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Fiction #193
(published September 23, 2004)
Greg Hieronymus' Face is On Fire
by Antonio G. Hopson

Greg Hieronymus is a metaphor, a surrealistic balance between a friend that is good for you and one that is bad for you. Devilishly handsome, fatally serendipitous, and sometimes just plain stupid— nearly everyone who has ever lived in West Seattle has a story about him.


It was a beautiful evening —the kind of evening that reminds the sun-starved natives of Seattle why they love this so called "Rainy City". There are evenings here, when after it has rained, after each fallen drop has polished the sky clean of ash and the wind is too gentle to disturb even a single reflected star, or the crescent moon, or the wanton image of skyscrapers reflecting off Puget Sound. This is surely the reason why Salty's on Alki can charge $22.50 for a plate of Scampi, $9.75 for a wedge of Chocolate Decadence, or $7.50 for one of its famous flaming drinks called, "The Skylite".

Salty's sits on the west side of beautiful Elliot Bay and from the elegant dining room guests can survey the city's stunning skyline: dotted with ferries, languid kelp beds, and an occasional killer whale, the view attains the status of dynamic. However, the shores of Elliot Bay were not always so beautiful, for many years, the land was used as a junkyard reserved for industry: cannery docks, shipyards, bait shops and steel mills. These ventures used the land out of necessity, not beatitude.

The working class days of Harbor Avenue came abruptly to an end one day when a bastardly genius saw the land's potential and seized property from a cute little old lady who ran a working class coffee-and-steak joint called the Beach Broiler. There is a story being circulated by a disgruntled writer once employed as a bus boy who charges that the new owner hired a couple of goons from Portland and threatened her with bodily harm if she didn't sell the property. Of course, the story should not be taken as factual, since it is most likely a trite and vengeful attempt to defame the owner for nothing other than yelling at said busboy for once dropping a whole tray of expensive water glasses onto the marble floor.

Nevertheless, after the bastard bought the property, he sold the baby seal fur factory he owned and used the capital to jazz-up what looks on the surface to be a five-star restaurant.

It was an enchanting night!

It happened that the city's mayor had decided to see his town from a perspective seldom seen by him— not from downtown where he spent most of his time in the shadows of skyscrapers. Tonight! Tonight, he would watch his metropolis from across the bay where it seemed to pulse, breathe and live.

The mayor would sit at the bar next to Greg Hieronymus.

Greg Hieronymus had just returned from a year-long trip to Alaska, where he worked twelve hour days to save money to spend on booze before using it for college. He had grown a beard and none of the women with whom he had been acquainted might recognize him. And, better still, none of their boyfriends or husbands who had seen him slipping away through the backyard while buttoning his trousers could sucker punch him in the kidneys, or cold-cock him on the crown. It was a relaxing evening, and he thought fondly of friends he could call that were not married or too ashamed to see him.

"'Evening sir," said the bartender. "What'll it be?"

Greg thought for a moment, his eyes walking around the swanky lounge.

"I'll have one of those, please"

The bartender followed Greg Hieronymus' glance, at the far side of the room, a waiter was making a show of a flaming drink. The brandy's blue flame leapt and flickered seductively. The smell of cinnamon filled the air.

"You bet-cha'!" the bartender said enthusiastically. "Comin' right up!"

The Mayor had looked up from his fine scotch to watch, and with a mild sort of interest, he mused over the presentation: the quick, stylistic rub of a lemon wedge around the rim of a wine glass, a dip into a saucer of sugar and cinnamon, a splash of sherry. It was all done with proud bravado. The mayor watched the bartender swirl the velvet mixture romantically, sniffed the air lightly and allowed the sweet smell to perfume his senses. The bartender added the 151.

"Smells good!" said the Mayor.

"Just wait until I light the thing!" said the bartender. "You'll think you were a' smellin' Heaven!" Then, while smiling a little smile, the bartender whipped out a match with an extended wooden stick. As the drink was designed to do, everyone at the bar waited in anticipation, and then, with a bit of pompousness, the bartender struck the match. He grinned a little grin and dunked the ignited end into the concoction.

And this is when Greg Hieronymus' face caught fire.

After the glass exploded from the too-sudden movement of molecules, little shards of hot razors covered the Mayor's fine Italian double-breasted suit. It all happened and ended in an instant, and the expression on his face was that of horrified surprise.

"Oh! Ohoo! Oh!" said the Mayor excited. This would no doubt ruin his fine, scotch-induced mood. "Oh!"

While the bartender apologized and cleaned the politician, he failed to realize that one of his customer's face was engulfed in a cool blue flame. By the time he noticed, it would be too late! Greg Hieronymus' beard had been burned clean off his face.

At the end of the bar, a man yelled while shaking a fist, "That's Greg Hieronymus! The son-of-a-bitch did my wife!"

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