. Actually, you could help me out if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Ok. Wait—what would I be doing?”
“Well, it’s kinda hard to keep things going with my art while trying to remember who has paid and who hasn’t. Plus, I don’t like the idea of trusting strangers to take the pictures. Hey, I might even find a place to use you as a prop or something.”
I didn’t mind the camera thing or taking the money, but I was not thrilled at the prospect of being used as a prop. Still, I agreed. I told myself that it was necessary and that was that, though it was the first time I can remember dreading the weekend.
On Saturday morning, Crazy Angie and I headed down to the Central West End with the biggest refrigerator box we could find. I borrowed a Polaroid camera from my dad and a big pickle jar from my mom to keep our earnings in.
We had painted in big red letters on the side of the box “Experience the Authentic Lunatic, Encore Performance”. I was hopeful that this humiliation would net a large sum. Almost immediately after we’d set up our box a line started to form. I could hear the chatter of the gathering crowd.
“Oh I have been dying to see this!”
“Yeah, it’s better than Broadway.”
“Wow! A real authentic lunatic! That’s something you don’t see everyday.”
“I cried the first time I saw it. It was so beautiful.”
I was confounded by what I heard from the surrounding people. It reminded me that life in the Central West End is on a level of its own.
I had brought a chair to sit in while Crazy Angie performed. People were generous with their tips in our pickle jar. It started to fill up before she got started. I had the best view possible, so I sat back to watch.
She started out in the box, just sort of peaking out the side. As soon as everyone saw her, they started cheering. Slowly, she crept out of the box. Once she had fully emerged, she started shouting, spitting, jumping up and down—it was all very strange. The crowd surrounding her was almost silent and completely engrossed in her performance.
The shouting continued for a few minutes and then just suddenly stopped—as if she had just realized what she was doing. Crazy Angie went back into her box and came out with an alarm clock. She set it on the ground and sat down in front of it. She started talking to the clock as if it were a person. What she was saying didn’t make sense—it was more just a jumble of words, but her tone of voice and pitch changes actually gave some indication of the conversation. Suddenly, in the midst of the conversation, the alarm went off. It seemed that the authentic lunatic took that as an offensive turn to the conversation and started shouting with the clock, eventually ending up smashing it on the concrete. Crazy Angie then stood up and bowed to her audience.
The response from the public was overwhelming. There were cheers and shouts of “encore” and “bravo”. Everyone was putting tips into our pickle jar. Several started to form a line next to the box, awaiting photo opportunities. I must have sold at least 50 Polariods. It was incredible. I made a decision then never to question the artistic qualities of the mentally ill.

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