The boys at the Hunchback Inn called him Panama Jack. I suppose that was because of the straw hat. He had a bushy beard that reached his chest, some people called him Blackbeard.
No matter. He wore his persona proudly. Everybody in East Hell knew you could count on Panama Jack or Blackbeard to help out if you were in a jam, your car broke down, or the Chipmunks for Jesus were gettin’ militant and needed a good “talking to.” Good ol’ Panama Jack or Blackbeard was there.
He filled in a couple of times at Victoria’s Secret, over at the Beaver Creek Mall when they needed a straw hat and beard model.
Jack didn’t have a family or wife around, and didn’t seem too in a hurry to get in that program. BillyBob would tease him about it, and invariably the question was, “When you gonna git yerself a ladyfriend, Jack?”
Jack always answered the same, “There’s a pretty senorita waiting for me, down in Old Mexico.”
We’d laugh and tell him he’d have to be crazy to leave the homey comfort of East Hell and go down to Mexico, what with all the drug czars and expatriate billionaires and 20 year old suv’s littering the roadside.
For years, ol’ Panama Jack worked for Charlie Sheen over at Sheen Towers as a maintenance man. Charlie had reached the top, owned every Midget Jell-O Wrestling venue in the country, and there was plenty of work to go around. He even tried acting again, although “One Man and a Bunch of Sissies” didn’t get all that good of ratings.
One day Jack disappeared. Here one day cleaning at the Towers, the next day gone.
Life in East Hell went on as usual, the boys down at the Hunchback Inn remembered him in a beer toast once in a while.
BillyBob asked me once, “You know what Jack’s real name was?”
“No,” I said. If I did, I’d try to send him a message on HellBook or LinkedIn or Christian Mingle.com or something.
Last spring a small envelope with a Mexico City postmark arrived, addressed to “The Guys at the Hunchback Inn.”
That evening, Sonny, the bartender, ripped it open and brought it over for us to see.
“Looks like ol’ Panama Jack’s found him a missus,” declared Sonny. He put on his glasses, silenced the Lawrence Welk rerun that continually played on the widescreen over the bar and began to read.
“Mr. and Mrs. Bosco Eduardo Rodriguez Araceli
request the honour of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter,
Maria de la Santa Cruz Rosalina Agnelia
Rodriguez Cuellar Rene Araceli ,
Mr. Horace Plymouth Ford of Scruptious Junction
Saturday the sixth of July, Two thousand eighteen
at half past five o’clock in the evening
Ramada Reforma Club and Spa,
Puente De Alvarado 22 , Mexico City DF
Reception immediately following.”
“I’ll be damned,” said Stevie Stroke Victim.
“So that was his name, who’d a thought?” BillyBob knocked back the rest of his beer and raised his voice. “Should we all send Jack and Maria a wedding gift?”
The cheers arose then, a gift committee was formed, and everybody decided that maybe Mexico wasn’t such a bad place after all, especially since a good guy like Panama Jack could go all the way down there and find his true love.