My Friend Gregg

Gregg has a drinking problem now but when I met him he was a seven-foot hunter from Yautja Prime who stymied rebukes with a flexing of one sinewy bicep. He loves Bruce Springsteen and calls those times his Glory Days.

“Like you hit a lot of home-runs,” I say.

He scoffs. He was better than that. Home-runs were sometimes in the ballpark; he had a habit of clearing the ball into outer space.

We are sitting at the bar and he’s been drinking too long. The ebullient nights of drunken parties have stuttered and stalled onto the shoulder of the highway and a state cop is not too far off from poking his face into his window. But we are at the bar drinking beer tonight and he is ruminating about his family and the old days when he was something tangible….not just a fairy-tale creature that people talk about when the next movie rolls into theaters. He feels like he’s getting too old and used up, he tells me, but I tell him that he’s been used up for a while.

I remind him: his species was not very good at hunting in the first place, so feeling used up is a weird way to feel.

His grandfather had hunted Dutch and his special forces group in a Central American jungle; his dad an African American cop in L. A. The kill counts both of those dudes got was astonishing, but I figured it was mostly by dumb-luck and happenstance. Gregg doesn’t care to hear about that.

He hates when I talk about this and slams a shot of Fireball through his mandibles before he hears me out yet again, rolling his eyes and making a queer sound, like the rolling of a kitchen pin up a funny set of bones.

His grandfather had the fortitude and patience to watch Dutch’s team milk a village of its soldiers and information by way of ostentatious combat maneuvers; yet, he couldn’t find the time to watch them build a trap in the midst of being hunted. I mean, they spent what seemed like hours creating this giant net and he paid no mind; like he had to go take a shit and left them wide open to fortify a massive catcher’s net.

What the hell was he thinking?

Not to mention, his grandad had a hard time wrangling what I would consider the worst special forces team that is thankfully no longer employed by the CIA. This was a group that was so befuddling that they thought an army crawl was walking closely together on the lighted-side of a bluff. This was a group whose tactics involved a ritual hosing of an enemy compound. A group whose members said things like, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Well, unfortunately, Blaine Cooper had time to bleed when his chest exploded onto the bosky earth after a lucky shot from someone’s granddad.

I pat Gregg on the back. Gregg laughs halfheartedly. The amusement was there but the truth was evident.

Let’s talk about your dad, I say. He gets quiet. This is no surprise. He always gets quiet.

Your dad was shortsighted, I say. He thought his best alternative to waiting for subway passengers to get off a busy ride was to just attack the subway.

“He didn’t know what a subway was!” Gregg says, as he chugs the last of his lager, motioning to the apathetic bartender for another round.

Clearly the man was the epitome of protean, I say, but I don’t think he put all of those skills he learned in hunting-academy to the test. He spent few moments watching and more moments acting. This was his undoing. If he could be bested by a detective working for the LAPD then you had better reevaluate your day job. There’s no reason an American detective should be on your spaceship battling you with your very own weapons. As defined by most police officers and detectives I’ve read about—police work is mostly dumb-luck and an oopsie daisies.…if not a quality amount of coercion. Likewise, any intergalactic critter who gets outsmarted by Gary Busey should be ashamed of themselves.

Do you know how they end up on your spaceship killing you with your own weapons? I ask smartly.

Gregg doesn’t even look at me as he slams a row of shots.

“Incompetence,” I say.

A group of Army privates enter the bar through a door in the back and start ordering drinks at the end of the bar. Gregg, clearly drunk and irritated with my words, stands up throwing two middle fingers in their direction. The army guys get up in a huff and look ready for a violent confrontation, but then Gregg drunkenly fires off a Plasma Caster blast that takes out the lights above the bar. His back-up move is to fire his net gun but instead of catching a row of hostile Army privates, he captures an overweight man who has been dancing to A-ha’s Take on Me.

“Settle down now,” I say, patting his netted chest, and he shrugs me off heading toward the back.

“I gotta vomit,” he says, as he belches a noxious mixture of Salisbury steak and mom’s chili onto the pool table.

“Don’t worry, I got this,” I tell the bartender as I rush Gregg out the back door.

He tells me he is just going to walk home tonight and I don’t blame him….he has a lot on his mind. He staggers crookedly to the streetlight and leans on it before he gets enough gumption to continue. That much alcohol wrecks heavy on your system, especially when your mind is concerned with the damnable nature of your ancestors.

Even from where I’m standing, though, I can hear him singing as he slips away into the dark and cold. I always thought it was strange, but he had a good singing voice.

I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it but I probably will.

Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of;

Well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister

But boring stories of glory days.”