Thursday, June 19, 2008

Characters: "Otto Van Otterson" (pt.4)

Otto had been underground for a while when I finally spotted him again. He was nowhere near his native riverine environs. Otto had moved up in the world.

Otto was living behind The Lamplighter, a karaoke bar in San Diego's Mission Hills. I may not have noticed him in my drunken state as I wandered out and enjoyed a cigarette after way too many drinks. Who knew "The Chauffer" by Duran Duran had so many fans?

Regardless, there I was, staring at a homeless person across the street who worked around the green-handled Mayfair shopping cart, his back hunched, turned to me. Then, with the successful attachment of a piece of wire to his junk-festooned carriage, the man turned.

Otto smiled and raised his hands in a grandiose expectation of applause. I could hear him above the din of the bar as he chuckled then warbled out a celebratory-sounding, "Rumanumanumanuma SKOP!"

He took the handle and, with some untranslable and nearly inaudible utterance, rolled out of sight. It was as if he knew he needed to be seen, my drunken mind told me.

I immediately called Marcie, who met my invitation to join me in a raucous night of debauchery and drink and song with derision earlier that night.

"Hello?" she asked, sounding annoyed.

"Hi, honey," I said. "I have good news!"

"What good news? That you're not nearly as drunk as you sound?" she asked. "Or that you will actually save your last buck and take the bus, not walk home at 2 and skip class tomorrow?"

Well, there was precedent. I had walked home several times to allow one more dirnk or a cup of coffee. It was a bad habit only because she worried.

"Mmmm BETTER news!" I shouted into the phone.

"Oh, dooo tell," she said, softening and now preparing, I assumed, to mock me in my drunken state.

"Guess who I just saw," I demanded, smiling as I did. "It's someone important!"

"One of your many cousins?" she asked.

"No, no," I said. "Important to you."

I steadfastly refused to tell her, despite her demands, but also told her she would regret not trying anyways. She relented.

Jane? No. Chrissy? No. Chip? No. My (her) parents, brother or my father? No, no and um, no way. She threatened to hang up.

"I found Otto!" I exclaimed.

"Otto van Otterson!" she said, laughing. "Where is he? You didn't try to talk to him, did you?"

I relayed the whole incident and she peppered me with questions. Was he wearing his suit? Yes, but it was a new suit, it appeared, and only one of each kind of clothes. How did he look? Healthy, but his hair was really long and his beard was, too.

"So was he wearing his silverware still?" she asked.

And there was the question I had hoped she would ask. He had, indeed. but there was something new and classy to relay.

"He had what appeared to be actual silver flatware," I said. "He also had a can opener next to his new knife."

I had spied the change from across the street, clearly seeing the utensil heads and heir dull sheen, the triangular head of the opener drawing the eye in a stark display against the other new element in his dress.

"He had a black handkerchief or maybe a fancy napkin in his pocke," I said.

Marcie cackled into the phone. "He was wearing his formal dinnerware," she said, cracking up. "He was, he was... he was probably headed to Saint Vincent De Paul for an important address at the General Asembly of the United Urchins!"

She gasped in ragged breaths and I stayed quiet after a chuckle, listening to her laugh and then, "Oooh, that's good, honey," she said. "Thank you for telling me. You're very thoughtful."

"I'm glad your friend is okay, honey," I said.

"So am I," she said. "Have fun tonight, and try not to overdo it."

I let that hang in the air a bit. It had already been overdone. But her happiness was very clea, as was her relief. I was in awe of her compassion, despite her teasing and mocking tone. She doted on Otto in her own way. That mothering again, I guessed.

"I love you honey," she said. "I'll see you later."

"Okay, baby," I said. "See you then."

And though she was relieved, she simply had to lay eyes on him herself. And while we stalked the ambassador, Herr Otto Van Otterson, Marcie would amaze me with her idea of what lay behind Otto's life.