I’m beginning to interview a former whale hunter know as the Scrimshaw Kid, presently residing in North Carolina, recently released from a prison in Jamaica. After an afternoon, my right hand was rendered useless and my jaw was completely dropped.
I met Samuel Bingo Burdett this afternoon. We received a call earlier this week from a man who said he had information about whaling, and monkeywhales in particular, if we cared. At first we thought it was my connection from the Whale Center of New England, who is taking me on a whale watch expedition this spring. I called him, nope, not him. Then yesterday, fortune smiled upon us here at Monkeywhale studios. The mystery caller called back and actually left a number.
With the rest of the staff hard at work here, the meeting and interview of Mr. Burdett was left to me. He told someone over the phone that he was referred to us by a friend of his, the same friend who drove him from Todd, NC (a small mountain town off the Blue Ridge Parkway), to our little city. We decided to meet at a pub downtown as Burnett would only talk about “whalin’ and such” with a couple pints in him so he can find his “sea legs again”.
I loaded up my notebook, micro-cassette recorder, small digital camera, and my new weapon of destruction- this elephant of a laptop, got on my bicycle and took off.
I was there about twenty minutes early, but to my chagrin, so was he. I knew it was him right away.
“Mr. Burdett?”, I asked as I set my bag on the bar. I reached out a hand, which he enveloped and smushed in his. He was sizing me up and I knew it. I also knew I had just failed the hand shake test. I nodded at him, trying to prevent the pain in my hand from showing on my face, and failing at that as well.
“Call me Bingo, or Scrimshaw if you’re savvy.” He said something like that, but it sounded more like: “come go scrimsh savvy.” I wondered how they understood him on the telephone. I was drunk on his breath alone. I introduced myself, flashed my Monkeywhale News press pass, and sat down at the bar next to him as the bartender approached. He asked Burdett if he wanted another pint, which Burdett certainly did, and I was wondering to myself how many pints he already had when he coughed out something like, “and one for my mate”, motioning to me.
“No, thank you, I’ll just have a coffee.” As I said the words, I felt myself shrinking on the bar stool.
“All out. I COULD make some if you really want…” The bartender wanted me to just get a damn beer. I glanced over at Burdett. He practically growled at me with one eye. He wanted me to just get a damn beer.
I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in two months and nine days. I have wanted to drink at certain times (after a show, after going to the movies, while smoking a cigarette, after breakfast, you know), but nothing compared to how bad I wanted a drink at this moment. Sitting there with Samuel Bingo Burdett (or scrimshaw if you’re savvy), his glare burning a whole in the side of my face, the bartender giving me that hurry the hell up my phone is vibrating in my pocket and I just know it’s a text message from this really hot dame look. I peeked at the beer taps. My one good hand was shaking so I sat on it. I wanted to just get a damn beer.
“Yeah, if you don’t mind, I’ll be here for a little while. Yeah, just a coffee.” I lit a cigarette as I said it, really trying to sound confident. I pulled my notebook and micro-cassette recorder out of my bag. Burdett was looking at me like I was an awful leprechaun or some creature that just slapped his mama or something. Surely not a man. “So, Mr- I mean, Bingo, what can you tell me about whaling boats? Have you ever seen a monkeywhale?” I asked, as the bartender returned his pint glass full of dark beer. He held a hand up to me, index finger outstreched in the please wait position. He wrapped his fingers around the pint glass and drank half the glass in one gulp.
“Tell you about whalin’ and such while we walk around the town.” He mashed the words in his mouth before spitting them in my direction. I may have winced.
“Okay, the bartender will be pissed that he made coffee for nothing, but let’s walk.” I’m agreeable. Maybe a walk would be fun. I could show him around. I put my notebook and cassette recorder back in my bag and stood up to leave. He held his finger up again. Wait.
“Pints first. Walk, talk in a bit.” He grinned at me, devilishly. I sat back down as my coffee arrived. I peeked at Burdett as he sipped his pint, emptying it. Two hours later I was still sitting.
To be continued…