Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Gotta Be Me

By John McDonnell

“How’s your new girlfriend, Larry?” Murphy said one evening when Larry the alien was tending bar at his joint. “The exterminator?”

“She doesn’t like that term,” Larry said. He was feeling out of sorts, and his shape was shifting between a musclebound Nordic bodybuilder and a six foot gray blob.


“She prefers ‘rat whisperer’. She has a real empathy with rats. She can talk to them.”

Murphy shuddered. “I guess it takes all types.” He poured another shot of whiskey from the bottle on the bar, and downed it in one gulp.

“Is something bothering you?” Larry said. “You seem upset.”

“How can you tell?” Murphy asked.

“I was trained to feel humans’ pain. Maybe that’s why I get so unhinged.” Larry twitched, and he turned into a little man with a facial tic and hair that looked like it had seen the wrong end of 50 thousand volts of electricity.

“Yes, well you’ve probably figured out that I’m having problems at home. Dolores wants me to ‘upgrade’ this joint: hire a chef, start serving fancy meals, decorate the place and book entertainment. Entertainment! Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

“Not until now.”

“Singers, dancers, God knows what else,” Murphy said. “I don’t want any of that in here, and if I change the place my regular crowd will stop coming.”

“The females of your species think too much.”

“You can say that again. Too much thinking. It’s the cause of most of the problems in the world.”

“A brain can be a terrible thing in the wrong hands.”

“So what do I do?” Murphy said. “I have everything I want here: a nice, friendly bar where guys can come to drink and watch sports on TV. I don’t want to mess it up by serving little sandwiches and putting tablecloths everywhere.”

“So you’d rather have a dozen unshaven men eating pretzels and drinking beer while they watch a boys’ game on that ancient TV than have 30 tables filled with couples eating filet mignon and drinking expensive bottles of wine?”

“My point exactly,” Murphy said. “Who would want that?”

“Interesting question,” Larry said.

“Do you have any suggestions?” Murphy said.

Larry’s shape shimmered, and then he was standing there in a gold lamé tuxedo, a Vegas updo, and enough jewelry to bankrupt a hip hop record company. He snapped his fingers, then struck a few poses and launched into “I Gotta Be Me”.

Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I've gotta be me

Somehow there was an 11 piece band backing him up, all in gold tuxedos, with a choreographed horn section and a drummer hitting rim shots. A spinning disco ball appeared in the ceiling and a thousand points of light reflected off Larry’s spangled tux. Murphy wasn’t too fazed by it, because things like this happened to Larry all the time. In fact, he was counting up how many beers he’d be able to sell to the band after Larry finished this number.

Just then Dolores walked in and when she saw Larry and the band she got a look like someone who’s just received word that a forgotten relative with the net worth of a small Caribbean nation has died and left his entire estate to her. Her eyes lit up and she clapped her hands.

“Oh, Murphy, I didn’t think you were listening, but this is EXACTLY what I wanted for the bar. Where did you get them? They’re terrific! And who’s that singer? Is that. . . Larry?”

“He’s just having one of his fits,” Murphy said. “It’ll be over in a minute.”

“What a voice!” Dolores said. “He’s terrific. Murphy, you have to hire him. You’d be the hottest nightclub in town with these guys playing.”

“Dolores, please,” Murphy said. “I know this place is just a hole in the wall, but it’s my hole in the wall. I just want to keep things nice and quiet.”

“It’s too late for that,” Dolores said.

The band launched into “I Feel Good,” and Larry started doing splits like James Brown. The doors opened and in minutes the place was filled with couples dancing, clapping, and looking for someone to mix them martinis.

There was an MC, and he was yelling, “Outta this world!” every time Larry did a split. The noise was deafening, and Murphy took his whiskey bottle and retreated to the back room, where he cast aside his shot glass and took a slug directly from the bottle.

Copyright John McDonnell, 2010. All rights reserved.