Mr. Hooligan

Ian Vasquez

Minotaur Books

“Once upon a time,” Patricia said, “Charles Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis in a seaside polo field in Belize, or I should say in British Honduras. Which is what they called it back in the late 1920s. That field, you of course know, is where the Princess Hotel and Casino is, and that park, the one out there with concrete animals, swing sets, benches, all those things. Well, just across from the park, on Princess Margaret Drive, there’s a bar called Lindy’s, named after his truly. It’s a nice place, Lindy’s, it has a thatch-covered patio, pimento and hardwood walls, a bank of wooden jalousie louvers that’re always open to the breeze. One of those places where lots of tourists hang out, a weekend nightspot where the locals enjoy a few before going to a club. But what’s really interesting about the place, to me, are the photos along the walls near the bar. Old black-and-whites of Lindbergh in the field, in these jodhpur-like khakis, a white man standing tall in a sea of black faces, lots of children in rough-looking clothes, and all the men in suits and women in long dresses and all of them wearing hats, holding their hats down against the breeze.”
“One second,” Roger Hunter said with a smile, sitting up in the hospital bed. “Is this how you’re going to begin this story? ‘Once upon a time’?”
“All the best stories begin that way, but not all of them end ‘happily ever after.’ Maybe not even this one.”
“Okay, fair enough. This tale, is this the one you’ve been wanting so long to tell me? Is this about the boy you used to counsel?”
“The boy who’s now a man,” Patricia said. “Who owns that bar, Lindy’s. Who landed himself into some trouble years ago, long before he bought that bar. What, don’t you want to hear my story?”
“On the contrary, I do. I just find myself wishing that it’ll be worth the wait. You’ve been hinting at this story for years. Giving me little bits and pieces. Now, I’m about to hear the whole thing. Why now?”
Because it’s time. I really believe his life is about to change. And because finally telling someone about what happened, what he told me—it’ll ease the burden on my conscience.”
“So, conveniently, you’re telling a man who’s dying.”
Patricia didn’t care for that.
“Listen,” Roger said, “I didn’t mean to sound offended.”
“You don’t need to keep reminding me that you’re dying.”
“Pancreatic cancer is a perfectly logical end to life. You who left the convent because of your dedication to truth, it’s curious how you can’t accept the truth. I’m dying, woman.”
Patricia sighed. “Well, you yourself used to say that every counselor needs a counselor.”
“So what was this thing that our hero did years ago?”
“He shot a man,” Patricia said. “Shot him several times.”
Roger whistled, reached a bony hand for the cup of water on the bedside table. He drank and wiped his lips. “I would think,” he said, “that qualifies as a story I need to hear.”
“Let me tell you what happened, then. Because, actually, in a few minutes he’s coming by the hospital to give me something and I’ll have to go downstairs.”
“What did you say his name was?”
“I didn’t. When he was young, on the streets they used to call him Li’l Hooligan, but now everybody knows his real name.”

Copyright © 2010 by Ian Vasquez