hangin’ with ghandi

At about halfway to the beach we come to a little town, there is a bar…I am thirsty…I say Gandhi, let’s get a cold one. This despite the numerous Harley Davidson motorcycles parked in front. Gandhi walks inside. The darkness of the interior is impressive and total. As my eyes adjust I perceive what appears to be several large bearded men appraising Gandhi. He strides to the pool table and lays down a quarter…”


by troy dockins



My bud, Gandhi, (Yes, the Gandhi!) and I were hanging out at the liquor store trying to get someone to buy us a sixer. Some guy gets all worked up about how he’s not risking getting busted for contributing to the delinquency of minors and starts lecturing us. Gandhi’s like at least 60 so this makes little or no sense, but he doesn’t have a valid ID so we’re SOL. I tell the guy “Go to Hell!” and get in his face. I may be only 17 but I’m 6’ & 2 bucks so I’m not taking his bullshit. But Gandhi, he’s so calm, he’s got this beatific smile on his face, the guy’s all yelling at him, but I don’t even think the Mahatma hears him. He’s just absorbing the guy’s bad energy, sucking it in and letting it flow out of him like a conduit for bad juju or something. It’s trippy! Anyway the guy finally realizes he can’t reach the Gandhi and storms into the liquor store. I say, “Man, that guy was an ass!” but Gandhi says, “He is a man like any other man” still with that little smile on his lips. I say, “Gandhi, you being sarcastic?” but he just keeps smiling. The guy comes out of the store and just hands Gandhi a fifth of Southern Comfort! Gandhi nods.

We go to the park and sit by a Dumpster. It’s really hot out and the Dumpster stinks pretty bad. I say “Dude, this Dumpster totally reeks!” but Gandhi just cracks the cap on the SoCo and says “What will be, will be”. “Que sera, sera”, I think. Gandhi wants to play caps, which I suck at. He sinks like 8 in a row and I go like 3 for 8 and the bottle’s gone. Gandhi says, “I will drink no more today nor any other day”. He’s always saying shit like that and I say “Right!” real sarcastic like. Gandhi burps and farts loudly. I smell whiskey and sulfur and puke beside the Dumpster. Gandhi says, “Let us walk”.

I wipe the vomit from my chin and hustle to catch up to Gandhi. I say, “Where are we goin’…the arcade?” He says, “No, we will walk to the edge of the sea, for it is time”. I stop short, he keeps walking, I yell at his back “Gandhi that’s forty fucking miles!” He keeps walking; I run to catch up, He says, “Profanity is for he who cannot express his feelings”. “Fuck You, Gandhi! Can’t we just take the car?” He keeps walking and I follow. About seven miles into the walk a bunch of rednecks drive by in a pickup and throw a beer can. It hits Gandhi right in the head. I say ” Gandhi, are you alright?…Those rednecks, I’d like to kick their asses!” Mohandas says, “An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind”. Then he just keeps walking as a little stream of blood trickles down his temple. “Hey Gandhi? Did you go bald when you were a freshman?” I ask. But Gandhi just keeps walking.

At about halfway to the beach we come to a little town, there is a bar…I am thirsty…I say “Gandhi, let’s get a cold one”. This despite the numerous Harley Davidson motorcycles parked in front. Gandhi walks inside. The darkness of the interior is impressive and total. As my eyes adjust I perceive what appears to be several large bearded men appraising Gandhi. He strides to the pool table and lays down a quarter. He sits and waits for the next game. I approach the bar. The bartender seems strangely familiar…”PBR” I mutter, looking around for the inevitable swung pool cue. The clank of the can on the bar jars me, as does the nasal intonation of the barkeep…I squint. “Nehru?” I ask. Sudden recognition comes across the Indian’s face. “Sahib! Long time, not see, my man!” he says, butchering the saying completely. “What are you doing here Nehru?” I query. “Politics” he says, shaking his head and frowning. I nod knowingly but understand nothing. “Where is the Mahatma?” he asks. “At the tables” I respond, looking over worriedly. “Very bad, very, very bad!” Nehru whispers.

Gandhi has seated himself in the corner and has begun to spin thread on a spool despite the taunting of the bikers. He spins and spins, oblivious to their promises of a serious and profound ass kicking. A biker with what appears to be dried egg upon his cheeks says “Game! Who’s up?” Gandhi rises and stows the spindle in his robes. Gandhi is struck without warning by a pool cue in the back of the head and pitches forward. He rises again and turns to face the attacker. He is struck again in the back of the legs. He crumples to his knees. Gandhi pauses and tries to rise yet again. The cue whickers through the air and catches Gandhi in the small of the back. He collapses and crawls to the corner where he produces his spindle and begins to spin once again. The bikers return to their game amid exclamations of self-congratulations and glances in my direction. I turn away. “Gandhi, never very good at pool” says Nehru shaking his head.

I get a shot of Jack from Nehru and take it to Gandhi who looks remarkably calm despite his recent beating. “I know you said you quit, but…?” I say, holding up the shot with a questioning look on my face. Gandhi looks up at me, smiles and says, “Among the Abipone people of Paraguay, individuals who abstain from alcohol are thought to be cowardly, degenerate and stupid.” He takes the shot from me and pounds it down in one swallow. I crouch down, “Nehru’s here, he’s the bartender” I tell him. “I know…” sighs Gandhi, showing the first signs of weakness, “…Politics”. He rises and we negotiate the bikers miraculously unscathed aside from globules of mucus spat onto us. The bikers laugh at our misfortune. I am humiliated, Gandhi is unaffected. Gandhi embraces Nehru, who is obviously uncomfortable with the snot covered Mahatma, and kisses his friend on the lips. A biker pukes in the corner upon witnessing this display of affection and pool cues cut through the air in a menacing display of macho posturing. Yet the bikers keep their distance. Nehru wipes transferred spittle from his chin and says “Cigarette?” and profers a pack of smokes to Gandhi. The Mahatma draws one from the pack, puts it in his mouth and lights up. We stare at him transfixed, drawn to the 3 inch hanging lougie that is suspended from his too-large left ear.

As Nehru and Gandhi catch up on old times I watch their backs. The bikers keep their distance. A tap on my shoulder…I turn to face the Mahatma. “Time to go” he says. Nehru sees us safely to the door amid a barrage of insulting profanity from the bikers. The evening air is chill and Gandhi pulls his robes tightly about him. I have on flip-flops, shorts and a tank top that reads “I’m with stoopid!”. I shiver in the cold. “Take my jacket,” says Nehru, removing a vest-like collarless garment with colorful embroidery. I don Nehru’s jacket and thank him; he bows and tents his fingers. Suddenly, it becomes too much…anger wells up and I kick over a motorcycle. It creates a chain reaction and 15 bikes hit the pavement in a great crescendo. Nehru runs. I stare transfixed as the bikers pile out from the bar. “What the fuck?!?” one of them shouts, “Who did this?” Not having reached total enlightenment, I point at Gandhi and step back. The already bruised Mahatma is knocked to the ground and kicked and pummeled mercilessly. After an interminable beating the bikers pick up their bikes, urinate on Gandhi and roar off on their Hogs. The urine-soaked Mahatma rises slowly, shakes like a dog and says, “You have much to learn, my friend. Let’s go”. “Sorry ‘bout that, Gandhi” I say. He looks at me through urine-tinted spectacles and intones, “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it”. Nehru is nowhere to be found. We continue our trek.

Night falls and Gandhi lies down beside the road. I look at him. “You’re just gonna sleep right there, Gandhi?” I ask, “Let’s find somewhere warm to crash”. Gandhi says, “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any”. I ask, “What the hell does that mean Gandhi?…Gandhi?” But he does not answer. I look around but it is so dark that there is nothing to see. I huddle next to the sleeping Mahatma to await the morning. Gandhi snores most intolerably and I cannot sleep. I elbow him relentlessly but he neither stirs nor rolls over. The ground is hard and rocky and rest is out of the question. The glow of sunrise becomes apparent; Gandhi rolls onto his side and stops snoring. I start to nod off and have the usual nightmare…Gandhi having sex with my mother. I jerk awake in a cold sweat. Gandhi is looking at me; he nods and continues down the road. I follow.

We come upon a river. Gandhi and I are covered with stiff dried spittle. I squat beside the raging torrent and carefully rinse. Gandhi begins to wade in. I say, “Whoa, Gandhi…that water’s pretty fast. You better be care…” …but suddenly the Mahatma is swept from his feet and carried into the rapids. He appears remarkably at peace and bobs in apparent nonchalance. I run along the river. Gandhi bounces off jagged boulders, submerges and reappears repeatedly. About a half mile downstream he becomes stuck amidst a logjam, he makes no effort to free himself from the ice-melt-swollen torrent. I reach down and lift the Mahatma from the water, he is remarkably light. I drag him across a field of splintered logs to the safety of the banks. He is entirely spit-free and none the worse for his ordeal by cold water. He rises and continues towards the sea. “Dumb-ass” I think to myself and follow.

Upon reaching the coastal cities my left flip-flop breaks and I am forced to hop on one foot due to the intense heat of the black top. I eye Gandhi’s native sandals covetously. The boulevard is lined with strip clubs and prostitutes who proposition us endlessly. Gandhi becomes engaged in conversation with one uncommonly tall hooker. I wait impatiently for him on one foot. “Gandhi! Let’s go! I urge. He does not turn but waves me off with a hand behind his back. I continue to wait flamingo like in this porn oasis. He finally turns and approaches me, he is smiling, he says “I will take this woman to wife”. I look at him in disbelief, look at the woman, and back at the Mahatma. “Um, Gandhi? I don’t know how to tell you this but she’s a man!” I say. Gandhi’s smile vanishes. He walks away quickly from the he-she pro. A little known fact about the Mahatma is that he’s a total homophobe (although I am not entirely sure that adequately applies to this situation). I wave to the disappointed whore and catch up to Gandhi. “Gandhi, I don’t know how to say this but you’re sporting quite a tentpole there, pal!” I tease the Mahatma. He frowns and walks on.

Walking through an industrial area of the city we pass a McDonalds. I say “Yo, Gandhi…Hold up! You want a burger?” He stops, wheels about, and tears into me “I do not think that the grinding of animals into patties is a suitable food source, my unenlightened friend!” I knew he would freak out, since he always does when I eat meat. I shrug and jet inside to get a Big Mac. I come out and take a huge bite out of my burger; Gandhi grimaces and continues down the road. A few miles later we pass a stockyard full of pigs. Tears come to the Mahatma’s eyes as he empathizes with the stinking swine. Suddenly his robes swirl with determination as he strides forward. “Uh…Gandhi?…I don’t think your allowed to go in there!” I say with uncertainty, looking around for large butchers that are sure to be nearby. The Mahatma ignores me and approaches a gate, the pigs squeal relentlessly and mill about. He grasps the latch of the gate and starts to work it back and forth. The pigs grunt and move as one. “Gandhi! I really don’t think you should…” my warning is drowned out by the deafening stampede of pigs. I climb a nearby lightpost and hang on. The Mahatma is swept up in the flood of pork and borne atop them like a conquering hero, no sign of worry etches his visage. Suddenly though the Mahatma falters and slips. He disappears beneath the stomping cloven-footed beasts and is trampled badly by several tons of hog. When the dust clears I help the clearly shaken Gandhi rise from the manure and he shakily stands. “Those pigs are vicious, G!, I say. “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within” he says and moves on.

An hour later we finally reach the sea. As we walk along the coast we come upon two seals on the beach. “These creatures require our help to return to the sea,” says Gandhi. “No way! I’m not touching them,” I say. The Mahatma gives me a disapproving glance and approaches the pinnipeds. “Gandhi, don’t do that!” I warn. Mohandas straightens up, clearly frustrated by my interuption and says, “We must become the change we want to see”. He turns back to the seals. At his touch the first seal spins quickly and bites the Mahatma badly on the hand…he is undeterred and continues in his efforts. He suffers many, many bites from the two angry seals…some quite serious before the seals grudgingly and reluctantly enter the water. His beaming smile of success is quickly replaced by one of horror as the two seals are attacked and ripped apart by a pod of Killer Whales just off the shoreline.

Gandhi’s eyes brim with tears as he removes the tatters of his robes and stands by the waters edges in a diaper-like contraption that makes me snicker uncontrollably. I stop laughing and say “Hey Gandhi? You’re not gonna go in the water are you?” The dorsal fins of the Orcas slice menacingly through the blood-slicked froth. Gandhi prays as he mumbles something about his childhood, the he-she whore he was to wed, and a reference to the banks of the Ganges and begins to wade into the water. “Gandhi, you don’t even know how to swim!” I yell at him. The Mahatma is impassive even as the whales are driven into a leaping frenzy as the Indian sages blood pours into the water from his many seal-inflicted lacerations. He says to me “My friend, the entire purpose of some people’s lives is to serve as a warning to others” and continues out into the water. Gandhi submerges briefly and is then borne out of the water one last time as the hungry whales devour him. Sudden understanding sweeps over me. I head for the nearest bar to seek nirvana.


Originally published:
Issue Four
December 2000

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