Volume III Number II

October 2002

cover photography by Jordyn Thomas

The Wonderbar
Harold Kanning

Sixto and I sit down at the bar. I pull out a
miniature cigar from a pack of Winchesters and
order a double scotch for each of us.
“On the rocks?” asks the bartender.
“No rocks,” Sixto says. Turning to me,
“Well, fire away, Oprah.”
“They shouldn’t have gotten rid of that radio
station,” I quip.
“No, no. You are right. But there’s a
press card on your hat,” Sixto says.
“Yes, yes. And there is a cardinal
on your breast!” I joke with him.
“Oh, maybe so, but
you are the one who
has forgotten his
“Oh? Oh no!
Oh no no no! Don’t go!
I know! What do you think of this venue for the show?
The Wonderbar, where you are?”
“Lame decor, but this is Hell, ain’t it?” Sixto
says. “If you are asking me to be your television host
then I shall order you to remove every one of these
racing posters. Leave the sturdy lights, the
heavy neons, the billiards overheads, the
exits, but put some Fellini on the
bigscreen instead of this
law-and-order reruns
“Don’t you just love the floor?”
“I want to bury my rocks in this floor. I really do
love this floor, yah. Right here, yep. It’s different over
there,” Sixto says, pointing, “I don’t quite get the
Canadian part back there, but it’s cool.”
I look to where he is pointing, the Canadian part,
with its red carpet and red walls and maple-leaf-shaped
tables. The wait staff wears giant red-and-white maple-
leaf chef hats. There is a man, looking
meanly at me, standing on the border between here
and there. His eyes seem to say to me, “you cannot
“The floor beneath my feet,” Sixto continues,
“is much more suited to my tastes at the moment
than that shit that’s down there in the Canadian
section, but I know I’ll like it over there more
better later on, after I’ve had a few shots,
you know, to the head? Very nice
We had both
taken more pills
upon arriving
in the bathroom
at The Wonderbar.
The pills, I think,
were different
this time
than they were
the first time.
“What about your setlist, Sixto?” I ask him.
“What about my setlist, Harry?” he answers.
“Oh, I get it,” I say, “you’re applying
the Socratic method!”
“I am?” he says.
At that I bust out laughing, nearly
falling off the barstool, which causes me to think of an old
song where the singer is wishing he could hold onto just one
thought for long enough to know why his mind is moving so
fast when all the people around him are having such a very
slow conversation, and how, perhaps, if I were to reverse the
meaning of most of the words, without changing the basic
premise of the lyric, I might be able to, fairly accurately,
describe my present situation.
“No, no,” I float
back over to Sixto,
“now, just tell me
what’s going to be
on your setlist,”
and I bust out laughing again, this time
not thinking about anything. Nothing
I can really recognize well enough to
relate to you, anyhow. I think maybe
I was sort of half-looking at the shape of Sixto’s head, and so
maybe I was thinking about that a little. I couldn’t tell you
what I thought about its shape, except that the light shined on
it strangely, reflectively, like the multicolored swirls in a dark
pool of motor oil.
“One song from last Sunday,” Sixto says,
“a cover of Ani DiFranco’s version of Bobby Dylan’s
“Oh fuck you, asshole!” I say.
We both bust out laughing, leaning
against each other. The bartender is
looking at us from the end of the bar. We both notice
him, and begin laughing and pointing
his way.
“Bartender!” Sixto barks, “two more double
scotch! And one for the lady
in the blue dress at
that there table!”
I looked.
Yep, a lady in a blue dress.
Approximately thirty-seven, seven months, beige-blonde,
one-thirty-three, round, smooth, tight. Somewhere
between too short and too tall and too thin and too wide,
somehow all tied together, somewhere in the middle.
“Don’t you guys think you oughta
tone it down just a bit?” the bartender asks.
“Don’t you ladies think you oughta
get me and my gang of sons of bitches some
double-scotch?” Sixto asks back.
The bartender broke Sixto’s nose
and knocked him flat off his stool
with one punch. Blood dripped
down the sides of Sixto’s cheeks and onto the
broken-rock floor
he had thought was
so cool
just a few
moments ago.
“Wha?” I think I said.
To my surprise, Sixto stood right up and took a
full-blown grand-slam circular swing at the bartender,
and, not much to my surprise, missed and fell
back down to the ground. I picked him up and
propped him against the bar as the bartender poured us
two shots and brought one to the beige-blonde woman
in the blue dress. Sixto had blood
all over his face, and it had
splattered quite noticeably
across the shoulders of his shirt.
“Are you okay, man?” I ask him. “You gotta be
careful what you say to people when you are in the
condition in which we have placed ourselves, my
good friend. Those guys could kill us and
we wouldn’t even know it!”
“Is this too tough a job for you?” Sixto asks me.
“And as long as we’re on the subject, I wish you were a
stack of quarters, so that I could shoot through
a game of billiards, and you were magic, so
I could make old eastern Europe just
disappear! I hate eastern Europe, all of it, even
as much as I hate these folks here. The faces in this
Wonderbar are so normal, so ordinary, so
My miniature Winchester has stopped burning.
Almost everybody in the bar is looking at us, except for
the beige-blonde in the blue dress, who, like us, is
looking at everybody else. A song starts up off the
jukebox, a woman singing, hollow, haunting. It’s
a slow, sad one, the whole room feels it come
over them.
Sixto turns to me, “Don’t let me hurt nobody
tonight. My real name is A. Wayne Richard. What
time does this shit get rolling?”
He is referring to his performance, of which I
had momentarily forgotten.
“Nine thirty,” I tell him.
“What time is it now?”
Sixto stands up off the bar,
knocking a glass ashtray
onto the broken-rock floor, shattering
it to bits with an
earsplitting smash. Almost
everybody in the bar just keeps on
looking at us as Sixto starts
clapping, applauding me,
as if I were the one who knocked
the ashtray onto the floor, applauding, clapping
his hands, and says to me, “You’re looking good! Nice catch!
Looking real good!”
Sixto Mercedes kept on
clapping and applauding as, with
everybody looking at him, he walked,
bleeding from his face, over
to the table
where the beige-blonde
baby in the blue dress
pulled up a chair
underneath him,
and fell
down upon it,
next to her

permission granted
Sixto Mercedes

I’m asking permission to
give up on my wife
I think it is over
I think it is right
I gave her the worst
I gave it my best
let the courts sort out the rest

I’m seeking permission to
move once again
I think I would like it
it’d be all right
I’d give her my best
I’d give her my best
this moment can’t be missed

I’m asking for permission to
try someone else
I think that she wants me
it’d be all right
the best that I’ve had
the best that I’ve had
love at first glance can’t be that bad

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