I’m BOOZER! he roared
Slamming his fists on the bar,
Rattling glasses and tipping Baldy’s beer.
Jesus Walter, Baldy said catching what he could.
He’d been quiet, blinking behind his glasses for hours.
A man and his whiskey.
I’m BIG BOOZER!
You’re Walter Tattalega, old white shirt said,
His officious head up his ass.
That was it from them for now.
When Boozer got started they melted into the dark paneling like oil
Leaving me alone to manage him
Because I was the bartender and bigger than them
But no way the size of Boozer.
Plus, I was a kid. The only battles I’d fought were on the football field-
Which counted for shit.
He had a bad war, they said. Whatever that meant.
Didn’t seem to be having a good peace neither.
He’d a killed me if he had a mind to. But he didn’t.
Word was he served with my uncle who didn’t come home.
He’d always let me walk him to the door, my hand resting on his shoulder
A giant breathing, ham.
Never pushing-just resting there-feeling the strength and the tension.
He touched me on the chin as he left-a soft cuff that
Made me wince.
They oozed back around the bar once Boozer was gone.
You think you could play ball, one said. You shoulda seen Walter when he was a boy.
Shame what happened to him.
Shame what they did to him.
I was suddenly too small to see over the bar.
Had to jump up to sit, legs dangling, on a stool,
Having a Pepsi and chips while the old man shot pool.
Christ, he’d a killed me if he had a mind. to.