It looked as big as a howitzer!
Sure it was only a snub-nosed .38 revolver, or its German equivalent, but when the guy with the grim look on his face slid into our booth and asked for Jasko … and when Jasko acknowledged himself to be himself … and when the curiosity of the grim looking fellow was satisfied … and when he pulled that pistol out and pointed it straight at Jasko’s face … I mean to tell you that damned thing looked huge!
The Black Bottom had been rockin’ all night! A great rock band from Spain (and the top selling rock band in Europe at the time, excluding some lads from England of course) wailed for hours, nearly every minute of which my running-around-buddy Jasko and I danced with a wondrous, never-ending bevy of sophisticated young Koblenz beauties out on the town to have fun!
Jasko and I were young and dumb with buckets of bucks to spend in search of a fun! We’d eat and drink and dance for hours on end. We’d laugh and sing and follow a scrip meant for those who enjoy life without care, and who have the requisite capital and leisure for wine, woman and song!
And of course we’d fall in love … often. We were but pawns in various schemes of Venus who always managed to show us how dumb we truly were, which is exactly how Jasko wound-up about ten inches from the wrong end of a sunb-nosed .38!
Naturally this wasn’t a random act of violence. This wasn’t a gunman on the prowl looking for an innocent victim. No. This was a cuckold, a merchant seaman who’d discovered his wife couldn’t manage to suppress her longings for a man’s company while her husband was away at sea.
Unfortunately, she’d taken those longings to the Black Bottom where she longed for Jako who, like the gentleman he was, was only too willing to help her with acute, albeit temporary, need.
That she latched onto Jasko was no great surprise. Women found him irresistible. A native of Baltimore, blessed with that town’s idiosyncratic, poetic dialect, he had it all … Hollywood handsome features; curly, strawberry blonde hair; a winning smile; a quick wit; some great dance moves; clear blue eyes; a stylish, classy wardrobe and charming Southern ways.
He could also hold his booze, unless said booze was gin!
It’s funny how different distillations can have wildly different effects on imbibers. With Sgt. Murphy a few glasses of champagne did the trick! You never knew what might happen next!
Gin was Jasko’s dynamite … and Jasko loved it. The night of the lady’s’ indiscretion, he’d had a gut full of it. He was a super-stud that night!
If only my lady friend for the night hadn’t left a telltale, intimate article of clothing behind in the cuckold’s house, everything would have been fine. But after discovering it the mad mariner went all twitchy. In fact you’d have to say he went downright berserk!
An all-consuming jealousy took hold of him and drove him to the Black Bottom that night, which could easily have turned into Jasko’s last night on earth had Jasko acted with less aplomb. But Jasko had filled his belly with gin again, so his ensuing behavior was anyone’s guess!
This all happened during our time of extreme existential nihilism in Koblenz, which as any philosopher worth his salt would tell you could be greatly exacerbated by gin! I
I’d been deeply into the French Existentialists that year, for which my motto was “It’s all nothing.” This soon became the byword of the detachment. Everything became nothing! And we meant it. No matter what happened, good or evil, we considered it ultimately meaningless. In other words, it was all nothing!
I spent hours writing poetry about nothing, sharing it with my buddies or with my girl friends, after which I’d crumple it up and throw it away … after all it was all nothing. We’d win or lose at love without expectation or regret … it was all nothing. We could go to war or not … it didn’t matter, it was all nothing. We could live, or we could die… again it was all nothing!
And nothing mattered greatly to us. Why I even made a pilgrimage to Paris to write poems about nothing. I drank vin ordinaire in sidewalk cafes in homage to Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Satre, the continent’s principal purveyors of nothingness! Of course all of this meant absolutely nothing to me!
All of this nothing nonsense seemed to have influenced Jasko’s behavior when that pistol appeared … though some say that gin probably had as much to do with it as anything else. In any event, Jasko responded to this challenge with raw courage of the foolhardy sort … of the sort displayed by Medal of Honor recipients like Audie Murphy who fearlessly charged a machine gun nests, or Sergeant York who single-handedly captured hundreds of enemy soldiers!
Only in Jasko’s case it happened to be a homicidal husband!
“That thing better have bullets!” Jasko shouted at the man, cocking his head, a sure-fire sign that the deadly trio of nihilism, gin and military genius had taken over (after all, as the army taught us, the best defense is a strong offense).
A puzzled expression crossed the visage of the murderous mariner, but for me his gun grew bigger and bigger with each syllable Jasko uttered … and Jasko was just getting started!
“Shoot! Go ahead! Shoot! SHOOT ME!” Jasko yelled. “SHOOT ME! SHOOT ME! SHOOT ME!” he shouted over and over and over!
It was the most stunning, extraordinary, passionate and assertive display of nothingness I’d ever witnessed! I was in complete awe, not to mention perplexity, as was the gunner whose expression had suddenly changed from one of stern determination to something closer to utter bewilderment.
You could almost see the wheels turning on his bridge and in his engine room, “Who this idiot thinks he is? Who is this punk for his own execution ordering?”
With this the fellow rapidly decided to abandon his mission and leave the suicidal lunatic to his own demented hell … and fast! He pocketed his pistol, sat upright and declared, “Don’t my wife ever you see with again, got it you?” And with that he left the Black Bottom like a sailor abandoning ship!
After the poor fellow’s sudden retreat I started breathing again. I looked over at Jasko. He had a kind of a mischievous look, one that said he never had any intention of getting together with that guy’s wife again, ever … which we both agreed was wise move, especially considering it really meant nothing at all to us!
But from that moment on we celebrants of nothing had a magnificent champion! Jasko, the acknowledged prince of nothingness … which of course meant nothing at all!
Coming next! How I Won The Cold War, Part 20 … THE QUEEN COMES CALLING, THE GERMANS ATTACK
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