Johnny America


Bit­ter Bunny


We ap­proached an un-stur­dy bar in the poor­ly lit garage, “Do you have any light beer?” Bun­ny quizzed. The bar­tender, her face awash with sur­prise and con­fu­sion, slow­ly shook her head ‘No.’ I glanced down­ward in em­bar­rass­ment think­ing ‘what kind of place does she think this is?’ when Bun­ny whis­pered in my ear, “What kind of place is this?”

The sym­me­try of our thoughts was at once amus­ing and alarm­ing. I knew this night was go­ing to be a gru­el­ing ex­er­cise in tol­er­ance for both of us.

The bar­keep re­cov­ered gra­cious­ly, “how about a di­et coke and Rum?” Bunn re­fused, hav­ing ban­ished hard liquor many years ago on the grounds that it con­tributes noth­ing to­ward the en­light­en­ment or im­prove­ment of so­ci­ety. I or­dered two beers and one cup. We took our seat on two fold­ing chairs be­neath a sin­gle, naked bulb at the back of the club. The place looked like it was still un­der con­struc­tion or in the process of de­con­struc­tion, but it had a mea­ger hon­esty to it. There were no neon or christ­mas lights, no art or flow­ers, no peanuts or pret­zels, just an old Ken­more re­frig­er­a­tor, a spray can of air fresh­en­er and four un-matched bar stools. The light­ing was squalid and in­suf­fi­cient, like a prison, but in its dim­ness sug­gest­ed a free­dom to act nat­u­ral­ly. Bun­ny looked around sus­pi­cious­ly at the smat­ter­ing of pa­trons. She placed her Kate Spade purse on the floor where it sat con­spic­u­ous­ly, the vi­brant hor­i­zon­tal lines in­ter­rupt­ing the somber, gray floor. I stared at her as she winced through the dense air and thought to my­self, “God she is beau­ti­ful, dif­fi­cult to please some­times, but what a fan­tas­ti­cal­ly gras­pable body, and her hair, in this sor­did haze…”

“Who is this band you want to see? When are they com­ing on? It’s al­ready mid­night. You said you nev­er heard their mu­sic before?”

“No Bun­ny­bell, I have nev­er heard their mu­sic be­fore. The singer has a jour­nal on the web, it’s fun­ny, you know, hi­jinx and stuff in­volv­ing a lot of drink­ing and wak­ing up in strange places.”

“That sounds like a great rea­son to see a band,” she snapped sarcastically.

“Their name is cool too” I added.

This sneer was new. It was dan­ger­ous like the oth­ers, but this one, well, it seemed to pos­sess some sort of chill­ing per­ma­nence. I imag­ined the same look might cross her face if I told her I nev­er grad­u­at­ed from high school.

“Pa-the-tic” she said slowly.

An en­er­getic em­cee emerged, told some lewd school­yard jokes, swal­lowed a few eggs and in­tro­duced the first per­former, who, hav­ing set up his se­quencers and turntable, be­gan as­sault­ing the sparse group with high-fre­quen­cy blows that sound­ed like he pro­grammed his com­put­er to kill it­self. From it came har­row­ing sounds of an­gry ma­chines and fuzz and a soli­tary note played at vary­ing in­ter­vals. It felt like a car an­ten­na had been shoved through my ear and was re­peat­ed­ly jab­bing my brain. To call it mu­sic would have been gen­er­ous. It was the elec­tri­cal vom­it. Am­pli­fied bile. I sus­pect the folks cir­cled around him were ei­ther deaf or ro­bots. As the set end­ed, Bun­ny growled, “No words can pos­si­bly ex­press the in­ten­si­ty of my con­tempt for that artist.” This last word she spoke in mock­ing ital­ics, whip­ping her heavy brown hair away from me.

Af­ter the set, we sat and watched as the em­cee shopped around the au­di­ence for some­one to uri­nate in his spe­cial cup. Odd­ly, the room was re­luc­tant un­til the bar-maid­en, a glam­orous, healthy fe­male oblig­ed to fill the cup. A minute af­ter she dis­ap­peared in­to the bath­room, she re­turned proud­ly, cup in hand, and de­liv­ered it to the em­cee. As an in­tro­duc­tion for the next act, he quick­ly gulped the still-warm piss.

I won­dered why my Bun­ny looked so un­hap­py. I knew this was not her op­ti­mal night out, but was she tru­ly in­ca­pable of en­joy­ing any as­pect of it? She has a long *sum* full of lu­cra­tive ven­tures de­signed to help peo­ple. She went to col­lege and then went back to col­lege and then took some more class­es. Her in­ter­est lies in giv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ty and hope to the dis­ad­van­taged; vic­tims of the class strug­gle, the gov­ern­ment, their en­vi­ron­ment or their genes. At times I won­der if she loves me not be­cause of our queasy chem­istry but be­cause she has con­clud­ed that I am a promis­ing can­di­date for rehabilitation.

The sec­ond act con­sist­ed of a 6‑second loop of loose Ca­sio notes and thin drums back­ing up a spo­ken word sto­ry about a bird. The mu­sic was soupy, the sto­ry plod­ding and un­fa­mil­iar ly­ing some­where be­tween Dick­in­son and hi­ero­glyph­ics on a scale of the In­com­pre­hen­si­ble. Mer­ci­ful­ly, it was not the type of headache-in­duc­ing noise as be­fore. Still Bun­ny looked ir­ri­tat­ed. She has worked hard in life, and in ad­di­tion to earn­ing plen­ty of mon­ey along the way, she al­so earned a sense of en­ti­tle­ment. A be­lief that hav­ing worked so hard for so many years, she should nev­er have to vol­un­tar­i­ly suf­fer, nev­er be put in a po­si­tion of dis­com­fort or dis­tress. She likes the finest things; Dutch licorice, French mois­tur­iz­er, Ital­ian mar­ble, and has lit­tle pa­tience for prod­ucts or peo­ple of ques­tion­able quality.

The em­cee was in­vol­un­tar­i­ly re­gur­gi­tat­ing eggs and piss in the cor­ner, wip­ing the floor with pa­per tow­els be­tween heaves.

“I mean, don’t you think you’re a lit­tle old for this?” she said. “I’m ex­haust­ed and there are still how many more bands? We’re go­ing to be here ’til.….jeezus.. should I have brought my fuck­ing work clothes?”

“Don’t be sil­ly Bunn, if you are too mis­er­able, or it gets too late, we’ll bolt” I reassured.

“Do you re­al­ly want to end up like that guy?” she posed, nod­ding to a gen­tle, bald­ing fel­low wan­der­ing with­out pur­pose across the floor, “a mid­dled-aged man in a Ra­mones t‑shirt watch­ing young peo­ple play mu­sic? you think this is a good use of your time? be­cause this is a com­plete waste of mine… I should be sleep­ing! If I was home sleep­ing, not on­ly would I be more en­thu­si­as­tic, I would be more entertained.”

I could not speak, anger man­age­ment hav­ing stolen my tongue. I hoped it was the dis­so­nant mu­sic and cal­lous­ness of the venue that pushed her so vi­o­lent­ly to­ward this dan­ger­ous place. I hoped the mu­sic would soon stop. It did­n’t. The next act was a one-man band. The songs were hard and heavy but each one was no more than 30 sec­onds long. Each song had a quaint ti­tle and his groupies thrashed and hollered loud­ly in per­fect time at the con­clu­sion of each brief piece. We sat to­geth­er but far apart for the next hour, my arms crossed, ris­ing slight­ly with each breath, her fa­cial mus­cles tense like vac­u­um-packed jerky. It was now 1:30am, the head­lin­ing act would be up soon I thought, but how much longer could I en­dure the ob­vi­ous dis­plea­sure em­a­nat­ing from her every pore?

What hap­pened next was less a choice than an act of com­pas­sion, or truth­ful­ly, self-preser­va­tion. “Let’s go” I said pa­tient­ly. I fin­ished my beer with one swal­low, took her smooth, pale hand and pulled her gen­tly up out of the met­al chair. “So soon?” she cooed, and smiled. Finally.

Filed under Fiction on September 6th, 2004

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Reader Comments

BB wrote:

Bit­ter Bun­ny sounds like a god­dess — you should be gratet­ful to have such an open-mind­ed and pa­tient woman in your life!

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