An American Ski Jumper Abroad
By January 1964, Heartless and I had been chased from the cozy furnace room of that brothel in Rotterdam and were surviving by following the migrations of rich humans across Europe – preying mostly on the very drunk.
Fortuitously we found ourselves in a town called Innsbruck where they were having a festival Heartless called Olympics. I knew nothing about Olympics but the sight of all those drunk, adult humans made us salivate like wolves finding an unattended flock.
Early one evening while we were scoping out potential opportunities, we came upon a bustling outdoor cafe. The first thing I noticed was the fancy snowsuits but the second thing was the peculiar shape to one of the bottles on one of the tables. Absinthe – that could only be Absinthe.
Now Heartless, even though he was only 12 or 13 or 14 (who really knew), he was already an Absinthe freak. For him, scoring Asbinthe was like striking gold, even if it was just half a swallow of backwash in a bottle at the bottom of a trash can. The good death, he often said, would be to die with the taste of Absinthe on your tongue.
I knew that Heartless had already spotted that bottle so I gave him an arching of the brow and a nodding of the head in that specific direction. This was our universal signal for what we called The Snatch – The Snatch being the bold run in, grab, and run out. It was amazing how effective this simple technique was on drunk, out of shape adult humans who usually just fell down when they tried to pursue.
But, being the knucklehead I was, I failed to understand that these weren’t drunk, out of shape adults and so decided to ratchet up the boldness a notch by giving Heartess a “thumb pointing at the chest” which was a variation on The Snatch which meant, “I can handle this one myself.”
Off I sped – actually knocking into one of the men, making him spill his drink – that sweet scent of licorice almost instantly mingling with the adrenaline already in the air. We made eye contact – his expression was “what the fuck”. I screamed “ga je hondje neuken” (go fuck your dog), grabbed the bottle, then turned and off again I went. By the time I got to Heartless I was laughing so hard I was almost out of breath. But Heartless was not laughing. He was scared and he was screaming, “Run!” which was a seldom used variation on The Snatch which meant … “Run!” So I looked over my shoulder and there was the WTF guy and he was reaching out to grab me and within a half step he did and shoved me to the ground – my forehead hit and for a split second there was nothing but black, then a flash of blinding light, and pain. I felt him grab me by the hair, pull my head back and slam my face into the cobblestones. When my nose snapped it sounded like someone pulling apart a chicken wing. I almost immediately tasted the blood. He screamed something, grabbed the Absinthe out of my hand, and that was that.
Later, in some dark, cat-filled, trashcan alley where Heartless and I finally met up, I asked what that guy had screamed. Heartless said, “I think it was something like ‘don’t fuck with ski jumpers, punk.’ It was english but not English-english. He might have been Canadian but he had a definite American way about him.”
I do love watching the Olympics but I have to admit, when the ski jumping comes on, I inevitably find myself standing and pacing anxiously around the room. And I almost never root for the Canadians – and never ever for those fucking Americans.