I can still remember the commotion when one of the Beatniks – Solomon came bursting through the front door one oddly shaped Thursday afternoon. Their monthly party was less than forty-eight hours away and the apartment was in shambles. Gloria was in a panic due to my inability to keep a light bulb lit in my mouth for longer than three minutes and forty one seconds. The pain of my cheeks being scorched from the inside was being drowned out by Gloria’s screeching, rhetorically asking me what kind of touch lamp goes out after three minutes and forty one seconds?!
Fortunately for my cheeks and Gloria’s party, Solomon had stumbled upon an idea. In all actuality, he tripped.
Tripped over a person.
Tripped over Mr. Beard.
Solomon was walking briskly down 3rd Avenue, carrying his thin mint marshmallow frappuccino when he fell over Mr. Beard – who was sleeping across the sidewalk. The coffee spilled all over Solomon’s hippy shirt and Mr. Beard’s long beard. Screaming homeless expletives, Mr. Beard stood up and began waving his arms haphazardly, as if he had no regard for his shoulders or anyone’s neighboring body passing by. At first Solomon was indignant and felt like Mr. Beard needed a piece of his mind, but the more he stood there and listened to the mad rantings of a guy with a wild beard, the more Solomon saw the solution to every problem known to man.
Or just The Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon’s upcoming dinner party.
In a move rivaling pissing into the wind, or tugging on Superman’s cape, Solomon snatched the coffee out of the person passing to his left and threw the styrofoam container into Mr. Beard’s face, drenching his drenched beard to a point beyond drenching!
Mr. Beard’s eyes contorted into a rage not seen since Germany circa 1939 and he lunged his gangly arms towards our Beatnik anti-hero, Solomon. Solomon was counting on this irrational response and began to slowly run to the apartment. Mr. Beard did his best impersonation of a homeless Frankenstein and the two men ran down 3rd Avenue and towards our completely opposite version of a happy home.
As Solomon came through the door he screamed out the secret code phrase:
“Styx is the 6th most underrated band of the 1970’s” and Gloria knew exactly what she had to do. Reaching deep into her midnight black tights, she produced a thin reed, which she used to blow out a dart, subduing the angry but now exhausted after running nine blocks, Mr. Beard. Grabbing the set of chains they kept handy for situations like this, The Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon tied Mr. Beard up to the touch lamp in the living room.
For those of you with a failing attention span, that touch lamp happened to be your favorite narrator, and the chain was wrapped firmly around my belly.
To properly comprehend the horror I was facing, you really have to think of the details. I had a forty watt bulb in my mouth, scorching the inside of my young cheeks. This light bulb was also the bane of my existence because I could not keep lit for more than three minutes and forty one seconds. I was best friends with a dust ball and a light switch, which I was now fighting with because he was better at his job than I was. And I was now chained to an insane homeless man who, to a five year old, stood at least nine feet tall, had a beard down to his belly button and might or might not breathe fire.
The only reason why I didn’t shit myself right then and there was because the Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon had drummed into my head a long time ago that furniture does not shit on the hard wood floors.
Petrified, I stood with my arms at my side and stared at the latest addition to the apartment. Three hours later, the effects of the blow dart had worn off and Mr. Beard regained consciousness, or whatever might apply in his world. He began to convulse, thrashing the chains wildly and bellowing crazy homeless words. I believe this would have lasted the entire night if he hadn’t realized he was chained to a five year old boy who believed he was a touch lamp. Mr. Beard bent his crazy head down to my eye level and asked me how would a touch lamp know what the capital of Nebraska was?
I stood there, wondering what a Nebraska was and afraid my guess of Omaha would result in shame and embarrassment for the both of us when he began to talk again. And by talking I really meant spraying spittle all over my precocious little face. Fear gripped my very soul as I waited for whatever insanity would come next, but before that could happen, The Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon came running in. Mr. Beard redirected his lunacy from me to them, and the louder he grew, the broader the smiles stretched across the faces of the Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon. Finally they could wait no longer and cut him off mid-rant, explaining to him how he had been chosen to be the crown jewel in their quest of avant-garde dominance. He would be, “Mr. Beard” and his job would be to berate anyone who came within a three foot radius. For his efforts, he would be rewarded with crayons, in which he could brandish on the walls, the floors, or any piece of furniture in the house.
Art creating art.
Mr. Beard paused, and a small grin grew over his face. With an impassionate grunt, he extended his left hand out and reached towards the box of crayons they had waiting for him. He looked in, paused for a second and took hold of a forest green Crayola crayon. Pivoting on his right foot, Mr. Beard turned and faced the touch lamp. After forty seconds, he exclaimed in his best gibberish that he had finished his first masterpiece. The Beatniks – Gloria and Solomon stood, at first in awe, and then began clapping and whistling. Their art had made art, and it was good.
And that is how I came to have a green kangaroo tattooed on my left cheek.
But before Mr. Beard handed back the forest green Crayola crayon, yet another odd moment in a lifetime of odd moments happened. A wry smile came over his lips and he gave me a knowing wink.
Perhaps Mr. Beard wasn’t as crazy as we thought he was.