FOR A QUICK FRIEND NOW STILL it was a dirty trick you played, old friend, folding your tent so quietly and slipping away into the sunset midway through the dance, leaving us with the fiddler's bill. we could not believe that death had dimmed those smiling eyes or stilled that keen quick in one brief moment-- it left us feeling lean as hemingway's prose, empty a yesterday's gum wrapper. we sat for days afterward, staring into our beers, teary-eyed, press m'man, lisa, neecie, larry the postman, andrea, mickey, tom, glancing at the door out of habit, expecting you to lope in with a grin wide as texas sky, comb in hand, a laughing story on your lips. i remembered you and i driving the canal banks on saturdays, always a washtub of icy beer and a quart of Stoly, how you plunged your thermometer into brown bales and read their value by smell. i remembered how i clung to the top of your loading boom, drunk in the desert night, the bales swinging back and forth in the dizzy space beneath me, the little four-cylinder engine roaring. i remembered the first time I saw you in the country boy i thought you might be glen ford's twin brother, i wouldn't have been at all surprised. i remembered how we watched football at the girls' place and how you yearned to screw denise, and how it was i who wound up between those fine little thighs in the middle of the living room floor--her lesbian sis and her lover watching from a doorway nearby, how sis finally came in after we finished and flashed one of her big tits at me with a grin. i'm two years old now than you were the day you turned over in the el centro hospital bed and died in 1982. you would be 69 years old now. save a place at the bar and put one in the well for me, buddy, i'm on my way. it's just taking a little longer than i ever believed possible, but then i was never known for good judgment anyway.