It was a miserable night. It was rainy, damp, cold – a real skank of an evening. In short, a typical Keansburg, NJ kind of night. I loved it.
I was sitting in my car, watching the wipers describe lazy arcs across the windshield, waiting for my brother to finish whatever he started in that ramshackle, sorry little excuse for a house. Drugs? Women? Who knows? He’s that kind of guy and I’m waiting for him. Guess that makes me another kind of guy. Right?
If you don’t know me, let me introduce myself. I’m Fog Calamari. Yeah, yeah, make your jokes now. I’ve heard them all. Thanks to the illustriously hard-working people at the INS, my name was butchered into what it is today. Not that the original was any better, but at least it wasn’t so accurately descriptive.
The hack at the immigration office couldn’t get over our real family name of Occtavia, so he wanted to list it as Octopus. Grandpops wasn’t having any of that, thank god. But his language skills weren’t that good and he thought he had to at least follow the direction those jamokes set out upon. So, translating octopus became Calamari. Go figure.
Fog – well that’s another story. Being a redhead as is most of my family, it was originally Fuego for fire. But being blessed as much of my family is with another affliction, flatulence, it became appropriately but not happily, Fog. Thanks a lot Mom and Dad, love you too. Yeah, I got issues. Who doesn’t?
Anyway and eventually, my do-not-much-of-anything brother comes out of the mystery house and decides he’ll probably show up for work at the dollar store. You got to understand this is a step up for him, a promotion. Previously, he worked at the 69 cents store. What’s that line about a rising tide raising all boats? Here it is in real life. I drop him off and decide to stop in at my favorite falafel bar, O’Shea’s. It takes a little longer than usual to get there because the old Yugo, painted in Slovakian Racing Beige, only wanted to make left turns today. Somedays it’s left, other days only right. And that’s when by the grace of some dark-humored deity it starts.
After a Magellan-like plan to get there, I arrive. Ahmed O’Shea has the best falafel in town, Let me correct that – he has the only falafel in town unless you count the combination gas station/sushi/ falafel/ and dry cleaning establishment down on Central. How he came to open this dubious venture is best left to another time, but it did involve bearer bonds, zoo animals, and grey market Gummi (Trademark!) Bears. You figure it out. I’m not saying anything else on this subject.
Walking into O’Shea’s is like entering some New Age candle shop. Besides the Yin and Yang decor, the beaded curtains covering only electrical outlets, it’s the over-powering scent of cilantro that grabs your attention. That and the mangy Labradoodle attack dog by the front door. Say what you will, the joint has ambiance. And cheap beer. Oh, and did I mention the falafel?
Ahmed is behind the bar polishing, I swear, the same damn glass he’s been doing for years. It must have been very dirty. He looks up, well, raises his eyebrows at me and acknowledges my presence, “Fog.”
“Ahmed.” No need for words between us. Hell, he doesn’t know much more English than that anyway. He nods to a booth on the far wall. I look over. Damn, if it isn’t…