Thursday, December 30, 2010

May the Best Man Win

I’ve never gotten married, but Abe did a few years ago in Bozeman, Montana, and on this occasion I was honored to serve as his best man.  I arrived a day earlier than Jens, Wolf and Craig, and met Abe's intended: a lovely woman I immediately saw as a terrific partner for Abe.  Why the other three hadn't been asked to fill the position became contentious in later years, but for now I was just pleased to avail myself for this happy event. 

That evening, Abe and his friend Al (a bluegrass musician from Kentucky) and I hit the Hoff Brau (spelling may vary), a likable bar I’d drank at in previous trips to Bozeman.  For the visually impaired, the Hoff is not easily navigable, dark and packed with chairs and pool tables nestled closely together.  Al and I began a polite discussion of religion.

“But Dave, the Bible says ‘God is our refuge and strength’”—

“Al, Dave’s an atheist.  There’s no point citing the Bible since he doesn’t believe in it.”

Abe had heard my rants before, and neither he nor I was feeling combative, so the conversation switched more festive topics: music, girls, booze, and the fact Abe would be forsaking all three to varying extents before long.

After knocking back a few, it was time to break the sea, so  I whipped out my stick and headed for the head through the smoky labyrinth of bar furniture.  Along the way, my stick jabbed something on the floor, what, I couldn’t tell.  It felt stuffed, squishy, like a beanbag or sack of pork bellies.  I jabbed it some more, and the it rustled lazily. I realized I was jabbing a dog.  The dog didn’t seem bothered, but I apologized to its master anyway, and might have apologized to the dog (also expecting an apology in return) but dogs can’t talk.  

Sidling behind its master’s barstool, I said “Sorry about that.  I’m blind and I just jabbed your dog.”  

“Fuck you you’re blind.”

“I beg your pardon?” pulse rising in its customary way.

“I said ‘fuck you you’re blind’.  What, are deaf, too?”  He dragged off his cigarette and set his drink down.

“The fuck I’m not.  What the fuck is this, then, asshole?”  I flung my stick at him.

He fumbled with it, and as he felt it in his hands he laughed.

“Holy shit, you are blind.  So am I.”  

His name was Todd.  He’d been shot in the face in a hunting accident and was completely sightless.  He had a guide dog, which explains why the animal was so unperturbed by the jabbing.  I slapped Todd on the back and we laughed like mad at the mix-up.  He was wearing a tasseled leather biker jacket, and had a Grizzly Adams beard.  He wore dark glasses.  

“What are the odds?”  We agreed they were slim, and celebrating our new friendship over Jager shots, swapped war stories and commiserated on the annoyance of sight loss in world of stupid people.  He told me strangers give him shit about being blind, and even (astonishingly) call his blindness into question.  

“Are you fucking serious?  It’s one thing for me, since I do have some sight and it's all kind of up in the air...but you...people give you shit, too?”

“Yep.  That’s what I thought you were about when you walked by.  It happens more than you’d expect, and I get a little pissy about it.”  He put his cigarette out and grunted.  “I don’t put up with much shit.”  

“Hell no.”   

Abe and Al did their own thing, and I reveled in the rare opportunity to exchange notes with someone in a similar situation.  As we sucked down Jager shots and cigarettes, we were inexplicably and periodically interrupted by an acquaintance of Todd’s who’d been lurking behind us, repeating the suggestion that I was in all actuality not blind, and that I was, in fact, an imposter.  I was being apprehended by Bozeman’s finest handicop.  He’d conjecture into our conversation, despite Todd’s persistent insistence to desist.  Obediently, the anopheline handicop would alight, only to buzz back after a spell to bite where’d he’d left off.  

“I’m onto you, you fucking fraud.  I know you’re not blind.”

“He’s legit, man, fuck.  Leave us alone,” Todd waving his hand dismissively.  Still the cycle continued, more annoyingly with each repetition.

“Dude, what’s this guy’s deal?” my shot glass smacking the bar. 

“He’s not usually this much of an asshole.  He’s just drunk.”

“Well, he’s about to get his nose broken.”  

“Wouldn’t blame you.”

Todd and I ordered up more rounds, trying to ignore this human housefly.  The next and last time he dropped by, he crept beind me and snarled into my ear: “This guy’s blind,” indicating Todd, “but you’re not.  You’re faking it.  You think you can just walk in here, pretending you’re blind?”

I‘d had enough. 

“Look dude, you need to fuck off or I’m gonna kick your ass.”  

“Let’s go!  Right now, outside,” like he was in a movie.  It was difficult to take this man seriously, but he needed to learn a lesson about being polite to the visually impaired.  Beyond that, this seemed the only recourse to terminating his incessant harassment. 

I got up, calmly unfolded my stick, and caned for the door.

“Oh, you have got to be kidding me,” scoffing for all the bar to hear.

He shouldn’t have said that.

Todd didn’t bother stopping me.

I crossed the threshold first, when Abe and Al—who’d been observing from afar—bolted for the door.  With the cane in my left hand, I pushed open the door, took three steps, the pestilential drunk directly behind me.  As he stepped out of the bar, I threw my right arm around his neck and flipped him over my hip onto his back.  I flung the cane and wailed on him, his head bouncing off the asphalt.  I could feel blood splatter under my knuckles as I cracked him over and over with my left fist.  Al hovered over the melee squealing encouragements in Kentuckian.  

“Kick his ass Dave!  Kick his fucking ass!” dancing wildly around the fray.  Abe had seen this side of me before, and begged me to let the man go.

“Dave, he’s had enough!  Think about what you’re doing!  You’re gonna kill him!” 

I might have.  All fists and spit: years of frustration violently made manifest.  This was an unfair fight: the handicop had fucked with the wrong visually impaired drunk.  My consciousness left my body to some degree, and as the pounding continued, the handicop’s legs kicked and flailed, helplessly trapped, his neck locked in right arm.  Abe knew the score, and before olong Al changed his tune and agreed the punishment had been amply meted out.  Despite my possessed protestations, the two pried me off by the armpits as the handicop sprang to his feet and fled.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” all three agreed, and I grabbed my stick—now broken—and bolted into the night. 

I never saw Todd again.  Poor guy must have gotten stuck with the whole bill.


  1. I still remember the coy look on that dude's face as you two walked out the bar door. The scene went from zero to sixty in a split second. I wasn't even sure you were going to stick it to him until his feet were in the air. He had way less of an idea that something might be coming down the pike than I did.

  2. that is one of my favorite stories EVER!!!!! that man didn't know who he was messing with-- you're awesome! the story is even better that someone tried telling you about God being a refuge-- i love it! :)

  3. Great story. I didn't know you spent so much time beating on him. Not that I condone it. That's not really a very nice thing to do you know.

    "It felt stuffed, squishy, like a beanbag or sack of pork bellies."

    Do you run across many sacks of pork bellies in Montana bars?