Mudlark No. 56 (2015)

The Old Bard, Three Gins In

He told me how he works.

“I’m in a new town to read. Some prof gets up, says how my great my work is, it sings, and while he goes on like that I’ve got my eye on two or three babes, walk up there to read, say Thanks, glad to be here, you’re too kind, blah blah... So I start, catch the eye of one: no, not catch the eye: more like bear in. Then shift to the next, then the next, see who stares back. Sometimes the best glance to the side. And some nights I see a new one I’d not seen at first: she stares right back—bold. That can be a find. And then, of course, there’s the one with that glazed look, holds my book as if it’s Grail, moves her lips—she knows the work: I can tell. So you’ve got the black-haired one, the blonde, or the one with the short hair, so thin she’s like some boy-child, and you just know she’s wild.

“And then it ends, the crowd comes up to chit-chat and you see at least one of them—some nights it’s two—rare that it’s three!—there at the back, not sure they should come up. You’re thick in talk, but give a quick wave and a shrug, like What can I do, I’m stuck here, and when the crowd thins she’s still there, or they’re still there, and you’ve begged off your hosts by then, say Want to get a glass of wine? and if they’re two, at that point one might peel off, but some nights they both stay—as if they’ve hatched a plan—and oh man, oh man.”

He paused. I shook my head—in part, I guess, for what I’d missed. He put his hand to his face, squeezed his big cheeks. “Look at this mug,” he said. “Two feet wide, a mom could love it—she did!—but Mom’s long gone, and I’m still in full stride.

“You could do it, Pal. Your work’s great. To the road with you, I say! So what if you’ve aged a bit—just tint your hair, make the rounds, that’s it. I don’t care if my work stays new when I’m dead. It’s ink, not stone. And it’s not fame I need, though fame does help grease the skids, so to speak. It’s touch. Comes down to touch. Stroll down the street in ten, twelve years—somewhere no one knows you. Walk half a mile. Score one point for each babe to glance your way, two for those who look you in the eye, three for those who keep your gaze. Count ’em. When you get back, if you’re up to six, I’d be shocked.

“So let those words flow, boy. More books! A page a day keeps death away.

“Oh, and one more trick: if you put their name in a piece, just a name in a line—quick like that—come back to that town in a year, two years, ten, they’ll be there: I swear they’ll be there.”

Gerald Fleming | Post-game Wrap-up
Contents | Mudlark No. 56 (2015)