There was a group of us who used to drink at this Croatian bowling club, universally referred to as ‘The Cro’. It wasn’t that we were particular interested in the culture, or the sport of bowling (I don’t remember seeing anyone use the green for anything other than drunken cartwheels). It was more that the drinks were cheap and the staff were friendly. The staff, in this case, usually consisted of a man named Pavo, who would give you a free drink if he liked you. If he didn’t like you he would cut you off and then brutally murder you ("probably"), but for a poor student, it was worth the risk for a free drink or two. Luckily, Pavo liked me. Apart from the awkward indie kids, there was a crowd of mismatched regulars who used to drink there, the most interesting of which was probably a man they called ‘The Scarecrow’. But, as I was told very strictly the first night I was there, you must never call him that to his face, not under any circumstance. The first night I met the Scarecrow, he began the night by drinking alone at his table and hurling abuse at us. Being outcasts with a sense of humour big enough to cancel out our sense of caution, we invited him over to our table.
He was covered in wrinkled tattoos of naked mermaids. Every second word from his mouth was ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’. He interrupted every other sentence from our mouths to recite his own spoken word songs.
When we distracted him from the subject of his musical prowess, he started talking about his businesses. According to him, he had run a number of successful strip clubs. According to everyone else, these were actually brothels, the success of which can’t really be accounted for. He went on to say he was opening up a new one in our town. It was then that he looked over at me and said “Hey, you look like you’ve got pretty big boobs. Do you want a job?”
I told him, going on the basis that it was, in fact, a strip joint he was talking about, that I was not what you’d call a very good dancer. He responded with a laugh, telling me that no-one would be paying any attention to my dancing. My friends decided to vocalise their support by agreeing that I did have quite excellent breasts, and recounting stories of the various times they had seen them, and how good that was. I’m not sure if it was their intention, but this managed to ensure that the conversation was well and truly changed from my potential career in the lucrative stripping industry (with perhaps, the possibility of a best-selling novel recounting my experiences. I could call it ‘The Stripping News’.)
I left town not long after that, so I don’t think I ever saw the Scarecrow again. I can only imagine that he is still sitting at his own table at The Cro, alternating between hurling abuse and asking strange women if they would like to be paid to take off their clothes.