Duke Drops In
I’m sitting in my hotel room in Zakopane lacing up my walking boots and looking forward to the days hike through the Tatras when there’s an unexpected knock. I hobble to the door, left boot in one hand, and who do you think is standing there only Duke.
‘Just passing through,’ he drawled, ‘thought I’d drop in and say howdy.’
Howdy! If you don’t mind, at eight-thirty on a Monday morning in March when I’m just about ready to head for the hills.
‘Come on in, mind your head,’ I said, ’good to see you.’
So he sat on the end of the spare bed; they gave me a twin bedroom at no extra charge, and hung his hat on one knee.
I could see he had something on his mind but I knew there would be no point pushing, so I put the kettle on. I picked this hotel because a reviewer on Trip-Adviser, Don, single traveller from Manchester, said it was a bonus to have tea-making facilities in the bedroom.
At last, mug of coffee in his big mitts, my old friend opened up.
‘I do believe,’ he said slowly, taking a sip before continuing; but by then I had a fair guess at what he was about to say. ’I do believe you had occasion to visit the Omniplex lately.’
I concentrated on the spoon, keeping my head down.
He took another sip, ‘True Grit ? I’m told you went to see ‘True Grit.’
I took two sips of my own coffee and cursed myself for not putting three cartons of counterfeit milk-whatever into the mug. I forget this one simple truth every time and burn my frigging tongue.
‘I did in fact go to see that film.’ I found it hard to repeat the title in his presence.
’But in fairness, it wasn’t my idea. The missus is a Coen Brothers fan. I tried to wriggle out of it but she insisted, said I needed a night away from the Playstation.’
The Duke drained his coffee, stood up without a word, put his stetson firmly back on his proud head and tipped it forward letting me know that he’d heard enough.
‘Well, I just wanted to hear you say it in person. I gotta admit I’m sorely disappointed. I always thought———–, ‘ he trailed off.
I could see he was hurting. I couldn’t let him go like this.
As he stooped to walk through the door I searched desperately for a few kind words, something that would lessen the pain.
‘For what it’s worth,’ I said, ’I think the Dude desperately overplayed Rooster Cogburn, hammed it up, if you ask me.’ Well, it was the best I could come up with.
His lopsided grin lit up the room.‘That’s mighty decent of you to say so and I feel bound to tell you that it ties in squarely with what I’ve been a-hearing from other discerning cinema goers all across this great continent of yours. Guess I will have another coffee. Damn good coffee if you don’t mind my saying so.’
I filled the kettle and rinsed out the mugs under the hot tap in the bathroom. I took a last look through the window at snow-capped Kasprowy Wierch and kicked off my right boot.
The Duke threw his hat squarely onto the 9inch TV and sat back on the bed comfortably ready to regale me once again with his ‘Oscar’ stories.
Mike Healy © Thesourcewritersgroup