I almost didn’t recognize Mr. Hobbles when he came into Cody’s. The last time I’d seen him he was about six-two and two hundred twenty pounds. He was still six-two, but he’d lost a lot of weight. He was a bean pole. He spotted me right away. I was at the table by the door handing out copies of an article from the Tribune, about the electronic bookstore.
It wasn’t on the surface a good business idea. Bookstores have authors read from their work so that they sell books, after all, and we don’t sell books. We sell food and drink. On the first night the business model seemed to be working out; by seven we had almost fifty people, most of them with iPads or laptops, in the cyber cafe.
I was glad Mr. Hobbles was being friendly, after all the things he’d said he was going to do to me. I shook hands with him but I didn’t know his actual name. I didn’t want to call him Mr. Hobbles, since it was me that made him hobble. I decided honesty is always the best policy when you have no attractive alternative, so I just outlined my dilemma.
“You think I changed my name because you stepped on my foot?”
“I didn’t just step on it; I smashed it, and I’m sorry about that. I just wanted to apologize; it must have been very painful.”
“Yea. But it was a gift in disguise. I wouldn’t have done the dismemberment series if I hadn’t been sitting around so much. I figure you were just the instrument God used to hit me on top of my foot with a hammer. That’s what it fucking felt like, man.”
Then he walked away ... hobbled, actually ... and I wondered if he might be right, that the injury was a good thing. Who knows what secret causes operate beneath the surface of things? But, what was with the weight loss? I didn’t want to ask him, as he seemed still sensitive about the foot.
Mister Hobbles’ web page connected wirelessly to the speakers and the programmed sound track soaked the room in synthesizer. It rolled through like a wave and then softened, and Mr. Hobbles began his epic poem.
“There used to be more of me,” he said.
“and then I shared a needle with Charlene ...”
Dr. Zeker came to stand beside my table. “How’d you meet this guy anyhow?
“He thought I was staring at his girlfriend.”
“I don’t know. Could have been.”
“So... were you staring at her?”
“I’ll be damned if I know. If I was I wasn’t thinking about it.”
He pulled out a chair and sat down across from me. The Mr. Hobbles Show was an unfolding series of unfortunate events. He really was dismembering himself onstage. “In the profession, we call it Lazy Eyes,” he said. “You give your eyes too much liberty, instead of keeping them disciplined on where they ought to be. They go wandering off by themselves, and do you know what you do?”
“You stand around waiting for them like some slack-jawed chauffeur.”
“You’re not very happy with Mr. Hobbles, are you?”
“I’ll sound good by comparison.”