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King Bob, Approximately
by Aubrey Malone




It was one of those ideas that probably looked good on paper: Everyone was going to Larry’s place dressed as a character from a Bob Dylan song. I chose ‘Napoleon in rags’ arriving at Larry’s door with one hand inside my coat to look like himself. The other one held a six-pack.

‘What’s that hand doing in there?’ Larry said.

‘Minding its business,’ I told him.

Everyone  was there. All the old potheads I thought I’d outgrown, the people you usually only ran into when you were making a late-night trip to the off-licence and wanted to make a fast getaway.

There would be no fast getaway tonight. Tonight we were looking for a rub of the relic. We were on BobWatch.

I was high-fived by the potheads. It took me an eternity to get to the fridge to deposit the six-pack. Now all I had to worry about was whether it would be lifted before I got around to drinking it.  

Norma made a beeline for me. She was an old flame of mine, now an ember. She had ‘Brownsville Girl’ emblazoned on her chest.

‘Napoleon in rags,’ she said, ‘How original.’ She was being sarcastic.

‘It was all I could think of,’ I explained.

The room looked like the set of a medieval melodrama. Ken McCarthy was Jack of Hearts. Dessie Sheedy was Mr Tambourine Man.  John Murtagh was Dylan with the fuzzy hair and the Cuban heels. Gary Cullen was Jokerman. He took the lazy route to him, just putting on a clown’s outfit and a red nose. Blind Willie McTell was Paudie Ryan with a pair of shades. A man in a black suit called himself the Guilty Undertaker. Alongside him was a Lonesome Organ Grinder.

A man I didn’t know had a flowerpot on his head. As he walked by me I thought: What song was that from? Maybe you didn’t need to be anyone to wear a flowerpot on your head at a fancy dress party. Or maybe Bob had a new song out called ‘Flowerpot On Head.’ Stranger things had happened. I’d just listened to him singing ‘Wiggle Wiggle’ before I came out.  

‘I Want You’ blasted out of the hi-fi. Clean Cut Kid had selotaped the dial at max volume,  (Surely this wasn’t Billy Kennelly from First Arts).  

Larry started dancing to it, if you could call it dancing. He looked more like someone having an epileptic fit.

‘If you don’t stop that,’ I warned, ‘It could become permanent.’

‘Shut up,’ he said, ‘It’s my party and I’ll fly if I want to.’

The song ended. He came off the floor dripping with sweat.

‘What did you think?’ he said.

‘Don’t give up the day job,’ I told him. It  wasn’t very good advice as he didn’t have a day job.

‘What’s new?’ he asked me.

‘Nothing. Have I missed much?’

‘People have been here for about an hour. I think I’ve heard about three songs in that time. That geek over by the hi-fi had ‘Trust Yourself’ on repeat. We told him if he didn’t stop he was going to be turfed out.’

‘I’m sure Bob would be impressed that he likes it so much.’

‘Even Bob would have had enough of it by now.’

Larry gazed derisively at my Carlsberg.

‘Would you not like something more interesting?’ he asked.

‘I’m staying off the hard stuff tonight,’ I told him.  

‘Not even a nip?’ he asked. He waved one of those little airport-style bottles of whiskey at me.

‘Maybe later, if I run out of this stuff.’

‘We have some other alternatives if your taste inclines that way.’

‘How do you mean?’

He gestured somebody putting cocaine up their nose.

‘Becky’s been in the bathroom  since she got here. She brought her own stash. If you’re nice to her she might share.’

Becky was my favourite person in the whole universe next to Bob. The door opened at that moment and she emerged. She looked high. But then Becky always looked high.

She was dressed as Queen Mary. She’d brought the tiara to complete the effect.  

‘Holy Christ,’ she said, throwing her arms around me, ‘You.’

‘What made you think I wouldn’t come?’

‘Because you’ve been ignoring my phone calls for the past month.’

‘I don’t always get them. The answering machine is in the hall of the flat. People who pass by tend to delete them.’

‘Can you not come up with a better excuse than that?’

‘Sometimes the ones that sound the phoniest are the true ones.’

‘Phoniest. That’s a good pun. Okay you bastard, I forgive you. Anyway I need to talk to you. Can we go somewhere?’

She led me out to the conservatory. Jokerman was behind us. He was laughing himself silly. Blind Willie McTell was in a heap on the floor, having fallen over a footstool. Jack of Hearts was busily attaching himself to The Queen of Spades.

As soon as we sat down, her  voice started to get shaky.  

‘Dad fell in love with another woman,’ she said. ‘Or should I say another child. She looks about 15.’ Her parents had been married for 23 years.

I looked into her eyes. Why didn’t she come as Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands?

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ I said. I vaguely remembered meeting him once. He didn’t look like the type of man to walk out on a 23-year marriage. Which begged the question: What did a man who would walk out on a 23 year old marriage look like?

‘So where are things at now?’

‘Chaos level. He’s been dumped and he wants to come back but Mam won’t have him. She wants to make him suffer.’

‘What do you want?’

‘I just want us to be a family again.’

I was trying to think of some advice for her when Kim came over. (I also used to go out with Kim once, but that was in a previous lifetime).

‘Hi, Kim,’ I said.

‘Hello, loser,’ she said. She usually greeted me with some delightful felicitation like that.

For the first year of being with her I used to pray she wouldn’t leave me. For the second I prayed that she would. After we broke up she became a lesbian, speaking of it almost like a career opportunity. I certainly didn’t see any signs of it when she was with me, especially the first night we met when she tried to take my trousers off as the same time as she was unzipping her own dress, quite a complicated manoeuvre at the best of times.

‘Nice costume,’ I said, though it looked like she’d taken down the curtains to make it. I wondered if she was trying to be Johanna from ‘Visions of Johanna’: she had something taped around her mouth that looked like mercury.

‘Hi,’ she said, ‘This is my friend Cordelia. She gestured a sullen-looking girl with a leopardskin pillbox hat on her head. I presumed Cordelia was her latest lover. Kim changed lovers like the rest of us changed our socks.

‘Hello Cordelia,’ I said, ‘That’s a lovely name. Were you named after the character in King Lear?’

‘Everyone asks me that,’ she said, ‘Can you not think of anything more interesting to say?’

I racked my brains.

‘Okay, you have lovely hair.’  She had too. It was all done up in curls, making me wonder if she was trying to be the girl/woman from ‘Just Like a Woman.’ I decided not to ask this in case she bit the nose off me again. (Besides, where were the amphetamines?)

‘Thank you,’ she said. I was hoping she’d take off her leopardskin pillbox hat so I could see more of her curls but  the pair of them just walked off.  .

I turned back to Becky.  She was still in a state about her father.

‘I have to have him home,’ she said, ‘I don’t care what it takes.’  

‘Maybe you could talk your mother round.’

‘It’s no good. She has her mind made up. She wants to rub his nose in it.’

I could see her going on about her problem all night. When you’ve ingested something, as I knew myself, you fixated on certain subjects. I didn’t feel we’d be able to get her father back at a fancy dress party so I thought it might be better to try and get her mind off him.

‘Would you like a beer, Becky?’ I asked.

‘No. Beer puffs up my stomach.’

I had to laugh at this because her figure had the rough dimensions of a Biafran famine victim.

‘Would you mind if I got one?’ I asked.

‘Be my guest.’

I walked to the fridge past all the swaying bodies. We were now on to ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s all Right’ and everyone seemed to know all the words. Dessie was lending accompaniment with his tambourine. Jack of Hearts was kissing The Queen of Spades on the carpet under the coffee table.

When I got to the fridge I discovered that my six-pack had been pilfered.  There was just one miserable can left.

I went over to Larry, imagining that he’d feel somehow responsible seeing as it was his fridge. 

‘Well at least he – or she – left you one,’ he said consolingly.

‘I can’t get through the night on one beer,’ I told him, ‘That was my supply for three hours.’

‘You’re not in a nunnery,’ he said, ‘We’ll get something for you. Relax.’

‘I can’t. If I don’t get my six-pack back I’ll have to leave.’

‘There must be some way outa here,’ Larry sang, ‘said the joker to the thief.’

‘Shut up, Larry,’I said, ‘You sing like a crow.’

‘I know,’ he allowed, ‘but at least I’m better than Bob.’

‘That wouldn’t be hard,’ said Jokerman.

‘Go back to the party and chill out,’ Larry told me, ‘I’ll see what I can rustle up.’

I walked back towards Becky.

‘You’re my reason for travellin’ on,’ Becky said to me as I passed her.

‘Be nice, Kim,’ said Blind Willie McTell.

‘Fuck off, Willie,’ Kim snapped.

When I got back to Becky I held up my single beer.

‘It’s just as well you didn’t want one,’ I said, ‘Some bastard decimated my supply.’

She was as unsurprised as Larry had been.

‘It’s your own fault for taking your eye off the fridge. Maybe you should have taped the cans to your stomach like one of those suicide bombers. You know what Larry’s parties are like. Everyone’s a parasite. Anyway  you’re better off without that stuff.’

‘What’s your alternative?’ I said, ‘Smack?’

As soon as I said that I was sorry. .

‘What kind of crack is that?’

‘Now you’re starting to make puns,’ I said, ‘Crack.’

‘Ha ha. If you get any funnier I might throw up on you.’

As I looked at her pale face I found myself becoming nostalgic for an age when people just got drunk in front of everyone else instead of retiring to bathrooms to put white stuff up their nose.

Paul Finn tapped me on the shoulder.

‘Whoa, stranger. What gives?’

I used to work in a record company with Paul before he went off to London to pursue a career as a hip-hop singer. Now he was  living with his mother in Donnycarney. He had his face painted all the colours of the rainbow.

‘Same old same old,’ I said, ‘What about you?’

‘I’m thinking of taking off across the pond again.’

‘I thought you were just back.’

‘I am, but after a week in this city I find myself becoming terminally depressed. ‘Do you not find Dublin toxic? As soon as the old lady can stump up the plane fare I’m off.’

‘To London?’

‘To anywhere, man. Just give me that ticket and I’m out of here.’  

He took a can of Carlsberg out of his pocket and offered it to me. In the same movement he got one for himself from another pocket. As I looked at him a certain penny dropped. So this was the thief.

‘Everybody must get stoned,’ he sang. I fantasised about stoning him in a different way. I was going to say, ‘Why did you take my beers from the fridge?’ but it would only have created a bad atmosphere. He’d been a leech all his life, why should he change now?

Instead I said, ‘Why have you painted your face all these colours?’

‘Do you not get it? Bob’s a chameleon, right? So why would he just have one colour on his face?’

‘How slow of me.’

‘I was going for the ‘Renaldo and Clara’ look,’ Paul informed me.

‘Well you certainly got that.’

Becky wet her finger and put it on his face.

‘Why did you do that?’ he asked her.

‘I wanted to see if the paint was dry,’ she explained.

Paul nodded.

‘Was ‘Renaldo and Clara’ when he broke up with Joanie?’ she enquired. (‘Joanie’ of course being Joan Baez).

‘I think it was earlier, at the Isle of Wight. Probably when he went electric,’ he muttered. 

As I listened to him waffling I wondered if we were all mad to be talking about something that happened thirty years ago to someone we’d never meet. What if Dylan were to suddenly appear? Would he think we were mad too?

‘I’m bored,’ said Becky, ‘I’ve lost my father and I’m depressed and bored. Let’s dance.’

She dragged me onto the floor. ‘Song to Woody’ came on the hi-fi and Jokerman swayed to it. Cordelia’s leopardskin pillbox hat fell off and I was able to see her lovely curls. Jack of Hearts had his hand up The Queen of Spade’s skirt under the coffee table. The Guilty Undertaker and the Lonesome Organ Grinder were doing their own thing out the back.

As soon as Becky started to dance she got weak.

‘Let’s sit down,’ I said, but as I went to grab her she collapsed like a rag doll onto the floor.

Larry ran over to her and slapped her face.

‘You need some fresh air, little girl,’ he told her.

‘I don’t want fresh air,’ she said, ‘I just want to go to bed.’

‘Naughty girl,’ said Dessie.

‘Why don’t you bring her upstairs?’ Larry said to me, ‘Napoleon would have, you know.’

‘Not tonight, Josephine,’ I told him. Dessie laughed.

I walked Becky towards the kitchen.

‘Where are we going?’ she asked me.

‘We’re going somewhere that we can bring dead girls back to life,’ I told her.

‘That’s sweet,’ she said, smiling.

I took her up in my arms. I didn’t normally take girls up in my arms but she was so light with the anorexia it was like carrying a child.

Vinnie Keavney was sitting at the kitchen table gazing intensely at nothing in particular. He was decked out as Mr Jones in a three-piece suit. We’d all thought of doing this, Mr Jones being Dylan’s most famous character and all that, but Vinnie was Mr Jones, even in ‘real’ life. He wanted three square meals a day,   a dog called Rover and fitted carpets in his house. In fact I  sometimes thought Dylan must have met Vinnie to write the song. (The fact that he wasn’t even a glint in his father’s eye when it was penned puts a slight dent in this theory).

‘Somebody sick?’ he asked.

‘The situation is under control,’ I assured him.

I splashed some water on Becky’s face.   

‘What’s wrong with her?’ said Vinnie.

‘Nothing,’ I said, ‘She just got a bit weak with the heat. Right, Becky?’


‘Put her whole head under it,’ Vinnie advised.

‘I don’t want to give the poor girl a heart attack.’   

I splashed some more water on her until her droopy eyes widened.

‘Welcome back,’ I said, ‘you had us worried there for a minute.’

‘Jesus, I feel like I’ve been in another world.’

‘Maybe you have. It would probably be best if you went home now.’

‘I don’t have a home,’ she snapped.

‘What’s she talking about?’ Vinnie asked.

‘Nothing,’ I told Mr Jones.

‘I’m going upstairs,’ said Becky.

‘You can’t. It wouldn’t be good for you. You might conk out again.’

I wondered if she was going to have a refill of the white stuff.

‘Don’t worry,’ she said, as if reading my mind, ‘I’ll be a good girl. It’s only for a pee.’

‘Okay but if you’re not down in a few minutes I’m coming in after you.’

‘That sounds kinky,’ she said, giving me a kiss. 

‘Don’t be too long or you’ll miss the party,’ Vinnie said to her.

‘The best parties are in your head,’ she told him.

She tottered off. Vinnie shook his head, bewildered at this so very unJoneslike girl.

He waved his pencil at me.

‘Nice uniform,’ he said.

‘Thanks. It could do with having the sleeves mended. Maybe I’ll bring it to the tailor in Elba next week.’

‘Good idea,’ said Vinnie, ‘Elban tailors are the best.’

I told him I liked his outfit too but the truth of it was that he hadn’t really made much of an effort. Was there not more to Mr Jones than a three-piece suit and a pencil?

‘It was his best composition, though, wasn’t it?’

‘You mean ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’?’

‘Yes. Beckettian almost. Would you agree?’

I’ve always felt that people who use words like ‘Beckettian’ should be locked up. They’re like people who use words  like ‘societal’, or phrases like ‘It is what it is’.

’Maybe a bit obtuse, though,’ I challenged.

‘Wasn’t that the whole point?’ he said.

‘He’s done better songs that have got less attention,’ I continued, intent on bursting his Mr Jones bubble.

‘I think Zimmy is still on a journey,’ he said, intent on getting me off this shtick.

‘You mean the Never Ending Tour?’

‘No, I mean an inner journey.’


‘Let’s put it like this. It’s a long way from ‘Blowing in the Wind’ to ‘Idiot Wind.’

I wasn’t sure what he was trying to get at but it sounded good. I knew he wanted to get a discussion going but I wasn’t in the humour.

‘That sounds like a great insight, Vinnie,’ I offered.

‘Maybe I’ll do an article on it sometime.’

Vinnie wrote articles on music for Hot Press. They were always well written but every time I read one of them it always spoiled the music for me afterwards.

‘You should,’ I suggested, ‘or even a book.’

‘Ah no, that would be stretching a point too far.’

I couldn’t pretend I cared anymore.

‘Listen Vinnie,’ I said, ‘I have to go. I’m bursting for a pee.’

‘Peeing seems to be very popular tonight,’ he droned. He went  back to doodling with his pencil. Most likely you go your way, I thought, and I’ll go mine.

On the way up to the toilet I ran into Con Connolly.

‘Good evening, Mr Bonaparte,’ he said a bit stiffly.

Con was another old acquaintance of mine from the music business. He had his face all blackened. I was trying to figure out who he was trying to be.

‘Good evening Mr…Evers?’ I said. I was thinking of Medger Evers.

‘Nice try but it’s Rubin Carter actually.’

‘A very imaginative choice.’

‘Thank you. Listen, I need your advice on something.’


‘I don’t know how to put this. You know Norma, don’t you?’

‘Yes.’ I knew what was coming because I also knew Con had the hots for her.

‘Is she, how shall I put it, available?’

‘That depends who you are, Con.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

Everyone knew Norma fancied Larry. She’d been out with Con a few times but only to make Larry jealous. Con always believed Larry was a closet gay. If he was, it would have suited him down to the ground. If Norma believed it, he thought, it would clear the way for him with her. Except for one minor detail: She’d have preferred to date an octogenarian Iranian terrorist than Con. (The reason I knew this was because she told me).

‘It means I think maybe you should let Norma burn Larry out of her system before you move in on her.’

He put on a horrified expression.

‘Larry? But Larry is as gay as a Christmas tree.’

‘That’s a matter of opinion.’

I knew Larry had dated both men and women in the past. I wouldn’t have put it past him to sleep with sheep.

‘Can Norma not see the light?’

‘Maybe she will in time. Or maybe Larry will have a fling with her and then go off with another man. The point is, don’t say anything to her about his sexual predilections. You’ll only make her want him more.’

‘That’s a funny kind of logic.’

‘You asked for my advice and I’m giving it to you.’

‘Thanks, he said, ‘for nothing.’

He walked off in a sulk. From the other side of the room Norma gave me a thumbs-up sign.

I went to the toilet. It took me an age to empty my bladder. When I came out I had to step over Blind Willie McTell, who was lying in a heap on the stairs. Jokerman was trying to move him. The Guilty Undertaker stood beside him looking guilty.

‘Willie,’ said the Jokerman, ‘you need to get up. You can’t sit on the steps all night. Someone will mash you.’

‘Disappear, Jokerman,’ said Willie, ‘I’m happy here. It’s nice and relaxing.’

‘Can you do anything?’ Jokerman asked me.

‘I’d leave him alone,’ I told him. ‘Maybe tell him a few jokes.’

When I got downstairs I saw Becky. She was looking sleepy again so I thought she might have been up to her old tricks again in the little girl’s room.

‘I have a feeling I’m not going to live long, Napoleon,’ she said. I was going to say ‘Please don’t fall apart on me tonight,’ but I didn’t. In her condition even a chance comment could have pushed her over the edge.

‘You’re going to live to be ninety,’ I said, ‘and your father is going to come home and you’re going to be a big happy family once again.’

She gave me a kiss.

‘Maybe I’d have that beer now,’ she said.

‘I thought beer puffed you up.’

‘Maybe I need puffing up.’

You could never understand women, as Oscar Wilde said, you could only love them.

‘Girl from the North Country’ came on the hi-fi.

‘I know the words of this,’ she said, ‘Let’s sing it.’

She started to sing and I joined in wherever I could. She had a beautiful voice. When she sang she forgot all her problems and so did I.

When we were finished the man with the flowerpot on his head started clapping frantically. The Lonesome Organ Grinder mimed grinding an organ, as you would.

‘Thank you,’ said Becky, ‘both of you. Whoever you are.’

Bob Dylan had also been listening to it.

‘You were in the wrong key, kid,’ he said.

Becky gave him the fingers.

‘What would you know, Mr Dylan?’ she said.

‘Touché,’ said the Lonesome Organ Grinder.

‘Maybe you could get those beers now,’ Becky said to me, ‘Getting those few notes out recharged my batteries.’

I didn’t need to be asked twice. At this stage of the night I would almost have drunk my own urine if informed there was an alcohol quotient in it. I found myself thirstily eyeing people’s half-drunk glasses on the table and thinking about helping myself to them. I cursed Dessie for his thievery again. Tomorrow I knew I’d be glad if I didn’t imbibe anymore but this wasn’t tomorrow, it was tonight.

Norma was sitting at a table eating a cherry.

‘Thanks for rescuing me from Con,’ she said, ‘He’s a lovely guy but I’m not ready for a lovely guy yet. You have to date Mr Wrong before Mr Right, don’t you?’

‘Where do I fit in to that pattern?’ I asked.

‘You’re Mr Always Right,’ she informed me.

My Napoleonic pride was shattered.

‘I could have you executed for that insult,’ I said.

‘Ooh,’ she said, ‘that sounds sexy. Power is an aphrodisiac for women, you know.’

‘So they tell me.’

‘Any good battles coming up?’ she asked.

‘One at Waterloo but I’ve got a bad feeling about it so I may pass on that one.’

I heard a voice behind me.

‘If we do not learn from the lessons of history,’ it said, ‘we are condemned to repeat them.’

Mr Jones had entered the room.

‘I met him once, you know,’ he said.

‘Met who?’

‘The Main Man.’



‘Did you speak to him?’

‘I wanted to, but I froze.’

‘You never told me that. Did you get his autograph?’

‘I was only a kid. It was in London in a café beside where he was appearing. I went up to him with my programme and he had that “Get lost” look on his face.’

‘I wouldn’t worry about that. He’s like that all the time. What happened?’

‘He put a scrawl on it and went off.’

‘What a way to treat your fans.’

Blind Willie McTell approached me.

‘What’s it like out there?’ he said.

‘What’s what like?’

‘Everything. The room. The people. You know…’

‘The people are all cool. How are you?’


I didn’t know if this was part of the performance or if he meant it. Sometimes I thought we’d been playing these roles so long they’d actually started to become us.

‘How long have you been like this?’ I asked.

‘For as long as I can remember. It’s not much fun.  But at least I can hear the music.’

Jokerman walked in. He tried to cheer Willie up by pulling faces at him.

‘It’s no good,’ I told him, ‘he can’t see you.’

‘I know that, dummy,’ he said, ‘but he’ll sense it. Can’t you sense me spreading the love, Blind Willie?’

‘You betcha,’ said Willie.

‘See, dummy?’ Jokerman said to me.

The Tambourine Man appeared at the door.

‘Where’s Bob?’ he asked.

‘I think he was in the garden with Joanie earlier on.’

‘I’ll check it out.’

He marched off. I went back to Becky.

‘I couldn’t find any beers,’ I confessed.

‘Don’t worry about it. It’s you I want.’

She had the untouched look of a neophyte, a changeling.

‘You’re beautiful,’ I said.

She put her arms round me.

‘When are we going to be a united family again?’ she asked me.

‘I don’t have a crystal ball,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you ask Bob? He knows everything.’

‘You really believe this shit, don’t you?’ she said.

‘What shit?’

‘All this crap around us. Are we clever dicks or are we just afraid of facing reality?. Is that why we do it?’

‘Sometimes you have to,’ I said, ‘to get you through.’

‘Well it doesn’t work that way for me. Most of these people haven’t lived yet.’

‘Probably not. Maybe they never will. Maybe they’ll be better off.’

Kim and Cordelia walked in holding hands.  

‘We’re in love,’ said Kim.

‘Good for you,’ I said.

Dessie appeared, high as a kite on something, furiously shaking his tambourine.

‘What gives?’ he said.

‘Kim and Cordelia are in love,’ I told him.

‘I’m glad to hear someone is,’ he said. ‘Would you like to hear a song?’

There was a slight mutter of assent from the gathering. The Clean Cut Kid turned the hi-fi off. Dessie fetched a guitar from behind the sofa and proceeded to sing ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.’ I always admired the people who memorised Dylan songs that had about 582 verses, like this.

Bob Dylan arrived in during the last one and seemed to be impressed. He nodded at Dessie.

‘You’re even better than me,’ he told him.

Larry popped his head out from behind the sofa and started giving out yards to Dessie for using his guitar.

‘Who gave you permission?’ Larry said, ‘you’ll ruin it.’

‘Sorry,’ said Dessie.

Everything seemed to go quiet suddenly. Now that the hi-fi was off we were all thrown back on our miserable little Bobless lives.

‘He betrayed us all,’ said Larry, draining the last of his airport whiskey.

‘In what way?’

‘By pretending to lead us to the Promised Land and then fucking off to his luxury pads with his millions.’

Jokerman looked crestfallen. Queen Mary adjusted her tiara.

‘He never said he was a communist,’ I suggested.

‘He was a rebel,’ said Larry, ‘and now he’s cosying up to the pope. How consistent is that?’

‘He’s probably looking for fire insurance now that he’s hit seventy,’ said Dessie, ‘knock knock knockin’ at heaven’s door. Zimmerman, zimmer frame.’

‘Take a chill pill, Larry,’ said Kim, ‘He’s just a song and dance man, as he said. Give the guy a break.’

‘He can’t even fucking sing anymore,’ said Larry.

‘Could he ever?’ said Cordelia.

Jokerman looked at Larry.

‘I don’t know why you threw this shindig if you have these views,’ he said.

Larry seemed to be confused.

‘Maybe I’m addicted to bad karma,’ he said.

I went out and stood at the French doors. The party was ending and I felt sad. Would we ever meet like this again, all of us freaks and weirdos? People told us to get a life, to get our own thing going, but sometimes you could have more fun jumping on someone else’s wagon. 

I went back in. Jokerman tweaked his nose. Queen Mary bowed. Blind Willie McTell pulled off his shades and showed us all his lovely eyes.

Napoleon in rags, meanwhile, surveyed his empire. He felt proud of Mr Jones and sorry for Con and ashamed of Becky’s dad.

Larry looked me up and down.

‘Don’t say you’re still here,’ he said to me, ‘picking apart the bones of a dead legend. You know what my attitude to Bob Dylan is? Fuck him.’

‘I wish I could,’ said Norma, ‘but I doubt if he’d let me.’




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