Johnny Rico And El Oso Rojo
There’s a persistent knocking at my door. Actually I would characterize it as more of a pounding than a knocking.
It’s 2:19 a.m. and I don’t have to guess who would be so rude, so impatient as to disrupt and disturb me at this hour. I’m sure of the identity of the intruder AND of the fact that he must be off his meds. I open the door without even asking the person outside to identify himself.
“Oh good Bigotes, you are awake,” says Johnny Rico as he pushes his way into my apartment. “I hope I am not interrupting anything. Listen, I need your help to get revenge on the Jamaicans who ripped me off last month. I know where they are staying.”
I stand there dumbfounded as he makes his way past me and to the refrigerator.
“Ya got any beer?”
“Are you for real, fuckstick?” I ask. “It’s almost 2:30 in the goddamn morning and you want me to head out on some revenge-capade to get back at some Jamaicans for a couple hundred dollars? Are you fucking insane? Of course you are, what a ludicrous question.”
“So what do you say, Bigotes?”
I keep asking myself over and over whatever possessed me to become an active participant in his deranged and demented acts of psychosis, time and time again. To this day, I’ve still never been able to find a good answer.
“Hold on,” I say, my initial reluctance giving way. “Just let me get some clothes on and do a quick bump before we head out.”
“Hey carnal,” he calls after me as I head into my bedroom. “Grab your Glock as well, just in case things get out of control. Ya know, some insurance.”
“Hey JR, I’m really starting not to love this whole scenario,” I call back to him as I step into my pants. “Guns? What exactly are you hoping to accomplish? And I want a rational answer. Not your usual off-the-wall psychobabble bullshit.”
I can see by the look in his eyes that he’s currently riding The Bipolar Express.
“I just want those Caribbean chulos to know who they’re dealing with!” Johnny screams in response. “They can’t come to Colombia, my country and disrespect me. These Rastamen need to be taught a lesson!”
“So now you’re a teacher giving lessons? In what, Johnny’s brand of street justice? Listen, I will accompany you on this mission of restoring your pride, but no killing anyone, or anything twice, do you understand? “
“I don’t want it to come to that either, but if does, I gotta do what I gotta do. Remember those two fucking Dominicanos I took out for you? It’s time for you to pay me back. Now let’s go! They have a house in Barrio Los Lomas.”
Reluctantly, I follow him outside and climb into El Oso Rojo (Red Bear), a truly monstrous automobile. Immediately I am swallowed up by its crimson plush interior.
Johnny had bought this 1974 Buick LeSabre from some corrupt Federal Police at an incredibly discounted rate. It’s blood red with a white convertible top. You’d have a difficult time going unnoticed in this oversized pimpmobile.
He’d had a Dodge Duster prior to this impulsive purchase, which wasn’t nearly as high profile and drew very little attention. Unfortunately, however, the Duster became a victim of one of Johnny’s psychotic episodes after a three-day cocaine binge accompanied by a case of scotch and a variety of prescription drugs he’d pilfered from his last stay in the psychiatric hospital.
He’d resided there for only one week. After that, they’d asked him to leave, having finally had enough of “His Riconess.”
He drove the Duster into a concrete retaining wall near the beach. Then, in some bizarre ritual to an ancient God, he set the car on fire.
After that, the Duster was left beyond restoration and never arose from its ashes. There was just no resurrecting it. He simply left it right there in the middle of the highway and never looked back.
“So carnal, what’s the plan?” I ask along the way. “You must have some idea how you’re going to address this offensive, don’t you? “
“Not really,” he says, “I thought I’d leave that to you. You are always very at good figuring how to attack a problem.”
We arrive at the house where the suspects reside and surprisingly they’re still awake.
We can see them partying inside through some large sliding glass doors. The music is blaring and you can hear them laughing, talking, and see them dancing around.
“What is that music they’re listening to?” I ask. “That’s not ABBA, is it? Is that fucking ABBA? You said these were Rastamen. Big, bad Rastamen who ‘set me up and ripped me off, Bigotes’. That’s what you told me, JR.”
In a rare moment for him, Johnny Rico has nothing to say.
“That’s how you described what happened, Johnny!” I continue. “Where’s their dreadlocks and Bob Marley reggae music, huh mon? No self-respecting Rastafarian would be caught dead listening to ABBA! Ya know what I think, Johnny Rico? I surmise you met these cabrons at that gay disco club in downtown Cartagena and attempted to rip THEM off. That’s exactly what happened, isn’t it? But they got the drop on you instead.”
“Callate cabron!” Johnny finally shoots back. “That’s not what happened at all. Don’t you think of me being gay. I go to the club for the music. It doesn’t matter how it happened. Those pinches stole my money, my coca and my watch. You’re making me angry, Bigotes. You better stop making the fun of me. I thought you were my friend, carnal?”
He’s irritated and truly upset. For all his goofing around, Johnny isn’t one for being the subject of ridicule himself.
“Well, how are we going to lure them outside?” I begin to laugh. “It’s not like they’re going to invite us in for cocktails.”
“Still think this is funny?” he asks. “Well, I’ve got a way to get inside. Hold on, Bigotes!”
Before I am able to ask him how, Johnny backs up El Oso Rojo, revs the engine and, with all tires squealing, we careen toward the glass patio doors at an accelerated velocity.
“Johnny you motherfucking psychopath!” I scream. “You’re going to get us both killed!”
“Invitation”? Johnny screams maniacally, “we don’t need no stinking invitation!”
Within seconds, El Oso Roja smashes through the glass doors and into the Jamaicans’ living room. I watch them all jump up at once and quickly vacate the room.
“Come on, Bigotes!” Johnny yells.
He immediately pulls out his 38 special and starts firing off rounds after the fleeing Jamaicans. In all the years I’ve known my lunatic sidekick, I’d never once seen him shoot that antique revolver.
“Bigotes, cover me!”
Mamma mia, here I go again
My my, how can I resist you
Mamma mia, does it show again
This bizarre soundtrack accompanies us, still playing on the undemolished stereo, only adding to the already surreal scene.
In the meantime, my own gun has found its way into my hands. I squeeze off a few rounds of suppressing fire as Johnny charges ahead.
Next, I take aim at the stereo and kill the fucker.
“I hate that fucking song!” I scream.
Meanwhile, Johnny is screaming insults in Spanish, demanding the Jamaicans show themselves.
In response, they begin throwing out money and a few gold watches through the door to the other room.
Just to make sure they don’t try anything stupid, I decide to blast the large mirror covering almost the entire back wall. Shards come crashing down on top of Johnny as he’s crawling crablike on the floor, snatching up all the loot.
“Cabron que haces pendejo?”
Scrambling to his feet, he swipes a brass lamp off a table for good measure as he comes running back to El Oso Rojo.
We hop inside and I fire off a few more rounds at a painting of women carrying baskets of fruit on their heads.
“Let’s get the fuck outta here, Rico!”
“Wait, there’s something I want…”
“Johnny, what’cha doing? Come on, venga!”
Exiting the vehicle, he runs back over to a picture hanging on the far wall. It’s one of those grotesque velvet paintings of some busty woman, Marilyn Monroe or possibly Madonna or someone else. He shoves it in the back seat carelessly, breaking its wooden frame in the process.
“Johnny Rico has left the building!” he screams, grinding the shifter into reverse.
Back out on the street, I observe the neighbors on their porches and watching through their windows. I smile and wave at the gathering of spectators.
“Those are very bad people,” I shout at the assembled crowd. “They molested my cousin when she was only just ten years old!”
At this blatant falsehood, some folks actually start applauding our dirty deed.
“We didn’t see or hear anything!” an old man yells out. “God bless you!”
Burning rubber on our way back to my apartment, an idea pops into my head.
“Hey Rico,” I say, “why don’t we grab some beers, put the top down, and watch the sunrise from the beach. Sound like a plan?”
“What did I say earlier?” he replies. “You always know how to make things better, carnal. Always suggesting the perfect solution!”
We reach the beach and sit together in silence, not saying a word.
Johnny lights up and passes me a joint, and I take a giant hit for mankind.
“I love you carnal,” Johnny eventually declares. “You are more than family to me.”
“Ya man, I know, I know.”
“Hey,” he says, suddenly remembering, “I haven’t counted all the plata…”
Plunging his hands into his pockets, he slowly fishes out wad after wad of bills, piling them up on the center console between us.
“Hijo de puta!” he cries. “Look Bigotes, we got a lot back!”
After he finishes counting up the booty, he lets out a hoot that I’m sure could be heard in Bogota.
“There’s over $1,700 here!”
“That’s in Colombian money, Johnny. It converts into what, about $23.68 in gringo plata?”
“No carnal, that is in gringo money after the exchange!” he insists. “Here hermano, take some. You’re always with me when I have no other friend! Here tome, I want you to have this!”
I accept his generous offer, later discovering that he gave me over $750.
“Thanks carnal, much appreciated,” I say, raising my beer to his. “A toast to a friendship to last long after forever.”
We clank our cans to the declaration.
“Hey Bigotes, you can have the lamp too,” Johnny says. “It would look good in your home. I think maybe in your bedroom to replace that ugly lamp with all the flowers. And a watch for you and a watch for me, to remember our aventura en El Oso Rojo.”
“Thanks carnal,” I say. “I’m just relieved we made it out alive, ya lunatic son of a bitch.”
“Son of a bitch? Yeah, I never knew my mother. Mi abuela (grandmother) says she was a bitch though, so maybe you are right.”
“Johnny, I’ve met your mother on several occasions and she’s a very pleasant woman who loves you despite your insanity. So stop with the compulsive lying. This is me, Bigotes, remember?”
I take a closer look at the watch he’s given me, a Louis Moinet, an incredibly expensive timepiece. I strap it on my wrist and stare at its second hand, seconds of my life ticking past.
We stayed until the sun had bled every drop of crimson-colored dawn from the morning. Just two displaced souls in search of a destination that neither knew for certain existed.
Little darling it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling it seems like years since it’s been here
Sun, sun, sun here it comes
Oh, in case you were wondering, the grotesque velvet painting..?