There was an old man sitting two seats down from me in the laundromat who was slowly sipping at a PBR Tall Boy and reading a book by Bill James. He had a neat, white mustache and a beanie half-pulled-over his bald head, and he had on those small-frame glasses that seemed like they might’ve belonged to some small-time poet from The Fifties. His phone rang. He went outside to answer it, leaving behind his beer can and book on the seat next to mine.
I’d had enough of Bill James for a few decades, and therefore left the book where it was, but I’ve always had a soft spot for PBR in a can. So, probably to my own detriment, I decided to lift the can to see where he’d left it off. There were plenty more than enough swallows left for me to have some without raising suspicion. I don’t know why stealing some of this codger’s beer appealed to me so much. There are a lot of things I don’t understand about myself. I’ve stopped trying to figure it out.
I lifted the beer, dewy and hardly sipped, and drank down more than a moderate amount. Then I took a few more mouthfuls before setting it back down. It felt great to be drinking this duffer’s beer as he was outside yapping away on his phone. It made me feel quite triumphant and pleased with myself. It was a rare thing for me to feel this way, and so I enjoyed it for as long as I could.
I watched that most senior of citizens outside through the laundromat’s large plate-glass windows. He was going on and on about a very intense situation of some sort.
“I told you, I don’t have any pants like that. Nobody’s ever seen me in those pants. Shit. Why don’t you put that down on my résumé while you’re at it? I don’t know what else to tell you.”
It was fun watching him suffer out there like that while I was filching drinks from his beer. I took a few more swallows. The can was still cold in my hand. It was good stuff. I listened to my laundry tumble in the dryer. I was having a grand time of it.
The conversation outside was getting even more heated.
“You…you…you damn clavicle. This is so fucked I can’t believe it.”
I’d never heard the word “clavicle” used as a pejorative before, but I liked it.
“We’re talking razor-fucking-thin margins here that I’m doing this goddamn balancing act on. The push is getting to be a shove, you know? Fuck. And I’ve still got to go out and vote today, you know?”
I went through my pockets and found some crumpled-up paper in there. I decided to write something on it. I took out my pen and wrote:
People’s dogs die all the time
Who’s sure of it?
Whose “it” is it?
Famous criminals lose their touch in the recesses of anonymity’s clutch
Fight for or against it
Put your fist down on the grate until it smokes
Because she’s smart enough for the both of you
And any’s the time she’s got the most of
People who aren’t ever serious about a thing
Eyes rolling like the credits to all this
Silliness is the root cause of all laughter here
And all I keep getting are
Cleaner clothes and dirtier mouths
For my troubles
Then I returned the paper to its crumpled state, put it away in my pocket, and went back to the old dope’s beer. It felt great to be doing something constructive with my life for once. I gulped that beer down like I was dying of thirst. Drank it all off. Then I crushed the can and threw it at the window where that geezer was still yapping away on his phone. He didn’t even notice.
I thought, “That’s for the best.” And then I heard my dryer buzzing at me to get my clothes out. And I went over to it. And I got my clothes out.