LOS ANGELES – It's not the best bar in town, but the drinks are cheap and most people are too sad to start serious fights. I was trying to muscle into a booth in the back and found myself blocked by this big pile of hair and fat. I gave it a little shove and it went crazy.
"It's not wise to upset a Wookiee," a drunk snarled.
I got around the furry thing and saw a beat-up guy in my booth. He looked like he might've been real handsome 25 years ago, but tonight he looked like a guy who had a few too many drink specials. He was dressed in a yellowed long-underwear shirt with a ratty black vest and his hair was still getting over a brawl with a lawnmower.
"Sure," I said. "Just looking for a place to sit down and read the paper."
"Sit down if you want," he drawled. "But if you sit, you're buyin' a round."
The guy looked vaguely familiar, distantly heroic.
"Jeebus," I said. "You're Han Solo."
"Maybe I am. What's it to you, kid?"
"Still working with the Wookiee, I see."
"Yeah. What am I 'sposed to do, put him to sleep?"
The barmaid squeezed through with the whiskies and I tried to hand a glass up to Chewbacca. Solo grabbed my wrist and shook his head.
"It's not wise to give a Wookiee too much to drink."
"He's got a problem?"
"Watch your mouth, kid, or you'll find yourself sent home in an ambulance."
Hollywood's a rough town. Even the big stars eventually hit bottom. I glanced up to watch the Lakers highlights but saw a TV news promo instead: the premiere of the new Star Wars movie.
Solo grimaced and took a hit off his drink.
"Don't worry about it," I said. "These new movies, they're no good. Just a bunch of digital stuff and Jedi Knights and Jar Jar ... "
"Jar Jar!" Solo drained his glass and dropped it on the floor. "And that freakin' Yoda mumbo-jumbo midget, and those stupid kids, and those dullard light-saber priests ... "
The Wookiee crowded into the booth and rubbed his eyes.
"It's all right, buddy," Solo said. "We'll get out of here soon. Fastest car in Los Angeles."
I must've looked surprised.
"Sure, sure. Great cars. A shame they've been discontinued." I felt bad as soon as I'd said it.
The band rolled into a swing thing — lots of clarinet with a quasi-Cuban rhythm. The Wookiee tapped his right foot, making the whole table quake. And a bunch of stupid kids starting booing and hooting. The band cut off the tune and the jukebox came on: Limp Bisquick or something. Chewie groaned.
"You seen the new flick, kid?"
"Nah," I said. "It doesn't open in L.A. for a few days."
"You're gonna see it, ain't you?"
"Probably. It's the only Star Wars movie coming out this year. I'd rather see one with you and Chewie, but ..."
Solo stared at his empty glass and finally said, "But what? Who wants to see some old space pirate in 2002? I thought it'd be different, after Sept. 11. Thought Lucas might want a real guy and a real Wookie again. Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a U.S. Marine or a New York firefighter, kid. Not today. But those movie people haven't exactly been bombarding us with offers."
"Yeah, everybody's sorry."
Chewbacca stared up at the TV and saw another Attack of the Clones commercial. He roared at the ceiling.
"Where do you guys live these days?"
"Been stayin' at a place in Studio City. I've stayed in worse joints."
"Working at all?"
"I'm just an old fossil."
This wasn't the kind of thing I wanted to see. Here were two guys who worked for money and maybe broke a few laws, but they worked for the Greater Good when necessary — when civilization was at risk. And now they were just a couple of bums in a bar.
I got up and saw Solo reach for his blaster.
"It's fine," I said. "I'm just going to pay for the round and go home. The Wookiee going to be all right?"
Ken Layne types from a shack behind his Los Angeles home. The author of trashy thrillers such as Dot.Con and the upcoming Space Critters, he has written and edited for a variety of news outfits including Information Week, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, UPI and Mother Jones. Since the Enron-like collapse of his Web paper, Tabloid.net, in 1999, he has been posting commentary to KenLayne.com.