Not everyone knows how I came to ride The Flying Dutchman — as I understand it, one tends to suffer an amnesic streak following the shock of death, you see — but it is well known that I eventually came into the company of Charles Bukowski, him also riding the ghost hsip. We quickly became drinking partners, often interrupting the work of the ship’s crew with our inebriated antics. For what were to care how we interfered with their work? Consequences become a thing of the past once you’ve died. There’s no, “Oh, I’m dreadfully sorry for vomiting on your freshly swabbed deck.” It’s more “I’m fucking dead, I’ll do as I like!”
(Not that the dead actually vomit, which makes postmortem binge drinking such a delightful past time, but I digress)
Things between Charles and I were not unlike a honeymoon — a very manly, nonsexual honeymoon that is, one in which we discussed poetry, and art, and life, and other such manly topics. On one particular day, we found ourselves discussing theatre over yet another pint. Charles and I loved to debate about the nature of art — we were both cynics, he and I, but I tried to maintain a more optimistic outlook on things regardless, and this often led to heated discussions between us,
At some point during this binge session, I had decided to argue that one’s artistic merits in a specific field did not necessarily justify or guarantee the quality of artistic endeavors in yet another. As an example, I cited the play The Tenant, composed by the late sculptress Linda Kang. Despite her undeniable skills as a sculptor, she was sadly a terrible writer, and an even worse dramatist, I said. I would have continued with my rant by clarifying that I did not think any less of her as a person for this artistic misstep, but by the time I opened my mouth to continue the statement, Charles had already grabbed a loose harpoon from nearby and drove it through my chest with all his might, accompanied by a mighty battle cry.
It’s not that the attack brought me any physical pain — such are the benefits of postmortem incorporeality mdash; but the mere shock of such an attack drove me into a fit of blind rage. I have always been a man of a calm, nonviolent disposition, even in death, but, well, when a good friend spears you through your ethereal heart, it tends to piss you the fuck off.
(Later, as Charles and I drifted flotsam and jetsam along the River Styx, forever lost to our phantom seafaring vessel home, he would explain, in no sweet terms, how my statement drove a spear through his own ethereal heart, thereby justifying his actions. How was I to know that Charles and Linda had a relationship and that he had actually performed The Tenant on stage at her side? I never read Women! Why, I had never read Bukowski at all until death, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.)
Instead, I smashed my mug into the side of his face. As the glass shattered, I drove the broken ends of the handle into his cheek. He recoiled and pulled at the handle as if opening a door to his old bloodied face, spun around, and cracked his wooden chair against my back. The wood splintered everywhere, but Charles kept his grip on the two broken legs, wielding them like medieval swords, or perhaps those sparring katana you see in Samurai films. I instinctively flipped the table towards him and snapped off a leg to use as my own weapon.
This clever defensive maneuver forced Charles to step backwards, a steady movement that he continued as I sauntered towards him with weapon in hand. I drove him back and back until finally his right foot missed the edge. Charles was able to regain his footing and balanced, but quickly realized that he stood at the end of The Flying Dutchman’s plank, and I was actively walking him off of it.
Petrified, he looked down at the blue-black depths below him, and back up at me. So I kicked him, right in the fucking gut, off the plank and down into the ocean far below. A brief wave of sobriety washed over me, and I offered my table-leg weapon as an olive branch to my once dear friend.
The old bastard pulled me into the water right along with him.