I had no idea at this point, of course, what had happened. My whole response to the snippet of conversation that had felled Mike like a mighty sequoia after Paul Bunyon got through reading it its rights was “Yuck.” It would never have occurred to me that somebody that big could be knocked for a loop by something that…ordinary. Gross, certainly, but gross in an ordinary, everyday, “Look Ma, there’s wooly bears in the egg cream” sort of way.

I thought he was having a heart attack.

At first I was going to rush over there and apply emergency CPR. Then I came to my senses. I’d have to climb on top of him and jump up and down with both feet to have any effect at all, and if he woke while I was doing it, he’d swat me like a fly.

On the other hand, I couldn’t just let him lay there, could I? Potentially breathing his last honking gasps of air as his life oozed away in the park like melted ice cream from a 2-yr-old’s cone? Could I?

Taking one final gander at his size, the answer came to me relatively quickly: I could, and in a NY minute. My foot was raised and ready for escape when the hot dog vendor, who had rushed from behind his cart to take control, god bless ‘im, called my name. “Mr. B! Gimme a hand here. He fainted.”

It was Diego, the one hot dog vendor I knew in the entire city and a man who had carried me on the cuff when I was in college down the street. If it had been anyone else, I would have told them to call the Mountain Rescue Squad and hot-footed it out of there as if Pentacostalists were after me for a donation.

But this was Diego, the man who had many times seen my wasted, wan, bony visage gazing with the longing of a 14-hr foodless study-session at his gorgeous, ripe, thick, juicy dogs simmering in the warmer, the long fragrant strands of sauerkraut steaming my glasses, my tongue doing a premature “Dance of the Gulden’s” on tiptoe at every taste bud. Diego, the artful reader of souls who had seen desire in my eyes and when I had handed over my last dollar for the bare-bones minimum, a Half Dog’n’Bun, taken pity on me and thrown thick clumps of kraut on top of a whole dog and accompanied it with those magic words burned forever in my memory, “Here, kid. No charge. I’m gonna have to throw the stuff away in an hour anyhow.” No, Diego, of all people, I couldn’t ignore.

So, somehow, we got him on his feet (with the help of a couple of guys from the gym across the street) and a backhoe that happened to be passing by on its way to a house-moving helped us get him over to a bench.

That was the moment when I exercised what I can only think of in retrospect as really bad judgment. I can’t imagine what I could have been thinking.

In an attempt to wake him up, I slapped him. Hard. With Diego’s wooden cutting board.

In my own defense, it seemed pretty clear to me that something the size of a middling large Alp probably wouldn’t feel anything much smaller than a 2×4 with 50 or so lbs of solid lead weights embedded in it. I didn’t really even expect to wake him.

Well, I woke him alright. He shifted like a cat (a very large cat, it’s true) and his arm came around in a headlock that nearly had my ears meeting each other in the middle. Diego managed to convince him to stop by whanging him over the head with a 3-ft frank fork, and not a moment too soon. My skull is not an accordian and it isn’t supposed to act like one, a physiological reality that the mountain either didn’t know or didn’t care about. At least he let go.

“Wha?” he said, dizzily shaking his head which made the same sound a rattlesnake makes when roused abruptly from its nap. It was going to be a moment or two – or five or six – before the mountain was fully with us again, and Diego took the opportunity to fill me in on the situation. It was a little hard to fathom. “Blood?”

“Ssshhh, fer criminy-cripe’s sake! You don’t want him to hear you or it’ll start all over again. We be here all night.”

“A hulking brute like that?”

“Hey. We all got our weaknesses, Pony-boy.”

“And all you have to do is say the word – “

Diego slapped his hand over my mouth. “Please. I’m begging you.”

I shrugged him off. “I wasn’t going to say it.” He took a deep, relieved breath.

Axiom Update: Remember the old saying, “Blood will tell”? Apparently, it will also puke and even faint.

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