Some Things are Best Left Unchanged: Lent in Casablanca, Night 27

Testarossa Ferrari was late for her curfew, and hugged Hermione and Annie the Soapmaker goodnight.  Lisbeth had finished a long chess duel against Rick–they played to a stalemate.  She handed Sascha two $100 bills. “One for the tab; one for you…because Sascha, I love you,” she mocked.  The Russian sputtered his thanks, as Lisbeth took Hermione’s hand and walked out into the night. 

Kelly Vision’s Birthday Bash was finishing.  The party was over, actually.  Only Kelly remained, trying to get Sam the Wonderdog down from his enthusiastic joyflying.  When he started singing “Die Wacht Am Rhine” at the top of the WonderCollar’s lungs, Kelly just gave up for the time being. 

Rick set down a bottle of bonded Bourbon in front of Annie the Soapmaker.  He stubbed out his Chesterfield in the ashtray. “Just let me lock up and close out the books, and I’ll be back.”

Rick turned toward the bar.  “Sascha. Please bring three fresh glasses.” He looked down at Annie, and the two empty Jägermädchen bottles.  “Who knows what would happen mixing good Bourbon with whatever that was.” Annie smiled sweetly and flipped Rick the bird.  He winked.  “Be back in a few minutes, ladies.”

Kelly Vision sat down at Annie’s table and poured a drink.  She drained her glass and groaned. “God, that’s smoothly repulsive, kind of like Ashton Kutcher.”  She poured Annie a drink as well.

“What should we drink to?”

“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid?”

“Hah. Very funny.  Here’s to Rick.”

“To Rick, and bonded Bourbon.” The Soapmaker and the Maven clinked glasses and drank.  Annie lit a cigarette and slid the ashtray toward herself.  “We need more Ricks in the world.”

“The bar or the man?”

“The man.” Annie blew a stream of smoke toward the ceiling.  Sam the Wonderdog flew through it, his circa-1984 Tom Cruise-over-a-radio voice crackling out, “Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a flyby!”  Annie laughed.

Kelly sipped her drink.  “He dies in 18 years, you know.”

“Yeah.”

“Cancer.  He weighs 82 lbs at the end.”

“Yeah.  That sucks for the planet.”

“Can you do something? Make up some creme or potion or something?”

“I’m brilliant, Kel, but nobody’s that good.”  Annie sipped her drink and tapped her ashes into the ashtray.

“Wait!” Kelly sat up suddenly. “What about DNA? Cloning? Like `Jurassic Park’?” She picked up Rick’s cigarette butt, and wrapped it in a bar napkin. “I have brilliant minions and a lab…” Annie smiled sadly, shaking her head.

“Put it back, Kelly,” came Rick’s voice from behind.

“But–”

“I know what happens, kid” Rick says.  “It’s okay.”

Rick sits down and pours himself a drink. 

“But you die in 18 years,” said Kelly. “Why not let me at least try?”

Rick smiled and sat down.  Annie slid the bottle and the ashtray toward him.

“It’s hard to explain, kid.” Rick lit a cigarette and poured a drink. “I could be like one of those crazy French philosophers and talk about ponds and ripples.”  He sipped his whiskey. “Like, whatever we do is throwing a rock in the pond, and our lives ripple out from there.  And if I change the pond, the stone, or where I throw, my ripples would be different.”

Annie rolled her eyes. “But, since that would be boring and lame…”

“Yeah, that’s a crock.” Rick gave Kelly a weary smile.”See, from here, part of me goes on to marry the love of my life–a beautiful woman who can give as well as take–and we share my happiest years.  Period. Even at the end, she’s there with me, loving me, helping me, protecting me.”

“But you suffer!”

“True, but I’m just paying the piper.  I’m not one for standing on the platform with a comical look on my face, because I ate vegetables and quit smoking and drinking, only to die anyway in some old folks home, half senile and gumming peas.  I’m living my life.”  He sipped his Bourbon.  “Every day, every cocktail, every cigarette, every plate I dodge when that other guy’s current crazy wife throws things: I’m living.”

The Maven started to answer, but Annie took her hand gently.

“Ripple similes aside, it really would change things, Kel.  It would change everything, including stuff we can’t understand.”

“Like what?”

Rick lit a fresh Chesterfield off his old one. “Like the part of me that stays here.”

Annie tried to explain. “Rick Blaine, as he is here and now, is quite possibly the coolest sonofabitch ever to walk.  This time and place–Casablanca just a few days before Pearl Harbor–this is magical, Kel. This place and time are so beloved, even 70 years from now, people will study it, analyze it, envy it.  Lines people say here and now will be catalogued and copied, ranked and put on lists.  Sometimes, people will pay closer attention to this particular sequin on the dull, turd-colored fabric of time than they do to their own worlds.”

“It’s like this, kid. I may not get to be `the other me’ for very much longer.” Rick took a drag off his cigarette and sipped his drink.  “But I get to be THIS me forever.”

Kelly’s head was spinning, mostly from the bottles of tequila she and her fellow Mavens polished off earlier, but in no small part to this revelation.  “So you–”

“So forever, I’m here, and I’m me.”

“Is this heaven?” Kelly asked.

Rick laughed.  “Nah.  It’s just a specific gin joint in a specific town at a specific place in time.”

“And it’s neither Iowa nor Kansas anymore, Dorothy,” Annie responded, snarkily working two movie references into one terse sentence.

Sam the Wonderdog finally came in for a shaky landing next to Kelly. 

Rick scratched Sam behind his WonderEars.  “And here’s your Toto, kid.” 

Having finished cleaning up in the gambling room, Karl walked up in his shirtsleeves.  “Do you need anything else, Herr Rick?”

“I’d like you to take Ms Vision home, please.”

Kelly stood up.  She smiled, even as tears welled up in her eyes.  “Thanks for letting me have my birthday party here, Rick.”

“You’re welcome.”  Rick Blaine smiled and lifted his glass to Kelly Vision. Kelly anticipated that classic line, but it didn’t come. “Happy Birthday.  Now leave the butt in the ashtray, and head back to the time and place where you rule.”

Kelly laughed and dropped the cigarette butt back on the table.  “See you, Rick.  DM me Annie when you get home.”

“Will do.” Kelly, Sam and Karl headed toward the door. 

Rick looked at Annie the Soapmaker.  “Just you and me, and the bottle makes three tonight, kid.”

“Don’t try and distract me with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy lyrics from 57 years hence, you suave bastard,” Annie scolded.  “We need to talk.  I mean, for God’s sake, man.  Look how dry your hands are. ” Annie poured herself another Bourbon.  “I’m serious! Try one of my oatmeal lavender bars! It will help.” Rick rolled his eyes, and Annie the Soapmaker laughed.  “Just kidding.  Now let’s see where we are as far as me kicking your ass at cards…”

Annie pulled out a deck of cards and a paper covered with an ongoing tally.  Rick shook his head and smiled. He sipped his drink, smoked, and wondered how the 100%-minus-him other poor bastards would be spending their eternities, and he was grateful he didn’t have to find out.

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7 Responses to “Some Things are Best Left Unchanged: Lent in Casablanca, Night 27”

  1. Here’s DM-ing at you, kid.

  2. You’re supposed to be all sad and philosophical during Lent, but you make it entertaining.

    Drink it again, Sam (the Wonderdog).

    • If I have to be philosophical, the least I can do is work in fart jokes and characters from past adventures, right? 😉 Plus, this time, I can risk being sued AND haunted. Yay.

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