Jazzbo & the Dwarf
To all but the most casual observer it might appear that Jazzbo Koontz was attached to his customary stool at the Blue Boy Cafe. Perhaps a piece of chrome pedestal continued up through the seat and was somehow affixed to his buttocks. Perhaps some diabolical pervert had poured a turn of Miracle Glue on the seat and captured Jazz like a Roach Motel snagging an unlucky victim. Whatever the reason, it was apparent to anyone who entered the place with any degree of frequency that Jazz was a common fixture.
Well, Jazz felt as if he was a fixture. He felt himself as much a part of the place as the greasy counter and the smoking grill. He especially associated with the burnt chicken scum floating on top of the fryer grease, because it seemed that thoughts of the same color and consistence floated somewhere near the top of his brain.
You are wasting your life, Jazzbo, his friend Dolphie Buckwind said to him almost every night. A man of your talent, you vision. You should be doing something with your life instead of hunkering down over a bottle of beer all the time! Right? Dolphie had a terrible habit of asking "right?" after such statements and then slamming one in the ribs with his elbow or bumping with his shoulder until an answer was offered.
Jazzbo had a knack for making people think he was brilliant. He said shit to them which he did not understand himself.
There is no truth in life, he told Dolphie. Truth will not set you free, indeed truth is the cage that confines the mind. Truth restricts and constipates the mental process.
Dolphie Buckwind raised his eyebrows and shook his head solemnly. There, a man who could think up something like that should be doing something more than guzzling suds. You have got to amount to something, right? And then the elbow and shoulder again.
Nothing is something as surely as something can be nothing, and I am neither, Jazz replied.
Dolphie was amazed and delighted. How lucky he was to have a friend like Jazzbo!
"Maybe you should try it Greek style," Jazzbo said to Rosalie House. "Don't knock it if you haven't tried it."
"I did once and it hurt," said Rosalie.
"Maybe he was too big," Jazzbo offered. "You should start out with a smaller one."
"Oh?" She grinned. "Is than an offer for something smaller?"
"Certainly not. I'm afraid I'd only add insult to injury if you were looking for a small one. Ask your sister."
She wiped at the bar absently and then cocked those big brown eyes up at him.
"She's told me all about you," she said. "The good, the bad and the ugly."
"Well. Was it all that bad?"
"No. In fact she'd give you high marks in one area. 'The best I ever had,' is how she put it. I figured she was just pulling my leg." Again, her coy, sexy smile lit up the room.
"I wouldn't be surprised if that weren't the case," laughed Jazzbo. "She's young and impressionable."
Jazzbo wondered what Rosalie would think if she knew that he'd also fucked her sister, Viv. For that matter he wondered what Neecie would think if she knew he fucked Viv. And, what would Viv and Neecie think if they knew he wanted to, and planned to, fuck Rosalie.
"I'll have another Bud if you don't mind," he said.
"Why should I mind? After all, we are in the business of selling things."
He watched her as she walked back to the cooler. He loved to watch her walk, her buttocks rolling inside the tight jeans. At 27 she was a prime piece of woman flesh. She has an ass like a forty-dollar cow, Dolphie had said on one occasion.
She set the frosty bottle on the counter before him and retrieved the empty. She sported this twisted little smile, sort of smug and self-satisfied. She obviously knew he was interested and was waiting for his next slick move. She could feel it coming.
"You've got an ass like a forty-dollar cow," Jazzbo said.
"Is that supposed to be a compliment?" Her cheeks flushed red in a good-natured way and the smile changed dimensions. She was beautiful when she grinned like that, her pink cheeks breaking just so into two matching dimples.
"I should think so," Jazzbo replied. "Although God knows a forty-dollar cow wouldn't make too many of those burgers nowadays, would it."
"Is that what you, Dolphie and Heston do every night, sit and discuss the financial worth of every ass you see?"
"Not at all, m'dear, but you can bet yours has been the topic of discussion more than once, as well as your charming sisters. And you should know by now that when Hess gets a sixer or three down his neck his thoughts turn more to mayhem than sex."
"Well, he hasn't started a fight in here in more than a month, so he must be getting better."
"No. Word of his ferocity has spread far and wide and he's having a harder time finding people willing to go up against him. Last week he had to go all the way down to San Luis to pick a fight."
"Somebody's going to kill him one of these days," she said, shaking her head.
"It'll have to be a bad son of a bitch," Jazzbo replied.
Jazzbo hated to admit even to himself that he was falling in love with Rosalie. She was 14 years his junior and, to all outward appearances, happily married. And she knew all about his thing with one of her sisters, although that had ended some months before.
Rosalie and Neecie were as unalike in physical appearance as any two sisters could possibly be. Rosalie was light and glowed like a fine lady in a Renoir painting, her skin and hair catching the light at all angles. Neecie was pretty with a dark, hard edge; she had that flinty look one sometimes saw on prime-quality call girls, as though there was something unknown going on behind those dark eyes. Something that made one think look out!
The difference in their outward personalities was harder to define. Both were easygoing, but either could flare up if pushed too far. Hardly a week passed when one of the girls didn't get a bit miffed at their regular customers. Guys who devoted the majority of their spare time to drinking seemed to have a talent for pissing people off.
Heston Rucker was especially caustic when about half in the bag. Hess was a Vietnam vet who believed he should be in the same dead land with most of his buddies. A door gunner, he'd had three choppers shot out from under him and had lived to tell about it.
Fuck, I wasn't worried about bein' killed but I shoved a wad of flak jackets between my legs, didn't wanna get my nuts shot off, he said many a night before the rage set in.
Hess wouldn't talk about the war when he was sober. During those rare periods-- basically only from the time he left his job at a plaster mine in the desert until he drove the 35 miles to the bar and got several beers down his neck--you couldn't hire him to talk about it. But after a dozen cold ones he seemed to relish reliving every moment. Watching his anger and hatred grow from nothing into a raging beast was a thing of frightening wonder.
Heston Rucker would give you the shirt off his back, if you were a friend and he was sober. If he was drunk he would as soon smash in your face with a beer bottle as look at you.
"How's it going?" Neecie asked.
Jazzbo was as usual hunkered on his stood at the end of the bar, deep into the notion of his ninth Bud. It was too early for Dolphie, who was out somewhere under the blazing desert sun working in his "commodities." The whereabouts of Heston Rucker was unknown, since no one had seen him for four days. He had, Jazzbo assumed, gone off looking for gladiators with which to do battle.
"Very nicely," Jazzbo replied. "Life is good."
"How's the liver?" Neecie knew about his near fatal case of hepatitis two years before and that he had been ordered never to drink again.
"It's still quivering, doing the cha cha there in the vicinity of my short ribs. Guess long as I can feel it I'm still alive, eh?"
"Well, you'd better take care of yourself," she answered.
She looked like a million dollars, as usual. That lovely ass clad in a pair of white shorts that could have been paint, just a tad on the broad side, but not too. But that was okay, because Jazzbo didn't like really skinny women. Their bones dug into you when you made love and invariably they had looser vaginas than did girls with a little meat on them.
She wore a white tank top that looked custom-designed for her breasts. Jazzbo had seen a lot of tits in his time but he'd never seen a pair finer than Neecie's. Two sweet mounds of flesh that stuck straight out even when free of a bra, coming to almost a cone of nipple. Pink aureole with those tiny little goosebumps. Her breasts alone were a feast, but strangely enough she wasn't fond of having them kissed or touched. No, most of her sexuality lived in that thatch of thick, dark hair between her thighs, in which hid those sweet pink lips leading to heaven.
And, she was one of the few women Jazzbo had ever met who had truly pretty feet. Somehow, that always seemed to be the hardest thing to find no matter how pretty the lady. But Neecie's feet were lovely, just the right size and shape and with an instep that lifted at a steep, sexy angle. Every toe was perfectly formed and just the right size and shape, correspondingly larger or smaller, as though her feet were some musical instrument tuned to perfect pitch. Knowing they were an asset to her looks, she frequently wore open sandals.
You make too much over them, she had told Jazzbo during the height of their affair. And it was true, he knew he did. But he loved to play with them and kiss them. He had more than once sucked her toes and found that she loved it in spite of her protestations.
A pretty foot on a woman is a thing to behold, he had once said to Dolphie and Hess across the late night bar. Hess, about two-thirds shot, had bucked up at that.
You ain't one of 'em foot queers are you? Hess had asked. I've read about them sons of bitches, they like to suck on sweaty feet and fuck women's shoes. I'd sure as hell hate to think I had one for a friend.
Hell, ain't nothing wrong with a good-looking' foot, long's it's attached to a fine female leg, Dolphie had put in.
Jazzbo assured Hess he was not queer for feet.
I'm damned proud to know it, be a shame to kill a friend for bein' a pervert! Anything I can't stand is a goddamn weirdo pervert motherfucker!
Heston Rucker showed up at the bar shortly after six that evening. He was accompanied by a dwarf.
"Evenin' boys," he said to Dolphie and Jazzbo, both of whom were rather deep in their cups, having taken the day off work to do some serious drinking. "This here is Lester. Lester is a midget."
"A dwarf," the small man corrected. His voice was high and nasal. "There is a difference and we get pissed when people don't know it!"
"Pleased to meet you," said Dolphie, extending his hand. "Wouldn't know where a fellow might pick up some commodities, would you?" Dolphie had hay on his mind.
"Hello, they call me Jazzbo."
"Howdy, boys," the dwarf replied. He had climbed up on the stool but the countertop barely came up to his chin. He was a grotesque little fellow, his arms and legs stubby and bent. His head looked like a number-three washtub sitting on his tiny body. His neck was practically non-existent. Lester was wearing a T-shirt about three sizes too large. Across the front in big bold letters it said, "SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL DWARF!"
"I can't see over this goddamn counter!" Lester yelled out suddenly. "There ain't a place in this whole goddamn country what makes any provisions for us dwarfs!"
"Hold on there a minute, Les, I'll take care of that," Hess said. He went into the dining area door and came back a short time later toting a child's booster seat. "Here you go, m'man, by god we'll fix that!" He helped Lester down, then balanced the seat precariously on the stool top. He then lifted the little man and set him on it.
"This here don't feel none too safe," the little fellow said uneasily. "I'm liable to fall off here and bust my ass."
"Shit Les, don't sweat it man, I'll look out for you," said Hess.
"Well all right." Lester didn't sound too sure about Heston's ability to mind him.
According to the conversation that followed, Heston had been on a four-day drunk up in the Jucumba area. He was looking for action and met Lester in a lowlife dive bar. A retired former "midget wrestler," Lester spent his time wandering from bar to bar looking for fights himself.
"Ya'll should have seen it," said Heston. "There I was tryin to knock Lester's block off and he's so damn short I can't even nail his ass! All I'm doin' is fannin' the hair on top of his head! On the other hand, he can't cold-cock me neither, but he's beatin' shit outta my kneecaps! Little fucker finally dropped me with a left hook to the cods, then boy it was all over, he was on me like stink on shit!"
The dwarf smiled, exposing teeth that looked to be twice normal size. He was, Jazzbo decided, a gruesome looking little bastard. Jazzbo hoped Lester wouldn't try to punch out someone tonight.
"You mean you were whipped by a dwarf?" asked Dolphie. Dolphie didn't consider himself a fighter at all, but he couldn't imagine someone tough as Hell getting dropped by a man so small.
"You bet your ass he was," said Lester. "Size ain't everything, you ought to know that. I'm wiry and quick as hell!"
"Well, I know a little bit about dwarfs, I served with a bunch in the Navy back during the war," said Dolphie. "I was on a battle wagon and we had a whole squad of dwarfs aboard. They were a special corps set up by President Roosevelt to give dwarf an opportunity to serve their nation."
"What'n hell did they do, I ain't never heard about this," said Lester.
"They were bore swabs," said Dolphie, taking a big pull on his beer. "Used to put on these fuzzy coveralls that had been soaked in gun oil and then they'd crawl back and forth through them sixteen-inch barrels and clean 'em out. They claimed a oily dwarf could clean a bore twice as good as a pole swab."
"Well, I'll be a son of a bitch!" cried Lester. "Damn I know several dwarfs but don't reckon I ever run across one what served like that."
"Probably not," said Dolphie, "I think they kept it pretty hush-hush. After the war most of those dwarfs came to a bad end from being soaked in all that oil, done something to their nervous systems. I think most of them died and the government clamped a lid on the whole project."
"Yeah," said Lester bitterly, "just another case of dwarfs getting fucked over in this goddamn country. Dwarfs ain't got a goddamn chance!"
Jazzbo determined at some point during the evening that he didn't care for dwarfs in general and Lester in particular. He had always claimed to have no prejudices, but he knew now those dwarfs were assholes.
When Rosalie came in at ten to relieve Neecie, his dislike for Lester grew in leaps and bounds. Lester, about two-thirds intoxicated by the massive quantity of beer that had flowed down his non-existent neck, began to ogle and leer and wink and in general act cute. Rosalie seemed totally smitten by the diminutive little bastard! Jazzbo noted.
"He is so cute!" she gushed, plopping another brew down in front of Jazzbo. "I've never met a little person before!"
"It takes all kinds," said Jazzbo, cutting her off with a sour look.
"Well, I think he's cute," she said defensively.
"To each his own."
Later, Jazzbo could not pinpoint in his mind exactly what had transpired. It was like a dream one had and upon waking could only vaguely remember bits and pieces.
He did recall the effects of the first punch from the dwarf, Lester Cooley. It had been a left hook to his right kneecap and it had almost knocked him off his feet. He could imagine that Joe Louis in his prime, and kneeling, could not have thrown a harder punch. Lester was a sawed-off version of Roberto Duran, a bloodthirsty killer.
Jazzbo had tried to hold the little man off with his feet, but it was no use. The dwarf ducked and bobbed and weaved and slipped every kick, every futile punch, with a big mean leer on his face all the time. What a shame for a man to have to live with, Jazzbo reasoned, getting his ass kicked by a man no larger than a good-sized third grader!
Going over it later, he believed it was an uppercut to the testicles that sent him flying back into the deep fryer, starting the fire. Sitting on the bumper of his pickup in the parking lot while the El Mungo Fire Department tried in vain to extinguish the blaze, Jazzbo was amazed that everyone blamed him.
"You rotten bastard!" Rosalie screamed at him, her arms wrapped protectively around the dwarf. "Shame on you for trying to hurt this sweet little man!"
She seemed to be overlooking the fact that the dwarf had not one scratch on his gruesome little body, while Jazzbo was a mass of swellings and contusions. His left eye was swollen shut and his groin felt as thought Sherman had marched all the way to Atlanta across it. Blood still seeped from his nose onto the front of his new OP shirt, just adding insult to injury.
"Yeah, that was pretty rotten, Jazz, startin' a punch out with ol' Les like that," said Heston. "Ol' Les wasn't botherin' you man, you shouldn't have called 'im that!"
Dolphie stood and watch his favorite haunt fall into a pile of crackling embers, stunned and near tears. "You've done burned down our home, " he said. "Gone, it's all gone!"
Jazzbo came close to tears himself when he saw Rosalie load the dwarf up in her Cutlass and drive off with him. The dwarf even had the heartless gall to flip him off as the car roared out of the parking lot.
And so Jazzbo ended up back at square one. No friends, no love, nothing. Heston disappeared, setting forth to the North Country to look for action and a new home base if reports were true. Dolphie became so depressed that he quit his beloved job in commodities and moved to Utah. Word drifted back that he gave us drinking and carousing and joined the Mormon Church.
Rosalie, he heard, left her husband and moved to Texas with Lester. He saw Neecie once in downtown El Mungo and waved at her. She stuck her tongue out at him and flipped him the bird.
Jazzbo eventually found himself a new home at the El Mungo Bar & Grill. A new seat to roost on. He met new potential friends. Everything was starting to fall back into place.
That is, until one Saturday night when a dwarf named Riley from Bakersfield wandered in. Things went down hill from there in a big hurry.