Excerpted from: Beach Bum Beer-Swigging Bunny
The Fine Art of Don’t Give a Shit
All it would take for the atmosphere to explode into thick fog at six in the morning during the hot months would be for it to meet a pocket of cool air, but it won’t. The air will hang around just as it is: like a closed bathroom after a hot shower. Like mold waiting to happen and then happening, until the equatorial sun rises to burn off the overcast and expand what remains to where the humidity drops below eighty-five percent.
Inside, Bunny Morris sits at his table dressed in dull morning sweat and cotton undershorts from when he was bigger, loose but still serviceable by his standards which he defines as not so threadbare or body stained as to embarrass him if he were caught dead in them. With his coffee, delaying his cigarette for a minute of self-denial, which he will smoke as soon as the minute is up on his back-door threshold, sitting on the plastic all-purpose stand he uses as a stool, considering whatever with little dedication and a short attention span and sipping while the sun comes up on the other side of the building and the Pacific emerges from the haze a couple of blocks west of him, close enough to see some boats clearly but far enough to make his place immune to the cost of competing with tourists for it.
Not that the tourists would want it. Where Bunny sees simplicity, the tourists would see squalor. Exactly what he had in mind and exactly what the tourists would not—if there were tourists—with the bonus of cheap to start with and resistance to inflation thereafter.
During the cigarette, he’ll scratch an itch near his navel, check the progress of the stretches left by all the fat that followed his cares out of him and that even excessive interior and exterior humidity can’t plump away at his age and general state. When the cigarette is exhausted, he’ll consider a leisurely journey to the front door to ascertain whether the textures of his concrete stoop have changed overnight, which one day they might or might not depending on who expires first.
Two surfaces now starting to heat up from never cool: the part to the left, rough aggregate of gravel exposed by the loss of its skin of concrete fines and the part to the right that managed to keep that smoothness and acquire a protective nighttime covering of Cur in the form of Jackbenny, who by now will be waking and wondering why Bunny hasn’t come out to pick a fight yet, and maybe if Bunny has died in his sleep which would be okay with Jackbenny but would force him to get his ass up on the three legs that work properly and go out to pick his own fight.
It’s morning again. Hot, lazy and gloriously aimless.
A Little Town Along a Big Sea
Bunny Morris’s original given name was not Bunny. Jacob, if you count what’s on his birth certificate, passport, paper junk mail in its day and its electronic successor now. Jake if you don’t and Jake never did. Not to say Bunny isn’t his real name because there was nothing particularly real about Jacob or Jake either. Original, yes. Subject to the arbitrary whim of panicked parents whereas Bunny was Bunny’s arbitrary whim instead.
Same goes for Jackbenny. It was not Jackbenny’s original name assuming someone suffered an arbitrary whim over him before, which may not have been the case, Jackbenny having been born where dogs don’t necessarily have or need human names. It’s luck of the draw and Jackbenny probably thinks it bad luck to have a human name because of the responsibility to humans that comes with it. These are things Bunny won’t ever know because Jackbenny will never say. Jackbenny only says two things: the growl that means good morning, good afternoon, good evening or go fuck yourself, depending on context, and the groans that result from having his belly tickled by a foot, after which the old son of a bitch acts frisky for a few seconds before sliding back into his grumpy demeanor.
It’s fair to say these two animals are a pair based on similar outlooks, the most important of which is that both of them have accepted that they share the porch when the door is closed and the house when it’s open. Neither could explain why or how that happened because the second-most-important outlook is that both have perfected the fine art of don’t give a shit. Or Bunny has perfected it and Jackbenny was born with it—Bunny’s suspicion which will never be confirmed or denied—and don’t give a shit is as good a bond as any.
They don’t like each other. That would require too much. They spend a lot of their time in each other’s company because you take the pack you have and you don’t have to like it. You can add to it—a mate or a couple of offspring if you’re the age for that—but neither of them will do that as a matter of principle. Bad enough they have to tolerate each other in order to have a pack. Mates and offspring are matters of dim and dimmer past. Responsibilities scarcely visible in their scratched rearview mirrors, products of bothersome hormones and the cellular drive to keep shit going. All over now. Even the sex part, given that mounting someone is an effort these days and a bad overall idea besides.
A little town along a big sea. Its streets would be dusty in lighter, drier air; its dirt ground just as thin as anyone’s but its dirt is more content than some just to lie and be still. Not unlike Bunny Morris and Jackbenny, who exchange morning growls and retreat through the doorway for their respective bowls of water and their respective places in the shade of a roof starting to pop with the strain of providing them a hole in the sunlight.
To think about stuff—not too hard or too long at a time about any one stuff—because they are big thinkers, although their thoughts are as lacking in predictability as flat stones skipping across a glassy lake, touching down and bouncing away, given flight and momentum and lightness by not giving a shit one way or the other. Only because thinking cannot be helped when nothing else is going on.
A Damn Surprise
Jackbenny lies under the table like a corpse that was kicked there, complete with rigor mortis in the fourth leg held in stiff reserve in case one of the other three gives out. Above the table, two sweaty bottles of beer and two sweaty uppers of men—Bunny and Henry—one of whose names is probably original because Henry hasn’t a surviving thread of initiative or creativity.
He claims to be running from the law. He does not claim from which law or which jurisdiction he is running. It’s bullshit. A conceit leftover from creative times to make himself more interesting, because Henry and running of any sort are impossible bedfellows. If Henry can’t get there ambling, Henry will never get there.
He’s a perennial, provisional member of the pack and the pack no longer requires running of anyone. The closest Henry gets to running is a spastic knee that pushes his right foot against Jackbenny’s belly from time to time and raises an appreciative moan.
“What you going to do today?” Henry says, with all the skin of an honest question but none of the meat. He always asks it in the early hours if they happen to meet then, which they nearly always do, and he always gets the same answer from Bunny.
“Spend it. While it away until it’s over. Same as yesterday for sure and tomorrow most likely.”
“I’ve been thinking about taking a vacation.”
“Vacating what?” Bunny says. “Breathing? The effort of reaching B when you’re at A?” Or he doesn’t say it. It’s hard to tell sometimes because Henry seldom listens, and Bunny’s thoughts often stop trying before they become words.
“Change of scene.”
More bullshit. Running from the law, indeed. More like lying still while the law wafts overhead, ignored.
“What’s wrong with this scene?” Two bottles with potential sips still in them. Three creatures respirating and so far, avoiding swallowing their tongues.
A shrug in response, taken as the absence of a good answer.
“Give yourself a little time,” Bunny says. “You’ll get over it and be good as new.”
A groan from Jackbenny which can only mean that Henry’s spastic knee is taking care of the traveling part and no follow-up groan which can only mean that Henry has already gotten over the idea and, while good as new is a stretch, has returned to as good as he will ever be.
Even this scene can still belch a surprise, however carefully it is configured not to. Surprises by their nature are made of unpredictability and are hidden until they aren’t anymore. The surprise in this case emerges in the form of a woman neither the two men nor the Cur have ever seen before when she walks into the bar and squints into its shade as though squinting improves her vision when even the most naive camera lens knows it does not.