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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Out for a beer, one night

Two fellows from his outfit joined us for a beer,

     one night at the bar that we called ours.

“Lewis, Mac,” said Cory. “Linda, this is Geoffrey Lewis and—”

He stopped. “Mac. McRoy. Jeez, Mac,

     I don’t know your first name!”

“Jim.”

“Jim?”

“Jim.”

“Better stick to Mac,” advised the other,

     a big guy who even at this long war’s

     end still looked soft. He thrust a paw

               across the table.

“And Lewis,” Mac concurred.

A couple whirling by paused, returned,

     resolved into my cousin Mary and her date. More

introductions, and a pause before Cory said,

“Okay. Lewis, Mac, this is Linda Perkins.

     She’s from San José. She’s going to marry me.”

“I am?”

“Aren’t you?”

“I haven’t said yes.”

“You haven’t said no.”

“There’s time.”

Mac looked at Cory. “I thought

     you were engaged?”

“That’s what he said,” Lewis agreed.

“Well, I am. I’m going to marry her, and I hope

     she’ll marry me too.”

“How many beers has he had?” Mac asked,

     while Lewis leaned towards Cory.

“Ah, Brian, buddy, sorry for meddling in your

     private affairs and all that, though I think I have the right,

     but if you marry her, doesn’t she marry you —I don’t know,

               automatically?”

“That’s what I’m counting on,” said Cory. “What do you say,

     Linda?”

I opened my mouth, but Mary, quiet till then,

     leaned forwards. “Whatever can she say? You boys

     seem to have

               all the bases covered.”

I sat back to watch the show.

“Anyway,” said Mary, “it’s so much more entertaining

     listening to you fellows decide

     your future, don’t you think, Linda?”

“Certainly, Mary.”

“Reminds me of the time

     a young Upsquabah—“

“A what?” asked Mac.

“A young brave from the tribe Upsquabah came to ask

     my father for my hand. Remember that, Linda?”
“Vividly.”

“He offered three deer hides for me,

     quite a high price, I understand.”

Lewis nodded, wary. “And what did your father say?”

“Why, he was outraged. He demanded four,

     at least. They haggled about it

     all afternoon, in the back yard, under the loquat tree.

They had to do it there, you see,

     because the Upsquabah had never been inside

a house, he wouldn’t have been comfortable,

     poor thing, and besides, Mother didn’t want

     his hide on her furniture.”

“His hide?” Mac looked puzzled. “You mean the deer hides?”

“No, his own bare hide, his bare backside. He wasn’t wearing

     any clothes, you see. It’s the tradition amongst the Usquabad

     to court—“

“Usqua—” Cory interrupted. “I thought you said Upsqua-

     something, before.”

Barely a beat; she didn’t even blink.

“Of course I did. That’s the informal term, because

     even though I didn’t marry him, we got to be good friends. But when

     one speaks of the people as a whole, with all the weight of their

     traditions, their customs, their culture, one uses

     the more formal Usqua- prefix.”

“Right,” Lewis nodded. “Sure one does.”

“And it is a tradition amongst the Usquaba to court

     naked, so that the courted can see, well,

     all that the young man has to offer.”

Lewis rubbed his nose. “Mac? Do you get the impression

     that she’s pulling our legs?”

“Either that,” said Mac, “or I’ve had way more to drink

     than I thought.”

“You’re drinking coffee!” I pointed out.

Mary shook her head. “Coffee. In a dance hall.”

Mac looked sheepish.

Cory said, “Now Mary. Take your spurs out of my friend.

Caffeine can muddle the mind,

     as well as alcohol.”

Mary’s date— I never did get his name—was standing,

pulling at her arm; “Come on, you. Let’s dance.”

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