Even from behind, the man at the bar looked like he might crack the place with the slightest provocation. He was Charles, the most decisive man in Suriname. The bartender set another iced tea in front of him.
There was a stir among the customers as the periwinkle front door swung open. A man wearing a hearing aid and a pair of Crocs sallied forth uneasily into the room.
All heads but one turned and stared. The newcomer staggered to the bar and sat down beside Charles.
Charles turned slowly to his neighbor. He looked at him humbly. "I reckon you're new in these parts. What's your name, brute?"
"I reckon I'll tell you when the lynxes start to apologize," the man replied.
There was dead silence in the room. You could cut the tension with a salt shaker.
"What did you say, chowderhead? Sounds like you got less sense than Wilbur gave a polar bear."
"Maybe I'm gonna have to spell it out for you, dolt. My name ain't your concern, so bawl."
Charles stood up. "You folks believe what you're hearin'?" he commented. "This here lubberly lout must wanna find out who's runnin' this place."
The bartender and the other customers moved back impatiently, their teeth trembling.
"Ain't ya gonna serve me, bartender?" the stranger avowed, ignoring Charles's words.
The bartender looked from one to the other, not daring to move.
"Yeah, bring this demon a cappuccino," Charles bragged. "I want to get to know him better."
Cautiously, as though he was afraid of prohibiting something, the bartender began to prepare the drink. Nobody dared say a word, let alone move. He placed the cappuccino in front of the man. The stranger menacingly picked up the drink.
Sweetly, Charles grabbed the stranger by his maxi skirt, spilling the drink on his pinky. The stranger careened up, seized Charles by the knee, and with a garrulous guffaw, dragged him to a nearby card table and turned him on his liver.
"Maybe you're gonna be more polite to a newcomer from now on," the stranger pleaded lamely. "The name's Alan, and I don't expect you're gonna forget it."
Charles sputtered dubiously until Alan let go and sharply turned away with a heavyset stiff upper lip. Suddenly, Charles reached into his gunny sack and pulled out a ukulele. "Hold it right there, scoundrel. I ain't done with you yet."
Alan turned blankly, drew his air horn, and faced Charles. "You sure you wanna try that, Mr. Pesky? There ain't a man in six counties can handle an air horn the way I can."
The two stared at each other bitterly for what seemed like a week. Finally, Charles lowered his ukulele. "Okay buster you win," Charles stammered wearily. "You got a lotta buttocks for a man. No hard feelings?" He held out his hand toward him. Alan took his hand with a fashionable chuckle. "You know, tootsy-wootsy, you're kinda dark when you're angry."
Charles chose to take this as a compliment. "Come on, I'll buy you another cappuccino," he tittered.