For those of you who did not know Brendan, he was “a right cunt.” Now before you abandon this story hear me out. A: Brendan would be first to refer to himself in this way. B: Any story about Brendan must include heaps of vulgar language or it will lack — how shall I put this – any credibility. C: The word “cunt” so peppered his speech that if you extracted it from his vocabulary you could reduce the conversation by half. D: He used profanity better and with more bravura than anyone I ever knew:
There was “you cunt” which usually signaled a fight was about to ensue. (Brendan was one of the more famous pugilists to pass through this town.) Then there was “bloody cunt” which more often than not was an expletive like “Oh, shit.” And then there was “right cunt” which was sort of a compliment. It meant you had balls, you were an asshole, and you were – through a combination of the two, plus a knack for turning a phrase – entertaining. And this was Brendan.
As Brendan would say, ¨Profanity is the refuge of lame intellects and inarticulate motherfuckers.¨ He was also quick to note that James Joyce used the word “cunt” and that, because he, Brendan, had been born in Ireland, where the word is apparently as popular as Guinness, he had every right to sling it about.
Brendan was brilliant. I say was, because he is no longer here. We had to send him away. A one way ticket to Shanghai. It was for his own good. People wanted to kill him, and with good reason. Lot’s of people. But that’s another story.
After 3 years of knowing Brendan I was not entirely sure I knew him at all. He was a vortex where truth and fiction met. Perhaps he was pathological. Perhaps everything he said was true. Perhaps he never let truth get in the way of a good story and embellished his past here and there. Who knows, and for that matter who really cares.
His CV seemed far fetched. But if you live in Antigua long enough you come to know that the bizarre is often factual. As the tale is told, he had been jailed in New Orleans for beating a judge’s son senseless in a bar fight. His experience in the slammer was unkind to his hindquarters. He had revenge on four of his prison mates after he was released. Let’s just say those prison mates are no longer amongst the living. Then Brendan went to Iraq and was in the first Gulf War as a sharp shooter, or in intelligence, or ballistics. After that he went to Tulane and got a masters degree in Rhetoric. Then he was a wine distributor in Napa. The perfect resume for coming to Antigua, as far as I was concerned.
While here, for every friend he made, he made twenty enemies. Others might argue that I have that wrong by a factor of ten. You had to be a certain kind of masochist to like Brendan; and for some reason we loved him. His way of meeting you for the first time was to publicly insult you, to push you to a breaking point, to make you cry or fight or doubt all that was good in the world. He was like a junkyard dog that pissed everywhere to mark his territory; and if you befriended him, you felt compelled to pet him, feed him, slake his thirst – always wary that he might some day bite off your arm.
By way of illustration let me mention the night when one of Antigua’s more infamous dandies entered Café No Sé with his pet Chihuahua nestled in his arm. The Chihuahua had a collar studded with gleaming faux gems. A woman was heard to say, “Oh, what a precious dog.” Brendan abruptly pitched around on his barstool and growled, “That’s not a dog. That’s a rat with a good publicist.”
“You’re horrible,” the woman said.
“And also a drunk,” Brendan fired back. “But you are an ugly twat. And tomorrow I’ll wake up and be even more horrible, but sober for at least an hour or so, and you, YOU CUNT, will still be an ugly twat.” His spontaneous plagiarism and reworking of Winston Churchill’s famous line to Lady Astor was typical of Brendan’s wit, and one of the reasons we would endure him when he had gone way too far.
There was another time, in the very early days of the cafe, when a new bartender leaned across the bar and said to Brendan, “If you don’t stop insulting customers I’m going to throw you out.” Brendan was about to let loose on her when I put up my hand and said, “Brendan if you stop insulting customers, I’m going to throw you out.” So much for my business acumen; I figured if you didn’t get Brendan, and couldn’t handle him, then you did not belong.
As for his drinking, it was, and I’m sure still is, prodigious. And like heavy drinkers he often repeated himself. One such mantra was, “I’m not an alcoholic; I’m a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings. I go to bars.” Another was, “It’s one beer that gets me drunk. I’m just not sure if it’s the 16th or the 17th.”
Brendan did nothing by halves. (You should see the legendary tab he left behind.) If his goal was to shock you, or piss you off, he did it well. If things were getting a little dull Brendan would put a cigarette out on his own neck in mid-sentence and without batting an eye. You’d hear the sizzle and smell the burned flesh. Or he’d stab himself in the shoulder with a fork until he bled through his shirt. New customers would scream, or get up and leave. But the regulars would barely take notice.
If he was doing a shot of tequila, he’d first snort the salt – and we use coarse sea salt in the bar- then toss back the shot, and then squirt the lime in his eye. Then he’d ask someone to smack him on the back of the head, for what reason I was never quite sure. I think it may have been his way of trying to identify other right cunts in the vicinity, like looking for brethren who knew the fraternal hand shake.
One late night I was doing my best to keep my customers quite. I wanted them to speak to each other in a whisper. We were sort of operating the joint as a speak-easy at that time. Trying to quiet the place was like herding cats, a no win proposition. Brendan, unasked, decided to come to my aid. He walked over to a burly Australian who had recently arrived to town and said, “Shut your fucking mouth, you kangaroo humping cunt.” The Aussie responded, “Fuck off, mate. Can’t you see I’m chattin’ up a Sheila?” Brendan raised his fist. I jumped in between and somehow both sides cooled down.
The following night Brendan was perched on his regular bar stool. It was late and the Aussie was sitting at a corner table drinking a Victoria. Brendan had already put a cigarette out on his own arm and had offended half the customers. I was counting quetzales and wondering how on earth I was going to stay in business. Brendan asked for a shot of tequila. I poured it for him and he cut a Scar Face size line of sea salt on the bar top. Here we go, I thought. Brendan snorted the line, drank the shot and squirted the lime in his eye.
“Smack me in the back of the head,” he shouted at me.
I clapped him on his skull.
“That’s not a smack, give me a proper smack.”
I hit him a bit harder.
“That’s not a smack. Give me a proper smack.”
Then I heard the Aussie’s voice. “I’ll smack you, mate.” He got up, strode over to Brendan, and let fly a freckled and meaty hand. There was loud thump and Brendan was sent sailing from his stool to the floor. The Aussie stood there with his hands on his hips laughing. The bar had the hush I was trying to achieve the night before. Jaws dropped. People eating stopped chewing. I reached for the baseball bat I kept under the bar. Brendan pulled himself from the floor and slowly shook it off. He was like a boxer who had been downed for a five count. There was an evil glint in his eye. He spit. Then a smile spread across his face.
“Now, that was a proper, smack,” he said. “You’re a right cunt.”
“You’re right about that, mate,” the Aussie said.
Brendan stuck out his hand. They shook, and for the rest of the night they bought each other beers.
Ok, enough about Brendan. In his honor I hope some of you were offended. That’s all, no more . . . I’m off to wash my filthy mouth out with some mezcal . . .
By some of us, Brendan, you are missed. I won’t say come back. Because I am sure it is still not safe. You might die of acute lead poisoning, as you would have put it. Bang, bang. But you are missed, at least by the “right” some of us.
The Following is an addendum by a Café No Sé customer:
Parsing Cunt, One Woman’s Opinion
By Louise Yanetta
As a Scottish woman, I do not find the word cunt offensive. This disturbs many of my female friends from America. Below is my defense:
First, it rolls off the tongue in Glaswegian English. The word is properly pronounced k.u.n.d.t. with a venomous emphasis on the K and the T. Try it yourself. Say it under your breath. Shout it above the din of the bar. Yell it in the street and feel your shoulders drop a few inches. Anything so God damned liberating can’t be wrong. It just can’t.
Second, it is an abstract term with its original vaginal meaning lost somewhere in the drizzly streets of Clydebank. It is now a word without inherent meaning, and can only truly be offensive in context. If this weren’t the case, calling someone “fanny” (Americans take note of this words correct usage) would be just as offensive as cunt. This abstraction is no better illustrated by an equally popular word in our tartan streets – “fannyballs” (pronounced fannybaws). The marriage of both male and female genitalia into one weird term should rightly be offensive to all. Yet, like cunt, Fannyballs can be as much a term of endearment as sweetheart, amigo or you silly old fool.
That said, and to contradict myself completely, I hate… no… I detest the word “dick.” I know dick has been stretched and reshaped into an even more abstract notion than cunt, but I loathe the word. It leaves a bitter taste. I prefer prick.
The wonderful word that is “cunt” is unique, and I will continue to say it loud and proud… just not in front of my dad.
In a recent survey these 3 words were found to be the most offensive in the English language: