[Editor's Note: Jack Grisham is an author, hypnotherapist, T.S.O.L. front man and all-around troublemaker. This column, True Story, may or may not be factual, with characters who may or may not be real.]
Shawn turned toward the geek. The man was slumped in the corner--passed out or asleep. Shawn walked over and kicked him in the ribs. The geek had pissed himself. There was a fresh yellow puddle on the floor that was not beer. Fortunately, it wouldn't be noticed. "Let's go, Boss," Shawn said. "You got 10 minutes."
The geek lifted his head and smiled with swollen lips at Shawn. He resembled a jack-o-lantern--a few broken teeth and a fake gold crown with a zirconia glistening back. "I need another beer," the geek slurred. "We got a fucking tab. That Jewish fuck needs to get right."
"He'll get right," Shawn said. "Just get up. I'll get you one."
The geek rose slowly to his feet. Shawn handed him an open can of lukewarm suds. The geek was dressed in torn blue jeans cuffed over workman's boots, a ripped New York Dolls T-shirt, three leather belts wrapped around his waist, and an old leather jacket with the word Chaos stenciled on the back in white spray paint. He picked up his cap and cocked it to one side on his balding head. "It's show time, fucker." Shawn followed the geek to the stage.
It was a small club--barely room for a hundred if they would have shown, but tonight was a light house, with 50 or 60 old punks hoping to look at the old rocker before he died. The geek entered to the sounds of drunken catcalls and jeers. He strolled--old-man shuffling--coolly to the microphone, and he threw up two fingers to the audience. It was the British equivalent of "fuck you," but the geek was from Hollywood and had never been to Europe.
"Okay, fuckers," he called. "'Ere we go now!" His backing band cranked into gear, and the light crowd of old punks circled the stage. "I ain't no cor-por-ate stooge," he howled. "I ain't no gov-er-ment boy no more. I'm as right as a good man can be. I ain't no victim of Miss Liberty." It was the geek's most popular tune, and the band did their best to make it recognizable.
The rest of their set was less than memorable; after a sloppy 45 minutes, they called it a night.
The crowd returned to the bar.
The geek made his way backstage and sat as sober as he'd been in years--it was one of those rare nights when his alcoholic haze remained as sweat on the stage. He ran his hand down his arm. Tattoos of sailing scenes passed under his fingers--he'd never been to sea.
"Do you think I'm a joke?" the geek asked. "Am I valid?"
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"Sure you are," Shawn replied. He counted out his percentage of a small take. "You're punk as fuck, buddy--you ain't no stooge."
"No," the geek said, sighing. He was ready to go home. "I sure as fuck ain't no stooge. Hand me another beer."