The Student burst into laughter as The Drunkard signed off with his signature sit-back-and-swig. “Holy shit,” he said. “I remember watching that and thinking of that plot to dose Nixon with acid.”
“Juvenile,” said The Writer. “Absolutely juvenile.”
“Well fucking done,” said The Stalker. “Hackem got what he deserved—wanting to station police officers in mosques throughout the state. Absolutely disgusting”
“Hackem?” asked The Traveler. “I don’t know him.”
“Really?” asked The Drunkard. “Where were you through the entirety of last year?”
“Southeast Asia,” said The Traveler, “doing charity work.”
The rest of us hung our heads, being shown to be the self-centered Westerners we clearly were.
“Now, what I don’t get,” said The Writer, “is why you felt the need to work in this Cloyd character.”
“What?” The Drunkard said.
“Come on. This kid with his ‘gul dernit’s and his overly-rural shtick? Really? You expected us to buy that? No one talks like that. People in cartoons don’t talk like that any more. I mean, we’ve already established that I’m as anti-populist as the rest of us, but I’d never stoop so low as to—”
The Drunkard groaned. “When was the last time you weren’t in a city?”
“—think that—what?” asked The Writer.
The Drunkard leaned forward. “When was the last time you weren’t in a city?”
“Well, I could hardly call Knoxville a city,” said The Writer. He leaned back and folded his arms—body language that reminded me of a turtle retreating into his shell. “It’s such an anti-cosmopolitan place that—”
“How many people live there?” asked The Drunkard.
“’Bout three hundred thousand,” said The Student. “Oh, and it recently had a Broadway production of some musical with puppets.”
“Broadway,” said The Drunkard, “puppets, population in the six-figures, sounds like a city to me. Know how many people lived in Eldritch? Just over a thousand. Two thousand, counting students. So, answer the question. When was the last time you weren’t in a city? When was the last time you lived—held residence—in a place that could be described as Bumfuck, Tennessee?”
“Well,” said The Writer. “Not... that is to say, I haven’t. But, I think I—”
“Let me tell you,” responded The Drunkard, “about a guy named Jim-Bob. And that was his actual name, and I swear on my mother’s life that I’m not making this up, and everything I’m going to tell you about J.B. was true.
“Jim-Bob was a Marine. Now, right there, that places him at the top of the totem pole in rural Tennessee. Anyway, out in Iraq, J.B. and his platoon were incredibly bored—this was during one of the lulls after the first troop surge. So, they picked up a few bazookas and started target practice—using camels instead of bull’s eyes.”
The Student and I started laughing. The Traveler furrowed his brow and, probably, started thinking about the injustices of the world that such people who would fire upon innocent camels with heavy weapons would escape without retribution. I admired him, I really did, but sometimes he didn’t see the humor in situations. The Writer shook his head. “What’s your point?” he asked.
“Hold on there, hopalong,” said The Drunkard. “Before Iraq, J.B. got married to a girl from down the street and had a couple of kids. J.B. was nothing if not a decent father, so he decided that, damn it, his kids deserved a swimming pool. Went out back, started digging a pool. J.B., like many people in the area, didn’t trust chemicals, so he never bothered to put any treatment stuff in the water. In a couple of weeks, his makeshift pool was covered by a spongy mildew and mold the likes of which you would not expect to see on the surface of the most grungy lake in the country.
“So, in answer, J.B. figures that the best way to handle such growth is to buy trout to eat all of the ickiness. You might call this the organic approach, Writer, but then you, perhaps, wouldn’t want to give credit to such a plebeian approach to the problem, so you’d double back and say that the man was an imbecile—or something to that effect.”
I looked over and saw The Writer open his mouth in order to answer, then stop himself.
“Anyway,” said The Drunkard, “as fish are living beings, they need to defecate after eating all that delicious growth. And where does all the poop go? Into the pond. So, J.B. goes out to Wal-Mart, buys a couple of fishing poles, and gives them to his kids. And so, the family ate fish.”
The Student and I laughed again. The Traveler grinned and raised his glass. “To J.B.,” he said.
The Stalker raised his glass and clinked with The Traveler.
“My point in all of this,” said The Drunkard, “is that there are, quite clearly, individuals who prop up these stereotypes. Cloyd, that magnificent bastard, was one of those people by virtue of being one of the most innocent and hickish people I’ll ever come across if I live to be a hundred and twenty.”
“That does not excuse the use of such boorish dialogue,” said The Writer.
“Oh?” asked The Drunkard. “Everyone has to sound the same? Hey everyone, let’s chop sentences up and have them stop and end places where they should be joined by fucking commas. What’s that? You want to use slang? Here’s a list of Establishment-Approved™,” at this, The Drunkard actually said ‘tm,’ “folksy terms. Use only them, or you’ll be seen as a hack.”
“Sat in on a writing class recently, Drunkard?” asked The Traveler.
The Drunkard nodded solemnly. “I felt a part of my soul die. The pretension was suffocating in that room. If I heard one more story wherein the hero gains some fucking realization about life via eating a pretzel in a park or some shit, I would have brought a fucking Glock to the next class.”
The Writer shook his head. “None of you understand Art. Understand anything that matters. You just don’t care. Don’t observe.”
“You see!” shouted The Drunkard, shooting up out of his chair. “It’s disgusting when you try to sound like that.”
I checked my watch. I had a cast viewing of the film version Fiddler on the Roof that night, and had arranged with Dixie to bring a couple bottles of Jack Daniel’s. It was, after all, an incredibly long movie. “Well,” I said, standing up, “as much as I would love to sit here and debate writing with you guys, I’ve gotta run.”
“Oh?” asked The Traveler. “And do what?”
“Wait,” said The Student. “Let me guess. You’ve gotta go update your blog. Perhaps, tonight, we’ll learn more about that bespectacled vixen from your Ranting in Literature class.”
“‘Bespectacled vixen?’” asked The Drunkard.
“His words,” said The Student. “You know, I might have to use that when Rebecca and I have a row. She might like that.”
The Drunkard turned to me. “‘Bespectacled vixen?’”
“I don’t have to make excuses to you!” I shouted.
“Yeesh,” said The Traveler. “Don’t get defensive.”
“I’m not getting defensive!” I shouted.
“Oi!” shouted the bartender. “You! Out!”
I left the pub to the sound of my friends laughing as The Student read out a list of horribly out-of-context quotes from my blog. I hated him, true, but, at the same time, I was one more hit a day closer to a wide audience. And no publicity is bad publicity.