I was sitting on The Balcony of the bar above City Grocery in Oxford, MS, drinking a greyhound, smoking a pipe, and minding my own business, as is my custom, when the door next to my chair opened and out stumbled a geezer who looked like he’d been rode hard and put up wet. The stranger took a seat in the southwest corner of The Balcony, directly across from my southwest corner table.
The man wouldn’t—or couldn’t—sit still. He squirmed and shifted and agitated like the proverbial cyprian in church. Old ants-in-his-pants was trying to sip on a heady glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon but was shaking and quaking so badly that as much beer spilled in his lap as went down his throat, making it look like he’d pissed himself. Even while he was sloshing his eyes darted in every direction as though he thought someone was out to get him—paranoia on steroids. He hummed quietly to himself a tune that sounded like Reveille.
I could sense him fixing his eyes on me from time-to-time, but never for long. Finally, I turned my head and caught him eye-to-eye.
“What’re you lookin’ at?” he shot.
I shrugged my shoulders and held up my hands as if to say, “I have no earthly idea. I could ask you the same thing,” I said.
He forged ahead. “You don’t recognize me, do you?”
“Nope,” I said. “Don’t know if I’ve ever seen you before.”
“Oh, you’ve seen me, but I’ve been beaten up so much in the last thirty years that I’m not surprised you don’t recognize me,” he said. “I used to walk the halls of Congress and sit in the Senate and House regularly. I was a common face at the White House. I was even present in the governments of all fifty states. Sometimes I was easier to see than at other times, but I was there, and I made a difference. I’m still there, but you can hardly make me out. It’s like Where’s Waldo?.
“Presidents, Senators, members of Congress, and others used to call me in and ask my opinion. They listened to me. I brokered the settlement of more treaties and pieces of legislation than you can shake a stick at. Then things started to change.
“Government officials—especially those who were elected to office—began to circle the wagons around party and policy. Working together for solutions that would be best for all concerned was being replaced by decisions and actions that were self-serving and frequently out-and-out pandering. Sometimes I couldn’t even get into the offices of the same folks who used to not only welcome me but seek me out for guidance. I’ve had more doors slammed in my face over the last thirty years than in the last two hundred combined. It’s disheartening at best.
“So, here I sit—totally worn out and discouraged. I’m on the verge of giving up—retiring—quitting. I’m obsolete. All anybody wants to do is make a name for themselves and be sure they get re-elected. The idea of ‘the greater good’ is no more. Nobody cares.”
“I care,” I said.
He looked at me with equal surprise and skepticism. “Really? You care? I matter to you?”
“Yep,” I said. “You matter to me and I know a lot of others you matter to.”
“Really?” he said.
“Really,” I replied.
“Then you’d best get off your butt and out of your corner and do something about it,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m history. Capiche?”
“Capiche,” said I.
With that he stood and started to leave. As he was about to exit The Balcony I spoke up. “You are who you think you are, aren’t you?”
“Yep,” he said. “One in the same.”
“You mind telling me your name so I can know for certain?” I asked.
He stalled, his hand on the door to make his exit. Looking at me over his right shoulder he said, “My name’s Bi. Bi Partisan.”
“I thought so,” I said. “I thought so.”
Bi Partisan has left the building.
Originally published in The Local Voice of Oxford, MS
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