"He watches this every day," Yogi yells apologetically. "At least till the reality shows come on. And the dating shows."
"Aren't they the same thing?" inquires the Professor politely.
"No way," says Roach. "There's nothing about dating is real. Marriage is real."
The Weather Channel. My own interest in the average annual snowfall in the Ohio Valley peaked some years ago. "I have about six minutes of sanity left," I estimate. "Can't we go someplace with a good jukebox? Or a bad jukebox?"
"Daytime drinking," agrees Prof. "It's what separates the amateurs from ... from us."
We end up at a place where Yogi goes all the time. The barmaid is shacked up with the owner, but no one holds it against her. "The fire-code inspectors were here when?" the Prof asks with mock innocence.
"They're only interested in Antoine's, the Proteus luncheon, people like that," the barmaid says. She answers to Denise and chain-smokes those cigarettes that look like straws. "Nobody from Proteus comes in here."
"That you know of," chips in Roach. "They're a secret society."
The first round arrives and is undergoing taste-testing when we are all startled by what sounds like a kinkajou being dragged to its death. "Don't panic," Denise directs. "It's only Steve's new dog. There he is, at the end of the bar. Don't be scared; he's kinda freaky."
Steve is the owner of the bar, and at the moment he is freaking us out with this dog, who is normal except for the number of legs, which is two. One on each side, front and back.
"He was a Chihuahua," Denise says nonchalantly. "But now he's only what I call a 'Chiba.' You know how their little feet sound when they're on linoleum? SCRATCH-SCRATCH-SCRATCH-SCRATCH? Well, at night I hear 'em in the kitchen. SCRATCH ... SCRATCH. Drives me nuts."
Talk turns to Roach's latest foray into venture capitalism.
"Never got all the cake I was promised!" the Roach squawks. "I let myself be Scotch-taped to that telephone pole for over four hours and the clown still owes me money!" There follows a good 300 seconds of language too foul for this publication.
It turns out that Roach had hired out as the advertising tool of a guy who sells rims and hubcaps. The aforementioned telephone pole was near a thriving supermarket, and the retailer's idea was to guide customers to his nearby hubcap heaven. What better way to catch attention than to Scotch-tape a loud talker 6 feet off the ground on a telephone pole, sort of like a living poster?
"I had been up there three hours when he came around, and we start arguing money. He says he ain't peeling me down until the four hours was up. I showed him, though; I said nothing at all for the last hour."
Mercifully, this is when Pappas slumps onto the next barstool. "Say, buddy, how's that pornography job coming?" asks Yogi, with a punning emphasis where you'd expect it.
"It's going," mumbles Pappas. He is short, and his necktie has all the makings of a dishrag. "I got laid off. Not enough sales, the guy said. Damn it to hell. People just don't read anymore."
"Pappas is a writer," Yogi explains to me and the Professor, who have both managed to struggle through life to this point without yet knowing Mr. Pappas. "You know, like, whassisname, Edgar Allan Poe.
"You and him probably got plenty in common," Yogi persists innocently. "Maybe sometimes you two could go together to see one of them lectures by a visiting novel-writer.
"Hey, Pappas," he continues cheerfully. "What about that project you was gonna do for them holy rollers?"
Pappas finishes a big swig of his Abita with a forlorn belch. "I'm working on something like a Christian cookbook. What Would Jesus Eat? is the working title."
The Professor, who has a bit of a thing about cleanliness, is not enjoying Pappas' belching. "Excuse me, gentlemen," he says, real prissy-like. "I'm going to wash up for an hour or two."
Pappas gives him a funny look, but says nothing. Roach cuts in to say how he's been trying to talk the manager of this Seniors' Fair into giving him a Jello-shots concession there. Then Pappas starts talking about the Christian cookbook again.
"I dunno if I oughta write about subjects I really don't believe in. Like, pornography's different; I believe in pornography. But I feel lukewarm about this."
"The Lord said to spit the lukewarm ones from your mouth," notes the Professor, who's rejoined the group and reeks of hand soap.
"Well, I'm strongly lukewarm," answers Pappas. "And I may be neurotic, but you're phobic."
"I'm afraid you're right," sighs the Professor.