“If he doesn’t choke to death right here right now, I’m gonna kill him myself.” This is what my friend Charlie said as Mr. Shrewer choked on a fried brussels sprout. But before I resolve this, I must give some back story.
If you didn’t know Jeremy Shrewer, you should be thankful. Shrewer was the most distinguished poet of his time, and he knew it. He let everybody know it. Walking down the streets of London, he would shout things like “I’m a poet and I know it” or “I’m a poet and my sister is dead.” He often wrote about his dead sister.
Shrewer once said in an interview with Ira Glass that “poems don’t have to rhyme.” What a pretentious poet thing to say. He acted like he was deep and knowledgeable, but he really didn’t know much at all. In an interview with David Letterman, Shrewer stated, “All my poems reveal a secretive truth about the world. They all have an underlying message.” Again, he talks as if he knows what he is talking about, but if you ignore his Nobel Peace Prizes and his Pulitzer Prizes, you’d realize he really is an idiot. He wrote one poem that went like this:
A dog waits for his food.
A man refuses to give him food.
The dog barks. He is mad.
Never be forgetful.
Maya Angelou said this was the most powerful poem she had ever read, but I’m pretty sure she was high when she said that.
Anyway, Shrewer spent his days writing in the mountains. He eventually relocated to Geneva, but I have been told that was only because he wanted to go straight to the source of Evian water.
My friend Charlie and I were meeting up for a quick lunch break. We always had the same lunch break on Wednesdays, so it became our thing. Charlie suggested we meet at Chez Marino because he told me, “Oh, Alfonso. The casual Italian dining room is to die for. Just wait until you see the terrace.” Sometimes Charlie made me wish I had other friends. But I met him still, and I stood outside waiting for him. As I waited, my mind was blown. The great Jeremy Shrewer passed by me and entered the restaurant. I’m pretty sure he mumbled something like “A poem a day keeps the doctor away,” but I can’t say for sure. And the fat liar clearly doesn’t write all day if he takes lunch breaks in casual Italian dining rooms.
Soon after, Charlie showed up. He was too excited about the terrace, he wasn’t even listening to what I was saying, but that all stopped when he saw Shrewer’s calves. “I’d recognize those droopy calves a mile away,” he said. He was a bad friend, but he had excellent vision.
We were seated at a table adjacent to Shrewer. Captivated by the man before us, we had lost our appetite and told the waiter to stop bothering us. We were fixed on the man. The legend. The pathetic poet. We eavesdropped carefully as he ordered a margherita pizza like we knew he would. He’s written hundreds of poems about margherita pizzas. His most famous was a haiku.
I like my pizza
Warm and fuzzy, oh yes
The pizza is mine
This one had nothing to do with the Margherita itself, but it was entitled “Ode to Margherita Pizzas.”
As Shrewer anxiously awaited his pizza, a waiter brought out some fried brussels sprouts. This was some depressing Italian dining. I expect some warm bread and oil, not fried brussels sprouts. But Shrewer ate his sprouts, and he chewed like an animal. He’s a poet, so he’s not the most coordinated person. He missed the sprout a couple times and bit his lip instead. This caused him to let out some winces of pain. As he got to the final sprout, he plopped that ball into his mouth so fast, it went straight down his esophagus. Finally, some action. He seized up and grabbed the edge of the table hard with his right hand. His veins were popping out of his forearm, but I could tell he didn’t go to the gym very often. His rapid breathing through his nose caused an annoying whistle sound, but otherwise he wasn’t able to make much noise. All of a sudden, he stood up. Mouth hanging open, he continued to nose whistle. It was almost to the tune of “Piano Man” except that the pitch was off, and it sounded more like a hippopotamus taking a bath. As he stood there, choking, his eyes were bulging, trying to find something or someone to put an end to his pain. Charlie and I sat there and watched. Shrewer wasn’t looking his best.
Charlie became impatient and told me he was going to put a quick end to this mess, but a waiter burst into the scene. Except the waiter didn’t notice the scene at all. He just adjusted the position of chairs and put some forks on a couple tables. Meanwhile Shrewer was getting purple in the face, like a plumb or a really rotten tomato. He started doing squats, and with the combination of his nose whistle it looked like a bizarre mating call. Drool slowly spilled out of his mouth like honey falls out of a jar. Flying through the air, Shrewer jumped onto the table. This got the clueless waiter’s attention. But instead of running over to do CPR, the waiter ran off to call the police because Shrewer looked like a madman causing a disturbance. The truth is he was a madman causing a disturbance. I wanted to enjoy a nice Italian lunch, not watch a madman choke on a table.
When the door to the kitchen opened again, three policemen stormed in. One was short and stubby, the second was blond like a surfer, and the third looked like Robert Frost. Shrewer had slipped and fallen hard onto the table, his head crushing a glass. He lay there with some blood on his head, still wheezing, trying to rid the brussels sprout. Stubby handcuffed him as Surfer lifted Shrewer off the table to take him away. Robert Frost spat on the ground then followed his coworkers out of the fine Italian dining room.
Shrewer died that day. There were no more poems about Margherita Pizzas, and no more poems about Evian water. And as much as I’m thankful for that day, I wish Charlie was dead too.
©2019 Jake Schick