Sunday Afternoon at Jack’s

“Are you Chinese or Vietnamese?” She asked.
“Vietnamese,” I said. “I know some Vietnamese,”
She continued. “Boo coo dinky dow. You know
What I just said?” “I actually don’t,” I answered.
“I don’t think it’s Vietnamese.” “Of course it is,”
She retorted. “Boo coo dinky dow! It means
You’re crazy!” OK, so it took me a while
To figure out that she meant, “Beaucoup
Dien cai dau,” which is a mishmash of French
And Vietnamese for “Lots of madness.”
During the Vietnam War, this was often said
By locals to American GIs, and vice versa.

Across from the old lady was a man too old
To have fought in “Iraqi Freedom,” although his cap
Brightly proclaimed him as a veteran of that
Open-ended campaign for petroleum and Israel.
Iraq has been broken for good, with the resultant
Chaos necessitating America’s meddling
Until she herself collapses, which can happen
At any moment, even during the halftime of this
Much discussed game, to be followed by another
Endlessly debated spectacle. “Hey, can I take
A photo of you and your cap?” “I don’t care,”
The old man replied to my request, “you can
Take a photo of my balls if you want to!”

His first war was Vietnam, his last Desert Storm,
And he has managed to survive it all as a cook.
Though his white beard has seen so much, none
Of it will be transcribed properly. Meanwhile
Utter nonsense is endlessly pumped into
Our much befouled national brainpan.
Our lives in arrears, we’re expected to be
Transfixed by Rich Kids of Beverly Hill.

In a peaceful country, to leisurely get drunk
With your neighbors would certainly qualify
As happiness, but in a nation that can’t stop
Mass murdering, even as its cupboards wheeze,
Each laugh is tainted with anxiety and blood.
As our cash is sucked upward, everything
At street level has gotten shorter, even the
Name of a Chinese takeout, Perial Palace.
Death murals and shrines mark drug corners.
It has become extravagant to be left alone
With a cheap pint, as the juke box whines.

Suddenly the bar roared, and I knew the end
Had come early to New England, for they were
Already behind 23-3. Here, no one cared really.
It was just something to watch on television.
Plus, it was fun to needle the bartender, for
She had on a New England jersey and cap.
“Why does she like the Patriots? Is she
From Massachusetts or something?” I asked
The dude next to me, who turned out to be a
Lawyer of 24 years, “It’s Tom Brady, you know,
He’s good looking, not like us!” He guffawed.

Chatting further, we agreed that those who are
Very pleasant to look at, not to mention to eat,
Will get all the breaks in life, though this won’t
Necessarily promise success. “With this belly
And this chin, I’m handicapped, for sure, so if
The prosecutor is super appealing, I’m screwed,
But all I have to do is win over one juror, so if
I can work on one, if I can flirt with her, say,
Then I can get an acquittal or a hung jury.”

The lawyer said he needed not go into
Whether his client was guilty or not. He only
Needed to work with the evidence, so if there’s
Not enough to convict, that’s that, “I don’t ask
If he raped or killed. I only work with the evidence.”
His career was on the upswing, and he even ran
For mayor of Bristol, until he got hooked on crack
At a heavyweight contender’s birthday bash.
“Who are you talking about?” “I can’t tell you.”
“Local guy?” “Yeah.” “Timmy?” He grinned.

Though never mayor of Bristol, the lawyer
Was a sort of mayor of Jack’s, for he knew
Everybody there and, what’s more, wanted to
Make everyone happy, or so he said, “If I see
Anyone here looking sad, I must cheer him up.
What if someone’s having suicidal thoughts and
There’s no one to talk to? That’s why I talked to you.
Not that you’re suicidal or anything, or maybe you are.
See that guy outside in the wheelchair? He lost his toes,
Thanks to frostbite. He’s homeless,” and with that,
The lawyer went outside to greet the toeless man.

So what are you missing, exactly? You can tell me.
I’ll show you my gaps if you reveal your gashes.
Put your hand here. Yeah, like that. Easy! Can you
Feel what’s gone? There used to be quite a lot there.
Boo coo dinky dow! Lotsa madness! Lotsa madness!
Ending, I’ll give you some crucial information. Although
A can of Busch is only $1.50 here, it’s not the best deal,
For a pint of Yuengling, which is much better, is only $2.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He's tracking our deteriorating social scape through his frequently updated photo blog, Postcards from the End of America. Read other articles by Linh.