Iarlaith and the Tourists | Eckhard Gerdes

No one Iarlaith knew was drinking in the bar. Only a couple of young male tourists were there, talking over some greenish cocktails. Iarlaith didn’t even want to ask Mike the bartender what those cocktails were. They looked frightening.

“What can I get you, Iarlaith?” asked Mike.

“Just give me a short beer,” said Iarlaith. “I just stopped in for a minute. I was looking for Feargus.” Iarlaith needed Feargus’s help in bringing an old wardrobe steamer trunk to the consignment shop. Iarlaith had finally emptied it out of Barb’s old clothes and figured he could get a few dollars for it. He’d seen similar ones on eBay going for about three hundred dollars. Normally he’d have asked his son, Marco, to help him, but Marco was off scavenging for material for one of his assemblage sculptures and wasn’t around. Iarlaith wanted to be done with the damn thing. It would help him purge his life of the last remnants of his life with Barb, she whose tongue was as sharp as her name. He thought of selling the clothes, too, but he was afraid someone would buy them and then wear them around town. That would just bring back those memories. So, he’d tossed the clothes in the giant dumpster behind the grocer’s and had poured a bucket of sludge that was sitting next to the dumpster right on top of the clothes. He was sure no one would want them after that.

As he nursed his beer, he began overhearing the conversation between the tourists. They spoke with a funny accent. It was not foreign but it was from some region of the country he didn’t recognize.

“As eye sand to my t-shirt, eyes dessert a bed degrade.”

What the heck did that mean? He looked at the men. They were in their early twenties and were well dressed, kind of preppie, in cardigans, no less. One of them had brown hair in a little boy’s cut with a nice part on the left side of his head. A cowlick stuck up where the part ended at the top of his head. Iarlaith chuckled. He was always amused by grown men wearing little boy haircuts. The other man’s hair was black and was slicked back. Cowlick was the one who had made the statement about eye sand.

A bed degrade? That had been life with Barb in a nutshell. She’d been the nut, and she shelled him like he was the enemy almost every day they were together, at least at the end.

Slick looked at Cowlick and shrugged. “Degrades a mint in Kershaw.” Oh, great, he talked all mush-mouthed, like the other one. Kershaw? Doug Kershaw, the great fiddle player? Louisiana was a long way away from here. Was he playing nearby? Maybe in the Quad Cities.

“Hey, Mike, you hear anything about Doug Kershaw playing in the Quad Cities this weekend?”

“No, Iarlaith. I wouldn’t know. I don’t get a chance to go see shows. I’m always here.”

“You got Kershaw coming here, then?”

“Who needs to pay for entertainment when I got you all?” Mike laughed and turned around to wash some glasses from earlier.

“Dough-kneeded coarse mint,” replied Cowlick to Slick.

Iarlaith shook his head. What the hell were they talking about? But they mentioned mint twice, and their drinks were green. Okay, Iarlaith had to know.

“Mike, come over here.”

“Want another beer, Iarlaith?”

“Sure, but make it a mug this time. What the hell are those drinking?”

“Oh, those are mint martinis. They’re popular in the cities.”

“Mint martinis? Blecch. I hope they at least had the decency to have their martinis made right. With gin, I mean.”

“No, they wanted vodka.”

“That’s not a martini, then. It’s a kangaroo. A mint kangaroo. Disgusting.”

“Hey, I always say be a purist, not a tourist. But the tourists like this kind of stuff.”

“Yikes.”

“Dell your t-shirt off,” said Slick to Cowlick.

“Shed flail meat, oh,” replied Cowlick.

Mike brought Iarlaith his beer, and Iarlaith downed it in two giant gulps, slapped the mug onto the counter loudly, slapped four dollars onto the bar and left, shaking his head in complete confusion. Wherever these tourists were from, Iarlaith knew he never wanted to go there.

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