Howie Tries a Bar


He scoots over one stool, next to her, says, “Would you mind it very much if I… not literally, at least, not yet… but in the way most men, I am certain, do... would you mind it terribly if I: came onto you?”

She’s in the middle of sipping a beer. And she laughs — a bursting-out laugh — so hard, beer foam shoots out both nostrils. 

Howie nods and deadpans, “Works every time.” 


“As Howie silently congratulates himself for being so suave, so debonair, he does not realize that the lady's laughter was manufactured solely to draw attention from her (perfectly manicured) hand that reaches into her knockoff Prada bag and grasps the can of pepper spray that her over-cautious ex-roommate gave her (upon her abrupt and unaccepted-sapphic-overture-fueled exit from their inexplicably cheap loft apartment cohabitation experience). Howie never knew what hit him. And moments later he did. It was the floor.” 

So, yes, he lost the round. But not the fight. 

A little dizzily, Howie pops back onto his feet; shakes it off. Rolls his head from shoulder to shoulder. Breathes deeply through the nose. Scans what else is ripe for the pickin’. Spots somethin’ juicy at the other end of the bar. Stumble-struts over. Blinks a lot. The sting stinging not less — even, maybe, a bit more. But Howie remembers his Nietzsche: “What does not kill me makes me stronger.” And plops himself down beside another way-outta-his-league damsel. Smiles. Goes, “Just because I’m a creep, it doesn’t mean I’m a wuss. Doesn’t mean I’m not a Wild Man in bed. Doesn’t mean I gotta No. 2 pencil between my legs. No ma’am. Fact, between my legs? What’s there? It’s been called a ‘club.’ I shit you not. To quote, ‘a war club.’ And, if you are not interested in… in…‘aggressive negotiations’ with said war club… I can promise you, before this night ends… another will. Be interested. In ‘aggressive negotiations.'” Howie grabs his package. “With. Said. War club.” 

He exhales. Then swipes her beer. Finishes it off. Wipes his mouth on his short-sleeved bared, hairy-orange arm. (“Orange” not due to some raging addiction to “Nacho Cheesier Rollitos” Doritos, no. “Orange” due to the color of his hair: not red, nor brown. Closer to orange, say most.) 

With softer smile and tonal change, continues, “Have you read Amy Hempel’s Reasons To Live? Her debut collection of short fiction? First time I did, bored me to tears. A year later, checked it out; took another swing. Story after story: my heart? Breaks. Just like what Cole says in 12 Monkeys: ‘The movie [or, as in this case, the book] never changes — it can't change — but every time you see it [or, as in this case, read it], it seems to be different because you're different — you notice different things.’” 


“Howie flashes that smug smile he has no business flaunting. Heck, he’s only recently gained the fortitude to back it up. 

The damsel looks deeply in Howie’s eyes, lips parting ever so slightly and speaks... 

in a voice about 3 octaves too low... 

‘I don't read much.’ 

Howie silently curses the irony. It's true. Every time you see it (or her) you do notice different things. Like an Adam’s apple. Or dirt under unmanicured fingernails. Or five o'clock shadow more impressive than his own 3 days' growth. 

‘Warclub, huh?’ (s)he purred, sounding more tiger than kitten, ‘they used to call me 'The Manrod.'”

Howie can’t believe his eyes, nor his ears; can’t believe he hadn't put it together before. Says, "Clay? What are you doing here… like that? Does your wife know?" 

The transvestite’s eyes narrow. (S)he points a shaky finger at Howie; then through clenched teeth, barks, "Fired!

30 August 2004 

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