My wife and sons were visiting friends for a few days, which was a good excuse for my brother to come down and raise some hell with me.

“We’ll go to a bar, drink beer, and watch the Cardinals beat the shit out of the Pirates,” I said, reflexively mapping out this manly agenda, a gift of instinct given to men after a enduring a million brutal years of evolution.

“Let’s do it,” agreed my brother, a single man living the life. Actually going to a bar, drinking beer, and watching sports was his life. But it was a good life, so it sounded good to him.

“First,” I announced, “we eat.”

A cloud of confusion passed across my brother’s face. “It’s only five o’clock.”

“Is it that late?” I said, grabbing my car keys. “We better hurry before it gets crowded.”

We beat the crowd. We had the burger joint to ourselves, except for a family of five. I watched the kids run around their table as the parents pretended to enjoy themselves.

“How’s your plate of meat?” I asked.

“There’s nobody here!” said my brother.

“Drink your beer!” I encouraged. Beer was served in glasses that accommodated at least half a six-pack. “Miller Lite always goes down smooth!”

We finished quickly, and I left a 17.5% tip. Then we drove to a sports bar a couple blocks away.

“We own this joint!” I said. And it was true. The only people in the whole place were a quartet of 50-year-olds playing table shuffleboard. My brother rubbed his eyes as though he were in some kind of pain.

“Let’s get a drink.”

There was a bank of overstuffed easy chair facing the big screen, and we seized them like pirates. Eventually, a waitress shuffled over and asked us what we wanted.

“Do you have a good Cabernet?” I asked.

“Cabernet?” said my brother, dubious.

“My stomach feels a little bloated after that burger and beer,” I explained.  My brother ordered a beer and we waiting for the game to come on.

“What time does it come on?” asked my brother.

“In about an hour!”

“Plenty of time to have a few beers!” my brother said, cheering up. My stomach clenched a little, but I ignored it. When my wine arrived, I sipped it like a goddamn baron.

Nearby, the fifty-year-olds were whipping the hell out of each other at table shuffleboard. They stood with their hands on their hips, boisterously heckling their chums and calling each other colorful nicknames like “Hawk” and “Snake Eyes” and “Lady Killer.” When the waitress visited, they called her “Sugar” or “Sweetie.”

“How’s the wine?” asked my brother.

“Dreadful,” I said.

Suddenly, I had a great idea.

“Hey, let’s go get a six pack of beer and watch the game at my house,” I said, but in a voice that made it sound really cool. My brother dropped his head and sighed.

We pushed open the door and exited out into the bright sunshine of late afternoon, leaving behind the clatter of shuffleboard weights and half a glass of dreadful Cabernet.  



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