from the Club a little later than usual, stopping only to wave my hand in front
of my face a few times, to make sure I was drunk. I drove home slowly, every noise a fearful
hint of sirens in my paranoid ear drums, and stumbled back into bed. Naturally, she was calling. It had been a few weeks since I had seen
Hallie, quiet, acceptable weeks that were filled with polite distrust and
subtle longing for something more than a bologna and cheese sandwich when I got
hungry after 10pm.
So I picked up the phone, and hung it up, knowing she’d call back. I unplugged the line from the jack and stood, starring at the now-neutered telephone, and admired the fact that I could never plug it back in again, an astronaut in space with no line back to the ship. But I was hungry, so I went back out, partially as an excuse to contradict myself, and partially so I could drink more.
On my way down there was a letter. She was separating from her fiancée. I paused to consider a smile but thought better of it. The Spaniard at the desk smiled his mustachioed silliness and I said hello and passed into the courtyard, where I had parked. I started the car hesitantly, and listened to the spark-plugs begrudgingly accept their orders as the engine roared to life and the pistons jumped at my gas pedal’s every bidding. I commanded my mechanical horses go, and off we rode, half in the saddle, and mostly in the bag.
I wasn’t in the mood for the Club twice in one night, so I embarked on a cross-county journey to a watering hole by an old opium den that had since been converted into a karaoke bar. The new participants acted mostly the same as the old, and produced eerily similar sounding moans. I parked and walked across the street to the Leaky Buzzard. In taking off my scarf I bumped into a young fellow who immediately wished to rope me into some sort of bawdy horseplay.
“I’mafuckingkillyou!?” he drunkenly stammered, slouching towards an invisible wall that seemed to hold him up by some act of existential will.
“I’m terribly sorry. How about I buy you drink?” I smiled, and he seemed to relax.
“Hah.” He snorted, and walked off.
“Hrmph,” I half grunted, half-chortled. I walked into the bar and was greeting almost instantaneously by Rodger Chirpling.
“Ah, my dear old friend! How long has it been?” he asked, waving the bartender down with the kind of gusto that would only encourage sloth and disdain.
“A week, I believe, Rodger. I was here last Tuesday, as well.”
“Ah, what sad and lonely days are those without the cheerful company of bright young men, eh? And lasses,” he finished, and laughed like a letch. He had a way of doing that, being 28 and married twice. He was able to slip into some sort of “Old Benevolent Uncle” mode and age rapidly to the point where lechery was harmless, due to impotence or a bad back. Most women found it a turn-off, except for the rich ones, who naturally were reminded of their fathers.
“Indeed. What do you hear of our dear old friends the Strangles?” I asked. I must’ve said it too eagerly though, for he immediately laughed a knowing laugh and winked a knowing wink and belched an informed burp.
“Ah, I see someone eagerly anticipates the return of a certain young disgraced ex-patriot.” He smiled to himself.
“What gave you that impression?” I sipped my Anglo-martini- a gin and gin.
“Well, I just so happened to hear from a Mr. Hardington, that young fellow you nearly pummeled into oblivion on your way in, that you’ve been exchanging letters with the countess.”
“She’s not a countess anymore. She married out of that. God knows why.” I sullenly turned towards the window and listened to him chuckle, playing with my strings, attempting to puppeteer his way into some abstract love-triangle.
“Well, either way, she’s comin’ home soon. And the divorce will be finalized as soon as she cedes over her holdings.” He dropped it calmly, an atom bomb in a mimosa, letting the truth diffuse with all the subtlety of a jackhammer in a chicken coop.
“She’ll be penniless.” It was fact, so I said it, without any concern who might’ve overheard.
“Aye, lad. She will. And it looks like little Ms. Hallie will finally have a bit of your attention. That is, unless you’ve suddenly come into some sort of respectability with your office position. Do they call that a job nowadays? Or is it still running errands for your father?” He excused himself to go pee, and correctly, I shouted something about my father being an immature drunk. Then I ripped out some of pubes and put them in his drink, just to show him.
I tipped the bartender enough for the both of us and walked to the car, where that young Mr. Hardington, drunk as the dickens, was passed out on my car. “What are you doing on my auto?” I demanded to know.
“Waiting. I’m going to challenge you to a fight, and win. And then you’ll have a reason to marry the countess, and I can marry Hallie.” He stood up and shoved me a few times.
“Well that will have to wait until tomorrow,” I explained, and went to start my car. He protested when gravity, long growing tired of his insolence, extracted its revenge and forced him to the ground.
“I’ll find you. Don’t you worry.” He spat out some more noises and explained the rest of his raving theories to the sidewalk in a rather low-class mixture of poorly chosen words and vomit.
“I most certainly will not,” I replied, starting my car and driving back to my apartment. Halfway there I realized the letter was still in my pocket. I pulled over and tossed it into a sewer, if only to punish myself for having read anything she wrote in the first place. She always was a terrible liar, the albatross of vindictiveness. I returned home and plugged in my telephone, where, on cue, Hallie was still dialing, even though it was past midnight. We exchanged pleasantries, and she parried my excuses with challenges and eventually decided she was coming over but she needed a ride. If anything, Hallie was privileged.
I poured myself another Anglitini, and watched the darkness grow still, a solitude creeping over the night sky and a peaceful morning on the horizon. Eventually I took out the letters and looked at them, and wondered if my slumber would ever be as sound as before all of this. A lone seagull answered me, cawing gently, “I’d like to eat your garbage, sir” or something of that ilk. The ominous non-sequitur sobered me, and I fell into sleep’s sweet embrace full of curiosities with no cats left to kill.
By Michael J. Weingarth