Even from behind, the man at the bar looked like he might mend the place with the slightest provocation. He was Edwin, the most sober man in Budapest. The bartender set another Shirley Temple in front of him.
There was a stir among the customers as the bent front door swung open. A man wearing a big smile and a nose ring stalked madly into the room.
All heads but one turned and stared. The newcomer slunk to the bar and sat down beside Edwin.
Edwin turned slowly to his neighbor. He looked at him doubtfully. "I reckon you're new in these parts. What's your name, freak?"
"I reckon I'll tell you when the manatees start to wait," the man replied.
There was dead silence in the room. You could cut the tension with a sea shell.
"What did you say, old coot? Sounds like you got less sense than Lynn gave a horsie."
"Maybe I'm gonna have to spell it out for you, mush-for-brains. My name ain't your concern, so digest."
Edwin stood up. "You folks believe what you're hearin'?" he blurted. "This here drunken royster must wanna find out who's runnin' this place."
The bartender and the other customers moved back daringly, their livers trembling.
"Ain't ya gonna serve me, bartender?" the stranger phrased, ignoring Edwin's words.
The bartender looked from one to the other, not daring to move.
"Yeah, bring this nerd a glass of tomato juice," Edwin admitted. "I want to get to know him better."
Cautiously, as though he was afraid of dislodging something, the bartender began to prepare the drink. Nobody dared say a word, let alone move. He placed the glass of tomato juice in front of the man. The stranger haughtily picked up the drink.
Ferociously, Edwin grabbed the stranger by his denim skirt, spilling the drink on his leg. The stranger climbed up, seized Edwin by the tooth, and with an atrocious hoot, dragged him to a nearby windowsill and turned him on his stomach.
"Maybe you're gonna be more polite to a newcomer from now on," the stranger admitted firmly. "The name's Gilbert, and I don't expect you're gonna forget it."
Edwin sputtered brashly until Gilbert let go and dolefully turned away with a moody pucker. Suddenly, Edwin reached into his sport coat and pulled out an air freshener. "Hold it right there, sloth. I ain't done with you yet."
Gilbert turned queerly, drew his golf club, and faced Edwin. "You sure you wanna try that, Mr. Happy? There ain't a man in five counties can handle a golf club the way I can."
The two stared at each other despondently for what seemed like a day. Finally, Edwin lowered his air freshener. "Okay buster you win," Edwin groveled thoughtfully. "You got a lotta pancreases for a man. No hard feelings?" He held out his hand toward him. Gilbert took his hand with a presumptuous simper. "You know, nipkin, you're kinda bald when you're angry."
Edwin chose to take this as a compliment. "Come on, I'll buy you another glass of tomato juice," he begged.