Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Big Gust O' Wind in the Pillar T' Post Tavern

It was always lively at the Pillar T' Post Tavern: jukebox blasting, laughter, the clink of beer bottles, animated conversations.

Amid the merry-makers there stood a large man at the bar. His enormous, bloated torso was sheathed in a gingham shirt. The man's name was Big Gus, but he was known around the Post as Big Gust O' Wind. He was six-foot-three and weighed 320 lbs. He wore an enormous cowboy hat and spurs on his cowboy boots. He had one of those boots perched on the rail at the base of the bar as he drank his beer.

Whenever Big Gus got drunk -- his lips glistening with beer, his bleached blue eyes wide and dull -- he would declare there "weren't no situation" he couldn't handle with his two fists. He guffawed and swilled beer, grinned and shook his head. The more he drank, the louder he spoke, the more spit he let fly, the more backs he slapped, the more brilliant he became.

The other patrons weren't so enamored with Big Gus' drunken extravagances. He bellowed over the country music playing on the jukebox. His backslaps caused men to spill beer on the ladies they were trying to pick up. Everyone cringed from the flying spittle.

As the evening wore on, and more and more of the Pillar patrons tired of Big Gus' carry-on, they took up the easy task of antagonizing him.

First, someone would walk by and bump into him, causing Big Gus to spill his own beer. Then, some good ol' boys would refer to him as "Big Gust O' Wind" within his hearing. The nickname infuriated him. Finally, one of the good ol' boys would walk past and mutter something to the effect: "You ain't so tough."

It was all Big Gus could bear, and more. As predictable as a sunrise, Big Gus would turn from the bar -- eyes blazing, lips slick with spit, face flushed -- and take a swing at the first good ol' boy going by. Big Gus fancied himself an accomplished bar brawler, but in truth it was merely his tremendous, unwieldy size that kept him from getting the good and proper ass-kicking he deserved. The object, though, wasn't so much to hurt Big Gus, but to merely get him ejected from the Post.

His haymaker punch was easily, laughably ducked by his target, and he took a few shots to the belly. Big Gus' next few punches were delivered with such sloppiness that he struck someone who wasn't even involved in the altercation. That didn't much matter to Big Gus. So long as he hit someone, he was satisfied. This often precipitated a wider brawl that left a trail of broken chairs, tables and spilled drinks.

Aside from the ever-present risk of heart attack, the worst Big Gus ever got was a pool cue in the face that broke his nose.

The moment the brawl got anywhere near the jukebox, the Post's owner, Utne Newman, vaulted into action. He was a small, fireplug of a man who was incredibly strong and knew the pressure points of the human body like a taxi driver knows his dashboard. He jabbed his thumbs into a few incapacitating zones on Big Gus, and hustled him toward the door. Although he was a heavy bastard, Big Gus' girth made his involuntary, lumbering dive out the Post door very satisfying to Utne.

As Big Gus lay in the dirt outside the Post, many of the patrons gathered at the open door and at the windows, pointing, laughing and jeering. There might have been a single kernel of a moment in which Big Gus wondered if his carry-on was worth a trip into the dirt, and being the focus of drunk derision of the Post patrons, but it never lasted long. He always gathered himself to his feet and stumbled home, quietly soothed by the John Wayne clink of his spurs.

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