Sometimes friends find each other in strange places
BLACK BEAUTIES OF THE NIGHT
I sat watching the water lap against the slime-covered steps that led down into the murky waters of Lake Ponchartrain.
“Got a light?” a gravelly voice asked, no louder than a buzzing bee.
“What?” I looked around afraid dementia had finally caught up with me.
“Hey stupid, down here.” The voice instructed.
I glanced down only to be confronted by what I thought was a hallucination. I rubbed my hand over my bloodshot eyes. Got to stay away from the booze. I turned back to the water, sure I was imagining things, but the voice beside me persisted.
“Am I speaking English? Perhaps you’re a tourist. Thousands of years on this earth and they’re still just as annoying and stupid,” the roach mumbled to himself, his antennae sifting the wind through his microscopic sensors.
“Look bud, I really could use a light. It’s been a long night of dodging shoes, insecticide, and cats.”
I focused my weary gaze on the small black-winged creature beside me, sure I had watched “Men in Black” one too many times. A hideous thought ran through my numb brain… perhaps we were all doomed to be overrun by the little buggers. “I have a light, but what in hell are you going to smoke?” I asked, hoping I sounded coherent. The lines of reality had started to blur thanks to my daily intake of Jack Daniels. What brain cells remained were far slower than they should have been.
I shook my head to clear my vision and reduce the lingering effects of the alcohol. So this is what the DTs are like. My skin crawled at the thought. Perhaps that wasn’t the best term when you were having a conversation with a roach, real or imagined.
“HELLO! EXCUSE ME. I’ll speak slowly so you’ll understand. Do…you…have…a light?”
The roach glared at me and I drew back. Was that really disgust I read in his beady little eyes?
My hand shook as I sifted through the debris in my jacket pocket. Finally my fingers alighted on a pack of bent matches which I quickly withdrew. I watched in amazement as the creature slipped a tiny joint from under one wing and held it between two of his six legs.
“What are you staring at, stupid. You think humans are the only ones with bad habits? Think you’ve cornered the market on everything? Well, let me tell you something: you humans are way below us on the evolutionary ladder. We’ve been around since the dawn of time. In our eyes you have some catching up to do, now, about that light.”
I struck the match and held it out. Instantly, the smell of weed wafted past me and I inhaled. A fleeting look of contentment flashed across the roach’s face as he took another drag.
“What, no roach clip?” I snickered.
“Very funny.” He glared at me through the haze of smoke and inhaled once more.
“Sure you won’t join me?”
“No, I have my own particular brand of poison.” I pulled the flask from my pocket and raised it in a toast. “To each his own.” I chugged down a giant gulp and felt a flash of fire as it burned my throat, an all-too familiar sensation.
We sat there in silence watching the gentle lapping of the waves against the seawall, the roach with his joint and me with my whiskey. Our vices were sure to damn us to hell, but at the moment that didn’t seem to matter to either of us.
He blew out a puff of smoke and looked at me. “I’m Philistine, Phil for short.”
“My mother liked to read while she ate. By the time she got to me all the better names had been taken.” Phil shrugged and took another long pull on his quickly diminishing joint.
“Peter, another good biblical name.” He choked as a cloud of smoke engulfed his small, black body. “These things are going to kill me. I’ve got to cut back, but you know how it is: old habits die hard.” Phil dropped the butt into the grass and we watched it briefly burn and die.
The booze usually kept the gnawing feeling of hunger away but not tonight. “Hungry?” I asked.
“I make great lasagna.”
“Italian, my favorite.” Phil licked his lips.
“Um, how am I supposed to carry you?” The thought of picking Phil up sent a shiver down my back.
“No problem,” he replied, climbing up my sleeve and onto my shoulder.
“Who would have thought,” Phil said, “me, with a human as a friend, how ludicrous.”
I chuckled quietly, “Friends are like love, you’ve got to take it where you find it.” I replied, and headed to the car and home.
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