It’s Tuesday afternoon, and it’s raining, a downpour that has left a murky pond in the restaurant’s parking lot. Toby and I are splitting pitchers and trying to score a gram, texting various dealers. Fox News is muted on the television behind the bar, a silence that seems to fit as the ticker on the bottom of the screen scrolls the headlines.
A short man walks in, dripping wet. He’s lithe and bald with badly dyed black hair pulled into a tight, inky ponytail. He sits beside Toby and orders a Captain and Coke from Cindy, the bartender. The man stares straight into the mirror behind the bar, scowling at his own reflection.
Toby jabs an elbow into my ribs and points at the guy. “Caw, caw, caw!” Toby calls like a bird.
Startled, the man snaps his head to the side and stares at Toby, a hard stare, unblinking, and as soon as Cindy fixes his Captain and Coke, he snags the drink and moves to a table at the back of the bar, beneath a Budweiser sign.
“Caw, caw, caw,” Toby calls again.
“What’s that all about?” I ask, waiting for a text.
“That’s Jimmy Lucas,” Toby says. “I worked with him at The Union Leader about ten years ago. He had more hair then and this weird obsession with Steven Seagal. The guy walked around the warehouse like he was on the set of Hard to Kill, acting all tough with his ponytail and his black hair, kicking his leg in the air and striking karate poses.”
I get a text from The Dealer but he is in Lawrence, picking up, and he won’t be back for two hours. “What’s with the bird call?” I ask.
“Jimmy got a vanity plate and he wanted it to read SEAGAL. But the fucker can’t spell so the license plate ended up spelling SEAGUL. So when he’d come into work, we’d make bird calls and yell, ‘It’s the Seagull!’ The guy got so pissed that he ended up quitting. I think he works at Market Basket now, in the seafood section. Can you believe that shit? The Seagull sells fish?”
“You can’t write this,” I say and my phone buzzes. A different guy. Bingo. “I can grab a gram but I have to meet the dude at the Mobile station, two blocks away, and it’s pouring out.”
“I don’t mind getting wet,” Toby said.
“I’ll drive you.” Like a ninja, The Seagull approached from behind, without us noticing. “I’m going to the Mobile station for cigarettes.”
“Jimmy, you’re my hero,” Toby said.
“Seagull,” he said. “Call me The Seagull.”
Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire, with his wife and family. His books include Hangover Breakfasts (Bottle of Smoke Press in 2012), Sort Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing in 2013), and My Next Bad Decision (Artistically Declined Press, 2014). Almost Christmas, a collection of short prose pieces, was recently published by Redneck Press. Graziano writes a baseball column for Dirty Water News in Boston.