Look! Over there! It was Filthy Richie tugging at my sleeve.
Over there, beside the speaker. Isn’t that -?
Jesus, I said. I think you’re right. It’s –
It is, said Filthy Richie. It’s Paul Simon.
Christ Almighty, I said. Little Paulie. I haven’t seen him since the thing with the snake and the three Russian – ah, you know what I mean.
Richie nodded sadly. Will I ever forget?
Call him over, I said. Hold on, I think I caught his eye.
Paul looked up, recognised me and in an instant he was pushing his way through the baying crowd.
Bock! he jumped up on a chair and threw his arms around me. And Filthy Richie! Jesus, I haven’t seen you guys since . . . since . . . oh wait. Now I remember. He shook his head sadly.
So tell me, I said. How’s things? How are you these days?
Old, he said. I’m old.
We’re all old, I told him. Any word of Art. Ever meet him these days?
Yeah, he said. We even talk to each other a bit these days, but he’s still an asshole.
Here you go, said Filthy Richie, returning from the bar. Wild Turkey for you, Bock, and a five-litre tankard of Kulminator for Paulie.
No, thanks, said Paul. I quit.
Richie took a step back, leaned against the wall, blinked, looked at me and croaked, What?
I quit drinking. It was bad for me.
But you’re the guy who won the All-Alaska beer-swilling and blubber-swallowing contest three years in a row.
True, smiled Paul wistfully.
And the Trans-Siberian shoe-polish-gulping trophy.
Ah, happy days, agreed little Paul. Go on then. I’ll just have that one.
Twelve hours later, I woke up in some dank Latvian bordello. Filthy Richie stared at me blankly, the way he becomes after half a kilo of brown mescalin. Slumped in the shadows, I recognised our friend Paul Simon. He wasn’t looking too good.
Paul, I shook him. Paul! You all right?
Nnngnnggnng! he groaned.
Paul, wake up.
Aaaarrrggghh! he said and threw up where he sat.
What the fuck – ?? I jumped back. Jesus, Paul, don’t tell me you’re –
Yup, he confirmed. Still queasy after all those beers.