Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rex Backs Off

It was a Tuesday and things were quiet, inauspicious.  The bar was empty save himself.  Jazz music played softly, the water fountain trickled, glasses clinked inside the dishwasher amid the whoosh of the jets.  A low hum came from the refrigerators.

He was cutting limes, having filled the trays with cherries, olives and pickled onions.  The small tables had been lined up just so, candles lit, the floors mopped, the toilets checked for supplies.  Laughter drifted up the staircase from some of the early diners in the restaurant downstairs.  He could just make out the sounds of some traffic on the street out front.

He'd done many things, and would go on to do many more, but his skill set was particularly well-suited to running this "quiet little jazz-age cocktail salon".  His intense attention to detail served well in dressing the place nightly, in ensuring supplies were backed up, the decor constantly refreshed and the surfaces spotless.  His photographic memory worked well in remembering who ordered what no matter where their incessant mingling took them (and in collecting from them if they headed for the door).  His deep-rooted empathy meant the tellers of tales of heartbreak left knowing he'd remember their plight and would be looking out for their interests upon their next visit.  His gift of the gab kept the girls entertained and hopeful, the lads knowing they had a place to 'shoot the shit'.

His partners were better at leading the parade, at being the ringmasters, wearing the lampshades and joining the teeming throngs of 20-something lasses gyrating atop the pool table and bar-top late at night.  He was good at staying in constant contact with Adamo at the front door, minding the backed-up toilets, keeping an eye on the back door traffic and ensuring that no one did themselves grievous injury.

Truth be told, this was the most satisfying job he'd ever had.  The years working his way up as a corporate exec, the media business he continued to run, haltingly, with another partner during the daytime, the low-pressure unionized grocery clerk work that had put him through university, a myriad of jobs on the global road plus many summer jobs, none compared to making people happy, helping them both let loose and connect snugly -- facilitated by the various ways and means he and his bar partners had devised to ensure mayhem ensued, their special concoctions lubricating the slide to frivolity.  They were broke, but they certainly were having a good time! 

Still, there was something profound missing.  A platform, a base.  Roots beneath this tree of current complacent contentment.  Not money (though that would have helped), but a feeling of being needed, of 'mattering' outside of being a key-master in their little world of drunken bliss.  He discounted it when asked, waxing philosophical about being the lone wolf destined to roam alone (the black hole left by "The One's" check-out still sapping him, though Maltese-snippets plagued his waking thoughts less and less), but Rex had tired of the years of innumerable conquests and longed for a mate, a puppy-producer, a companion to share the long winter nights with, holed up in his cozy den.

Winston, one of their regulars, popped in for a quick martini classic with a twist on his way out of the office, still in uniform: a slick suit and patent leather shoes.  As usual, Winston wanted a sober recounting of hi-jink highlights from the weekend prior (the most unlikely couplings and most ribald mash-ups) and a prediction of what his fate may hold in the evenings ahead.  As always -- though Winston never tired of hearing it repeated -- he told him with sincerity and conviction that THIS would be the week it would happen for Winston.  Love was coming down the pipeline and Winston would assuredly be at the gushing end of that tube, finding himself awash in a potent shower of unrestrained feminine lust and deep emotional neediness.

Winston patted his moist brow with with a bar napkin (thoughts of women made him sweat), set his jaw and nodded earnestly, as he always did.  "OK, I think you're right!  I'm going to approach things with a positive attitude this week," he announced with obvious determination.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Life's a Rex! (NOT...)

She turned and ran away from him, gradually picking up speed in her graceful, easy lope, her pony-tail bobbing, her mind already on what she'd be doing next, the taste of good coffee and bitter regret lingering in his mouth.

He watched her familiar shape getting smaller as she put more distance between them, literally and figuratively, her body as untouched by childbearing or age as he'd always known it would be.  She was a lean, lanky Golden Retriever built for distance, not sprints; for action, not sedentary introspection.

Rex let out a mournful howl that echoed painfully inside his human's head.  A short, vigorous shake couldn't cut off the internal dissonance.  "Let it go, Rex!" blurted his human, "We're all better off this way."

Rex called bullshit, but there was nothing he could do about the situation.  He knew (as his human didn't want to acknowledge), that she wasn't running away, she was running back.  Back to the litter of pups that were supposed to have been sired and nurtured by Rex et al, back to a life that was meant to have been theirs (with a wistful nod to Mr. Keith...).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rex in Reserve

Rex's human was giving him the talking to.  Rex's ears were perked up and his head was cocked to one side because he knew that this guy sometimes brought him treats, but it was unclear who was really in charge between the two of them.   Rex's alpha dog personality made it hard for him to really take his human side too seriously -- when he sniffed an opportunity, he generally just took over.  THIS time, however, the guy seemed so earnest that Rex was struggling to understand just what was being asked of him.
"Rex, stay!  Lie down there and stay!  You can't come out of your dog house unless I call you, OK, Rex?"
Rex couldn't read Gary Larson cartoons, but all he heard was:
"Rex, stay!  Lie down blah blah stay!   Blah blah come blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, blah, Rex?"
Net-net, he was unclear on whether he was meant to come or stay, but the human's tone made him decide to retreat into his dog house for a lie-down of an unspecified duration.  (Dogs aren't good with the concept of time.)

Rex's alter-ego had a date, and the one thing he's learned about online dating dates was "low expectations", as in: imagine you are going to meet the older, heavier-set sister of the object of your desire (as defined by the photos on her dating profile), then imagine that the sister had just had electric shock therapy and couldn't understand your dry wit and conceptual nuances (despite the fact that the profile had made her sound kind of clever).

He was walking along the sidewalk in front of the bar, past the plate glass windows with the throng of people writhing on the other side, wondering just how bad this one would turn out to be.  In his past nine dates, not one woman had looked even close to her profile shots.  Lots of significantly more mature, plumper, not-so-engaging siblings, with rather off-putting senses of style, standing in. 

Pushing through the chattering masses along the outer edge of the bar he spotted two likely candidates sitting side-by-side up ahead on the right, each with an empty stool next to them, their faces blocked from his view by the people around them.  With "excuse me's" and gentle but firm palm pressure applied to the barrier of backs between him and his destination, he pressed forward, getting to about two arm's lengths away before discounting the first woman.

She looked younger than her stated age, was quite adorable and had just the kind of compact, slim-in-all-the-right-places figure that drove Rex to distraction -- like THAT was going to happen!  Ha...  With renewed 'low expectations' he brushed past the back of her chair and, still partially restrained by the crowd around him, reached out with his right hand and rested it gently on the back of the second of the two women to get her attention.  He had to press a bit further along to get past the back of her seat and introduce himself, but as he did so his gaze fell on the space between the two women and onto the cellphone of the first.  She was reading his last text to her, warning her he'd be a couple of minutes late.

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