Damon Runyon meets Pancho Villa in a West Texas bar

Runyon was covering spring training, looking for an ever-loving wife of the female nature, and jotting down nicknames for Giants players. His bookie was so far away, and now it was just peanuts and beer and a horse named “Rollicker” to keep him company. From one small Manhattan to the largest one there is, all out of contractions, and still putting the smart money in his shoe. Everything was ink. McGraw was an asshole. And not one thug in a million would match the ones he knew so well, the ones like Regret, who even at age two would have made a great body guard. He was more than somewhat bemused by his current state of affairs, and his feet were aching something terrible on the bar rail below.

So, Mr. Alfred D. Runyon is said to have been minding his own when all out of somewhere this mustachioed diminutive character with a blow-by-blow mouth and some pineapple of a presence scuttles on in and bellies up to the bar right next to him. Runyon glanced over at the owner of all this esteem and muttered, “La Cucaracha.”

Pancho Villa, who was a bit slumped over at the bar, swiveled his head towards Runyon, not glaring at him exactly, but giving him somewhat more than a once over. Runyon tipped his panama to him. Villa winked, slyly, and gave his mustache a preen or two.

“How is it that one as yourself might deign to meet his demise? By cleaver? By rope? By a tickling of toes?”

“I would prefer to die in a more heroic way than that. Perhaps with a medal carved out of ox bone slung around my neck and a dime novel in my back pocket.”

“And your heart?”

“Bury my heart, and I do not care where.”

“You have said as much.”

“The salt stays on the tongue. The lips know the present from the tasteless past. Another?”

“Si. I am not a capital T.”

“Senor. Por favor. Uno mas.”

“Speak clearly, huh? Bub?”

“Who are you, sir, referring to? I am not, presently, anyone’s anybody. All of your rebellions can go stink-o for all I do not care, or care to.”

“Blotto it out, nino. Just mas estrellas to add to your stripes.”

“The kisses will not stay. I will hightail it all over the damn country deceiving myself the chances of love’s last dripped drop of poison. A bad time to quit the bottle, but when is a good time? I have never found one myself. It is either pour or pour some more. I cannot get it through the ramshackle structure of my personality just yet that I can make it on my own without a little help from my liquid delusions.”

“The water is bad here. Drink up. Salud.”

“The same.”

“Not so cherry cheery, huh?”

“Not much so as you would notice.”

“So many people. So few who give a shit about anything that matters to the quality and substance of their lives. I have been around them a good deal, enough to know that most folks are not acutely aware of much at all except their bank accounts and the things they own, or want to own. I am not saying that I am any better. In fact, I might be a tad worse on all accounts. I snivel and moan about the most picayune of setbacks. I desire attention at all times, and just want more and more of it the more I get. I want people to like me. It is a real pisser. Let me tell you. But let me tell you, normal people? Shit. We all know what stinkers they are. There is a little too much envy even in the best of us, and that…that is too bad.

“People are free to fall as they will, in or out, or sometimes perhaps not at all.”

“Never. It is all a gag to keep you guessing. The chains we wear are figments, sure. But we fool ourselves all the time into believing they are the key to our most pleasurable pursuits. If I were to come down off this cross it would be just for the chance of another.”


“Sure. Why not?”

“Senor. Uno mas, por mi amigo.”

“Y tu?”


“Salud, then. I guess. Fucking salud all the way past the breakers of war and the distress of another god damn lonely night up ahead. Salud to all of your god damn Ring Lardners and Rockefellers. Salud to it all, I say.”

“You sure do.”

“Find a wife. Have some kids. Live together and have cherished moments. Stop all of this jiving around.”

“Sure. And then it is only the grave encroaching just up ahead, and you are gone, cutoff from everything you have ever known just when you thought you were getting started. A rawer deal cannot be found, kiddo.”

“…I am a sucker for a girl wearing a Stetson in the rain. That there is the real start of the problem. It just gets so boring and antiseptic around here. I have got to make do. And sure, I do. Tell time by the wire birds. Bone up on the ways of the outliers and the Bowery boys. You would be surprised at the things that do not show up on a map. Breakers and switches. Fault lines. Loss and momentum tugging you around like a sand-sack of guilt. Everything gets to feeling slung. Felled I guess. Well, my pants they are not so fancy anyways. While I am stuck here listening to the noise that caterpillars make in the walls and waiting for butterflies to arrive. As traffic swells and ebbs, as the sirens comply, as I do not.”

“Mucho…noise…sin mucho…purpose.”

“Si. The welts of suffering do not look so well in the mirror of the past. I am raving. I will stop now.”

“Good. I have had just about too much of it, and of course, as always…”

“…not enough.”

“Yes. So, viva la something-something.”

“So be it. What is is what is not, too.”

“Insert byline here.”


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