Art Pact 80

My dining companion, now so drunk that he was slurring his words and barely two-thirds of the wine in his glass was making it into his mouth. The hat-wearing woman at the neighbouring table had begun to sniff so violently and frequently that it sounded as though she were trying to inhale the restaurant. I was enjoying her discomfort, but my own had grown to such intolerable levels that I thought it would be a good time to take care of the bill and leave, which I did in one comfortable move by shepherding my companion out of his seat, slipping my hand into his pocket to liberated his wallet. While I guided him to the door I dropped a couple of hundreds into the waitress's hand (she had taken up a defensive position at the door in case we absconded without paying, a precaution I am sorry to say I had made necessary during my youth). It was comfortably twice what we owed for the meal, but since I wasn't paying I felt some compunction to make up for my earlier indiscretions, and since the money appeared to come from me it might also guarantee some preferential treatment the next time I ate there. Our waitress certainly seemed very pleased.

Out on the street we blended seamlessly with the hustle and bustle of the post-prandial crowd, our progress made somewhat eccentric by the need to steer my companion, who having stood discovered that his legs were now working on their own time, collapsing under him at awkward moments, refusing to travel in the direction indicated, and so forth. Someone watching from above would have seen two dots moving erratically through the throng, weaving this way and that, inevitably after a few meters ending up stepping off the curb into the gutter before I could manage to direct us back to safety.

If you have never walked the streets of the city at night before, you will perhaps be unaware of the incredible risks which one takes to do so. Despite the recent prohibition on operating a car while drunk, the great majority of drivers around at this time of night tend to have been in their cups at lunch, and like the pedestrians are travelling from the place in which they ate to the place in which they intend to spend the rest of the evening - some nightclub or bar. So the situation, bad already, is only a mere promise of the carnage to come later on, when the rapid approach of dawn sends them all scurrying from their various bolt holes, now even more drunk and tired to boot.

Even with the more mild hazards available on the roads at ten, I struggled to keep my companion safe from the subconscious death wish which caused him to make his way into the street at every opportunity. He was big - heavier than he looked, certainly, which was already somewhat solid - and since I am slight of frame (if we are being charitable), I had to exert myself to the fullest to maintain a steady heading, often being forced to switch sides in order to support him like a pit prop, leaning into him with my full weight. Eventually, though, I managed to get the hang of him. It still required frequent trips to one side or the other, but I maintained a precarious equilibrium in his balance which merely required frequent but subtle tilts one way or another to direct him in a roughly straight line. It was exhausting, since I had to travel at least twice as far as he did, but on the other hand I successfully steered us to the speakeasy I had been aiming for, the cost of drinks for the rest of the night sufficient compensation for my efforts.

Dave's Midnight Bar is a converted warehouse in the old business district, about a mile from the restaurant (or two miles if you are supporting a gigantic drunkard). Its bare breeze block face is interrupted only by a metal door painted a garish red - now standing open, and emitting the sounds of drunken talk and polish music. I was well known there, and it was that infamy which caused the guarding bouncer to eye me with suspicion as I arrived.

"Who's this?" he asked without preamble, indicating the drunk who was swaying gently beside me.

"A good evening to you too, Jonathan," I declared. "This is my good friend... uh... my very good friend," I amended, realising at that point that I had no idea what the man's name was.


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