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A stranger at the bar by Jon Sponaas



A Stranger At The Bar

There is a stranger at the bar.

"Who's that guy?"

"Dunno; never seen 'im before."

The regulars feel irregular. The stranger disrupts the bar's regularity and signifies the possibility of a world with shifting foundations. The stranger orders a double whiskey. The bartender brings the drink; the regulars are confused.

"Did he just say…?"

"Yeah. What the hell?"

"Merci?"

The Stranger At The Bar Again

The stranger is at the bar again. He is less strange as his continuity begins to instill a sense of predictability. He drinks whiskey and listens to the regulars argue.

"You gotta be fuckin' kiddin' me."

"I just…"

"You just nothin'. What kinda damn fool wish is that? He can't catch 'im. Don't you understand that he can't catch 'im, that the whole fuckin' thing is shot if he catches 'im?"

"I just... well, I just feel sorry for 'im, that's all."

"You gotta be fuckin' kiddin' me. Sorry? You feel sorry for 'im? What the hell are you talkin' about? The whole damn thing flew right over yer head. See, you think it's just a cartoon; that's where yer fucked up. Listen. What's he sposed to do when he catches 'im? Think it through, man. If he catches 'im, there's not fuck all left to do. It's not about catchin' 'im. It's about chasin' 'im. Get it? Say the Road Runner's Truth or Beauty or Life or whateverthefuck. That's the kinda shit people chase. Do they ever catch 'em?... I said…"

"Well…"

"Fuckin' A -- no they never catch 'em. They chase 'em. And Wile E. fuckin' Coyote is the most extreme example of these pursuits. See? I can't believe you thought it was just some stupid cartoon.

"Check this out. Wile E. is a demolitions expert, a seismological field tester, a trapeze artist, a granite painter, a blueprint designer/drafter, a boulder catcher, a pilot, a ballistics expert, a robotics engineer, a catapult loader/launcher, a brick mason, an anvil thrower, a harpoon gunner, and a bunch of other shit. He never quits. Do you think he gives a damn if some sap like you feels sorry for 'im? Fuck no, he doesn't, cuz that's not what he's about. And it's not about catchin' 'im. It's about tenacity. The whole damn cartoon is about tenacity. Ya got me?"

"Yeah."

"Cool."

The Stranger At The Bar Yet Again

The stranger is at the bar again. He blurs the distinction between strange and regular, as his relation to the others is such that this opposition begins to break down and lose its denotative sense. He drinks and listens.

"Hey I was thinkin' 'bout yesterday, and I know that I was castin' the Carnivorous Vulgaris in a certain light, and I'm not takin' any of that back, but--listen up--another way to see the whole thing is that the Road Runner is The Earth and Wile E. and all his Acme contraptions are the relentless attempts of Science and Technology to unveil The Earth's secrets. Now I understand that yesterday The Coyote was the good guy and today he's the bad guy, but the cartoon can't be held to one interpretation. You gotta be able to live with these contradictions. Have you read your Keats? Whatever, yer feelin' sorry for Wile E. is still ridiculous."

The Stranger At The Bar Once Again

The stranger is at the bar again. He is barely worth mentioning, yet he remains an oddity. "Stragular" is an interesting neologism. The regulars assume their regularity.

"I'd say when Snoopy flies his Sopwith Camel."

"Are you fuckin' serious?"

"Yeah. It was a century filled with horrible wars, so Snoopy flying his Sopwith Camel is the cartoon moment that best represents the last century."

"Fuck that."

"Then what?"

"Wile E."

"Shit."

"Road-Runnerus Digestus, Eatibus Anythingus, Famishius Fantasticus, Eternalii Famishiis, Caninus Nervous Rex, Wile E. Fuckin' Coyote a.k.a. Ralph Wolf…"

"Just go, man."

"Awright, awright. When Wile E. is standin' on one of those cliff overhangs, y'know? And the overhang snaps off and falls. Right fuckin' there, man. The lip of the cliff falls. Wile E. hangs there. And it's the look on his face. That's the look on the 20th century's face. It's like the foundation is gone but we still live in this paradigm of Newtonian physics and everyone has got that look on their face. And it's like all there is to do is fall and fall and fall until that--damn. I remember when I was a little kid the first time I saw The Coyote fallin' like that and the sick feelin' just waitin' and waitin' and then--that little ring a smoke. I winced then. I wince now. It's right there, man."

"Yup."

"Snoopy, my ass."

"I gotta go."

"Awright. I'll see ya in a couple days. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas."

The Stranger Is Not At The Bar

The stranger is absent. His stool is empty. The regulars discuss an irregular coincidence.

"No shit! Me too!"

"Fuck you."

"No, really! The kids were cryin'. My wife was cryin'. The whole thing was a goddamn mess."

"Weird."

"Yeah. I mean, where could they go? The kids go to bed. We put 'em out. Wake up in the morning --ho ho ho--gone."

"I'll be damned."

"Someone must a hit the whole damn town."

The regulars drink, look in the mirror and think.

"What kind a person would steal all the presence?"



Jon Sponaas is an ironworker. He lives in Lansing, Michigan with his girlfriend, Jenna, and his son, Jaydn.


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