El Capitan

‘Sure, I can taking a freakin’ joke,’ said the Captain as he poured a second shot from the glass-green glass bottle.

Rumour had it the Captain had never been captain of anything – perhaps never even served in any military body. Rumour had it the captain had once been a stage magician – a shit one. Rumour had it the captain’s sister was hot.

The captain’s hat, which he never removed, prompting more than one customer at El Capitan’s to posit that it hid a bald head, was crooked to one side. Some people have signs, indicators of mood, that a sharp observer can use to forecast emotional weather. For the captain it is his hat. Level means flat seas ahead. Crooked warns us of stormy conditions. About to topple, and God only knows what’s going to happen next.

The Captain’s face looked something like an animated pencil sketch, shallow, ill-defined lines darting across it, bestowing a texture that most faces simply don’t have. It was Martino’s firm belief that it was this texture, and the gimmick of the hat, which led people to tolerate the Captain’s eccentric behaviour.

‘You know I never even met your sister,’ Martino said grasping at the shot glass.
The Captain seized the second one. ‘To your health, Martino.’

Down in one.
Or they would have been if Martino hadn’t caught a whiff of ammonia.
Martino lowered the glass back on to the bar and watched the Captain lick the rim of his empty receptacle.

‘Yum,’ said the Captain.

‘How’d you do it? I’m guessing you’re not drinking your own piss?’
‘An artiste never reveals his secrets, Martino.’

One of these days, thought the Captain, hiding his disappointment well, his sleight-of-hand would catch Martino out.

And then the bastard would never again mention his sister.

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David Baillie is a freelance writer and artist. Born almost thirty years ago in Scotland, he now lives and works in the East End of London.

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