Dallas Dave

His hair looked like an electrical cable had been attached to his genitals; it spiraled and twisted away from his head, kind of like Granny on The Beverly Hills movie when she was given “electrical shock therapy.’  Sometimes the head was unadorned and other occasions he would be sporting a beret; once he wore an Aussie hat.  Although his attire varied, the mentality was consistent; the weirdest cat you would ever meet.  Will give you an example; one of the bartenders overheard the following interchange.  A couple that no one had ever seen before came in one day and sat at the bar; it was kind of a slow day, not many people being around.  Lagarde came up to them sporting a cane which he often did and spoke a few words and immediately sat down. 

“First time here, huh?” he said.  When they replied in the affirmative he immediately started telling the history of the little bar and then told them about what he had thought about when he first awakened that morning.  

“I immediately wondered if I had anything to live for,” he said.  “Now that is not such an unusual thing for an intellectual like me; it is kind of the way I have of counting my blessings, and I have a few.  After I assured myself that I had plenty to live for I then had to play devil’s advocate and muse on what I would think if I didn’t, if I felt hopeless.  This set me off onto a kind of philosophical meandering; if I were despondent then surely all of my family must feel the same, because they are very bright also.  Logically, in this hypothetical, I would have to take them with me.  See, that’s the way my brilliant mind works; I have to push things to the extreme before I am satisfied of anything.  In this scenario it would actually be doing them a favor; just think, never having to be disappointed again, never thinking that you have been wronged by anyone, no worries, no worries.  Then of course, since my mind works like I have described it, I had to push this concept to the limit; that’s when I came to the proper conclusion.  Although my offing them along with myself does garner more than a bit of logic I had overlooked a very important issue; I had totally overlooked the fact that the family had free will and would have to decide everything on their own.  Ya know there is nothing like a stimulating mental exercise to start the day, right?  That whole Jim Jones occurence could have a tie in with this very concept.  Say that he convinced all those people that life was not worth living and that drinking the kool aid would set them free to where there would be no more problems forever and ever.  Whaddaya think? I would have to say that the parallel is astounding.  The mental challenge of going through such a thought process is highly stimulating.  I suppose another way of looking at that offing thing is that it is the ultimate lazy man’s way out.”

Lagarde had been kind of looking off into space during his monologue so he had not noticed that the lady had put her purse on her shoulder and the guy had thrown a ten dollar bill onto the bar.  They mumbled a “bye” as they rushed out, leaving Lagarde chuckling to himself.

“Oh well,” the bartender heard him say out loud, “guess they looked more intellectual than they were.” 

Lagarde did not appear to have a job, at least as far as anyone could tell.  Some of the guys remembered that he used to have a car but wrecked it over near White Oak Road.  Since then he was usually on a bicycle or on foot; his place of residence was also a mystery.  His days were spent in the patio section of the bar, drinking and scribbling on a piece of paper.  Even though people might be curious about him the great majority did not think it worthwhile to venture into a conversation.  A gregarious millinophile who has the largest number of Stetson hats known to man and works for the state was seen talking to Lagarde one day; afterwards he told us that Lagarde told him he was setting out for Nashville because he was a songwriter.  There was another report that he had appeared at some “poet’s corner” and had read some kind of gibberish that no one understood.  There was a rumor that he was living in some bushes behind the bar but no one was sure.

I had been asked to create a kind of dossier on Lagarde and that is what prompted this compilation.  I was to present my findings to the group at the island at 4 p. m.  I’m not sure why I was chosen for this duty, maybe because my hobby is writing, but I didn’t mind doing it; however, their intense interest is a curiosity.  I would know soon. 

The “island” is well named; it sits apart from the tables and chairs of High Park, the closest thing to a local bar I am aware of in Raleigh.  There are four long tenured members of the island and several peripheral ones that float in and out.  I am one of the four, though a very late entry of only about four years.  By the way, the name of the bar is indeed High Park, not Hyde Park, as one of the historically challenged Office Tavern Exiles has been heard to say ad nauseum.  This “Hyde Park” person is the former girlfriend of the late Billy Davis, owner and operator of the Office Tavern for many years.  Billy sold the bar and this prompted some of the regulars to set upon a quest to find a new hangout; this endeavor was spearheaded by a guy named Slash.  No one knows his real name and with a name like that people are a bit reticent to inquire.  So that is how the “exiles” arrived on the scene.  Some of us were culled immediately, most notably the “arboreal one”; this was very understandable considering he was barely tolerated at the old Office Tavern.  A few others sort of fell by the wayside or became occasional visitors but for some reason I had been allowed to sit at the island, a little two foot by five-foot cabinet top set at a height accommodating the tall chairs.  Slash came in occasionally, his allegiance along with that of his wife divided between High Park and some place called the “shack”.  Lately it appeared that the shack was winning; Slash is considered peripheral.

Tim sat across from me; he was a good four o’clock man, like myself and the guy who sat to Tim’s right, Mike.  Tim was an I T guy for an international company who worked from home and walked the block and a half to the bar.  He had a distinctive style of dress; long sleeved black shirt, pullover, black shorts, and tennis shoes.  His long hair was tucked under a ball cap.  I have never seen him wear anything else; he does say that the only time he changes up is for funerals and weddings.  He calls his mother once a week, going outside to the sidewalk to combine his call with a cigarette and goes to the Harris Teeter every Thursday afternoon.  Someone saw his closet one time and reported that it consisted of about fifteen of the described outfits hung all together, ready to go.  Several years ago at Halloween two girls he knew came to his house and while one “distracted” him, (his words), the other took one of the outfits and wore it to the bar on Halloween replete with a penciled-in mustache.  Tim has an intellectual bent and is a fan of my short stories, a testimony to his intellect.  His car is a Honda Element, in my opinion quite possibly the ugliest car in the world.  Tim told me not long ago that I was indeed accepted at the island.  He stays pretty happy as long as he gets four pieces of cornbread when he gets it to go and it is hot.

Mike, the third four o’clock guy, is retired from a transmission repair business and has the longest hair in the bar, except for a newcomer that has the moniker “sodfather”.  The reason for that name is on my list.  Mike and Tim have a common bond in guitars and music.  I know that recently Mike has loaned Tim a prized guitar called the “dove”; the two of them and some of the peripherals talk a lot about music and documentaries about the Beatles and such.  I have no interest and just tune it out.  Oh, and they talk quite a bit about streaming, something else I know nothing of; I think maybe they fish a lot.  Mike is a very agreeable sort and is the go-to guy if you have any mechanical trouble or questions; he is presently helping me out with my wife’s ailing transmission.   His only fault is the high regard in which he holds Subarus; well, nobody bats a thousand. 

The fourth stalwart member of the island is Matt; he is an I T guy who also works from home, although he bristles when you call him that, much preferring the appellation “computer programmer”. We all accommodate him in this eccentricity.  Matt works on his wit a lot and to his credit he keeps it pretty sharp; one has to stay on his toes around him. Oh yea, and he has a twenty-year history of working in restaurants of which he is very proud.  He has a recurring story that he tells that has something to do with what a sorry tipper former and late sheriff John Baker was.  With his extensive career in the food industry Matt considers himself a bit of an epicurean, if not a full-fledged gourmand; for example, his scathing review of the Reuben Egg Rolls is widely known.  He also claims that the Hyde Park kitchen staff screws up the order 84% of the time.  Taking into account his background in statistics (claimed but unsubstantiated) he feels rather confident in this matter and always assumes a superior air when anyone brings up the screw up percentage.  Matt ends all his witticisms with a classic Peter Boyle clenched teeth grin.  He confided to me that he has not read a book in ten years.  No wonder he doesn’t read my stories like Tim does.  We will have to work on that. 

It was 5:15 and I had just concluded my report on Lagarde; I had waited until five o’clock to start since Matt did not arrive until five.  The three of them listened attentively as I told them what I had learned and conjectured, but by the looks on their faces I think it was pretty obvious that they had heard a lot of it if not all of it before.  I was a bit perplexed by the solemn demeanors they all exhibited; however, looking a bit closer at each one, I could detect a hardness in their eyes.

Matt was the first to speak.  “Well I have been coming to this bar for over twenty years and I find Lagarde’s presence quite unappealing,” he said.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, figuring that the resident smart ass was setting something up but he just sat there slowly shaking his head.  “I find him to be very irritating and disturbing.  I have even thought about a cessation in my coming to the bar.”  I sat quietly waiting for a response from the other two.  Tim ventured forward.

“I think he is a friggin’ nut and I don’t want to be around him at all,” he offered, a look of disgust on his face as he drained half of his double Canadian Mist with a splash of water.  I was a little taken aback by his reaction; Tim was usually laid back with the exclusion of when he would sometimes get riled up with his left-wing political views.  I kept waiting for a giggle or some lighthearted comment from him but none came.  His visage was a hard one.

I then looked at Mike and noticed that Matt and Tim were doing the same.  Mike was sort of the quintessential “live and let live” kind of guy and I suppose that was why the three of us were looking at him to see if the general bellicose atmosphere would be maintained.

“Goofy son of a bitch gives long hair a bad name,” he muttered.  “He ought to be put out of his misery.  I have been coming here over twenty-five years and he is the most ridiculous critter I have ever seen.  I’m seriously thinking about just staying home instead of coming down here.”

Shocking revelation number three; I was seeing a side of the three that had never been revealed to me before.  I was stunned and I sat there for a good two minutes trying to absorb what I had heard.

“Well, what do you think, Mr. super sleuth?”  It was Tim.  He had just returned from the bar with another double Canadian Mist with a splash of water.  When I looked at him I saw that the hard look in his eyes had remained, probably intensified. He drained the entire double as he waited for a reply.

I was more than a bit shocked; Tim was a creature of habit, as evidenced by his wardrobe, and there was a precision to his drinking; he had a quota of four per day, rarely eclipsed, and was a sipper, not a gulper.  Unorthodox behavior for him.  Apparently there was something in the air that I was not privy to. Before I replied I looked over at Mike and Matt; Matt’s smart ass Peter Boyle grin was replaced by a penetrating look of disgust and for the first time in my life I saw a look on Mike’s face that approached evil.

“I am not sure where this whole thing is going,” I said haltingly.  “I thought I had been sent on a sort of a friendly scavenger hunt but you guys sound like you want to off him.”   I thought this very lame attempt at humor might lighten the mood but it was not to be.

“I have put up with a lot of goofballs and drunks over the years but something about Lagarde just gets under my skin like no one ever has,” Mike said, and if anything the look on his face that I had found so disquieting had intensified. 

“Yea, he’s gotta go,” said Matt.  There was no remnant of Peter Boyle; his countenance spewed  nothing short of hate.  Before I even had a chance to be flabbergasted Tim ventured forth with “somebody’s gotta do something, and I mean soon.”  This comment elicited somber nods from Matt and Mike. 

As I looked at my three friends I was overwhelmed; the scenario was like some kind of goofy horror movie.  I felt like I had been lured into some sort of Machiavellian plot and I did not feel at all comfortable about it.  So I did what any red-blooded writer would do; I blurted out “I’ve got to meet the furnace man” and hit the door.

Keeping with custom none of the islanders showed up on Sunday; in fact, Tim refused to have contact with any people whatsoever on Sunday other than an e-mail. I know this because Matt wanted Tim to copy something for him when he was trying to get into a new apartment.  Much to Matt’s surprise Tim refused, leaving it to my wife to do the duty.  I prefer to have no comment on that eccentricity, being quite a creature of routine myself.  But there was a bombshell on the horizon.   On the local evening news there was a story about a middle-aged man being found dead near High Park Bar, and this set my mind to spinning.  According to the report he had been garroted with a metal guitar string; his name was Lagarde. 

Jill, the best bartender in the world who always worked on Mondays, had an announcement for everyone when we arrived at the bar.  In deference to Matt’s arrival time she said that at 5:05 there would be a minute of silence for the late Lagarde.  I was running late that day and did not arrive until just before five o’clock but Tim and Mike filled me in.

“Terrible thing about ol’ Lagarde wasn’t it,” Mike said, managing to keep a straight face.

“Yep, sure was,” Tim offered. 

“You wearing black for the occasion, Tim?” I inquired, a pretty lame attempt at humor.  Actually I was feeling anything but humorous.  The three of us looked at Matt as he arrived at five and we quickly filled him in on the minute of remembrance for Lagrande.  Jill made the announcement and everyone assumed the customary somber bowed head pose; however, about 30 seconds into it some irreverent played “I will survive” by Cake, shouting out that it was Lagarde’s favorite song.  After that we were just sitting at the island when Mike offered “I guess the police must have been in here asking about any guitarists that frequented the place; they were at my house for an hour asking questions before Andrea and Colin got home and verified that I was home all yesterday and last night.”

“They came to my house about four o’clock and stayed about an hour and a half.  Of course with my Sunday habits no one could verify that I was home all day and night; I think they might be back,” Tim said and for the second time in three days threw back an entire double Canadian Mist with a splash of water in one gulp.  I made a concerted effort not to stare at any of the three, but I felt pretty safe in thinking that one of them had murdered Lagarde; the two guitar enthusiasts certainly seemed like the likeliest candidates, but one never knows do one. 

“No cops at my place,” Matt announced, displaying the Peter Boyle clenched teeth grin. 

“Certainly no one would think for a minute that it could be one of you guys,” I threw out, just to see what they would say.  Matt was busy checking the box score on the Twins game but Tim and Mike were looking straight at me.

“You can’t be serious even thinking that I would do something like that,” Mike said.  You know how loose bar talk goes; plus, I have an alibi.”  Then he laughed, pointing at Tim, and said, “there’s your man, no alibi and a background of having been in a band.  Anything goes with that type.”  Tim managed a light chuckle before saying “well, I think they will be back but there is nothing to tie me to it, and even if I were truly the BIG suspect I don’t have the strength to do anything like that.  Plus how in the world ya gonna get fingerprints off a guitar string,” he added, laughing as he went to get another double. 

“I don’t even own a guitar,” Matt volunteered, “and as far as all that talk the other day you guys ought to be able to tell when I am joking around.”  As we sat drinking some of the peripherals showed up, Ed the pilot, J K the handyman, Eddie the travel guy.  There was brief mention of the Lagarde situation; very brief.  Reckon it is true about that fifteen minutes of fame, and it looked like Lagarde had to be killed to attain his.  As six o’clock rolled around Mike said his customary “well I’m outa here,” and threw “say hey to the cops Tim,” over his shoulder as he departed.  Tim also left and Matt followed.  I hung back intentionally and waited until I could see Matt walk by his black Honda Accord parked in the handicap spot and head over to the dumpster beside Lady Fingers.  I secluded myself over near the gambling machines and watched as he tossed something in the dumpster and got in his car and left.  Fortunately the dumpster was filled almost all the way up to the sliding metal door; I espied a paper bag and opened it, revealing a receipt from Harry’s Guitar Shop for one metal D string.

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