“I saw Filthy Milt out last night,” I said to my brother Pat, as we waited for our breakfast to arrive. We were sitting in our usual booth at “The Uptown Upload,” our favorite greasy spoon in the city.
“Filthy Milton Gozomski?” he asked, reaching for a little packet of carcinogenic sweetener.
“Yeah,” I replied, watching Pat sprinkle the packet's contents along the baseboard near our booth. “I was at 'What's Shakin'', listening to 'Glebeland,' that new band from Poughkeepsie that dresses like eighteenth-century indentured Irish farmhands when they play.”
“I hear their crumhorn player has some wickedly awesome tattoos.”
“Yeah,” I said, “he has a powdered wig tattooed onto his head. It's really strange, but he didn't have his head too closely shaved last night, so it was hard to tell. It just looked like he was going gray.”
“How the heck is Filthy Milt, anyway?” asked Pat.
“He seemed OK,” I said, “ but he did the strangest thing with his left leg when he danced.”
“Oh,” said Pat, “he's done that for years. Old Milt Gozomski was in a freak accident a while ago.”
“Really?” I asked. “I never noticed before.”
“Have you ever seen him dance before?” asked Pat.
“No,” I conceded, “I guess I never have.”
“Well,” said Pat, “old Milton Gozomski used to be a professional curler some years ago.”
“He was a hairdresser?” I asked.
“No,” said Pat, looking a little perturbed, “he curled. He did curling. He was a curler. You know what I mean. Curling. The sport.”
“Oh...the thing with the big shuffleboard things on ice with the broom...things.”
“Well, yeah, that's it. Well, Filthy Milt used to be a curler, and he was pretty good at it, too.”
Our breakfast arrived and I began to butter my cheese and bacon bagel. Pat sprinkled a healthy serving of shredded nut-cheese over his bowl of quinoa.
“That stuff'll kill you, Pat,” I warned, slathering cream cheese over the butter.
Pat just stared at my bagel and then continued, “well, Filthy Milt's team was playing in the New Hampshire state finals one year, and looking like a shoe-in for first place. The final match was held on a Saturday morning, and the Friday night before old Milt and the boys go out for a few drinks in Concord. They started at one end of town and crawled their way through every curling bar in the entire city. At bar time they all went back to the motel after stopping at a 'package goods' kind of place. I guess they had something like ten bottles of kirsch and a case or six of some local brew.”
“Kirsch?” I asked.
“It's big on the curling circuit, I guess. Curlers are just mad for kirsch.”
“So Milt got drunk and hurt his leg?”
“Well, not quite,” said Pat between spoonfulls of nutty quinoa, “as it turned out, Milt and the others were pretty hung over the next morning and they really botched the final match. They lost in a big way. So on the way out of Concord they decide to stop and drown their sorrows with a little hair of the dog.”
“Yeah. Well, they stop in this little out-of-the-way kind of place that has a midget bartender. Milt and the boys order up a round of drinks, and old Filthy Milt shouts out 'and be quick about it, shorty.' The midget bartender gives Milt a dirty look but brings their drinks. This keeps up, though, with Milt calling the guy 'shorty' and 'short-stuff' and 'tiny' and 'itty-bitty.”
“He really called him 'itty-bitty'?” I asked.
“I guess so,” said Pat, “that's what I was told, anyway. Anyhow, after an hour or so of this the midget bartender has had about enough and refuses to serve Milt another drink. Milt is furious and gets into a shouting match with the midget.”
“I think the current term is 'differently-heighted person,' Pat.”
“Whatever. Anyhow, it just starts getting ugly and they start pushing one another, and Milt takes a step forward and hits a loose roller skate with his foot.”
“Roller skate?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “ the midget's girlfriend was on a roller derby team and had a habit of leaving a pair of her skates sitting just behind the bar. Milt goes flying and his knee takes the craziest twist. Tore his ACL, as it turns out. He came crashing to the ground and hit his head on something. He was out cold. He got a nice ride in an ambulance and spent the rest of the day in the hospital. He never had the thing taken care of properly, as the only doctor on call in Concord that day was a homeopathic druid. Ever since then Milt has walked and danced with a crazy kind of limp.”
“Well,” I said, “I just guess that goes to teach a guy a lesson.”
“Yep,” said Pat, “like Dad always said, never insult a midget who dates a roller derby queen.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” I said, watching a sluggish-looking cockroach crawl along the baseboard.
“You can say that again,” said Pat. “and could you hand me another sweetener packet?”