The Continuing Adventures of Green Shirleen
When the weather turns warm and the sun hangs high I sometimes get the itch, the one that plagued me throughout my twenties. I breathe deep from the softening air, allow the balmy breeze to fluff my hair, feel the strengthening sun on my face and then my brain shifts into neutral and my feet, working of their own volition, bring me to the nearest bar.
It happened just yesterday.
In my twenties, the first order of business would have been to open a line of credit and then conduct a race to the bottom between my whiskey glass and my beer bottle that could last the entire afternoon. Things change. The whiskey never did soothe my soul, as the song goes, and I try to restrict the beer to the evening hours. These days in the afternoon I drink coffee, and I had the good sense to order one from the bartender.
Halfway into my first cup I heard the creak of the barroom door and saw a shadow cast along the ground. I should have known who it was from the combined smells of disinfectant and hairspray but it was the voice that tipped me off, the sugar-sweet drawl with the tiniest tobacco rasp that could only have belonged to one woman: Green Shirleen.
‘“Now what’re you doin’ drinkin’ coffee in a barroom, darlin’?’”
I turned on my stool and smiled.
You may remember Green Shirleen from an earlier column. She’s the superhero charged with protecting the city of Greensboro and its people using her powers and the good horse sense she says she got from her momma.
Green Shirleen likes me because I invented her, but also because she and I share a penchant for drink that we jointly indulge in when the occasion arises.
‘“Should’ve known I’d find you here,’” she said, pulling a disinfectant wipe from a pouch on her utility belt and cleaning off the barstool next to me before she primly sat upon it. ‘“You’re a sucker for the springtime.’”
As an extension of my own imagination, Shirleen knows me well.
‘“Well hell,’” she said, pulling off her purple opera gloves one finger at a time, ‘“let’s get to it.’” She took off her metallic green breastplate, laid it on the bar with a slight clang and turned to the bartender. ‘“Couple a beers over here, Daisy.’” Daisy slowly turned her attention away from the television set and took her butt off the beer cooler.
‘“Sorry Shirl,’” I said. ‘“I can’t start drinking just yet.’”
She slowly shook her head and her high orange beehive loosened a little.
‘“You used to be one of the fun ones,’” she said, and put both of the beers in front of her (Green Shirleen’s super strength and speed are a product of an extremely heightened metabolic rate, a gift which also enables her to drink more beers than anyone I’ve ever seen, though she also makes more trips to the bathroom).
‘“I’m still fun,’” I said.
‘“I saw you when I flew over the ballpark the other day,’” she said, ‘“traipsing around with your kids, that little wife of yours.’”
‘“Be nice,’” I said. Shirleen’s always been a little jealous of my family. She’s pretty much resigned herself to the fact that she’ll never settle down ‘— It’s hard to date when you’re a superhero (she had a thing once with Batman, but she told me that a guy like that could never really give himself over, and also the commute to Gotham was killing her).
I put a smoke in my mouth and Shirleen lit it with the red-hot lasers she shoots from her eyes.
‘“Thanks,’” I said. ‘“What’d you think of the new park?’”
‘“You know, darlin’,’” she said, and helped herself to one of my smokes, ‘“I think it’s beautiful’… all that red brick and that beautiful infield. But I’ll tell ya’…,’” she exhaled deeply. ‘“It means a lot more work for me.’”
‘“Well you saw all those people.’” She snubbed out her smoke and dropped it into a Velcroed compartment on her utility belt, pulled out another wipe and cleaned the ashtray. ‘“Lots of people means big messes,’” she said. ‘“The way the wind was kicking up on Sunday, we had trash blown all the way across Eugene Street. Took me most of the early evening to get it all under control. And you know they’ve got plans for that neighborhood, which means I’ll have my hands full taking down those buildings and clearing all that debris’….’” She took the second beer in her hand and drained it at a single draught. ‘“But you know,’” she said, ‘“that’s what I do around here: I clean up the messes, make sure the nice folks stay nice and the bad ones get what’s coming to’em.’”
‘“You think the ballpark’s gonna make it?’” I asked ‘— Green Shirleen is also a minor clairvoyant who can catch glimpses of things that have yet to go down.
‘“Oh it’ll be a great summer, Sugar,’” she said, pulling on again her arm-length opera gloves and reaffixing her breastplate. ‘“I’m finding even the people who were against this ballpark now singing its praises. I haven’t seen so much backpedaling since I had to reverse the time stream at the Tour de France to help out that nice Lance Armstrong.’”
She got up from the barstool and headed for the door, where she turned and said, ‘“I’ll catch up with you next time when you’re not being such a wuss. And don’t you worry about that ballpark. Everything’s gonna be just fine.’”
She stepped into the afternoon light, waved over her shoulder and launched herself into the air.
When I turned back around, Daisy was at the bar in front of me.
‘“I suppose you’re gonna pay for Shirleen’s beers?’” she said.
To comment on this column, email Brian Clarey at email@example.com.