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Books by Mark M Lichterman
The ClimbingBoy14: Drunk
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Last edited: Thursday, August 16, 2012
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.
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As there were twenty-six days until Christmas and as my Christmas story, “The Climbing Boy”,
has twenty-six chapters, I will submit one chapter a day ending on Christmas day.



The Climbing Boy can now be purchased as a Kindle eBook @ $3.00

____________________________________________________________________

Climbing Boy 14: Drunkard

London, England

December 24, 1843

                             Christmas Eve

 

His foot, slipping off the rail, slapped onto the sawdust covered

floor.

 

The head of flowing white hair dropping from the palm

of his hand, rested on his shoulder a moment, then rolled,

his chin coming to rest on his chest.

 

Bleary eyes flickered open, closed, and opened again.

Straightening his body, pushing the small of his back

inward and his shoulders outward, looking about a moment,

“Barkeep!” Spotting who he was looking for, “Barkeep!” he

called down the length of the bar.

 

“Aye, Sir?”

 

“Ah, my good man,” he called, “another gin and bitters

for myself and…” glancing to the right, where another man

stood with his foot on the brass rail and his head in his

hands, poking the man in the ribs with his elbow, “one more

for my friend here.”

 

“Eh, whazzat?” Jostled by the elbow, lifting his head,

trying to focus his eyes, “Whazzat?” he repeated.

“Matthew, my good friend!” Urpp! belching loudly, “Me

thinks you might be getting thirsty, standing here, doing all

that hard labor.”

 

“Aye, I am that, Eric, I am that!” shaking his head, trying

to clear some of the cobwebs. “Tis hard work holding this

bar down.” Making a fluttering motion with his hands. “To

keep it from just floooating away.”

 

The bartender poured a generous amount of the clear

liquor into a short, heavy glass, added a dash of bitters and,

“Aye, Sir!” he called as he sent the glass slithering down the

length of the highly polished, oak bar.

 

At the far end of the bar, plucking the glass from the slick

surface, Garibaldi brought it to his mouth in one

fluid motion.

 

Taking flight, the second glass was caught as neatly as

the first by Matthew Flizzer, whom, looking at the bartender,

nodding his head, held two fingers upward.

 

“So, Eric,” downing his drink, “you been following the

articles in the Chronicle by that new chap? Uh, what’s it

called? Oh, yes! ‘Sketches by Boz.’”

 

“Aye, Sir!”

 

Catching the flying drink, Garibaldi took a swallow, then,

turning his head, looked at his longtime friend and drinking

companion Matthew Flizzer of “Flizzer & Flizzer, Jugglers

Extraordinary,” “Yes, Matt, I been reading them.”

 

Slapping the empty glass on the bar, “A flash in the pan,”

he held his hand up, two fingers extended.

 

“‘Flash in the pan’? What’s ‘A flash in the pan’?”

 

“That new writer chap. What’s his name?”

 

Contemplating, Garibaldi looked at the ceiling, while at the

same time catching the flying drink. “Ah, yes! Dickens!

Charles Dickens.”

 

“I don’t know…” Matthew said.

 

A few moments passed.

 

Puzzled, putting his glass down, Garibaldi looked at his

friend, who was sipping his drink. “What don’t you know,

Matt?”

 

Turning his head, putting his glass on the bar, signaling

for two more, “I don’t know, uh…” Flizzer giggled, “what I

don’t know, Eric.” Looking at him vaguely, “What were we

talking about?”

 

“Damned if I know.” Garibaldi began to laugh, stopped,

thought, then, “Oh, yes! That new writer on the Chronicle,

uh…?”

 

“Dickens!”

 

“Dickens? Who the dickens Dickens?” Garibaldi

snickered into his hand.

 

“Yeah!” replied Flizzer. “I say to dickens with Dickens!”

 

“Yeah!” Garibaldi began to laugh again, “The dickens with

Dickens!”

 

Flizzer joined in, and the two drunken comrades put

their arms about each other’s shoulders and, as drunks often

do, laughed hysterically, if for no other reason then to laugh.

They stood, the magician and juggler, drunkenly leaning

into each other in front of the highly polished bar of the

Boar’s Tooth Pub directly across the street from the theater.

 

Feeling a gentle tug on his sleeve, Garibaldi turned.

 

Standing closely by his side, dressed in the rough clothing

of a laborer, was a tall, gangling, friendly-faced youth of

about nineteen.

 

Jerking his sleeve from the young man’s fingers, “Yes?”

Garibaldi asked harshly

 

Smiling at Garibaldi, the man glanced over his right

shoulder, to some people sitting at a nearby table, then,

looking back at Garibaldi, “Ya b-be G-G-G… the m-mmagician

from the th-th-th-theatre?” he stuttered.

 

“Yes,” Garibaldi looked at him, at Flizzer, and back at

the young man. “I be G-G-G the m-m-magician,” mimicking

the youth.

 

Becoming red with embarrassment, the young man’s face

contorted with the effort to speak. “Me an’ m-me f-f-friends,”

motioning over his shoulder with his head, “saw your shsh-

sh-show t-today.”

 

Turning from the man, Garibaldi looked at a table about

ten feet from the bar, where, all poorly dressed, a man and

two women sat watching them.

 

Seeing Garibaldi look at them, smiling, one of the women

raised her glass in friendly acknowledgment.

 

Garibaldi lifted his glass, too, and with a false, frozen

smile, making an exaggerated motion, waved back, then,

“S-s-so, w-w-what can I d-d-do for y-y-you?” he asked the

young man.

 

They had enjoyed the magician’s act and, trying to

impress his friends, and most especially his girlfriend, the

young man had summoned all of his courage and made—

what was to him—a supreme effort by getting up and going

forward to speak to Garibaldi. But now, realizing that the

magician was making fun of him, his friendly smile fading,

becoming angry, leaning belligerently towards the older

man: “M-m-me ‘n m-m-me f-friends thinks ya b-be n-n-nothin’

b-but a f-f-f-fake!”

 

Momentarily taken back by the young man’s change from

friendly to antagonistic, the older man moved back a step

but, immediately recovering his drunken composure, “What

is your name?” Garibaldi demanded.

 

His head jutting forward, “L-Lewis!” he answered.

 

“Well, L-Lewis, would you believe…” looking away,

Garibaldi motioned for the bartender to send another round

of drinks for himself and Flizzer, then, turning around,

looking at Lewis’ friends and speaking loud enough for all

in the bar to hear, “that I don’t give a rat’s ass w-w-what yy-

y-you or y-y-y-your f-f-f-friends think!”

 

Dismissing him, turning back to the bar, Garibaldi placed

his cupped hand on the surface in front of him just in time

to catch another gin and bitters as it came sailing toward

him. This time, though, the trip from the bar to his mouth

was interrupted by another, harder, tug on his sleeve causing

the liquor to slosh over the rim of the glass. Putting the glass

down, he glanced at the barkeep—who reached under the

bar for a club—then, all pretense of friendliness gone, the

magician turned back to Lewis.

 

His eyes narrowed to angry slits, turning from Garibaldi,

looking at his friends, forcing a smile, bringing his attention

back to the magician, “‘ow’d’ya d-d-do it?” Lewis’ anger

causing his stutter to become even more pronounced,

“‘ow’d’ya g-g-g-get a b-b-bloody C-C-Christmas tree into thth-

that ‘at?”

 

The magician’s top hat had been sitting on the bar, at his

elbow. Now, grabbing it, Lewis put it on his head, then, for

the benefit of his friends, made a deep, exaggerated bow.

Angrily snatching it off the young man’s head, Garibaldi

put the hat back onto the bar.

 

Reaching over the bar, grabbing Lewis by the sleeve of

his jacket, “Here! You!” jerking him around, the barkeep

held the club in plain sight.

 

Holding his hand up, “How’d I do the trick?” motioning

the barkeep to stop. Loudly, sarcastically, answering Lewis’

question. “How’d I do the trick? L-L-Lewis, my b-b-b-boy,

that’s the m-m-magician’s worry, to keep the likes of y-y-yyou,

and your f-f-f-f-friends…” scornfully emphasizing the

words “you and your friends,” “from knowing how m-m-mmagic

is d-d-d-done.”

 

Silence.

 

All eyes on Lewis and the magician, the entire pub had

gone silent.

 

Smiling at Garibaldi, pulling his sleeve from the

bartender’s grip, “Ya ol’ f-f-fake! Ain’t n-n-n-nothin’ m-mm-

magic ‘b-b-b-bout’j’ya!”? Reaching forward, taking the

magician’s hat from the bar, turning it in his hands, studying

it, “N-n-no-sir! No m-m-m-magic!” Lewis stuttered. “W-WWhat’j’ya

‘ave on t-t-t-t-the s-s-stage, a ‘ole in the f-f-floor? Ya ol’ f-f-fake!”

 

Glaring at the younger man, standing away from the bar,

“All right, Lewis,” his voice dropping, taking the same

strange, sinister tone it had on the stage, “if it’s magic

you want…”

 

Looking from Lewis to the barkeep, turning, slowly, his

black eyes slowly touching each person in the pub, lingered

longer on the three at the table, who begin to squirm under

Garibaldi’s gaze…

 

“…It’s magic you’ll get.”

 

“Lewis,” the magician’s black eyes boring into those of

the younger man, holding his right hand forward, “give me

the hat.”

 

Slack jawed, his smile gone, unblinking, Lewis stood

staring wide-eyed at Garibaldi.

 

“The hat, Lewis,” though whispered, the word…

 

“Now!”

 

Now! Feeling, somehow actually feeling the one word

command, compelled, The hat, Lewis, now! Holding the hat

in both hands, Lewis obediently handed it to the magician.

Setting the hat, brim up, on the bar, “Lewis,” Garibaldi

asked, “are you sure that you want to see my magic?”

 

The young man neither spoke nor motioned.

 

Smiling malignantly, taking a handkerchief from his

breast pocket, Garibaldi ran it through the “O” made by his

thumb and forefinger, dramatically snapped it in the air,

then laid it over the hat. “Lewis, if you would,” speaking

in his soft, yet commanding tone, “put your hand into the

hat and tell us what you feel.”

 

Lewis hesitated.

 

Lifting a corner of the handkerchief, “Come, my boy. You

don’t want your friends…” glancing over his shoulder, to

the trio sitting at the table behind him, “…to think you a

coward. After all, ‘It ain’t m-m-magic! I’m nothin’ but an ol’

f-f-f-fake.’”

 

Lifting his arm slowly, moving his hand slowly, hesitating,

his arm hanging in midair, he stopped.

 

“Lewis,” a malevolent look came to the magician’s devilish

face. “‘It’s only a t-t-trick’!”

 

Staring at the triangle of black space beneath the

handkerchief, moving his hand, Lewis hesitated, again.

 

“Yes,” cajoling, “that’s it, my boy. Just put your

hand inside.”

 

Haltingly, Lewis’ hand went into the dark triangle.

 

His fingers touching the silky lining, he felt the round

hardness of the hat’s inner crown. Shaking his head as if

coming out of a trance, his glazed eyes focused and…

knock—knock, he rapped his knuckles on the hard surface

of the hat and the bar beneath. Smiling, he looked up into

the magician’s face and his eyes. “Yeah! Ya b-b-be’s nothin’

b-b-but a ol’ f-f…”

 

The young man’s smile disappeared as suddenly the crown

of the hat and the bar beneath fell away, and his arm sunk to

the elbow.


Web Site: mmlichterman.com  


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