Had to take my associate Millberg to the emergency room yesterday.
Okay, it wasn’t an actual emergency room, like at St. David’s or Seton or wherever: It was one of those Quick Doc places.
But it was nearby, just a couple blocks away, and Millberg was lacerated pretty badly.
You’d think, having been attacked by a troglodyte, Millberg would be more likely to have incurred some sort of blunt force trauma.
But, no. It was a laceration: A long bleeding gash down his forearm. From a broken Shiner Bock bottle.
(I later tried to joke that, if it had been an Austin Beer Works bottle, Millberg would’ve bled more like a hipster. But he only glared at me.)
We were walking from that stereo place on Burnet, where Millberg had dropped off his old Marantz for repair, to Lucy’s Fried Chicken.
Because Lucy’s has, maybe you know, these deep-fried deviled eggs that are like God’s Own Appetizers?
And Millberg figured he’d treat both of us to a couple orders of those eggs. Due to our having survived the latest office purge.
And it’s a bit of a walk from the stereo place to Lucy’s & we were just kind of strolling along & recalling the highlights of the purge.
Like how Wetherby had threatened to sue for discrimination on account of he’s, he claims, one-fourth Cherokee.
Like the way Beckermann had flipped a double bird to the V.P. & told him that the company would quote “rue the day” unquote.
Like Yeong setting fire to her desk.
And, anyway, we were about halfway to Lucy’s & this guy walked up to us as we approached the intersection.
We’d seen him standing on the corner with one of those cardboard signs that panhandlers use & so we figured that’s what he was.
Like maybe he was homeless or in any case he was in a bad situation & was trying to extricate himself from it with this last-ditch gambit?
(That’s what I figured, at least, and I think it was kind of obvious, but I really shouldn’t presume to speak for Millberg.)
And the guy’s wearing these old stained jeans & a Night Ranger T-shirt under a bulky camo-patterned field jacket.
He’s pretty bulky himself, this guy, but the jacket’s still about two sizes too big.
And he’s a really hairy guy, big ratty beard & tufts of dark hair sticking out where the shirt’s torn right through the Night Ranger logo.
But the guy’s also pale like the belly of a puffer fish, pale like he’s been living in a cave for years. Pale like, I thought, a troglodyte.
Like one of those Morlocks from H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine.
Which you’d think wouldn't be the case if he was out on the streets for any amount of time anywhere in Texas, but who knows?
(Everybody’s story is more complicated than it seems.)
And this guy’s piece of cardboard says nothing on it but GOD BLESS.
And who can tell how he means that?
Like, is he instructing God to bless the sign’s readers? Or is he hoping that God will bless him with a handout via a reader’s goodwill?
In any case, here this troglodyte comes: Right at us. And so Millberg & I stop walking and wait to see what the deal is.
And, nothing unexpected, nothing out of the ordinary misery of urban life, the guy says to Millberg: “Spare some change, man?”
(I figure he asked Millberg, even though we were equidistant from the guy, because Millberg dresses like he has more money than me.)
(I mean, Millberg may well have more money than me – or he may have much less – but he always dresses more like a boss.)
(In this case, Millberg was wearing some dark Haggar slacks & a pale blue Arrow buttondown with the sleeves rolled up.)
And Millberg, who can be a bit of a dick at times, says to the guy: “How do I know you won’t just spend it on beer?”
And the guy, this camo-jacketed & oddly pale troglodyte of a guy, he kind of smiles.
I mean, he smiles the way a nuclear reactor might smile before its core melts down or whatever.
He smiles like he’s Three Mile Island & Chernobyl & Fukushima & there’s not a single working control rod or drop of coolant anywhere.
(Chips of plutonium are twinkling in every lung.)
The guy shoves one hand into the side pocket of his oversized jacket & brings out a half-empty bottle of Shiner Bock.
“Because,” he shouts at Millberg, brandishing the bottle, spittle flying from his cracked lips, “I already have a fucking beer!”
And then, faster than we can react to, he smashes the bottle against the grounding cable of the nearby utility pole and slashes into the top of Millberg’s left forearm with the ragged & beer-dripping edge of brown Shiner Bock glass.
Millberg starts emitting these cries of pain – AAAAAH! AAAAAH! AAAAAH! – and grabs onto the bleeding arm with his other hand.
The troglodyte – the panhandler – our fellow human driven to desperate measures by who knows what external & internal forces – drops the broken bottle & his GOD BLESS sign & runs off behind a vacant building, going, as they say, hell bent for leather.
Millberg stands there, grimacing, holding onto his bleeding arm. Luckily, there’s no spurts or anything, no major conduit’s been breached.
But there’s blood all over his Arrow shirt & he’s still bleeding. He’s sucking air through clenched teeth. Sweat is beading on his face.
I walk with Millberg back to my car & we drive to the Quick Doc.
Seventeen stitches & a big co-pay later, we’re finally sitting at Lucy’s and eating those deep-fried deviled eggs.
I’m buying, on account of the money Millberg’s just shelled out vis-a-vis the damage repair.
The eggs, of course, are fucking incredible.
The troglodyte is nowhere in sight. We keep looking out the window, scanning the streets, but: Nada.
“You gonna call this in to the APD?” I ask Millberg as he fusses with the bandage on his left arm.
Millberg says he doesn’t think so, doesn’t want to bother with all the paperwork or whatever.
“That guy needs to be found and locked up,” I suggest. “He’s a public menace. He might attack someone else.”
“That’s not my responsibility,” says Millberg. “Every man for himself.”
I mention that the guy might attack a woman next time.
“My lack of responsibility holds,” says Millberg, “regardless of the gender of the person who, to be blunt, I’m not the fucking keeper of.”
He devours another egg.
“These eggs, man,” I say, reaching for the last one. “They’re incredible.”
Millberg nods. “Agreed,” he says.