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Ecce Homo. (Short Story).

March 29, 2019

cropped-12301412301.jpgThe Italy On The Hill restaurant wasn’t as busy as he thought it would be for a Friday night. He had heard good reviews about the place so it didn’t look good that it was barely half full, but then again it was only a little after five thirty and the frigid weather might also have been a issue.

This was the third and last time he thought with this one. Angela was indeed above and beyond pretty and all that went with it but not worth another attempt at dating. One can only take so much he thought again as he sipped his chardonnay which tasted as if it might have been left out a bit too long. He wasn’t even sure really why he went out with her the second time let alone this time. Maybe it was just plain biology and her physical biology was indeed wonderful to see; she did take care of her five foot ten slight frame was obvious. It also might have something to do with her being the friend of his sister Alex and Alex pleading with him to go out with her again; she even offered to pay for the meal and he wished he had taken her up on the offer. He remembered sighing in defeat but agreeing to go one more time out with the girl. He could never quit say no to his sister and he couldn’t then either. He simply didn’t really want to be at the Italy On The Hill Restaurant with Angela; food wasn’t even that good.

The voice wasn’t mid-western, “So, what do you do again?” Angela asked also in a tone that made Paul feel like he was in the court room all of a sudden. “I know you told me before what you did I just forgot…” The laugh was flat; she was trying too hard?

But Paul of course answered, he wasn’t going to be rude, “I teach history at Century College.” He doubted she heard the answer, “I teach American History mostly…” The large blue eyes seemed to register his words with absolutely no hint she cared, “I also teach a Asian History class every few years.”

“History must be interesting…”

It sounded as flat as the rest of her comments, “Been into history since my freshman year in high school. Mr. Cyrus was quit a good teacher and made the subject interesting….” She was bored and looked it, he wasn’t as he was talking about his favorite subject. “History is simply a fascinating subject on human nature and humanity as a whole, Angela.” She was slowly tapping the table with her spoon, he wanted to laugh, “He mostly taught about the ancient civilizations of the Middle East. I suppose with a name like Cyrus it made sense…” The stare was blank so he continued without comment, “He made the Babylonians sound interesting along with the Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Philestines even…” She looked so bored, but at least the spoon was no longer tapping the table, but she did take a few long sips on the wine she was drinking and the rate it was being sipped it would be gone in about a minute, “He even taught about the impact of the Persians and Greek civilizations on the Jews…” There was a slight hint of a reaction to that comment, “He made it all interesting.”

She drank some more wine.

He asked the obvious question, “Do you like being a lawyer’s assistant?” Though thoughts he was having were all wrong but he couldn’t see this girl doing much but looking pretty and spread those long legs of hers. It was of course crude but he wasn’t sure he was wrong on that point. He didn’t really talk much about the actual practice of law as if she had any clue what any of the terms meant; which he was convinced she didn’t.

She kind of perked up, “It’s great money.” Angela retorted with a look in her blue eyes that said much abut the subject of money, “I like the job as a job but the money is better and why I keep doing it.”

“What about the actual practice of law?”

She scanned him with a puzzled look, “I told you, it’s about the money. That is all that’s good about it. Law is law, Paul.”

Why didn’t that answer make any sense to him he wanted to ask her but stopped himself. Just get through the evening he told himself as he noted their waiter walking by with a bottle of wine; he needed a drink.

“So, it’s the money then that you like and only making money?” Paul asked knowing it was a stupid question but then again the whole date up to this moment was stupid. Where was Stephanie he wondered and asked himself. Now there was a girl worth being around he decided as he took stock of the woman sitting across from him with that just as bored look he felt was on his own face. Stephanie was in Chicago visiting her parents; probably went to a Cubs game if she had a chance. Probably also practicing her photography hobby which was slowly becoming her profession; well, a part-time profession. The girl did look good in her Chicago Cubs t-shirt he thought warmly of the girl’s geography.

Someone laughed behind him; she sounded pretty and at least having fun.

He had to say something, “So, Angela, money is very important to you?” Another dumb question.

The look on the perfectly applied make of a round face with arching eyebrows answered slowly, “What else is there to working at all, Paul. Money is everything….” She flashed a toothy smile, “I suppose I get some pleasure out of the practice of law, but the bottom line it’s the money that I like most of all…” She rambled on about other things that seemed to only relate to money and it’s many uses; Paul was getting bored. “….I have been to Paris a few rimes because of the money I make….I was there last summer and it was great.”

“Only Paris?” Might as well ask Paul reasoned; his sister owned him big time; a girl’s voice from somewhere behind him laughed at something. The place was finally looking more alive than when they arrived.

She perked up a bit, “I’ve been to the British Virgin Island, that was fun as well…”

The same voice from he was sure was from Brooklyn droned on and on he thought and it had no point in it’s talking at all. The only aspect of this chattering girl that interested him anymore was what was behind that dark blue strapless dress. Her breathing was a real pleasure to watch or at least pretend to not notice the soft rising and falling of her well-rounded flesh called her tit’s at this point in the date he reasoned. He was past really listening to the girl called Angela. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down they went in perfect synchronization and it was at the moment the only think not annoying him by talking; talking in words anyway he would admit to himself. The valley of the girl below her chin was probably at the moment the only thing about her he was liking. She was ruining everything by talking and she was still talking about the Virgin Islands. This basically perfect body of flesh and hair and deep blue eyes which were probably contacts was ruining everything by opening her mouth and uttering nothing interesting with damn words. He pictured her with a ball gagged into her pretty and round mouth to make his point that she was talking too much or at least talking about nothing that interested him.

Another burst of some laughing came across the room; someone commented on their food; a waitress walked by carry something that smelled good he thought.

Stephanie never talking this much even when she opened her mouth and she uttered words that where actually worth listening to. She had that mid-western tone in her voice and it was a pleasant sound tom his memory; certainly in bed. He sipped some of his wine that had yet to be touched since it arrived; Stephanie wasn’t a drinker.

Angela was still talking, “…I mean really, Paul, I get paid no matter what the verdict is. So, Paul, why should I worry about it…” The wine was drunk again, “The money is what’s important and in any life that’s what’s important, Paul.” She studied him puzzled by his look, “I like money, Paul, I like spending money and I like it being spent on me…” Amused by her own humor she only saw thought Paul, “Money is a girls best friend and does make the world go around and around the globe, Paul.” She looked about the room, “Where is our food anyway?” Looking at him with that smile she was sure he liked, “I don’t apologize for liking money, Paul…”

“I didn’t say anything.” He wanted to say something rude but declined as it was pointless.

“Yes, well, people think I am some kind of money hungry bitch only after what she can get form a job or guy…”

He remained quiet and he hoped their food would show up at some point. He was beginning to really notice the aromas of the food about him; garlic bread the best smell of them all he thought as he smiled at the girl. “Okay, you like money, I get it.”

She ran a hand through her blonde dyed hair, “What can I say, Paul, this girl likes money and last year I got to go to the British Virgin Island, mostly on Saint Thomas…”

He refrained from correcting her.

“…It’s great money.”

“Is there anything else you like, besides money.” He observed briefly the decor of the place that certainly took it’s theme of Italy very seriously. The three tiered fountain certainly added to the center of the place along with the aromas of Italian cooking; did she even notice any of this he wanted to ask.

The hostess walked up to them, apologizing with a friendly smile, “Sorry, sorry, running behind on garlic bread…” Placing basket on the table, “Short staffed today as well…”

“No worries…”

“About time, I’m starved.” Grabbing a piece of garlic bread and biting into it.

He thanked the girl who smiled back as she walked away. He watched her slowly walk down the isle, talking to other customers, even laughing at some older man’s compliment, and then vanishing behind the door in the back. He did wonder if the dark hair girl was actually Italian or not for a brief few seconds. Probably not but she had the look he suppose, dark hair, dark black eyes, Mediterranean toned skin, and a smile. Maybe more Greek in features than Italian? You’re an idiot, Paul, but it’s better than talking too much to Angela; not nice Paul he could hear his sister’s admonishment, you’re being mean, would be the other comment. She would of course be right as always. But then again she was the one who got him into this date through Italian purgatory.

Another garlic bread was being eaten with gusto, “I went to Paris my first year working for the law firm and it was great. I had never been to France of course…”

He smiled to be polite but he was sure it wasn’t her secretary skills the lawyer was after. “Never been to France.” Though Stephanie wanted to go to the United Kingdom; mostly Scotland as that was where some of her family was from.

“It was okay. I didn’t understand a word anyone said.” She laughed of course, “But it was fun seeing all that French stuff…”

French stuff? “Did you visit any historical sites?”

She frowned, “Not likely.  I think John did but I didn’t want to see an old cathedral so I stayed in the hotel and watched t.v….” The look she was giving him implied much more happened besides watching t.v in Paris?”

“Don’t you have any other interests in life?” Adding with a look, “Except money.” He took notice of the large wall mural of the Fontana de Trevi in Rome; he recognized it from an art class he once took. He also began to notice the light classical music being played above; he couldn’t have identified it if his life depended on it; Verdi came to mind but he had no idea. He liked classical, but to identify one from the other was not an ability he had. He asked again, “Are there no other interests you have besides money and what it can buy you let alone take you?” He really was hoping there was more to this girl than money and maintaining her looks; maybe like she enjoyed old movies? Anything!

The bare shoulders shrugged, the blue eyes seemed to register nothing inside her head, “I don’t really do a lot….”

His cell phone rang it’s usual tone of Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy’. Paul grunted his almost displeasure that he actually wanted at the interruption from the phone in his jacket pocket. Taking out the phone, looking at the caller ID, smiled a bit, and mouthed he needed to take the call.

She wasn’t pleased, “Sure.”

He would have smiled at her unpleasant tone, “Yes, Mike, what’s up? Aren’t you suppose to be at a party celebrating your triumph or something?” He joked softly knowing how long it had taken the guy to get a play produced. “What’s up, Mike?” He could picture the guy, who always looked like young Zane Grey to him, sitting in a chair brooding and of course drinking a bit too much.

The tone was Mike at his best, “Drowning, I am simply drowning, and I am sorry for interrupting your date with your sister’s friend, but I am drowning here…”

“Drowning?” Did all playwrights  brood this much as he rolled his eyes in amusement but refrained saying anything to Angela who glared back. “Why are you drowning, Mike?”

“Yes, I am drowning, Paul. I am sinking into a mire of unpleasantness. Descending onto Dante’s Inferno…”

Paul shook his head at the bad attempt of being poetic, took a sip of wine that needed refreshing, took notice of another painting that he had no idea who painted it,”It’s your big night, Mike. You finally have a successful play.”

“Yes, I am having a wonderful night, I am surrounded by friends I trust and I think like me, hard to tell sometimes, and you I might add, choose a date over my big night.”

“You’re whining, Mike.” Mike chided his friend softly. Which also meant that he was drinking a little too much and no one there was stopping him from getting drunk. Mike was fine with a little drinking but when he drank to get drunk as it was sounding to Paul, Mike’s personalty became whiny and feeling more sorry for himself than was healthy. “What happened to that guy you met?” The look from Angela was priceless, “Didn’t he say he was going to come to your party?”

He said something Paul didn’t understand at first, “He didn’t show up, Paul….that figures though…” Mike trailed off not really wanting to talk about it on the phone. “He did call but he made excuses and didn’t show up…”

He had to say it, “I did try to warn you.”

“Yes, yes, I know you did…” He slowly admitted in defeat. “He wasn’t interested in me, he just wanted to be seen hanging around with me…”

Angela spoke up and she wasn’t happy, “Who are you talking to?”

Mike laughed a bit, “Sounds annoyed.”

Paul replied with a smile knowing where this was going eventually, “Just a friend, Angela.”

She folded her arms, which of course pushed her breasts up a bit which Paul noted, “What’s her name?”

“Feisty isn’t she?” Mike commented with a tone that Paul recognized, “Probably a red head…”

“No, Mike, not even close…” He looked at the girl who he knew had a right to be a little annoyed, “His name is Micheal Alexander, aka, pain in the ass and friend for about ten years…” He knew Mike wouldn’t mind the humor too much, “He is also a finally produced playwright. You should go see his play…”

“Never heard of her or him.” The chest rose and fell as her mood was not improving, “Is she or he any good?”

“I’m bloody brilliant.” He spoke up softly on the phone.

Paul ignored him, “He’s getting better at it.”

“Thanks, Paul, I sense sarcasm.”

Still ignoring him, “He’s fairly good….”

“Flattery will get you anywhere….”

“I still never heard of her or him.”

Ignoring her this time, “So, Mike, what’s the problem?”

The waitress returned with their food; his calzone smelled very good; Angela muttered something under her breath.

The pretty girl smiled, “More wine?”

Having a notion he was going to drive a certain guy somewhere, “No, thanks, I’ve had enough…”

“I’ll take more….” Angela spoke up as she bite into her pasta salad and held up her glass; the glass was filled. She didn’t say anything as she sipped the wine with a steady look at Paul.

“Where are you?” Asked Mike, “Sounds good.”

“Italy On The Hill and food so far isn’t bad…” He took a bite of the calzone; his favorite Italian food. “You’d like it.”

“My name is Micheal Alexander Zeece, Greek food, Paul, Greek food all the way.”

“Ah, yes, of course, Mr. Zeece, where are you anyway? Doesn’t sound like a very big room, Mike.” He had a good hunch where the guy was; the slight echo was giving it away.

Mike replied sheepishly, “Well, Paul, to be honest, I’ve locked myself in the bathroom…”

He had to say it, “Drama queen. You are a damn drama prima donna sometimes…” He knew he could say such things to the guy as it he didn’t have thin skin but acted like it when drinking too much took over.

“Hey, hey, be nice to me today, it’s been a long difficult week…” The chuckle could be heard, “okay, fine, yes, I am being a little over-dramatic. But damn it, Paul, I’m not enjoying this night and I am lonely at my own party…”

“I told you I would be there tomorrow night.”

“I know, I know, I could have cancelled tonight and moved it but Neil said he could only be here tonight and you know how my brother is…”

Something was being drunk thought Paul as a long silence followed.

“Mike, what is really bothering you?” He knew Mike well enough to know his moods and this wasn’t ordinary drinking on Mike’s part.

Another silence followed; Angela was busy eating.

“Mike? You are still there I hear you breathing.”

Softly, slowly he responded, “I’m here, Paul.”

“Mike, talk to me.” He noticed the look in the blue eyes across the table. He was sure behind those blue eyes was a woman pissed. “You called for a reason, Mike. You interrupted my date with Angela for a reason, talk.” Paul heard Mike cough lightly, the sound echoed a bit, and he said something to himself.

Mike finally replied to Paul, “I need to stop smoking these damn things, oh, wait, I don’t smoke anyway…” He laughed lightly.

“Mike?”

He coughed a long painful sounding moment, he finally spoke up, “I got a call this afternoon.”

Paul was uncertain of the comment as he searched his memory why this would be a problem; it came to his mind slowly. “The doctor called today? What did he say?”

Slowly again, “Yes, he wants me to come in this coming Tuesday.”

Paul knew his friend well enough, “Mike, don’t worry yourself to the point you are. You know doctors, they always sound gloomy even when giving good news…” He was of course a little concerned but was convinced the run down voice of Mike sounded terrible and exhausted and he was drinking would be fine.

He almost yelled it, “Oh, god, Paul, I’m damn terrified…”

The voice came across from the table, “Is this conversation going to be any longer?” Angela demanded and commented, “I have to be in court early tomorrow morning. It’s an important case I am helping in…”

“It’s Saturday tomorrow.” He questioned with a look of his own. “Do you normally work on a Saturday?” He was giving Mike some time to compose himself. “I am sorry that Mike called but he is my friend and he’s having a rough week, Angela.” She wasn’t happy he took  notice in those blue eyes that glared back, even her chest was becoming less appealing to him but he didn’t really blame her. Mike was interrupting their evening.

Angela wasn’t happy, “I have been known to have to work on a Saturday, Paul. It’s not completely unusual…”

Mike’s voice spoke up in a whisper, “Their a beautiful evil I believe Zeus called them…”

Paul ignored him but he did want to laugh,

“Who are you really talking to?” She demanded.

“I told you, Angela, a friend having a rough week.”

“Everyone has a bad week, Paul, they don’t call and interrupt other people’s night when they know they are on a date…”

“Sounds like a true humanitarian…” Mike commented.

“Mike has a tendency to forget that little detail when drinking a bit too much…”

“Ouch, Paul, ouch, but true…”

Still ignoring the guy for a bit, “Listen, Angela, he’s my friend for a while, he’s just having a rough week and I know he just wants to talk to talk it out of his system. He’s a good guy…” He was of course repeating himself a bit, “Be a little patient, Angela.”

Angela went silent in protest and picked at her food.

“So, I’m a good guy, thanks, I think…”

“Mike, I am sure its not what you think it is. Try to enjoy your night…”

“Enjoy my night? Paul…” The voice rose a bit, “Cancer runs in my family, Paul….” He took a breath, “My Aunt Lee died of it you know…” He gulped down a light sob, he slowly regained himself, “I always got along with her. She was great. Did you ever meet her? Fantastic lady, so full of life. She was a professional photographer…pretty good at….”

“Yes, I believe so a few times.”

He sighed feeling very tired, “I feel lousy, I feel tired, I feel bored.”

He wasn’t sure what to say really, but he kept trying, “Maybe once you go to the doctor and find out it’s nothing but being tired you should go somewhere on a vacation, Mike. Recharge those creative juices of yours…” It of course all sounded so damn lame but he was sure that the guy was simply overreacting and very tired. “Go visit Neil, you enjoy visiting him in Minnesota and his kids; even his wife likes you…”

“A ringing endorsement if there ever was once to go visit, the wife likes me.”

“You’re being snarky now.”

“I am also drinking too much.”

“That I gathered.”

Softly, with some thought to the statement, “I don’t want to be alone tonight. I want some friends about me. Real ones! Not hanger on’s just because I have a produced play! Leeches all of them….all of them, Paul.”

He wasn’t sure what to say or if Mike expected him to say something; another brief silence followed. The sounds of the restaurant seemed to have increased he noticed as he couldn’t hear the overhead classical music anymore; but the smell of the food was great he thought as he took another bite of his own food. He could see Angela getting ready to bolt from the whole scene; he didn’t blame her. She looked beautiful and bored all in the same moment; she also looked as if she had been drinking a bit too much as well. The voice interrupted him from the phone.

“Next Friday is my birthday, Paul, are we still going to hear Chopin?” His voice sounded pained, “I think his music the greatest when it comes to the piano…”

“I haven’t any other plans, Mike.”

“I do enjoy his music. He was no Mozart, but he wasn’t bad…”

He knew that Mike was just talking to talk before he returned to the main subject.

“….I can play fairly well the piano, I love the piano, Paul. I took it when I was a kid and I have never regretted it. I love the piano, Paul. Greatest instrument ever.”

“Well, okay, I prefer Beethoven’s piano works…”

“You’re a snob, Paul.”

“Yes, I like Beethoven. Better music…”

Mike said something unpleasant under his breath about Beethoven.

“You’re lucky I like you….”

Mike again chuckled and then went silent a brief moment before replying painfully, “What if the doctor has bad news, Paul…what if…”

Paul interrupted, “Mike, then I will be there, I’m not going anywhere….”

Another silence from the phone; Angela was chewing her food a little bit loudly.

Trying to cheer the moody guy up, “Did the play go well?”

Mike was still silent a few seconds, “The play went well, Paul. Very well I think despite the usual first play mishaps and missing of lines….” The voice went low, reflective, “I really hope it isn’t the last play I can ever write. That would be very depressing, Paul.” He sighed deeply but more for effect, “Or the last one period?”

“I thought you had another idea already in that over-thinking brain of yours.” He knew Mike suffered from these moments of depression like a tidal wave and talking about a new project usually cheered him up a bit. Formulating new plots energized him as a writer. The voice was beginning to be effected by whatever he was drinking as well thought Paul.

“Oh, yes, that idea…maybe, maybe, maybe…maybe not, Paul. I don’t know….it’s a work in bloody progress…” The silence didn’t last long, “I am pleased up to a point that tonight went as well as it did. They seem to enjoy the play, the actors did well. It was a success I suppose….no one threw anything at me….”

“What is the new play going to be called?” He could feel Angela’s eyes boring into him; not a happy woman he knew was getting more unhappy as the minutes passed. He didn’t really blame the girl for feeling neglected because she was being neglected and being treated rather rudely.

With a slight slurring with a flair, “Ecco Home.” He laughed at the joke he was sure was there somewhere, “It sounds terrible but it’s Latin for ‘Behold The Man.’ It sounds so provocative doesn’t it. Even grandiose! Ecco Homo! Behold the man!” He stopped briefly as if trying to remember something was the impression Paul was getting, “Its from your Bible you, it’s the words Pilate said at Jesus’s trial…”

“I’m aware, Mike. And why this title? You know what’s going to happen?”

Happily willing to not talk about the unpleasant subject he had brought up, “Oh, yes, and that is the whole wonderful point.” Another pause; probably drinking something thought Paul. “Not sure if I like the idea but I love the title. Sounds like it will cause all kinds of problems and good PR.” Adding with a laugh, “Can never really have bad PR, Paul.”

Paul had to ask as it was concerning him, “What are you drinking, Mike? I hear a bottle of something.”

Mike chuckled, Champagne of some kind.” Takes another drink, “Tastes very expensive. Good, but damn expensive…”

“Mike, don’t drink too much, please. You know what happens when you drink too much.” It was a rare moment when Mike did drink heavily but when he did he was an unpleasant drunk and liked to think he was ten feet tall and bullet proof as the song went and picked fights with the wrong people. And generally lost those fights.

The voice was angry, “Who are talking to when you should be talking to me. What’s her name?”

Mike spoke up, “I liked the other girl, better manners. Though I do like the mid-western voice, Paul…”

Paul couldn’t help himself, “Well, you do like something about women after-all.” He heard Mike chuckle as he took another sip and say something Paul didn’t understand.

“Who are you talking to?”

“I liked that other girl you were dating, what was her name again? Jessie or something like that.”

“Her name was Stephanie, Stephanie Anne Miller to be more exact….” To the annoyed Angela, “Talking to my friend Mike who’s getting drunk when he should be enjoying his success of a play tonight…”

“Tell Mike, that’s she’s interrupting our date and go get drunk somewhere else…” Adding as she drank deeply from her last drop of wine, “Who’s Stephanie?”

“I’d like to enjoy tonight but I am not…”

“She’s someone I use to know, Angela. She moved to Chicago…”

“Use to know?” Mike laughed cheerfully despite himself, “I think I recall it being more than that, Paul…”

“Be quiet, Mike, this doesn’t concern you.” Paul scolded.

“Who the hell is this Stephanie?” Angela demanded in her very best lawyer sounded tone as if questioning a hostile witness.

“Stephanie had manners.” Mike commented as he finished the bottle, “I’m surprised she’s still there after I have talked so long.”

“Yes, she is still here.”

“Not for long if this keeps up, Paul. Hang up on her, you’re with me tonight…”

Quickly, feeling a little sick, “Paul, I need you here. I’m bored. I shouldn’t be bored at my own play opening party….and I’ll complain all I want…I need a drink again….” He started singing Lesley Gore’s song,  “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want too…” Kicking the bottle, “This should be the greatest day of my life and it’s not!”

Paul spoke up carefully, “Mike, why is it will all the gay friends you have, you always call me when you’ve drunk too much or are simply unhappy?”

Mike seemed apologetic, “Because, Paul, I know you wont hang up on me when I call.” The voice was of course whiny; the alcohol wasn’t helping. He knew he was being a pain in the ass, but he needed someone to talk to. And Paul had always shown himself a friend no matter what when he could help or simply listen. He knew he was being a jerk by interrupting Paul’s date.

Paul gave up, “What about Zach?”

“On a date himself. You know him, never without someone with him.”

Had to say it, “I’m on a date.” Of course it collapsed a while back but Angela for some strange reason still sat there breathing in and out those wonderful breasts of hers through that dress. She looked miserable and he didn’t really blame her but nothing was stopping her from leaving. Why wasn’t she leaving? He was giving her enough reasons to get up and slam her plate of food on his rude head and storm off.

Mike’s voice spoke up, “Sorry to interrupt your all-important date you don’t want to be on in the first place, but Zach’s a an okay friend as friends go, but he’s not exactly a good listener or even that interested in other people’s problems. Good actor, did well tonight, but not a trustworthy friend…” A bottle was kicked again but a little harder as if to make a point, “Look, I called you, Paul, because you would understand…”

Angry, “Hey, you two, I’m still bloody here!” Angela wanted to get up and that was obvious, “Hang up or go do whatever with each other, but could I finish this date…”

“Sounds very testy, Paul.” He of course replied in a tone that cried he was drinking way too much. “Stephanie had such a nice smooth voice; the kind I like in a guy….” The tone was trying to be apologetic but failing miserably, “But the other one does sound very testy and on the verge of stalking away in a huff.” Amused, “A very angry huff.”

Sounding apologetic, “Well, Mike, you did call at the wrong moment.”

Somewhat sorry, “Ya, I know, Paul, but you’re the only real friend I have. Odd as that may seem you are the first person I thought of when I got the phone call. No one else, just you…”

“Mike, you have plenty of friends, I’m just the one you know doesn’t have much of a life right now…” He regretted saying it, “You have people who care about you and you know it.”

Frustrated, “I’ll hang up, I’ll be fine of course.”

“No, no, Mike, I should not have said it that way. If anything my dad taught me was that friendship is the most important and sometimes even inconvenient blessings out there.”

The tone was somewhat cheerful or drunk, “I like your dad, Paul. Not many preachers invite a gay guy to a Sunday brunch and then spend most of it on talking about theater.”

Hesitant but felt it needed to be said, “You know my dad went through his own cancer scare, you could talk to him.”

The tone was uncertain, “He’ll preach at me.” He wanted it to sound half joking but he was sure it didn’t, “I just don’t want him to preach at me Paul…” It was a lame excuse even it if had a few grains of truth to it; it was the man’s job to preach after all. “He’ll just preach at me about my need for Jesus and the such…I don’t need that right now.” He stopped himself as he knew how he sounded, “I know, I know, I am not being very fair your dad who has always been very nice to me….’ Coughs briefly, a bottle is kicked and it sounded like it cracked, “I’m sorry, Paul, I know your dad would say things he felt was important for me to hear. I’m just terrified of what the doctor will say. It might be cancer, I never knew about your dad having cancer…”

“Yes, about ten years ago.”

“I suppose I could talk to him as well, but I don’t want to be preached at. He will preach at me, Paul….”

“Only because he cares about you, Mike.”

Angela had had enough as she stood up, “I’m the damn third wheel around here this damn evening. I’ll go.”

She glared at Paul but all Paul saw were those magnificent breasts slightly move with her agitation in a smooth wonderful rhythm of her annoyance as she stormed off. He couldn’t blame her for being angry. His sister was going to kill him when Angela was done telling of this evening. Alex was simply going to kill him. A few seconds of silence passed as Paul watched the poetry of Angela’s butt walk away. It was Robert Burn’s in motion he thought with a smile; maybe even Blake?

The voice sounded as if it was sorry for interrupting, “Did she leave?” Mike also asked sheepishly, “And you’re watching her ass aren’t you? Boy, Paul, you haven’t changed too much.” He chuckled a little more drunk than even he wanted to sound, “Probably for the best.”

“Yes, Mike, you drove another one away.” He tried to sound amused, “And it’s or was a great ass so be quiet. You’re in enough trouble as it is.” Yep, he thought in dread of his sister, Alex was going to kill him dead.

“I think you and Stephanie would be better together….” He picked up a bottle and looked at it with a few thoughts, “What was wrong with Stephanie anyway. I thought you liked the girl…” A door window was heard going up and a comment about the light snow falling. “I don’t understand the appeal of course, but you were happy with the girl.” A bottle was heard being kicked, “She moved to Chicago for a reason, Paul…”

Paul frowned at the sound of the bottle and that was because it didn’t sound like a bathroom anymore, “Mike?” Bathrooms don’t have car windows.

The voice seemed far away, “Yes, Paul.”

“You’re in your damn car aren’t you?” He wasn’t sure if he was angry or amused by it all. It was typical Mike though.

“I’ve been also thinking about writing a historical play on the life and tragic ending of Edward II of England…”

“Answer the question, Mike, you’re in your car?”

“…And his tragic relationship with the love of his life, Gaveston…”

Trying to not sound angry, “Mike, where are you?” He declined to correct his friends questionable history.

Mike seemed pleased with himself, “Been sitting here a while thinking about my play tonight, my possible life’s work being only one play. I got bored at the party…” He seemed to almost want to apologize but didn’t, “One can only take Jordan’s stupid jokes for so long. He isn’t funny anyway. Good actor, also did a great job tonight, but isn’t funny off stage….rather a dull fellow.”

He wanted to be angry but the guy really sounded lost in his thoughts and not to mention the alcohol was doing it’s job of tiring him out. “So, Mike, you ruined my date with the lovely but vain Angela because you got bored at your party?” He of course that wasn’t the only reason but it was turning into that reason.

The voice seemed sluggish a moment, “You didn’t sound like you were enjoying it too much anyway.”

Party true, “It’s a good thing I like you, Mike, or I’d slug you once I get outside.” He signal for the bill, stared at it and wondered again if it was really worth it despite the girl’s physical charms. Still on the phone as he got up, “You are damn lucky I like you…”

A sluggish laugh back, “I’m grateful for that. Now get out here.”

“rest room first.”

“Okay, I’m not going anywhere.” Morbidly, “Unless I have cancer and I die while waiting.”

“You don’t have cancer, Mike, so the play went well?”

A grunt was heard, a bottle was kicked, a sour comment was made that Paul didn’t catch, “I’m not complaining…” He laughed, “Okay, I am complaining, but it better not be my last play…” Dramatically, “Ecce Homo, the Tragic Life and Loves of Edward II, King of England….a little too long for a title…but it might work.”

Paul peed into the urinal, wiped his hands, and wondered why he didn’t hang up yet? Maybe something was gnawing at him about the possible cancer his friend might actually have. He also wished Mike had not brought up Stephanie. That was over. She moved back to Chicago. Life went on. Why did she go back to Chicago again. He did miss the girl. She had excepted the job back in Chicago where she was raised and had family. He pushed the door of the bathroom open and headed outside. He spoke to Mike, “You are aware my truck is still here…”

“I’m parked next to it.”

“Yes, I can see that min cooper of yours.” He walked toward the car with the guy slouched in the passenger side of the car staring at his hands as if he wasn’t sure what they were for.

He got in and looked at the guy who really looked drunk, tired, and unhappy.

“You look awful.”

“Thanks, Paul, I’m dying of cancer.”

“No you’re not. You’ve been drinking too much again and you always do this when stressed out about your writing.”

Closing his eyes, “Christopher Marlowe wrote a play about King Edward II, did you know that? He was fucking better than Shakespear, Paul….He was brilliant!” Looking out the window briefly, “I suppose talking to your dad wouldn’t hurt, but no damn preaching at me, Paul….” He laughed at something, “Writer’s don’t like being preached at about their lives or drinking or sex life or pretty much anything else…”

Paul could see the exhaustion taking over; the final effect of Mike’s drinking too much, “Just go to sleep, Mike. I’ll take you home…”

“Of course you will, that’s what friends do for each other. They drive their drunk ass friends home because friends don’t let friends or one play wonders drive home when drunk…” He laughed and went slowly silent with mumbling about his next play and then went silent.

He headed out of the parking lot and thought of Stephanie’s offer of inviting him to come to Chicago and live there. Mike shifted a bit in the car seat, said something under his breath. Mike would be fine without him? Paul knew this drinking would get worse and history would repeat itself with the guy who had a streak of the self-destructive about him. Even Paul’s dad wondered why he didn’t ask the girl to marry him when he had the chance. Mike had a tendency to be a little needed and this wasn’t the first time Paul had to drive him home.

Out loud, “Why do I do this again…”

“That’s what friends are for…” The voice spoke up but it was apparent Mike was half-asleep, “Thanks, Paul, thanks for taking me home…”

Softly, “Might have to be the last time, Mike, been doing this too long…”

The voice was more awake, “I’d be lost without you….a drunken bum writing crap.” He opened his eyes, “You’re thinking about moving to Chicago aren’t you?”

“Thinking about it…”

The voice was strangely sad, “I’ll miss you.” Adding with a depressed tone, “And like most people you’ll leave me alone…”

Paul said nothing; he hated it when Mike drank.

 

 

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