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ART-ZINE REFLECT

REFLECT... КУАДУСЕШЩТ # 37 ::: ОГЛАВЛЕНИЕ


ELLIOT KROP. AD 69




Caesar 1: Julius Fuckface
So here’s what actually happened. Don’t worry, nobody dies in this part. Dying’s not the point – everybody dies the same – what I’m gonna tell you here is the real interesting part. And don’t crowd me. I feel you crowding me and we’re done here.
I’m walkin’ in to Tony’s, which, as some of yous know is a no good dirty shithole over there by Pulaski under the tracks. It’s dark and there’s this shit on the walls like vomit, but it’s not vomit – it’s more like shit. Dickhead calls it paint. And every time I walk in there, if Dickhead’s working I make sure to tell him, Hey, I like how you got that vomit-smelling shit-paint. You ever need a touch-up just comp me one of your chili-burgers and pour me that swill you call whiskey – I’ll do it myself for free. We’ll call it even, I say.
Dickhead’s always like How’s that any different from your usual evening, Fuckface, you no good piece of shit?
Anyways, I walk in and this time I don’t say nothing to Dickhead because I got business with the boys and I can’t talk about shitting on walls – gotta make an impression. I don’t even look at him, just go to the booth in the corner where he’s sitting with the boys, so he knows better than to fuck with me, and he does. And there’s just Louis and the Professor who’s like, Good evening Julius, which he knows pisses me off.
So I put it straight to him how we’re gonna get a couple of things straight, how this is my operation, that I set it up, and no matter how much goddamn college-dick he sucked, I’m the brains behind this here, and when his pansy shiraz-drinking ass works for me, he calls me what everyone calls me.
So he’s like, But if I call you that, you’ll be even more perturbed.
That fucken’ faggot. So that’s when I stand up from the booth – remember this, it’ll be important later – that’s when I stand up and say, You say my fucken’ name right now, or else this ain’t workin’ from the start.
And that’s when Louis stands up too, all sensitive and like, It’s all a joke, and, We know it must be stressful.
And fuck them.
But I don’t budge and no matter how little common sense the Professor actually has, he knows better than to let go of a good thing, and so that’s when he says, All hail the glorious Caesar.
Now you hear that? That’s after I stood up and before I sat down again. All hail the glorious Caesar, motherfuckers.

Caesar 2: Dickhead the Barman
You think you know what went down but you don’t. Don’t trust a word of his shit. Pathetic loser never went through with nothing in his whole life. Fucking Fuckface – that drunk comes into my bar every night, bitching about shit on the walls, and I humor him ‘cause I’m a good guy. And when this little bit of business comes up, I let him in on it, ‘cause I care is why.
So I said, just like in Taxi Driver, "You talkin’ to me, Fuckface? You talkin’ to me?" I added the “Fuckface” part myself but that’s key – that’s what makes it mine. I’ve seen that movie like a hundred and seventeen times, and every time he says it, I put in “Fuckface” at the right part.
Retard wasn’t talkin’ to me though. He wasn’t talkin’ period, just being stupid. He didn’t respond none, playin’ hard like a real silent man like some kinda mute Capone from the Untouchables.
“Didn’t think so.”
He got a bored look on his face.
“I’ve heard that before,” he said.
Yeah. No shit. It’s only like the greatest movie ever made.
“I’m just saying,” I said. “You look at me when I talk to you. Here’s how it goes down. First, we hit Jimmy's on thirty-fourth street. He owes me big time.”
Louis was all up in my face now, slobbering all over my neck. You wouldn’t think so, but he’s the real excitbl one at times like that. One time, he found this chainsaw at this one collection job, damn near cut the place in two. I mean like Trading Spaces, Extreme Makeover construction. Welcome to your new home, asshole, we thought a little space would really open things up. Take that breath of fresh air—breathing might be a little harder after we’re through.
“That’s the plan, right? Jimmy’s first. You got it?”
I asked everyone but the Professor. He wouldn’t have liked it if I double-checked with him, like he didn’t get it the first time. In his book, that’s an insult. Psychopath would have held a grudge, not that he would have hurt me none – the guy’s a sweetheart – but he would definitely put a dead rat in my dinner. I wouldn’t have been able to eat without throwing up a little for weeks.
We were sitting in the booth at this point. Nothing had happened yet. But you gotta be patient and I’ll tell you.
“Continue, my friend.” Louis asked. “Spread the plan out for all of us to see.”
“The first rule,” I said, “is the Goodfellas rule. ‘Never rat on your friends, and keep your mouth shut.’”
Obviously, as soon as I said it, Fuckface had a problem with that, yelling about how it don’t make no sense. Proves he has no honor. How many Academy Award nomination does it take to get through to a person?
“Next,” I said, “we use Little Lucius as the cleanup man. That’s firm. I vouch for him one-hundred-and-twenty percent. No way we can do this thing without Little Lucius. Then over to jogging-suit-Mickey – this part’s delicate – we gotta go to Mickey’s and aa… like in Reservoir Dogs, you know?”
Nobody knew nothing, I guess that’s one way you know they needed me to plan this out, so I told ‘em, “We gotta cut like an ear off. But that’s been done, so I propose the nose.”
The Professor looked away like he wasn’t listening no more, but he’s an evil genius with that attention span of his, he probably just wanted me to think that. Louis was just looking at me real steady like, without blinking. It’s Fuckface that got out of hand again with his, “What the fuck are you talking about?!”
“The nose,” I said, “we’ll have like a soundtrack going at this point, and then over to Beady the Booker to place the bet. After it goes down, we lay low for a couple of days, and you Fuckface, you play the patsy and go over to the Breakneck Brothers to settle up.”
I waited a second to let it all sink in.
My plan. My fucking plan. I could tell they were skeptical, but the thing was a well-oiled machine, greased sweet and sexy like with tapioca pudding. You touch it and it sticks to your fingers. You lick it and you get it on your mug. Put two and two together, fucking throw in another two like a wrench, you’ll still get motherfucking four. Airtight.
Fuckface stood up from the booth. What the fuck you standing for Fuckface? But he stood.
“Sit the fuck down,” I said, “you ain’t the Caesar here.”
I’m the boss, I pour the drinks, I made the plans there, so he did. They all did, and bowed their heads.
“It’s nice,” I said, looking around my bar. “Being Caesar.”

Caesar 3: The Professor
Foolishness. Lies and fetid nonsense. Do not believe a word of that garbled piffle, for it contains not a modicum of truth. Those cretins, bloviating in their one moment of fame, planting their lies like begonias in rot. Do not pick that bouquet, Ladies and Gentlemen, for they are not begonias, they are hemlock.
Can you imagine dimwitted Julius – that animal – with his emotional explosions and overdeveloped indignation, conceiving of a plan and consummating it? Can you envision it? Grant me that it is improbable. Indeed, it is, and hence, by Ockham’s razor, cut it out as impossible. These are delicate matters, far too complex for an idiot blunderbuss.

And the elephantine barman… the sop is singlehandedly running that establishment into the ground. I tell him, have a little class, paint the walls, advertise, diversify. Procure a product with a name more colorful than “Red Wine.” Dabble in varietals – perhaps a Supertuscan. Put on a shirt. His lies are not even his own, Gentlemen and Ladies, they are a pastiche from crime dramas and popular action films. Who are these Jimmy and Mickey? The stuff of docudramas. Have you ever even heard of Little Lucius, Beady the Booker, or the Breakneck Brothers? Only if you watched one police procedural too many. Criminal mastermind, pshaw!
As for Louis, you will see for yourselves his graciousness, his charm. Ask yourselves this: Do nice people make devious plans? One does not go through a messy subterfuge with one hand on his heart, crying about hurt feelings.
Any yokel can dither about calling himself Caesar, but Caesar he will not be.
When I was but four years young, Father called me into his study. “Son,” he said, “pick any book you see on these bountiful shelves, and it will be yours. Provided, of course, that you read it cover to cover and discuss the contents. Then, if I am pleased with the discursion, you will be the wiser, and the owner of said hardcover property.”
What do you think I chose? I know, it is quite trivial. Obviously, the “Commentarii di Bello Civili,” by the first emperor. I had begun Latin the previous year and was on my way to Greek!
Father could not have known my promise, how I would live up to my namesake to lead men of thought and men of action. Well, Sire, I’ve fulfilled it now! Not only am I the most prolific genius of this fair city on the wind, but the engineer of a contrivance so devious, a subterfuge so interwoven with deception, that it will take years for them to unwind the tangled skein, by which time I will be long gone… and insanely rich.
How could Father have known – he was a magnate, a man of methods and means, a man with many things on his mind. Nonetheless, he always took time for a kind word, stopped on his way indoors to tousle the dog’s head, oversaw my instruction, gave to the needy. A kind and distracted man, if at times prepossessing. Charitbl – after all, what purpose is served in adopting a mongrel? Who needs a yipping terrier at their heels? And the tutors afforded me were often themselves failed scholars, lucky to acquire employment for what I can assure you were all too generous wages.
I remember one pedant in particular, a tattered-sweater-wearing logorrheac, from some second-rate Middle America doggerel factory, with a penchant for dark chocolate and sour grapes. The weak myopic fool would gobble his bittersweet bars while staring owl-like out of his trifocals, gulping air like a carp. That wizened, disproportionally large, empty head would shake like a wrinkled babe’s as he pontificated about matters philosophical that I had solved while still in utero.
Deontological ethics – that Kant! When my master dimwit began to moralize on treating people as a means to an end is when we crossed the Rubicon. How singlehandedly and neatly our problems were solved when the scatterbrain misplaced his spectacles. How delirious with confusion he was to find the chocolate bar missing at five p.m. sharp, with a crumble-trail marking a sweet brown path. How absurd the performance of that purblind dolt, tracking, nose to the ground, for the resting place of that theobromide-laden indulgence. And how at the exact moment of my father’s arrival – 5:07 sharp – was the birdbrain found face-first in the dog bowl, planting the poison.
When father released the assassin from his commitment to me – and me from his perilous clutches – I pleaded that the onetime wages be diverted into a charitbl fund, which I would manage, for the protection and rescue of domestic animals. Hence, the ends do indeed justify the means, foolish Kant.
So you tell me, who is the real Caesar?
And if the fools at the bar are listening, hear me as you did that fateful day: “Come one come all. Pay tribute. All hail the glorious Caesar!”

Caesar 4: Gaius Louis
They just murder my nickname, and if you don’t know to whom you speak, why in the world should you trust them? First of all, my dears, it’s not Louis, it’s Lius—as in Ju-lius. But never mind that. My closest friends don’t use a nickname, the people who love me call me Gaius.
I can tell already that it’s only a matter of time for us. Soon we will be true friends, close as close can be. Call it a hunch, a little friendar I keep here in my inner vest pocket. You see how sharp I dress? Yes, that is real gold. Impressed? Naturally, but it is only a game, the game you know. He who wins, plays with all his soul, he who loses plays like a child. And children cannot afford this gold. But do not let it fool you, my friend, do not conclude that I am all glitz and no substance, that these twenty-four karat chains around my neck imprison my heart. I am a deep man, weighed down by compassion, driven to frenzy and pain by the slightest rebuff, and it means that I am an honest man. You know there are many kinds of honesty, so let us be clear, I do not mean I am honest in what I say, but in what I MEAN. The true meaning, you know—passion, love, sacrifice. These are the marks of truth, the brands of devotion stamped deep into one’s bleeding heart.
The rest of the boys… well they are just boys. Let them alone, they know nothing and they have no heart of which to speak. It is sad that I have to say this to you, but we must set the record straight: to formulate plans like mine, the most important ingredient is not craziness, or fascination with gangster movies, or even raw intelligence. Plans like this take love.
They do not love, my friend. They are too broken to care, and when one does not care, it is a kind of death. Listen to me and do not award dead men such unjust respect.
Let me tell you this story, the story of that night – you will be sure to see that my word is good, that I am a man of honor, and you know that once you are close as close can be to a man of honor, he will gladly fall on his sword for your happiness. I will convince you then, and you will call me Caesar, or we will never speak again.

Caesar 1: Julius Fuckface
So that’s when SHE comes in, after I sat down again, and she’s lookin’ at me with those fuck-me-eyes, and I’m staring at her like she’s lemon-ice-on-a-stick. Gotta melt that shit. Motherloving fuck. I start fucking hyperventilating right there on the spot, and I know I’m gonna kill a guy just to make a point, but the point I’m making now is that I didn’t kill no guy.
Yeah, I say to my associates, Let’s take a little break here. Dickhead don’t contradict me, but the Professor’s like, Where do you think you’re going mighty Caesar? Which just proves that we was all sitting down together, that I organized the meeting, otherwise, why would he say that? I’ll skip the next part, ‘cause it probably won’t interest you much, but let’s just say that I got the Professor to see things my way real quick.
Two things: First, we’re talking at the bar. She’s all up in my face with that eight inch gutter, like she wants to break off my nose and suffocate it between the pillows, all personal like. I was gonna let her too. Started to understand suicide after that. Second, she’s gotta tell me something all private. Shit, I got all my boys watching me, drooling into their whiskeys.
So I says, I says, Let’s you and me go somewheres private.
And she’s like whadaya mean? Like your place?
And I was like, Now that you mention it, yeah, my place is pretty private, except for my Ma, but we can go in the bathroom.
So she’s like, Hot.
So tell that to your arresting officer. Bitches. That’s who you talking to. Julius fucking Caesar.
But we actually didn’t go to my place, because that’s when the shit went down.

Caesar 2: Dickhead the Barman
He was acting like a common thug – not a speck of class. I’m rarely embarrassed. I’ve had this bar a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of assholes come and go, making fools of themselves, but this was something else. Rainman sucking on Forrest Gump’s dick. Excellent driver. Fill that box chocolate-packer. Fucking idiot. Fucking idiot. You just can’t say that too many times about that fucking idiot.
Who did he think would pay him respect? Should have taken lessons. Louis Calhern, Marlon Brando, 1953, now that’s a movie. Should have watched that one long ago, learned about loyalty and betrayal. Too late now for that bum.
The girl – what can I say about the girl? I didn’t pay her no mind, but it was one of those situations where she obviously wanted to talk to me. I mean she comes in all out of breath, ogling around the bar, eyeballing everyone like we gonna snatch her purse any minute, and settles that eye on me. She was looking for someone in charge and Fuckface sure ain’t gonna fit the bill, but he just lost it. Lost his fucking mind.
Shoved the tbl forward to get out and spilled the Professor’s wine, got in his face then and palmed the knife out of his sleeve to show what a big man he was. Deal was off right there. Fuckface was out. But that wasn’t the embarrassing part.
Walks up to the girl at the bar and starts begging her, like sobbing like a little boy, that she let him buy her a drink. She doesn’t answer so he reaches behind the bar and fingers a glass and a bottle of well whiskey, some of my worst shit, and just pours like three fingers. No ice, nothing. Just girl, Fuckface, whiskey, period. She doesn’t touch it, doesn’t even look at it. So what does he do?
He’s like, Oh you don’t want this? You don’t want this?
And she shakes her head like, No, Fuckface, I don’t fucking want your stolen dogpiss hold the rocks game, you fucking pimple on the ass of an ant crawling around in dirt that your mother eats.
So he’s like, Not a problem.
Tosses the drink across the room.
She’s still looking at me the whole time, like there’s something, important maybe even, maybe business. Maybe more than business. I don’t fucking know. So I start to get up. I’m all man, you know, like the Godfather, more than most, and it takes me a while to get going, but by the time I get to the bar, Fuckface is muttering this whole plan about how the girl needs to meet his Ma, and how he’s an amazing fucking lover. But saying that together real fast like that don’t look too good for him, you know. So the shit is just there begging me to take it, pleading to be worked.
I’m at the bar by now and I say to the girl, “And when you go to meet his Ma, you make sure and ask her what a great lover he is – she would know.”
So that’s when the shit went down.

Caesar 3: The Professor
As to what happened, let us begin with an exercise. I will riddle you with three hints, and if you think very hard, you may make some progress:
1. A widely accepted view among Stratfordian scholars is that in 1599 William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, composed four plays. The play “Julius Caesar” came after “Henry V,” but before “Much Ado About Nothing” and “As You Like It,” respectively.
The contrary Oxfordian Chronology, claims that in 1589, the true author of “Julius Caesar,” Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, composed that work and followed it in the same year by “Hamlet” and “Henry the VI, part II.”
Unearth the truth.
2. One of the most perplexing problems in the Mathematical subject of Combinatorics is the determination of the multicolor diagonal Ramsey function R(n;p). The truth is encrypted therein, as if by that famous emperor who was first to apply cryptography to conquest. Current upper and lower bound estimates do little more than reinforce the view that we as human beings are ignorant children playing on the shores of mathematical truth, building sandcastles without ever having touched the waters.
Wake from the daydream, put on long trousers, and discover the true function in its closed form.
3. Answer the question: Is it wrong to kill a dog?
Puzzled? Perhaps. Do not worry yourselves too much; the answers are probably beyond you. No need to get upset now, no need to prod. I will proceed with the account when ready—you cannot force genius.
Limn yourselves sitting together with us in the booth, clumsy Julius squirming in rattled incomprehension, hyperactivity getting the better of his weak will. Drinks topple from our tbl, and our Barman flies into a rage. Both troglodytes exchange pleasantries as Julius, still standing mind you, refers to his knife being ‘always at the ready.’ Louis intervenes by screwing up his face with an aggrieved look, as if the proceedings have already proven to be too much. The air is fetid, dank, the malodorous texture of spilled dreams and ammonia permeating the caliginous murk. Tenebrous shadows obscure our profane designs.
Enter a beam of light.
A vibrant intelligence. The repeat of her steps, a canticle, gaining purchase over the stygian gloom, exalting in a rhythm, hidden but distinct. How the clicking of her heels encrypt our baser natures in a flourishing complexity!

“Nel ciel che più de la sua luce prende
fu' io, e vidi cose che ridire
né sa né può chi di là sù discende.”

How she braves the perils of their dull eyes and imbecilic expressions, searching with a curious mien, for intelligence, understanding. For succor, angels have been known to fall.
Take my metaphors and disabuse me of my unworthy tongue, so that I am free of words, pour me from a glass to your lips, and our minds will meet, in vitro e sui generis.
Yes! Yes! Devious maiden, approach, walk upon us with your lightness. Alas, it is not to be. Intercepted! Julius, that oaf, obstructs all reasonable ventures. Into the fray waddles the Barman, in selfish pursuit. Thus, it is up to me to intervene, don the magister’s mantle. Here, precisely at my approach, do those events come to pass. To parrot buffoons, that is when the shit goes down.

Caesar 4: Gaius Louis
To understand what happens, you must understand to whom it happens.
You may think you know Julius, but do you know how he suffers? What is the brand of his agony? I tell you, these are things you can only learn from an insider. Why do you think he must be so certain that everything becomes thoroughly broken? Why is the man painfully aware of whether he sits or stands, of how many times he has risen? Why does he put to memory the most trivial minutiae of position and location? Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, my friend. OCD. You have heard of it, have you not? A demon immune to his knife’s wielding.
The Barman, poor sop. You know it is not his bar, right? He is not even allowed to keep the tips, but, nonetheless, that gift of work is a charity on him. Else, he would eat away his disability check as soon as he received it. At least here, he must preserve a modicum of dignity and decorum—despite his undershirt. No wonder he’s three-hundred-fifty pounds and not really there. Would you not want escape?
Finally, to be a professor, must not one hold an advanced degree? Do charges of pederasty confer on one a titular honor because that nasty business involves a form of teaching?
No, my friend, these are not your so-called great criminals. They are failed men. Small time hustlers would avoid them as wastes of time.
Into their unhappy den walks a beautiful girl. Like the Mona Lisa, she smiles at them all. They are flabbergasted by their good fortune. It is a rare occurrence—theirs is not the kind of place that holds beauty. Her collar is turned up and she is shivering, the poor dear. A sad persecuted look on her face, as her eyes twitch around the room, searching.
They are coarse men, indelicate in their approach. Of course, they mob her, but only for attention my friend. Each of them is suddenly and shockingly awake to life. That is how it happens, you think you are as good as dead and your life has passed you by, and then a pretty girl walks in. Pardon me here for a second—I am a little overwhelmed. Oh that these poor souls can find a moment of happiness…
Yes, don’t mind me. Where was I? Hell hath no fury and all that—but wait, we haven’t gotten there yet.
Unlike the boys, I do not rush the little minx like a wild hound. I have a feeling you see, from the start, that not all is right here. She runs from something, leading it to us, and it will come for her. So nervously she watches the door, unable to keep her eyes off it. That is when I start thinking: Her arrival is not a coincidence. Who could have known that we were all here tonight, going over my plan?
This may be a diversion, which means they want to distract me. There is no one else they could distract. Whoever sent the girl must know that I’m in charge, that the plan is mine. I did not become who I am by recklessness. You must practice caution, even in your risks. But I must confess, I am energized by the thought of what may happen here.
A short prayer to the Mother, and I sit – at the opposite corner of the bar, where I can watch the door.

Caesar 1: Julius Fuckface
So the dead guy walks in the bar, looking stupid. Comes up to me swaggering like I need to show him respect. That wasn’t his first mistake though. His first mistake was being born. Fucken donkey. Never seen the guy before in my life, and I can tell I’m the better for it. Still standing with his girl though I don’t know it’s his girl.
He’s like, What the fuck you doin’ in here?
And she’s like, Get the fuck away from me, and mind your own business, fuck you very much. Followin’ me around like a little puppy.
I gotta hand it to her, she’s got a way with words. But he don’t listen. Starts crying right there at the bar.
The rest of my boys are watching from the booth, they don’t never even come up to the bar. Got nothing to do with this. It’s just the three of us, and she’s obviously disgusted by his weak ass. Never seen nothing so pathetic.
She musta thought so too, because she just slaps his face and takes a little dance step back and forth, with a hip swivel. He holds his cheek like he can’t believe it. Walks to the other side of the bar and, still crying, leans his head against the wall. Bad idea at Tony’s – I wouldn’t come near that disgusting wall. But he comes back. Starts threatening her then, telling her how sorry she’ll be.
I’m a good guy, I give people exactly four chances. Most people stop at three, but that ain’t even. Four times he threatens her and she don’t say a word, but I could tell she was scared, leaning back against me like for protection.
So I tell him, Piss off Buddy. Go yell at your Ma, ‘cause no one here’s listening.
He don’t look at me but asks the girl, Who the fuck is this guy?
I told you once, I say, I’ll only tell you four times. Get. The. Fuck. Out.
I swear to god, he says to her, I swear to god if you don’t come with me I’m gonna kill myself.
And she gets real angry, like she’s heard his shit before.
Kill yourself then! She says. Do it. Do it right here.
That’s when he reaches out, like he’s gonna grab her throat. Of course that shit won’t work with me around, so I push him the fuck back, show him my knife.
Jesus, he says to me finally. That’s the only thing he said to me too. Jesus. Motherfucker even got my name wrong. Is that any way to talk to your Caesar?
Real unfortunate situation, I tell you – tragic. Shouldn’t have gotten my name wrong. That’s when I get angry. I put the knife on the bar then, and when I put my knife down, you know you’re in trouble. So I put the knife down and says to him I says, So whatcha gonna do?
He looks at her then, but she’s blank, stone-cold, and I hear her whisper, Do it.
Can you believe that shit? Do it?
Yeah, he goes for it. Big mistake, I think. But I don’t even get a chance. He picks up the knife and all in one motion, brings it up to his neck, pushes the whole blade in, and crumples to the floor.
You think the girl would scream or something, but no, nothing. She steps around him, he’s bleeding all over the place at this point, but she steps around and walks to the door. Don’t even turn around. Get that shit? Fucken unbelievable.

Caesar 2: Dickhead the Barman
It was a sad situation to have to watch, but even worse if you’re in it. I could see the girl better now, and she was a real Ingrid Bergman, I mean classy looking, like she stepped out from the silver screen. Like from a black and white film from the forties where they used to be a lot more careful with the delicate stuff – cared about the way shadows fell on a person’s face and shit. Fuckface actually thought she was interested.
Then the dead guy walked in, dressed sharp – black dinner jacket with those shiny lapels, fucking calfskin gloves. I didn’t know him from Adam, never saw the guy before in my life, but you could tell from the start that she did. Knew he was coming too, the way she was looking at him, giving him the evil eye.
He did the meringue from the front door all the way up to her, and Fuckface, though a little slow on the take, could see that none of this was about him at all. It really looked like the whole thing was just a show she put on for her man. I mean, maybe it even was that and got out of hand, or maybe it was something else, like serious. Serious is what it got.
Fuckface, angry, got loud now.
“Who the fuck is this guy?” he yelled.
But she didn’t answer. Instead, she just yelled at the guy, “Get away from me! Can’t you just leave me alone.”
The guy said, “What the fuck are you doing in this place?”
Fuckface got real scary then, started touching the bar over and over in the same spot, repeating some nonsense to himself. I don’t exactly remember what he said, but it was something like, “No the wants, no the gets.” Some weird shit like that. They stopped talking then, because he was acting so strange, started moving away from him.
That’s when the knife came out. Just a small pocket knife really, like a boy scout knife, but he was holding it like this was it, it had come to this. Holding it up like he was gonna use it, still muttering the shit to himself.
And I was like, “Julius please, what the fuck…”
And he was crying then, walked over to the other side of the bar, smeared his head into the wall, banging his forehead hard over and over.
“Fuck,” he said.
“Jesus,” the guy said, and Fuckface lost it.
He was like, “That ain’t my name! Get my name right. Say it, say it!”
The guy and the girl backed away, towards the door, and Fuckface wasn’t following them or anything, but he was still yelling. Then he stopped, and put the knife to his throat.
Jesus Christ, I’m sorry, I’m so fucking sorry. I had to do something. I mean I’m Caesar here, in charge, and I was right there, and no matter how we kid each other, I’ve known the guy like twenty years, we’ve been through a lot together. I couldn’t just let him do it. This isn’t a fucking movie for Christ’s sake.
So I grabbed for the knife, would have had it too. There’s no way little Fuckface could have hauled it once I got my mitts on it. But the fucking guy. The stupid fucking guy. Jesus Christ. It’s real unfortunate.
Mister hero over there comes running in to save the day, gets his hands on the knife too. And Fuckface is screaming bloody murder – too many people too close to him now. He could only take that for so long. What can I say, he let go. I let go. The guy didn’t let go. He was pulling so hard, pulled the knife into his neck.
Girl started screaming then, ran out of the bar. Never saw her again after that. Like she didn’t even exist.

Caesar 3: The Professor
I have always found that plans are useless, but planning indispensable, that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice, that the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it. However, I was not the first to find these truths—they are adopted, excerpts from old wisdom. One from a warrior, one from a moralist, and one from an underdog—all presidents.
To these great chestnuts of our leaders, let me add that of a poet: I have always found that angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise.
Ah, the benefits of systematic reasoning! True, William Blake, true indeed.

Picture it: The expired man walks into the bar—just a boy really. Unfortunate deceased, minutes away from an end still unbeknownst to him, but we perceive it do we not? Dramatic irony be damned! Thence does the frightened suitor, still but a boy really, begin his imprecations, doubtless in agony, groveling and scraping as he spews maledictions at our disconsolate girl.
She, the angel, speaks, “Why must you follow me here? Be gone and let me in peace.”
He should have listened to that wisdom and it might have ended there had the lad been less rattled, but in such a state of mind do men find themselves to be little more than animals. He swears at her, a most disgusting profanity, and I am no naïf tenderfoot. To lead men one must know a mercenary patois. Four words in four letters, each among many others. I am shocked. The young lady is doubtless shocked. But Julius and the Barman actually laugh. And at her expense. Vulgarian louts!
“Gentlemen!” I say, “This is a matter of honor. A lady has been insulted by this man,” I point to the accused. My dissipated men do not even pause their merriment, and our young lady is heaving from the wound to her pride.
“We will settle this as men,” I say, and challenge the boy, “Fisticuffs!”
However, they are all too dull to follow, standing slack-jawed, guffawing.
“I say…,” inquires the Barman, caught in a paroxysm of tittering. He asks a rhetorical question, with an expletive mind you, as to who I think I am to be meddling in this private matter.
“You then,” I divert my adipose Barman, “you can be my Second.”
“But I wanted to be your Second,” Julius wines.
“Someday, my boy, when you learn to keep your feelings in check. I need a resolute man of sound mind.”
He shows me the knife.
“Doubtless you will need your Second to have full utility of this?” he exclaims.
“Indeed,” I say, “so hand it over.”
The knife relayed to the Barman, by way of me.
“Surely this is some grotesquery!” declares the challenged lad. “I have agreed to no duel. This affair has gone on long enough.”
He takes the lady’s hand.
“Come my darling,” he says. “We must away.”
She resists.
“I will go nowhere with you. Scoundrel.”
Gentlemen and ladies, what is to be done? Hereupon I dance back and forth, arms up in a rolling guard to protect the face, as father always taught. Julius and the Barman shake with laughter – let them laugh. The valiant never taste of death but once! From this tussle, I shall come out the victorious conqueror. Their laughter increases, and Julius doubles over, chiming some nonsense phrase to himself – a tic – while the Barman leans on the wall for support. The boy stands paralyzed.
And that is when everything changes.
My Barman begins to cough, and clutches and his chest. All movement comes to a halt, as if a blanket of rime covers us.
“Jesus!” cries out the man, still next to our slandered young lady.
Julius becomes agitated. He screams my name and gesticulates, trying to hold the Barman up, who slumps against the wall, struggling to breathe.
I make my way there but the poor young man rushes wildly to the Barman’s side. For what purpose? I think now, but at the time we were without thought.
Under the Barman’s arm, he positions himself, to prop up that prodigious bulk, but to no avail. Pushing off from the wall, and little Julius’s support, the giant Barman staggers forward, the unfortunate suitor caught under his arm, and falls, stiff as a downed tree. There is no crash, we stand in silence, but in seconds, our giant man comes to and rolls over, exposing the pool of blood collecting from the boy’s gushing wound.
The girl, terrified, looks at the scene in shock. She says nothing, and it is plain that she knows not what to do.
“Go.” I say to her, “Get help. Go!”
I do not remember what happened after that, I must have fainted.

Caesar 4: Gaius Louis
When you lose your bearings, and the world spins around you, remember that you can rely on love and death. That is the way of the Caesar. To relish the beginning, let us begin with love then, my friend—death will come on its own.
No sooner do I position myself at the lookout post than that dead bastard walks into the bar. A shark in a midnight suit. I watch him walk over to the girl and try to shake down my boys, but it is useless, they know nothing. Love and death, my friend, and he smells of both. The girl is a plant. The way he looks at her, you know they’re in it together. Understanding passes between them like a note in history class, anyone sensitive to the intrigues of attraction could see it. They burn without fire.
I make my approach, arms loose, ready.
“You,” he says to me, “what are you doing in here?”
I say, “I am sorry my friend, but I do not know you. You must have me mistaken for someone else.”
“Jesus,” he says.
“No,” I answer, “I am Lius.”
Julius feels the tension and interrupts us, repeating my name.
“Lius, Lius, Lius, Lius,” and then on to his favorite, “Caesar, Caesar, Caesar, Caesar.”
The man’s eyes dart to the girl, and she holds his gaze. They catch me looking.
The Barman tries to calm Julius down, take his mind off his tic, asking him if he’s seen Taxi Driver. The Professor claps his hands once and steps between Julius and the girl.
The man hesitates. Of course he knew who I was, he was merely stalling. How he had heard of my business venture, I do not know, but I am sure that is why he came.
“I don’t feel good,” says Julius, takes out the knife with a trembling hand and gives it to the Professor. The Professor hands it over to the Barman, who in turn gives it to me. I rest it on the bar. Don’t want to scare the guests. But the girl does get scared. She backs away from the bar, looking at the knife, backs all the way up to the wall, cringing back against it.
“I can’t do this anymore,” she says to the man, “I’m not going to do this with you.”
“This is about the plan?” I ask her. “He put you up to this? He told you to do it?”
She’s crying now, and nods her head “yes” through sobs, but all she can get out is a whisper.
“…do it…,” she says.
“Lady,” I say, “you shouldn’t stay for this. This doesn’t involve you.”
She shakes and nods some more. Then I see her last look at him – it is one of pure rage.
“Let me help you out of here,” I say, “I’ll get you a cab.”
I take her hand and encircle her waist with my other hand, like we’re dancing. Then I lead her outside, my boys following close behind.
We’re gone maybe five minutes. But that’s it. We had all left the bar with the girl – the place was empty. Not one of us was there to see how it happened. For all I know, my friend, the spirit of god appeared at that moment and stabbed him in the neck.

End





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