So here I am in the midst of an unscheduled “vacation” from my part-time job at the Publix grocery store where I work as a Front Service Clerk, which is corporate Publixese for a “bagger”, a true case of a $27 title for a three-dollar job, brought about by an unpleasant run-in I had last week with one of our customers who, despite the fact that she wasn’t wearing a mask or even remotely attempting to observe the rules of “social distancing”, felt it was her unalienable right and duty to stand RIGHTNEXT to where I was working, face within inches of mine, to closely supervise the bagging/loading of her groceries into her cart. (Bagging groceries, although there is an art to it, is nevertheless by no means rocket science…the close scrutiny was unnecessary.)

At any rate, apparently she took exception to my tone of voice the SECOND time I asked her to please step back behind the green line on the floor (full disclosure: I was having a bad morning and I handled it poorly, walking right up to Mr. Rude without quite shaking his hand…I was wrong), causing her to complain to management before she left the store that, although I was the best-looking bagger she had ever run across, I was also very rude, had a poor attitude, was most likely a liberal Democrat and that I should be chastised mightily and then taken out behind the store and beaten with a blunt instrument. Management, with a real and somewhat surprising empathy for the stress all the associates have been under during the pandemic, decided that I should take the rest of the day off, told me to go home and regroup, get my head out of my butt and come back for my next shift with my attitude re-adjusted. Upon arriving at Chez Cap’n I decided that I was going instead to take a couple weeks off and determine my future with Publix while I decompressed.

That decision is TBD.

Anyway, having some time on my hands and nothing particularly better to do this past week, I’ve been catching up with old friends with whom I haven’t spoken for a while, to see how they’re dealing with life these days.

I have a buddy named Bob (not his real name…the names in this story have been changed to confuse the uninitiated) who I hadn’t heard from in a while, so I sent him an email to inquire to his health and well-being; he also lives here in Florida, south of me near Port Charlotte (elevation: 7 feet), where he works as a bartender and part-time condom tester. (For Trojan in a lab, for pete’s sake…you people are disgusting.)

So Bob called me the next day and we chatted on the phone for a bit, swapping lies and laughs, when I asked him what was new in the bartending world.

Well, he says, you know I haven’t worked since back in April when the lockdown started, but I had an unusual incident take place back just before shit got crazy and everything started going to hell in a grocery cart. Oh yeah, I rejoined, what was that?

He then proceeded to tell me the following story…

This guy he had never seen before walked in one afternoon, carrying a cardboard box under his arm. He sat down at the bar, put the box on the stool next to him, reached down and pulled out, first, a miniature grand piano, about the size of a serving platter and complete with a small stool, set them on the bar, reached down into the box again and brought out a tiny little man, dressed in white tie and tails, who according to my friend, then sat down at the piano and proceeded to give a beautiful rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, to the great surprise of both my friend and the other patrons in the bar. When he finished he stood, took a small bow as acknowledgement for the applause from everyone there, sat back down and launched into Chopin’s Nocturne in Eb, opus 9, again playing beautifully.

When the tiny performer was done once again, the man picked him up and put him back in the box; if I don’t stop him occasionally, the guy told Bob, he just keeps playing…gimme’ a double shot of Jack, would you?

Where the hell did you get this little guy, my friend asked.

Well, the man says, I have a place down on Manasota Key; I was out walking on the beach one morning a few months ago, you know, enjoying the breeze off the Gulf and watching the sand crabs run sideways all over the place, just minding my own business, when I saw something sticking up out the sand about 20 yards up ahead of me, like something someone left behind after a picnic, except that hardly anyone ever uses this stretch of beach ‘cause it’s kinda hard to get to. Anyway, I walked over to it, and boy, what a surprise I got, he says…it was this ornate, jewel-encrusted bottle, just the neck sticking out of the sand, the rest buried. I leaned down and pulled it out and whoa, it was like something out of the Arabian Nights, I mean, it was beautiful. So I starting wiping the sand off of it, and when I did it started to vibrate like in my hand, and suddenly the top falls out and this mist starts coming out of the bottle and, Holy I Dream of Jeanie, Batman, out pops this, I don’t know, apparition, ghost, shit I had no idea what it was but it was like a man and it scared the crap outta’ me. I dropped the bottle and the mist starts getting solid and, whoa, there stands this guy, all dressed in a turban and these flowing robes, who says not to be afraid because he’s a Djinn, you know, a genie. He says he was imprisoned in the bottle by an evil vizier for dallying with the guy’s daughter, has been in there for thousands of years, thanks me profusely for freeing him and says, as a reward, that he will grant me one wish, whatever I want.

Beach guy says he was so surprised that he just blurted out, anything I want?

I’m sorry, the genie replied, I didn’t understand you.

Anything I want, the guy repeated.

I’m sorry, says the Djinn, looking puzzled, I didn’t quite get that, putting a hand behind his ear.

So the beach guy, deciding to take a different approach, asks the genie, where are you from? No, says the genie, I don’t play the drums; no, no, says BG, what land are you from? And the genie gets this quizzical look on his face and replies, ham and rum, what the hell is that? and I realized right then, the beach guy said, that the genie must have had sand or salt water in his ears because he didn’t understand a thing I was saying.

So BG says to the genie, raising his voice, I get one wish? and the genie says, a crumb dish, what the fuck are you talking about, and the guy says he then screamed at the genie, ONE WISH? And he said, oh yeah, sorry, yeah, I can grant you one wish, anything you want.

So the beach guy tells me he thought about it for a moment and says to the Djinn, okay, I want a 12-inch penis. Really? says the genie. Well, okay.

Next thing I knew, says BG, all this mist starts coming out of the bottle, the air around me got all murky and weird and suddenly there was this big flash of light, knocked me spang on my butt and when the mist started to clear, there was this box sitting on the sand next to me, and when I looked inside, there was this guy, pointing to the box sitting on the stool next to him.

He reached out, took the double Jack off the bar, downed it and said, that’s when I started drinking.

He took the little guy out of the box again, placed him on the bar, and we watched as the foot tall pianist walked over to the piano, flipped his tails out behind him and then sat down and proceeded to start playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto #20.

I bought him the next round, said my friend.

Love and sheet music,

Cap’n John

Post Script…yes, I know you can’t play a concerto without an accompanying orchestra…call it artistic license.