Jesus! What am I doing! Robert thought to himself. It was midday and he was alone in his tiny room with his mind in the salt shaker.
He is quite strong. He benches 280 and arm curls 130. He is a writer who just lifts weights for something to do. He has been watching a lot of mixed martial arts lately. He loves it. It’s so logical. The most focused, best skilled, strongest person nearly always wins: it just makes so much sense. He wonders about art: Why is it like it is? The weak on top and the strong made to suffer.
He has been writing several years now and sending to editors. Though everything he’s sent has been sent back with polite rejections printed on small bits of paper. Occasionally something else arrives: one editor’s response to a story was YIKES! Another said he should be ashamed of his poor work. And another said he should take some writing lessons.
He has been worrying a lot over the past few weeks. He fears he will quit writing and become a fighter. He even went to the mixed martial arts gym on Castlereagh Street last week and got the timetable. If he went ahead with it, he would just focus on wrestling and kickboxing. It wouldn’t take long to learn. He learned to take a good beating early in life, and since he has nothing else, he could really apply himself to learning it all as quickly as possible.
Every morning after he wakes he looks at that timetable before he does anything else. He has thoroughly studied every inch of that small yellow page, every letter, every word: that piece of paper scares the shit out of him. It makes him think of money, women, and a room you could take more than 5 steps in and not hit a wall. “Fuck,” he said to himself then left his room and headed to the bar on Darlinghurst Road, where he noticed three men rushing out the front door. “Get the fuck out of here, you pussies!” screamed a thin dark haired man just behind them with both his fists raised. Robert had another look at the three guys. He then recognized them. They were Beats. The fucking Beats: Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Corso. They continued running.
Robert went to the bar. The old man followed him. He wasn’t looking at him, but he could feel his presence behind him. “ What are you doing here?” he said.
“Got nothing to do with you pops.”
“It has everything to do with me!”
“And who are you?”
“I’m Louis Ferdinand Celine. Now tell me who the fuck are you, chatte.”
“I’m Robert Blake, and your name don’t mean much to me, old man.”
“You’re not drinking here, Blake,” Celine said standing between Robert and the bar.
Robert looked at the bartender. He could swear it was Tennessee Williams. “You should listen to him,” he said to Robert.
“Fuck Him. Give me a double bourbon on ice.”
“Can’t serve you.”
“Celine’s house. He makes the rules.”
Robert turned to Celine. Celine was laughing. “Hey, you dead Sideshow, think you’re tough? I’ll arm wrestle you for drinking rights.”
“I laugh at your request.”
“I’m twice the size of you!”
“Size means shit.”
They rested their right elbows on the bar and clutched hands. “You think you’re tough, aye?” said Celine. Robert ignored him and looked at the bar.
“Go!” said Tennessee. Celine quickly pushed Roberts arm towards the bar. Robert looked beat. He was hanging on with all he had. Celine was laughing. He was about an inch away from losing when he looked up from the bar surface and gave Celine a big smile. He then used all his strength and pinned Celine’s hand hard against the bar. “I win, pension plan. Now I drink.”
Celine stood up and left the bar, shaking his head. “Your bar now,” said Tennessee.
“Fuck that, just give me my drink.”
Robert sat at the bar drinking his bourbon. He looked at the small neat stacks of clean coasters and the many moisture rings on its surface.
He had a few more drinks then went to the toilet.
He used the cubicle—had to be careful in Sydney.
As he let it out he read the walls. He shook his head in disbelief. “Crap,” he said out loud. He got a pen out of his pocket and wrote: “God was invented by humans to make them feel better about their otherwise useless existences. We do nothing to add, we only take, and in the eyes of the universe we are no more than a cycle, no different to any other animal”.
He zipped up and went back to the bar. He noticed two other men drinking in the corner. They were both drinking beer and smoking. He walked to their table. “I saw you beat Celine.”
“A shame. I liked him. He never had a kind word for anyone. Did you write that crap on the toilet wall?”
“Wasn’t bad. Take a seat.”
“Hey, wait,” said the other man. “ Do you like Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, Renoir?”
“He can sit.”
“Shit! You’re Jackson Pollock.”
“Man, I love your work.”
“Stop! I just saw you beat Celine and now this garbage.”
“Sorry. Lost my mind for a minute.”
“Don’t do it again.”
“Pollock isn’t much—abstract crap!” said the other guy at the table.
Robert looked at him closely.
“Hey! Hey, you’re Bukowski.”
“About time you noticed, baby.”
Tennessee then brought over another round. The sun was now shining outside, but that was a million miles away from Robert. He was somewhere now. Somewhere good.