The BanditPublished August 9, 2016
Jimmy Romeo, better known as the “Bandit” had fallen on hard times. Jimmy was an old time light heavyweight fighter, veteran of nearly two hundred professional fights, two of which he had split with the legendary light heavyweight Archie Moore. He had made hundreds of thousands of dollars during his career and what his manager hadn’t stolen went for brandy and beautiful women which eventually left him broke and on the street with only his meager social security pension. Bob Morgan hired Bandit now and then for odd jobs and to occasionally invite an unruly patron to leave the premises of his saloon. Other than that the notorious Jimmy “Bandit” Romeo, once the scourge of west coast boxing, now addled, scarred and gnarled from more than twenty years of taking and giving punches was left to indulge his taste for cheap brandy by cadging drinks from customers at the bar. The bar patrons didn’t mind. In fact, they enjoyed being seen in the company of the legendary west coast warrior for only the price of a glass of bar brandy.
Jimmy “Bandit” Romeo got up from his stool at the end of the bar and approached me.
“Did I hear my name mentioned? Perhaps an offer of a brandy or two may have been in the conversation?”
Bandit’s appearance was exactly as I remembered him: a full head of snow white hair, slightly cauliflower ears, flattened nose, scarring above both watery brown eyes. He was dressed in an old army field jacket, t-shirt, shabby and frayed jeans and worn sneakers.
I turned to the man and extended my right hand. Bandit took my hand in his own huge, knuckle scarred paw. We shook hands briefly.
“Jimmy, you probably don’t remember me. I was home ported here a couple of years ago and we had a few drinks together then. It’s good to see you again. I’d be honored to buy you a brandy or two.”
“Indeed I do recall, my young friend. No man is an island. When one of us passes ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
“I remember that you and one of the ladies from the theater next door were friends.”
The bartender Smitty returned with two shot glasses filled with bar brandy. Bandit took one in his giant paw and drained it.
“Ah. Thank you, young friend. I’d return the favor but I’m needed next door. Bob has some errands for me to run. Perhaps next time.”
I smiled and clapped Bandit on his muscled arm.
“Next time will be just fine Jimmy. See you then.”
Bandit quickly tossed back the second shot glass, smiled, nodded and exited the saloon.
I turned to the bartender and raised my empty glass to signal for another rum and coke.
“Smitty, I see he’s still saying that “bell tolls” thing. What’s that all about?”
Smitty shook his head.
“Dunno. One of the winos that comes in here on social security check day who was a professor or something said it comes from an old English poem. Like about how we are all connected or something. Jimmy may have had a lot of his brains knocked about but he heard that somewhere once and it must mean something to him. I heard someone say not too long ago that one of his fights resulted in his opponent dying, but Bob says that there is nothing in the record books that show anything like that. It’s a mystery and I guess we’ll never know for sure. I don’t think that by now even Jimmy knows what it means.”
Excerpted from “The Bandit,” in “A Man Who Lost His Wife and Other Stories,” by Bob Stockton, © 2015.
“Twenty-nine short stories from the mind of a Navy veteran with a flair for describing what’s really important in life.”
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