The Watering Hole

by Ares Demertzis (July 2008)

t was a small, very expensive, and lavishly appointed bar on the corner of 49th and Madison, the heartbeat of the mendacious and provocative advertising business in New York City.  It was referred to as the “Watering Hole” by the “yuppies,” those young, college educated, urban professionals employed in the surrounding skyscrapers who frequented the cosmopolitan establishment.  Watering Hole was a more than adequate description of this alcohol dispensing enterprise; a vague yet accurate allusion to those hazardous pools of water where undomesticated animals quench their thirst.  A place to exchange information, both real and invented, participate in company intrigues, consent to clandestine liaisons, and whisper confessions in uncomfortable embarrassment concealed somewhere deep within a shadowy corner. 

The monochromatically uniformed men had loosened their ties, or discarded them altogether.  The young women had changed their footwear into comfortable tennis shoes that awkwardly contradicted their formal business attire; the act proclaiming an alleged independence from accepted societal convention.  The air was dense with the aroma of alcohol and perfume, each in its own olfactory fashion persistent in attracting the attention of the small herds of men packed into tight knit, garrulous groups. 

No one smoked cigarettes; the quiet erosion of that singular pleasure had taken years to accomplish. In underestimated, cautious increments, a complete prohibition eventually was consecrated into law.  Those still interested in enjoying a cigarette were banished to the sidewalk, until more legislation would make this space also unavailable to what was considered by some as objectionable behavior. 

Sitting on stools at the end of the long, polished wood bar were two men.  On the wall above them, one of several strategically positioned screens displayed in vivid color the currently popular competitive spectator sport.  Thousands of people in the crowded stadium screamed in approval or protest at the spectacle being played out before them; all eager participants in the bread and circus of their era.

“I read in the news about a bird that flew into a man and killed him.  Dead.  Instantly,” Leonard, a muscular man with shaggy flaxen hair, informed his companion.  The face of the swarthy, prematurely balding man sitting on the stool beside him took on an unconvinced look.  “It was a very large bird,” was added ineffectually, by way of explanation. 

Leonard swallowed again from his glass.  “You don’t want to believe me, but it’s true!  The people were so outraged, they grabbed that bird and killed it.  Killed it.  Now this prosecutor, Fitzgerald, or Fitzsimmons, or something like that, is accusing them of violence against an endangered species.  He’s asking the court for ten years to life for each person involved!  I think he wants to get some media attention; run for governor or senator, or some such.  Like that prosecutor, Mike Nifong from North Carolina, the guy who attempted to send some innocent white college students to jail for diddling a black table dancer in order to further his career.”

Receiving no response, Leonard took refuge in yet another noisy slurp from his drink and continued.  “You know, this endangered species stuff is a lot of bunk.  Throughout evolution species have come and gone.  It’s now considered politically correct to be concerned about species that are being lost, or mutating, but that always happened, ever since the world began.  Think dinosaurs.  No one mentions the thousands of new flora and fauna being created by nature every year.” 

“This country is nuts!  Those people in Congress make dumb assed laws, and the judges that interpret them are assholes.  The price of gasoline has skyrocketed, we can’t afford to heat or cool our homes, and now this articulate Kool Aid peddler, Barack Obama, says its o.k.  After all, it’s only fair.  We shouldn’t be comfortable when there are other people in the world who can’t share our prosperity, our lifestyle.  He wants to increase our taxes and send the money to the U.N., so it can de distributed to the world’s underprivileged;  whatever’s left that is, after filling all those pockets as it filters on down.  He says he knows raising taxes is bad for our economy, but he has to do it.  Why does he have to do it?  Why does he want to do it?  Because, he says, “it’s the fair thing to do.”  He’s talking that same old, same old, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” Karl Marx´ slogan for everybody, except the governing elite, of course.  The Commies, Socialists, Collectivists have all been there.  They’ve done that.  And it never worked.  But the concept just doesn’t want to go away; it’s alive and thriving.”

“Remember Jimmy?  This guy’s another Jimmy!  Remember the speech where he told us that American’s have to accept we are no longer a world power?  That was before Reagan came along and kicked ass!  Carter dumped the Shah of Iran because he was a dictator and set Khomeini in his place.  Smart move.  He put the Sandinista Commies in Nicaragua, and gave away the Panama Canal.  He also had a One World Government vision; what we got in return for that misguided agenda was outrageous.  Do we want another President who has his head up his ass?”

Leonard looked over at his silent companion, “We barely survived four years of Carter, can we afford four years of Obama?”

The overweight, paunchy man picked indifferently at his nose.

“Not into talking politics today, eh?  Matter of fact, not into talking anything.”  Leonard reached to the bar for his drink.

“I love my wife,” the man suddenly blurted quietly.

Abruptly, Leonard turned back to look at his companion.

“I love my wife,” the man repeated.

“Ah, yeah.  That’s good.”

“No.  I really mean it.  I love my wife, Leo.”

“O.K.  You said it; got it off your chest.  You love your wife.  Have another drink.”

Leonard pushed a glass into the man’s fingers and guided the unsteady hand up to his companion’s mouth.  Numb lips slavered the liquid down his chin, staining his shirt.

“I love my wife.  But I’m in love with my secretary.”

“Don’t say that.  Don’t even think it.”

“I’m doing her.”

“Oh, no!  Shit, you’re not doing her.  Tell me you’re not doing her!”

“I’m doing her.”

“You’re screwed!”

“I know.  I know.  I’ve spent my entire life working.  For my family.  The house.  The club.  The kids.  Private school…”

“I’m talking about sexual harassment, man!  Sexual harassment!  You’re not doing her, she’s doing you.  When she sues the company, and she sues you, and she will, its goodbye job, goodbye house, goodbye wife and kids.  Also goodbye her!  Are you understanding what I’m saying?”

The man’s corpulent torso sagged; he sat slouched motionless on his stool.  Silent. 

Finally he mumbled shamefully, “I write her poems.”

“Oh, no!”

“Yes.  I write poems to her.  Like a lovesick schoolboy.  But I haven’t had the courage to give her any.”

“Good.  Don’t do it.  And stop writing!”

Leonard signaled nervously to the bartender for two more drinks.

“Listen, man, let me tell you what sexual harassment isn’t, in case you didn’t know.  It’s stuff you can’t bring up in court to explain yourself; to save your miserable hide.  Even Slick Willy couldn’t use as an excuse Monica’s mooning him before she dropped to her knees.”

“Maybe no one believed him because he said he never inhaled the joint.”

“Maybe.  Safire said Hillary was a congenital liar; Bill was probably one also.  Whatever, no one really cares anymore.  As for you, the law won’t excuse what it considers your depraved and sordid behavior just because your secretary frequently bent over to the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet wearing a short skirt and a skimpy thong, or flashing you crossing and uncrossing her legs taking dictation, or brushing her tits against you accidentally on purpose.”

“She has little tits.  Makes my wife look like a cow.”

“Doesn’t matter.  Big tits, little tits; the law doesn’t consider her pushing them into you sexual harassment.  It isn’t sexual harassment even if she sits with her legs spread so wide you can look up her crotch and see her tonsils!  But it is sexual harassment to write her a poem, give her gifts, maybe even compliment her.  You know what I’m saying?”

A long, drawn out, tired sigh passed through the man’s pursed lips.

“However, I’m pretty sure it’s legally considered sexual harassment if you by any chance should get an unintentional, unpremeditated, normal male erection by looking at what she’s showing off!”

The bartender firmly set two glasses down on the bar in front of the men.

“We’re finished as a country.  This whole concept of our being a nation of laws is obsolete. No one should have to obey crazy laws that have nothing to do with justice, that are in truth politically driven, agenda motivated decisions to impose a new social contract on us.  There is a law for everything in our lives.  Everything.  And our politicians are busy making even more!  We stopped trusting our common sense; our instincts.  I read recently that high schools in Virginia, across the river from the U.S. Congress, mind you, have no touching rules; students aren’t even allowed to shake hands.  It has a legal name: “inappropriate touching”!  In Washington, a five year old boy was playing in the schoolyard with a little girl and touched her ass; the teacher saw it and he was expelled for sexually harassing her.  A four year old in Texas was suspended for hugging his kindergarten teacher.  And you know who made those laws?  We did!”

The chubby man uttered a feeble grunt of assent.

“You have any idea what’s going to happen to you?”

“I know, I know.  I’m risking everything, but I can get a job somewhere else.  Selling cars maybe.  I don’t know.  I just want to be with her,” the man explained laboriously, the consumed alcohol making his breathing irregular.

“Well let me tell you, she doesn’t want to be the wife of a car salesman living in Hackensack.  She wants to be the wife of an upwardly mobile executive making the big bucks, living in a giant house in Scarsdale and having an expensive membership to your exclusive Country Club.  You’ve got to end this.  Now!”

“I can’t.  I love her.”

“You see all these bimbos in here?  You see them?  Why do you think they’re in the bathroom every fifteen minutes?  Snorting coke?  Well, maybe.  But what they’re really interested in is looking at themselves in the mirror, spraying perfume, freshening their lipstick, powdering their nose; dolling up so some guy takes an interest and overcomes his innate trepidation to timidly ask if she wants to get laid.  You know what their biggest gripe is?  Most guys these days aren’t interested in women.  That’s right, American guys aren’t interested in liberated women anymore.  I know, because I read it in a survey.”

“Ever consider you read too much?”  The man managed with difficulty to push the words through his lips.

“Well, it makes sense to me.  Most guys get along with other guys who think like they do.  You know, you marry one of these babes and then discover you can’t live with her.  She doesn’t think like you do.  It’s that simple.  She has other ideas, other priorities.  But now you’re married to her and you have to deal with it, you know what I mean?”

Unexpectedly, there was a low, throaty growl.  A snore.  The flabby man’s head slumped loosely above his chest, his pursed lips vibrating rapidly as he exhaled noisily.  Leonard finished his drink and walked out through the bar’s revolving door, alone.

Outside, there was no sidewalk.  No automobiles.  The roar of traffic was replaced by the quiet sigh of a tepid breeze.  The high rise buildings had all mysteriously disappeared.  Only the long plain of the African Savannah, occasionally broken by short, thorny acacia trees stretched away into the distance.  Leo shook his tawny, shaggy mane and sauntered with a resolute swagger through the tall grass towards the horizon, beyond which the sun, now a massive red ball, was rapidly vanishing.




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