By Richard LeBlond
It was late winter 1973, and I was living on the south coast of Spain, in the fishing village of Castel de Ferro. I had left the states a year before after cashing in all my assets, joining that wave of young North Americans for whom an international adventure was an essential experience. Though the village was small, those passing through often lingered because of the Mediterranean beach, its winter warmth, the 24-hour bars – open for the night fishermen – the little outdoor cafes, the unhurried life. Among those who lingered was Rocky.
Rocky was a large and hedonistic Canadian not troubled by deep thought or accountability. Marginally good-natured, he was often boorish. Rocky once told me about a visit he and a friend made to a Chinese restaurant. The friend ordered and drank a sardine milkshake and Rocky ordered and ate a plate of raw liver. There is not a Chinese restaurant in the world that serves sardine milkshakes and raw liver. “Events” such as this seemed to randomly occur in his head and escape through his mouth completely unanalyzed for believability. He must somehow have seen them as benefitting his social standing.
But every now and then there was a glimmer of self-awareness.
One morning about 10, I found Rocky sitting at a table on the edge of the central plaza in front of a café bar. John, an Englishman, was sitting with him. Rocky was drinking cognac and had been, he said, since eight.
“Can I get you a beer or something? What can I get you?” he asked me as he rose to get the errand underway. I told Rocky I wanted a coffee and he sat down with a sigh. His offer did not include non-alcoholic beverages. I got my feeble drink and joined them.
“It’s – What is it? What time is it? – it’s10 o’clock and I’m drunk. I came down here at 7:30 to go to work and I see John sitting here so I say to myself it just wouldn’t be polite to walk by and not have a drink with my friend – I can call you friend, can’t I? – and then one drink leads to another and then all these drinks lead to the pinball machine, so today I fuck work.” Rocky had found himself a low-paying off-the-books part-time job, a popular Spanish custom.
“I suppose,” he continued without pause, “you’re going to sit there all day and drink coffees. Why don’t you take a risk and drink a hot milk?”
I grinned as if I were enjoying a performance, but it was a protective grin.
“I don’t know,” Rocky continued, “you guys just sit there, never saying nothing, watching life float by and think that’s all there is to it. You guys got brains, probably more brains than me, so I suppose you know what you’re doing but Christ! it ain’t living. I don’t know what’s right, but if everyone just sat around on their asses like you guys, watching butterflies, the world would stop. I don’t do much but it’s people like me who keep the world moving. Nothing’s going to get done if nobody does it.”
John and I just looked at each other, shrugging our eyes. What could we say? His perception of reality was unassailable not by virtue, but by obstinacy. And who wants to argue with a drunk at 10 in the morning, especially one ranting about his work ethic while skipping out on the job?
“Never argue with a drunk,” Rocky said.
Richard LeBlond is a retired biologist living in North Carolina. His essays and photographs have appeared in many U.S. and international journals, including Montreal Review, Redux, Compose, Concis, Lowestoft Chronicle, Trampset, and Still Point Arts Quarterly. His work has been nominated for “Best American Travel Writing” and “Best of the Net.”