Rusty is a bit peculiar. He carries an extra copy of chromosome-21 which causes him to think and speak and look a little differently than the rest of us – a syndrome first described by Dr. John Langdon Down in 1866. Rusty exhibits impaired cognitive ability, short limbs, a squat build, and an ill-shapen head, but he still puts on one hell of a choke hold. At the moment Rusty’s slightly underdeveloped arms are constricting around Sickboy’s neck like a python wringing the life from a giant jungle rat. With Rusty patrolling Newport Avenue, getting choked out from behind is a risk Sickboy runs when he sits at the bar on a Sunday afternoon.
“Heeeyyyy Sickboy! I got you!”
Sickboy knows the drill. Rusty is a big UFC fan. If there was a Special Olympics of mixed martial arts, Rusty would no doubt win gold. Sickboy‘s eyes are about to pop out of their sockets and he’s turning smurf blue, but he still has a smile on his face. Rusty’s his boy. No one is sure just how old Rusty is, but he lives with his mom on Narragansett. He’s been a fixture on the strip for years. Everyone knows Rusty. Sickboy reaches back behind his head and slaps Rusty on the arm three times. Tap out. Sickboy gasps, “You win, Rusty. You’re king of the octagon.”
“I beat you! I win!” Rusty exclaims before laying a big one-armed bro hug on Sickboy. Rusty is good peeps.
String Bean Gina just enjoyed the match from behind the bar. She’s wearing a slinky something accentuating her features and highlighting her infectious smile. She congratulates the victor.
“Way to go, Rusty. You just kicked Sickboy’s ass! Again! You’re like the toughest dude in OB.”
Rusty is all pumped up, but still always the gentleman. With his slightly slower than average drawl he starts sweet talking Gina like he does all the girls in Ocean Beach.
“You look beautiful. Did anyone tell you that today?”
“No, Rusty. You’re the first. Thank you so much, sweety.”
“Well you DO. Do you want a cookie?”
Rusty pulls a pack of half crushed macaroons from the pocket of his cargo shorts and extends them out toward Gina as far as his little arm will go. Gina politely declines.
“No thank you, honey. You have fun today.”
“I will! Bye-bye, beautiful.”
With that Rusty makes his exit on his way next door to the ‘Shine to choke out another local and tell ten more pretty girls just how pretty they look today. Rusty’s got game.
Sickboy takes a pull off of his Bud bottle. The cold brew soothes his freshly strangled pipes. And now he’s got a particularly pensive look about him.
“What’s on your mind, Sickboy?” Gina inquires. “Thinking about changing up your training routine so you can beat him next time?”
Gina is sharp as a tack. She’s one tough string bean and she can dish out the sass. Sickboy’s got a thing for sass, but right now he’s spiraling inward and oblivious.
“I don’t know, Gina. I’m just disgusted with myself. All I ever do is sit here and drink and sulk. I need to be more… I don’t know… positive? Upbeat. Happier… more like Rusty. That dude is always happy. He’s all hugs and smiles all the time.”
Before Gina has a chance to offer any uplifting advice, Sickboy feels a hand on his back making reassuring circles. No choke hold this time. But it’s a touch he knows well. It’s the touch he lives for.
“What are you guys talking about?” asks Jenny in the sweetest voice ever sounded. She’s just passing through to say Hello to String Bean Gina. Sickboy remains silent. He looks at Gina and holds up a finger as if to say, “Shhh. I got this one.” He doesn’t want Jenny to know that he’s been sulking again. He stands up and turns to face her. He looks deep into her eyes. She returns his gaze. Time freezes and Sickboy wishes it could stay frozen forever. Then he opens his arms wide and immediately Jenny wraps him up in a bear hug, the side of her face planted firmly in his chest. He squeezes her tight. He gives her a loving peck on top of her head and says softly “Jenny, you are so beautiful. Has anyone told you that today?”
Then one last squeeze and Sickboy releases the girl of his dreams.
“Bye-bye, beautiful” he says as he heads out the door.
Jenny looks at String Bean for some help with interpretation.
“What’s wrong with Sickboy?”
String Bean Gina is grinning from ear to ear.
“Sweety, there’s NOTHING wrong with Sickboy. In fact, I’m beginning to think that there is a whole lot right with that guy. Whatta’ you think? You know how much he likes you.”
Jenny doesn’t miss a beat.
“Yeah, I know.”