by RandyDuke4120, Gonzo Today contributor
Algarrobina (Pisco Egg Nog)
2 ounces Pisco
1/2 ounces Algarrobina syrup
1 ounce Evaporated milk
1/2 ounces Simple syrup
1/2 ounces Egg white
Ground cinnamon for garnish
To make the simple syrup, mix 1/2 cup sugar with 3 tablespoons of water. Bring to a slow boil, and simmer until the sugar dissolves completely. Set aside to cool.
Mix all the ingredients in a blender, adding enough ice to double the volume of the mixture. Blend for 2 minutes. Serve and decorate with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Portland, Oregon. A glance at my phone. No messages. Gus is a no show. Again.
I kick my feet together, hoping numb toes don’t start falling off. Maybe it’s time to turn tail and head to work? If I’m late, tell my asshole manager I woke up to the smell of rotting eggs. No sense having my condo blown to smithereens from stove gas.
Grabbing the handle of my Rockland wheeled suitcase, I bite my lips. Time to get to my bummer of a job.
Aaaaaahhhhht. Aaaaahhhht. Aaaaaaaahhhhhhht.
Down the row of yellow streetlights, a scarlet convertible MINI Cooper hurtles my way, blasting its car horn and waking the entire neighborhood. The driver races like some Patagonian wild man caught in a tornado, confirming my deepest hopes. It’s Gus, dressed in a half-assed gaucho Red Baron getup, waving and smiling like he’s driving a parade float on Thanksgiving.
My bags fall to my side as the convertible twists into the parking lot, brakes screeching. “Duck. You’re here? I didn’t think you’d show.”
“What?” Annoyed, I toss in my lightweight backpack.
“Whaddya think?” Gus snickers as he looks through the rearview mirror at my struggle heaving my heftiest luggage into the back seat.
“This brand new two-thousand-twelve flaming diarrhea red MINI. Splitting image of the ones you own.”
My face puckers as I wedge in my last suitcase with a good shove. “Imagine that.”
I sag into the suicide seat. Gus wipes his glasses, then stares at me, hunched over, gripping the full backpack on my lap like a small child clutching his favorite blanket. “You okay, Duck?”
A big sigh. “Rough night.”
The MINI lurches through Portlandia’s neo-workweek gridlock, severely overloaded with the top down. I pack too much when I travel. It’s the raw, pre-airport jitters and lack of organizational skills.
My voice yells over the wind scream. “I still think we should try putting the top up. I can see my breath.”
Ignoring me, Gus fidgets with the radio dials and pounds the horn at the traffic horde brawling its way through the Monday morning commute. Xerxes had better odds fighting the ocean.
I press my ‘I No Hablo Stupid’ ball cap tight, trying to warm my ears. “My face is frozen and everybody’s staring at us. We look like assholes.”
So we’re locked in traffic with the Mini’s top down in December. My teeth rattle as I wipe frost off the windshield.
My first thought is that Gus has given in to his usual eccentricities, but after we fumble through the Mini’s user manual, he blathers about how the roof’s motor sensor jammed because of too much damn luggage.
Best to just play it out. We both smile, pretending we’re two middle-aged morons tooling around on a seventy degree spring day before Gus turns to me. “I hates driving on Mondays, but before I blacked out at the bar last night, I remembered our solemn oath over cheap beers.”
He takes a big cigarillo drag and blows the smoke my way. “I am unemployable, Duck, not irresponsible.” Satisfied, he cocks his head and grins. “Besides, is only a little cold and no rain.”
I look up at the blackening storm clouds, then back at the dashboard clock. Not much time. In my mind I’ve already detonated this charade. We can still take the next off-ramp and dart through the warren of back roads to my work. Sure, I’d look like a rube showing up dressed as a fashion-addled gringo on vacation in Puerto Rico, but I can deal with that. Small harm, small foul.
It’s right after the I-205 Freeway off ramp that the stench hits me. At first I can’t place it. Like there’s some big pig shit farm, hidden away just over the horizon.
A few seconds later, Gus’ nostrils flair up. “Carajo.”
“What is that smell? Is something rotting?”
“Ohh jayy. I think some squirrels or a rat or one of them dogdamn nutria thingees crawled insides the engine to keep warm and maybe died. Is been making smells like this for two weeks now.”
“Two weeks? Did you check under the hood?”
“Na. Is bad for my kundalini,” Gus replies with a shrug.
“Christ, I can taste it. What if it’s still alive? It’s probably chewing through the timing belt right now? We’ll be stuck out here?”
Gus tightens his steering wheel grip, spinning the MINI out of traffic and accelerating onto the right shoulder, mere inches from a concrete wall.
My fingernails dig into the backpack’s straps. Visions of using it as some sort of an airbag/parachute combo plate dance through my mind. “What the fuck is this?”
Gus cranes his neck and squints. Assessing. Honking. Blasé. “A passing lane, I guessed?”
“No worries.” Gus shrugs, completely disinterested, casually smoking his Swisher Sweet and flipping the bird at the honking traffic. I’m silent as a stone, feeling at my numb ears while taking in big gulps of stinking, icy air.
Finally, after the honking has crescendoed to a deafening roar, he clutches the wheel with both hands and violently jabs the MINI in front of a Peterbilt, forcing it to lock its brakes to keep from rear-ending us into a Goth soccer mom driving a Volvo with a rainbow-colored ‘KEEP PORTLAND NORML’ bumper sticker.
The rainstorm lets loose just before Gus wheels into the covered short-term parking garage, bleating the MINI’s horn while pushing into the ticket lane.
“I is just kidding. Don’t take life so seriously you dumb ding dong, Duck.” Gus chortles, then pulls out his bandana and blows his nose.
After jerking to an abrupt halt, I jump out and squeeze the water from my soaked shirt, then turn to my carry-on bags. Gus pushes me aside, yanking out the heavier luggage with surprising vigor.
I’m taken aback. “You’re coming in?”
Dabbing his face with a greasy snot-green bandana, Gus points his elbow at the pouring rain. “You wants me to drive back in this?” He gums a drunken Cheshire Cat grin. “Besides, is six in the AMs. Times to make my daily fit-shace.”
My lips pinch to the left while I pace along in thought. My potentially ex-work shift just started. Am I really going through with this?
“No free hour?” Gus stops dead in his tracks, reading the parking sign overhead: Hourly Parking (Short-Term Parking Garage)/Rate: $3 Per hour/$27 Per Day. “I’m telling you, Duck, why even gets outta bed for Mondays?”
I look down and stifle a chuckle. “Nice shoe.”
Gus looks down with a pained expression. A lone, red, decrepit girl’s shoe lies at his feet as if waiting for its soulmate on the cold, hard concrete of the airport parking garage.
“Terr-ee-bleh. You see? Usually they comes in pairs.”
“Unless she was an amputee.”
“No. Is serious. This place has fallen into the wicked juju.” Gus grimaces and shuffles slowly around the offending shoe. “I bet some depraved icehole’s keying my MINI. I can feels it.”
“Yeah, probably that same googly-eyed fucker you cut off coming in here.”
“And I just stole it, too.”
I give a good tug at the rolling luggage. “C’mon, I’ll buy you a coffee you goof.” I point my head to the yellow sign over the skybridge entrance.
“No coffee.” Gus’ voice pitches upward to a whiny tone. “Life’s so unfair.”
Gus’ superstitious mood turns even weirder when a well-coiffed matriarch and her mega-brood meatplows in front of us at the airport’s revolving glass doors. We watch helplessly as they bog down.
“Fuck it.” I bound towards the lone side door.
“Duck, wait! Is a bad luck sign going in there.”
Too late. I trundle on through with Gus following behind, staring back in slackjawed horror at the masses of flesh straining to pancake their way through the turnstile.
Gus snuffs out his cigarillo on the escalator handrail, then crosses himself rigidly as we drag our bags down to the airline check-in.
“This is way too much bad luck for one Monday, Duck. Dios mío.”
After ticketing, we saunter into the airport bar, greeted by a small cortege of waitstaff in Hawaiian shirts flashing plastic-lollipop smiles and barraging us with ‘Hellos’ and ‘Good Mornings’.
“Aha.” Gus marches towards a firepit table lined with chairs, not a stone’s throw from the server’s station at the bar. We sit down and Gus’ eyes widen in surprise when I pull out a notebook and a weighty tome about Peru from my backpack.
“You is really taking charge of this change-of-lifestyle thing, hey Duck?” He whistles approvingly.
“You bet your bippy.” I start thumbing pages. “Lima is the second biggest city in the world that’s technically a desert even though it sits on the coast? Isn’t that amazing?”
“It’s because of the Humbolt Current.”
Gus rolls his eyes, yawns and lights a Swisher Sweet. “JesuCristo. Do I needs to use the white courtesy phone to get a drinks around here?”
Shaking my head. “Please don’t. And you know you can’t smoke in here.”
“No. Is okay ‘cuz no one ever stops me.” After a big, satisfied puff, Gus looks around and squeaks a sharp whistle, trying to get the attention of the closest waiter, who’s helping a Japanese couple order in English by raising his voice several decibels and pantomiming.
My phone rings. “Dammit. It’s my work. What do I do?” I set the phone on the table like it’s contagious.
Gus tilts forward at me. “You know, Duck, I has a theory.”
This can’t be good. We have a staring contest while the phone continues ringing. After some seconds, I can’t take anymore and blink. “Okay, what’s the theory?”
He gestures like a street hustler producing a card trick. “There is two types of hombres in this flucked up world: the ones who gets weird and the ones who work. Which hombre is you, Duck?”
I should have known better. “Really, Gus.”
“Sí. Most guys ditching work gets it all wrong with lame fluckarounds like I thinks I gots the flu, or my grandmother just dies again.“
“Aye, them weak-sauce flake outs might gain an extra long drunkfest in Vegas or Cancun, but for an extended reprieve from your working class shitehole, you needs something extra special.”
“I can tell you’ve put a lot of thought into this.”
“Pffffththththahh!” Of course I has. I has all the times in the worlds. I is unemployed. The points is to let your imaginations run wild. Hows about you gots Hairy black tongue disease from eating an infested hamburger. Wouldn’t that be a nice?”
I wipe Gus’ spittle off my face. “Charming.”
“Or. . .” He sticks out his tongue. Sweet, musty smoker’s breath hits me in the face. “Aye. Or maybes your fecal replacement surgery got boshed. That’s a real game-changer.”
The phone rings.
“Or Exploding Heads Syndrome. You just wakes up y that little noggin of yours, Pffffththththahh! pops like a zit, exploding in two!””Unbelievable.” I snatch the phone and get up from my notebook. “Watch my stuff and get me a coffee.”
“A Cuba Libre?”
“De nada. ’Course where you is going, there’s Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571.”
I dodge foot traffic past a statue of ex-governor Vic Atiyeh. “Hu. . . hello?” Dammit. Get that milquetoast tone out of your voice, Doug. The secretary’s chewing gum habit pops through the receiver. I can almost smell the spearmint. “Doug?”
A fake a half-assed coughing fit. “Sorry I couldn’t make it into work this morning. I’m feeling a bit under the weather. The. . . sniffles.” Crap.
The gum smacking stops. “Aw. Does somebody have a case of The Mondays?”
A case of The Mondays? “Oh, heck no, Linda. Uh, I would never. . . it’s just. . . I’ve got a headache.” Cringy.
“A headache? Well, pop a Tylenol and buck up, little soldier.”
“Head cold. I meant head cold. Like the flu.”
“Well, which is it?”
“I’m not sure.” A couple more coughs for good measure. “I was so out of it when I checked myself into urgent care.”
“Urgent care? Which hospital?” She sounds genuinely concerned.
Good question. “Ah. . .” Heck if I know. “I was. . . catatonic when they brought me in.” The gum-chewing starts in. “Wait a minute? I thought you just said you checked yourself in?”
Double crap. “Maybe both? You know doctors, Linda. Buncha dorks in white coats.”
A deep voice from behind. “Fuck you!”
Wheeling around, a huge, mohawk-sporting bodybuilder-type in a white jacket and matching loafers barges past me and scowls. I cover the phone with my palm. “Sorry, sir. I meant that it looks great on you.”
Linda’s voice. “Is that your doctor?”
“Yes. His bedside manner is quite. . .” I watch Lord Humongous flip me off while marching down the hallway. “Intense.”
Chewing gum popping, then a breathless, “What’s his name?”
I’m pacing around. Don’t panic. Stay sharp.
“Your doctor’s name?”
Leaning over, I squint at the golden statue’s plaque. “Vic. Vic Atiyeh.”
“You mean the dead ex-governor?”
Why does she have to bad so damn smart? Our educational system sucks. I inspect the plaque again. When did this poor bastard die? “I think it’s his, uh, grandson, actually.”
“Doug, this sounds like another one of your–“
“How long have we worked in Hell together, Linda?”
She draws in a big breath. “Forever and a long day.”
“Exactly. And I’ve always been consistent and, uh. . .”
“Consistently quirky. You know what it’s like to be trapped day after miserable day with Larry and the suck up twins, Tom and Jerry.”
“Yeah, buddy. Ugh.”
“Exactly. Listen, any idiot can do my job.”
“Any idiot has done your job. Hahaha.”
“Haha. Very funny. Please, I just need some time to find myself. I’m begging you.”
“And what if you can’t find yourself, Dougie?”
“Well, then you’ll never have to hear from my consistently–“
“Quirky self, again.”
A pause on the other end. “Just call in tomorrow.”
I walk back to find Gus smiling impishly while taking a plug off a bottle of Corona.
I sit down in front of another beer bottle on top of my notebook. “What’s this?”
Gus gesticulates wildly, then pulls in close enough so I can smell his wino breath between the gaps in his teeth. “It’s magic! They ran out of coffees.”
“Uh. Huh.” I drag out the two beats, skeptically, before taking a sip. He’s read my mind. Anything to help me sleep on the plane.
A big, carnie geek chortle from Gus. “Aye. How’d the work call go?”
“Like I sucker-punched myself in the balls. I’m guessing with sick time and a few well-executed excuses like this last one. . .”
Dammit. Lord Humongous and his equally-buffed wife seat themselves at the table next to us and start perusing menus. Has he seen me? I scoot my chair until my back’s to them. “. . . two, maybe three weeks, tops?”
“What’s done is done, Duck.”
“What’s so funny?”
I peer down at my Peru notebook:
Fact 6: Macchu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is the largest tourist attraction with over 2 million visitors annually.
Fact 7: There are over 4,000 native varieties of Peruvian potatoes cultivated in the Andes. Major agricultural products are cotton, sugarcane, coffee, cocoa and rice.
Fact 8: Mining and fishing are the main sources of employment in Peru.
Then, in a wild, jagged scrawl in black magic marker lettering:
Fact 8.5: We just got backs from deepest jungle after my friend got bittened by that big, ugly bat. He is in the baño, bleeding out his eyeballs, and turning into a Pishtaco. Only God saves us all.
“What the fuck?”
Gus spits out a fountain stream of beer between the gaps in his teeth. “¿Qué?”
“What the fuck’s a Pishtaco?” I say, wiping beer spray from my face, then holding up the notebook.
“Andean vampire. Carves its victim’s fat off with a big knife and eats it. That gabaucho waiter was being all nosy, looking over my shoulders after he takes our order. I had to make him leave.”
“Christ. I thought he looked at me funny when I walked back in.”
As I pull back my beer, it foams over, spilling all over my crotch.
Gus flashes his gapped-tooth smile. “JesuCristo, Duck, you is such a gloob.”
Shaking my head, I scoot my chair closer to the firepit. “What? You think I did this on purpose like it’s some sort of fashion statement?”
Gus chuckles to himself while surrounding customers pretend not to stare at us. “No worries. Passengers pissing themselves is the least of security’s problemas. Not after last weeks.”
I take the bait, blotting my pants with a paper napkin. “What happened last weeks?”
Gus gulps more beer. “They find the, uh, dead pilot’s corpse stuffed in a bathroom’s stall.”
“Sí. His skins completely peeled off his face and stuffed in a murse filled with bath salts and anus chemicals.”
“Anus?” That can’t be right? “Heinous?” I sure hope so.
Gus continues. “Yeah, heinous. So this dwarf is–“
“¿Que? Like munchkin?”
“No, they like to be called little people.” He watches me scowl as he sips his beer.
“In Spanish they is called enanos.”
“That sounds better.”
“Okay. This enano is all whacked off his gourd, all sweaty like he’s flucking a neanderthal, with a ‘SOUTHWEST AIRLINES’ pilot’s nametag pierced to his bloody left tit, munching on one of Captain Stubing’s ears like is a breakfast burrito. They finally captured him pissed out naked on luggage carousel ten.”
“Aye. Duck. I’m telling ya’. This is your lifes exchanging message from God.” Gus solemnly looks up while crossing himself. “With vibes like this, how can you not moves to Peru?”
We both sip our beers and ponder what a terribly weird world we live in, before Gus shows off a sinister smile.
“Word is the bath salt dwarf’s the head mechanic for one of the major airlines.”
My phone rings again. My maybe ex-manager’s number. Click.
“Gus, I don’t know how you did it, but you did. I just can’t afford to sweat the small stuff anymore. Well, until in the future sometime when I die a horrible death, of course.”
“Is there any other types of death to die, Duck?”
I hoist up my Corona for a toast. “To Orville Wright. ‘The Airplane stays up because it doesn’t have time to fall.’”
The beer bottles clink and Gus’ eyes light up. “Unless the Bath Salt Dwarf’s working on your plane.”
Not what I needed.
Gus studies my reaction with a grim smile. “Or is nine-eleven. Or that German flight where the co-pilot gots all depressed and rammed the airliner into a mountain. Or Malaysian Airline Flight 370, which, poof–”
Gus chugs his beer as our favorite waiter walks by us balancing a full tray. He furtively glances our way like he’s just seen the ghost of Vic Atiyeh roaming the tarmac, then averts his eyes without breaking stride.
I sit paralyzed, my mind locked in a gedanken thought bummer about suicidal pilots and a fiery crashes at terminal velocity. That’s it. No tip.
“–vanished like a fart into the Andaman Sea.”
With a hefty wheeze, I sag deeper into my chair. “Thanks. I was feeling so much better.”
“How do you know all this stuff?”
“I like the carnage. It relaxes my soul. They crashed into the Andes. The survivors resorts to cannibalism.”
I lean back, horrified. “Jesus.”
He shrugs and crosses himself. “What can you do? Is a filthy habit.”
“That’s it.” I grab all my stuff and begin awkwardly rolling my luggage to the security check-in point. “Thanks for depressing the shit out of me, Gus,” I reply, not looking back.
“Hey, Duck!” His tone cuts through my spine.
Stopping dead in my tracks, I turn around, listening to the sound of my luggage crashing to the floor.
There’s Gus staring back, completely carefree, toasting me with my own half-drunk bottle of Corona.
“I hopes you find your pieces of your mind in Peru. And maybe a nice señorita alongs the way.”
“You know my luck with that stuff.” I stiffly grab my things and turn around. I’m on my way. Nothing can stop me.
Over my shoulder Gus bellows, “Enjoy your flights and remember, Duck, ‘Take lots of notes’. We is gonna makes me the next Mario Vargas Llosa!”
The author, who goes by the pen name RandyDuke4120, enjoys writing on Scribophile and posts his work on Medium.com. Artwork to the left: the author deep in the throes of an Ibogaine frenzy