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A handsome young man and a beautiful woman met in a trendy singles bar. “I noticed you glaring at me,” she said. “I saw your hostility, too,” he replied. “Have a seat.” “I just got divorced, so don’t bug me,” she said. “My wife’s cheating on me, so stick it and go away,” he said. “We’re made for each other,” she said. “May I sit here?” “Sure, it’s a free country,” he answered and shoved a bar stool out for her. She was very beautiful and, in another life, he might have made a play for her. Now he knew better. “How long did your divorce take?” he asked. “Six months of legalities, preceded by 5 years of misery and crap,” she said. “Too bad it all can’t be compressed,” he said and ordered another drink. “Buy your own if you want one,” he told her. “I will,” she snapped. “I don’t need a man to support me.” Quietly, they nursed their drinks and angers separately. She’d sneak a peek at him in the mirror, catch him looking at her, and both turned away. She should get up and go home, but she didn’t want to leave. He wouldn’t leave. “I’ll bet you could compress an entire relationship —from falling in love through marriage, trial separation and divorce, into less time,” he said, feeling a little dizzy from too much beer. She thought about that. “How far down could you compress it?” she asked. “I mean, 120 minutes is more than enough for any woman to put up with any guy.”

He laughed. “Waste a whole two hours? Hell, I think it could be done in one--60 minutes flat.” They both ordered more drinks, each circling the stupid idea like two months flapping around an irritating bug light. “Got a stopwatch?” she asked. “Of course. You’re a man. You must have a stopwatch in your wristwatch. Or maybe a calibrated computer in your pocket that can keep time down to the nanosecond.” “You already know me better than my wife,” he snarled, pulling his iPhone from his pocket and placing it on the bar. “Typical,” she snorted. “I insist on a prenuptial agreement before we start,” he said with force. “I’m not getting screwed again.” “Neither am I,” she said. She pulled a pen and fat tablet from her purse. She flipped through pages and pages of to-do lists until she found a blank sheet. “Typical,” he sneered at the pile of sheets. “Don’t you ever finish a list and throw it away?” “Mind your own business,” she snapped. “ Article One,” she said aloud as she wrote. “Each party, signatures below, agrees that everything they own belongs solely to themselves. Nothing is shared. When the relationship ends, each will retain all their own assets. Each party agrees fully to this provision.” “Sounds perfect,” he said. “I’m truly surprised.” “Hey, buster. It’s too soon in our relationship for sarcasm.” “Right,” he said. “Article Two. The loser of this contest will pay the winner $100.00 in cash, said money to be held in escrow by the bartender until the end of the contest.” “Plus the bar tab and it’s agreed,” she said. “But I don’t have that much cash on me. Will you take a check?” “Typical,” he said with derision. “You float into a bar expecting your looks to get you all the free drinks you want. There’s an ATM machine in the corner. Go get

$100.00 or the game’s off. Better get $200.00 so you can cover the bar bill, too.” “In your dreams, jerk,” she said as she grabbed her purse and stomped away. He laughed. That was the end of that. Relationship terminated in under 5 minutes. Game, set and match. Ten minutes later she was back, slamming five twenty dollar bills on the bar. “Let’s see the color of your money, pal.” Irked, he pulled the cash from his pocket, an assortment of twenties, tens, fives and ones. “Your money is wadded up like used tissue paper,” she commented. “You’re always finding fault,” he retorted. “You’re my kind of man,” she cooed to start the game. “A real fixer upper and I am just the girl with the tool box and skills to change you into something respectable.” “In an hour?” he laughed incredulously. “Assuming that I need to be fixed in any way, which I don’t, smartass.” “Are we gonna play, or are we gonna skip straight to the living happily ever after the divorce?” she demanded. Challenged, and angry, he smacked the bar and said, “Play ball.” “No National Anthem, just ‘Play Ball’?” she taunted. He flagged a barman, Mexican obviously, and sang: “Jose, can you see, by the bar’s dim lit lights, that my glass needs filled up….yada, yada, yada” he sang off key. “Play frigging ball,” he shouted. She smiled. “I love your devilishly antisocial style,” she said. “I can fix that.” “Stipulated—assume it’s done.” “No way,” she said. “I have to get some joy out of this relationship.” “OK, 30 seconds of abortive fixing up and then you quit in disgust. By then I’ll have become the bore that you created out of the pure mud of a fascinating human being and you’ll lose interest in me.” “Agreed,” she said. She stuck out her hand and they shook on it. “Let’s begin. It always starts out sweetly

and nice, with the girl looking for her knight in shining armor.” “And the guy looking for a girl of his dreams in lingerie and heels,” he added. “Right,” she said. “Her first priority is to test drive a suitable potential mate.” “Right,” he said. “His first priority is to get her into bed.” “You’re obviously experienced at this game,” she said. “Maybe I should get a handicap of, say, 15 minutes.” “Hey, if anyone gets the handicap, it’s me!” “No handicaps,” they said in unison, then automatically hooked pinky fingers and pulled, for reasons they couldn’t remember from elementary school. “So make your big play, stud,” she challenged. “You really are quite pretty,” he said. She sighed and rolled her eyes. “No, I really mean it. Games aside. I love your bright blue eyes. Your blonde hair is beautiful, love the slight curl. And you have a wide, full mouth that’s very sensual.” She hooted. “Straight to oral sex! Typical male pig!” “I didn’t say anything about sex,” he protested. “But you thought it,” she challenged. He blushed and said, “Touché.” Then he pushed his bar stool back. “I’ll bet you have great legs, too.” “Of course,” she said. “Show me.” She stood, 5 feet 2 inches of furious woman scorned elevated by 4-inch heels. Her short skirt confirmed her assessment of her legs. He nodded. “Great legs check.” As he was gaping at her kneecaps, she furtively undid two more buttons on her blouse. He looked up and said, “Oh, new arrivals! Playing dirty. You’re not too shabby in the bust line department, either.” “Thanks,” she said. “You, on the other hand, no doubt have a fat butt and flabby abs. That’s why you hunch over your drink.”

“Ha,” he retorted. “Check these out.” He stood and did a slow turn, revealing good muscling under the seat of his trousers. “Now take a shot at my abs,” he challenged. “What?” “Go ahead, make a fist and smack my gut and see what a man of steel feels like.” She balled up a fist and gave him a good shot, producing a satisfying “oooff” from his compressed lips. “Not bad,” she said. “Get a personal trainer and take them to the max.” “I’ll hire one with my winnings tonight,” he said. “So, physically we check out,” she said. “You are kind of cute in a nerdy sort of way. Get contacts, ditch the glasses and keep those cute dimples and you might catch a pretty girl for real some day.” “No thanks,” he said. “Pretty girls are the root of all evil.” “I thought money was the root of all evil.” “Maybe it is, but the pretty girls get all the money by direct siphoning while in a relationship and through alimony payments after the divorce. Keep your evil designs off my money,” he said. “Hey, this is the nice part. Play nice,” she said. “This stupid computer isn’t keeping time,” he said shaking the device. He looked up to the bar owner and shouted, “Hey, Max. You have a chess clock around here, don’t you?” Max reached under the bar and pulled out a mahogany chess clock. It was old fashioned in design, but modern in function, with two clock faces showing time elapsed for each player and a digital readout showing total elapsed game time. Max showed them how to use it. “So when I’m done talking, I push the button down and it keeps track of his time,” she said. “When you start talking, you push your button and it keeps my time.” “Not quite,” he said. “When you stop yakking and push your button, it automatically starts my clock.”

“So we’re going to push each other’s buttons?” she giggled. “Gee, we’ve already been doing that for 15 minutes. Does that count for the bet?” “Let’s ask the judge,” he said. He waved Max over, explained the nature of their bet. “I get it,” Max said. “You two are nuts, and you want to make me nuts, too.” “There’s a fat tip in it for you, Max,” he said. “Well, call me cuckoo and start the match. But first, hand over the cash.” Both gave Max $100, which he stuffed in an empty Manhattan glass behind the bar. He said, “So if the game clock goes beyond 60 minutes, she wins? “And if the game ends in 60 minutes or less, he wins,” he said into her big blue eyes. “He gets the money?” “Right,” they said simultaneously. “Well, at least you’re working together at the start. Play ball!” “No National Anthem?” she asked. “One a night is all the law allows,” he said. “Jose doesn’t want immigration to know he’s here.” He started his timer. “I wasn’t kidding about your gorgeous eyes. What a glorious shade of blue.” Whack, he depressed his button. Her turn. “Thank you very much, kind sir,” he said. Whack. His turn. “Contacts?” Whack. “All natural.” Whack. “Is the rest of you all natural?” Whack. “You’ll never know.” Whack. “Of course not,” he said. “If we are so-called married, I’ll never get to see what’s under that shirt.” Whack. “You’re brighter than I thought.” Whack. “Being nice, since that is where we are in the game, I must admit you are quite the handsome fellow.” Whack. “Thanks. We make a lovely couple.” Whack. “To look at, anyway,” she said and gave the timer a whack.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked. Whack. “It means that, as a typical male, all you care about is my body. That’s why you haven’t asked any questions about the real me inside this shell you seem to find attractive.” Whack. “Right, right,” he admitted. “So, what do you do for a living?” Whack. “That’s personal?” she asked with a hoot. “Maybe in the locker room that’s what passes for deeply connecting conversation. Loser.” Whack. “OK, OK, I see your point,” he said. “What was your greatest dream as a girl?” Whack. “Better,” she said. “See, I’m already working improvements in your broken-down personality.” Whack. “Like hell.” A hard whack. “I always dreamed of being a ballerina,” she confided. “Then I wanted to be an artist and live in Paris. Then I went to art school and got a job designing dresses for plus size women.” Whack. He frowned. “Do you paint from the heart in your free time? Something glorious and artsy and creative? Whack. She brightened. “Yes, I do. How insightful of you to ask.” Whack. “I really do want to get to know the real you, deep down inside that beautiful body,” he said and delicately pushed the timer button down. “That’s sweet,” she said. “When I first met you I thought I’d never like you. I’m beginning to feel better about you.” She sensuously touched the button, rubbing it slightly, then gently pushed it down. He blushed. “That’s great,” he said. Whack. “What about you?” she asked. “What was your great dream as a kid?” Whack. “Of course it was first to be a cowboy. Then a fireman. Then a major league baseball player. I liked the ball player the best, because they work outside mostly and make lots of money. That’s why I became an investment banker.” Whack.

“Investment bankers work outside?” she wondered. Whack. “When we’re schmoozing the big clients, we’re on the golf course or the ski slopes or by the pool at a resort or country club.” Whack. “You any good at it?” Whack. “Quite,” he beamed. “I seem to have a real gift for picking stocks.” Whack. “Wow,” she said with real admiration. “I’ll bet you make a bushel of money.” Whack. “No, afraid not,” he said. “Tons yes, bushels well —how many bushels are in a ton? I don’t know.” “Neither do I,” she said. “But tons sound much better and, curiously, makes you look so much wiser and very handsome.” Whack. He preened and beamed under the praise. “Thanks,” he said. “Maybe you really do understand me.” Whack. She looked at the timer. “We’re 19 minutes into play, big boy. I shouldn’t point it out, since I want the clock to run out and win, but it only seems fair to let you know. I am starting to care about you—no kidding.” Whack. He blushed. “I guess I’d better pop the question pretty soon.” Whack. “Pop away, my new friend. Pop away.” She checked to see that she had her copy of the prenuptial agreement. Whack. He gulped, then said, “Well. Ahem, you are the most fascinating and lovely woman I’ve ever met. Will you marry me?” Whack, whack, whack. “Hey, Mac,” shouted Max. “Easy on the clock!” She hesitated, shaken by his question. It was a game, but with such serious words. She shook off the feeling. “I do, oh I do. I mean, I will.” Whack. They both laughed. He ordered champagne. He put it on the tab he expected her to pay. “When shall we marry?” he asked. Whack.

She eyed the clock. “We’re 23 minutes into the game. I’d say at the 25 mark we should do the I dos. We need a preacher.” Whack. He shouted for Max, who ambled over to the bar. “And how are my two fruitcake acquaintances doing?” he asked. “We’re not your friends?” she asked in dismay. “You’re both too nutso to be my friends,” he said. “What do you want?” “As the owner of the bar, you have the power to pronounce us married.” “Huh,” Max said. “I ain’t no preacher.” “But you are the captain of this fine establishment, and the captain always has the power to wed.” Max gaped at them and considered his potential tip. “So, by the power vested in me by Mr. Bud Weiser and Mr. Jack Daniels, I now pronounce you man and wife.” They held hands and looked deeply into each others’ eyes. Max cleared his throat. “So kiss the bride, idiot,” he said and sped off to another customer. “Half hour into the game and we’re already on our honeymoon,” she said. They kissed softly, lightly. She whacked the timer. “Not so fast, sweetheart,” he interrupted. “Remember my company is having a big client meeting at a superb resort. We have to go on our honeymoon much later.” Whack. Deflated, she complained: “That damned job of yours always comes first. Did you ever really care about me?” Whack. “You seem to like the fat paychecks I deposit into the account each month,” he retorted. Whack. “See,” she said. “This is how it always goes. First it’s the job. Then I bet you have a sexy young secretary who has the hots for you.” Whack. Whack—whack.” “Hey, I said easy on the clock,” shouted Max. “Leave Jennifer out of this,” he protested. “She’s a great secretary.”

` “With great legs and a heaving chest?” she demanded. Whack. She looked for Max, saw he wasn’t close, and whacked it again. “Don’t punish a smart girl for being blessed with good looks,” he said. “That kind of discrimination is illegal and unethical.” Whack. “Yeah, and so are those late nights at the office with sassy Miss Jennifer.” Whack. He sighed. “Don’t you love me enough to trust me?” he asked. Whack. “You’re a man, admittedly a good looking one, but I know your kind,” she said. “I was married to one of your kind and he slipped away with his hot young secretary.” Whack. Whack. “But I…” then he whacked the clock. “If you really loved me,” she said, “you’d get your work done faster and be home at night to have dinner with me. Hey, you’ve never taken me out to dinner!” Whack. He laughed. “If you ever learn how to cook, maybe I would have incentive to do just that, as a reward.” Whack. She bristled. “I cook just as well as my Mom did, and she was a great cook.” Whack. “So how old was your Dad when he left her or died?” Whack. She became glum. “Fifty-five,” she said. “Died of a heart attack from high cholesterol. Mom liked to cook a lot of pasta.” Gently, a whack. He stared at her. “So she killed him with food. The perfect crime. No jury would convict.” Whack. She grew defensive. “It was bad genes on his family’s side, not Mom’s cooking,” she said. Whack. “Maybe he just got so bored with the dinners that he wanted to die to end his suffering.” Whack. She turned bright red with fury. “You never said a kind word about my family since the moment I met you.” Whack. “And you’ve never asked or met any of my family in all that time,” he shot back. Whack.

“Sorry, not interested in shallow gene pools,” she countered. Whack. “You really are a nasty bit---ah, watch the language, dear self,” he said. Whack. Whack. “And you are a real [expletive deleted referring to male body part].” She was furious. Forty minutes on the clock. Whack. “Only 20 minutes to go and I take this guy for all he’s got,” she mumbled. Whack. “What?” he asked. “I couldn’t hear your whine.” Whack. “Potty break,” she said. “Be right back.” She whacked the clock and bolted for the ladies’ room. Whack. He was horrified. “Max, quick, how do you pause this stupid clock?” “No pauses in tournament play, friend.” “Make of note of the time, Max, so we can deduct her potty run. She could sit in the can for an hour and expect to win.” “I wouldn’t let her do that,” Max assured him. “Why don’t you make a dash for the john yourself and get it over with?” He bolted to the men’s room, finished fast, and was back on his bar stool when she returned. “That’s 12 minutes used up on the clock by your absence,” he scolded. “That time doesn’t count.” Whack. “It does indeed, count, because it’s a normal part of married life,” she argued. She shouted, “Max, we need an opinion.” Whack. Max head rapid pleas from both, and ruled against the woman. “Ladies always spend too much time in the rest room,” he said. “Not in this dive,” she counter-attacked her judge. “I watched a huge cockroach kick the crap out of a rat while I was on the can.” Max raised his eyebrows. “Did you bet on the roach?” he asked then walked away. She whirled on the man, noting that just 14 minutes remained on the clock. “You know, if you loved

me, truly loved me, you would have put the damned toilet seat down at least once in our relationship.” Whack. “Oh, year?” he shouted. “Well that cuts two ways. If you really loved me, you would leave the seat UP for me. With you damn women, it’s always the really important stuff—toilet seats and trash cans.” Whack. She glowered at him, and picked up a drink as if to throw it. Max rushed over with a plastic reinforced towel and draped it over the game clock. “You idiots have your fun, but you’re not going to mess up my clock!” “But, but...” they both sputtered in protest. “We can’t see how much time is left.” Max peeked under the plastic, pushed a button, and announced: “Twelve minutes and that’s all she wrote.” She thought she could drag out twelve minutes and win. “Another thing,” she complained. “Every time I want to talk with you about a problem, you always snap out your solution and go back to watching your stupid basketball or football and baseball game.” Whack. Whack. “And your point is….?” Whack. “If you loved me, you’d know I don’t want a solution. I want a partner who will listen to me.” Whack. He stroked his chin. “You mean you don’t want to solve the problem, you want to command my full attention so you can whine.” Whack. “Ventilate,” she shrieked. “It’s not whining, it’s ventilating.” “Who told you that, your shrink?” “She’s an excellent psychologist.” “How much do you pay her an hour so you can ventilate all over her?” he asked. Whack. “Uh, $225—but it’s only for 45 minutes,” she sheepishly said. Whack. “The poor woman is grossly underpaid for her sufferings,” he said. Whack.

“You really are a major league [male part expletive deleted.]” She reached for her drink and the cloth covering the clock for a peek at the time. Max shouted at her. “Lift the cloth and you lose automatically.” “That’s not fair,” she wailed. “Tell it to the judge,” Max said. “But you are the judge,” she cried. “Right,” Max said. “Don’t touch it or you lose.” Her opponent enjoyed the put down and thought having an in with the judge would be a help. Time to wrap it up. “I’m sick of this relationship. We need time apart,” he looked at his watch. “Thirty seconds—that’s enough of a trial separation for me. I want a divorce.” Whack. “No,” she shouted. She was pretty sure the clock was within a minute of the 60 minute limit. “Can’t we just talk about it for 10 seconds? Maybe save all that we had?” Whack. “No way,” he slammed his finished drink on the bar. “It’s over. I’m leaving. We’re divorced.” Whack. “How can that be official?” she complained. Whack. “Hey Max, come over here and pronounce us divorced.” Max rolled his eyes and cupped his hands to shout: “You’re divorced. Good riddance.” He reached under the plastic to stop the clock. “But our money…” he and she said in unison. “I win,” they said together. “Here comes the judge,” Max intoned as he walked toward them. “The judge will whack the hand that touches the cover on the clock with this baseball bat.” The bat appeared magically from under the bar. “The judge rules you both take a 10 minute bathroom break and compose yourselves like civilized people. Then you come back here to see the decision.” They sputtered, but he grabbed the clock under its wrap and swept it off the bar. “Go away for 10 minutes or you lose,” Max threatened.

He went to the men’s room, whistling a song. “We Are The Champions.” He dawdled, and decided to make her wait another 5 minutes for his return. She wisely spent her ten minutes in the ladies' room. Heavier on the eye shadow. Fresh lipstick. Rubbed her cheeks briskly for a little color. Put some drops in her eyes to give their insincere veneer a depth of sincerity. She even had time to write a brief note and slip it in an envelope. And the coup de grace, she thought, staring into the slightly more tarty face and figure in the mirror—off with the bra. It went into her purse. Down with a few more buttons. She returned to the bar in exactly 10 minutes and 15 seconds. The guy—what was his name?—wasn’t back from the can. She motioned Max in her direction. He leaned his forearms on the bar, and she stood on tiptoe to do the same and give him a delicious view down her blouse. “Maxie, we both know I won fair and square,” she said. “He’s too ashamed to come back and face you. He conceded in the hallway.” She leaned even further and Max barely heard the words as he focused on the lovely rolling topography he saw down her blouse. “He said to give me the money, and he would be back in a bit to pay the bar bill.” She smiled sweetly into Max’s eyes. “Sure, Honey.” Max reached into the Manhattan glass, pulled out the $200, and held it out to her. He made her lean even further over the bar to take it, which she did with a game smile on her face. “Thanks, Max. I’ll be back to see you,” she said and then bolted for the door. Minutes later, he came out of the men’s room to crow about his victory. The girl was gone! He rushed over to Max, who stood behind the hooded clock with a dreamy smile on his face. “Where’d she go?” he demanded.

“She said you conceded in the hallway by the restrooms,” Max said innocently. “So I gave her the money and she left.” He handed the man a hefty bar bill. He looked at the bill, looked at Max, and laughed aloud. “It was costly, but it’s worth it to be out of that lousy relationship.” He ordered another drink and ogled the barmaid. “Don’t you want to see the clock?” Max asked him. “Sure,” he said. “Bring me a double and we’ll look at my winning time together, out of which I was cheated by a conniving woman—again.” Drinks in hand, Max unveiled the clock. The total timer, in red digital letters, read out the news: 60 minutes, 0 seconds. “Damn, Max, a win for me,” he said. “You screwed me out of a hundred and”—fumbling with the bar bill—“$195.76!” “Plus tip,” Max said. “Tip hell,” he said. “Parties of six or more or customers with special requests pay an 18% gratuity,” Max said. “Cough it up, or you’ll learn why my huge bouncer is called a bouncer —as in throw repeatedly against the walls and floor.” He grumbled and passed his credit card to Max. “Oh, and here’s the wedding band you loaned me, too. Max, why do you have a wedding band lying around this place? “Some married putz took it off when he was trying to hustle a woman for a sleepover,” Max said. “He was too loaded to remember to take it with him. It’s a handy add-on for guys like you who are single but want to play the betrayed husband. Women just want to help you over your pain.” The barmaid came up and said, “That was quite a conversation you and your lady friend were having. I guess it’s over for you two.” He shook his head and said, “You can say that again.” “Good,” the pretty barmaid said. “I get off at 2.” “I’ll see you safely home,” he said with a smile.

Max came back with an envelope. “She left this for you,” the bartender said. He eyed the pretty barmaid’s legs and tore open the envelope. “Gloating,” no doubt, he said aloud. He read: “That was an intriguing evening. If you’re man enough, I’ll give you a rematch a week from tonight. Same place. Same judge. Same rules. Be there or be square.” “So she really blew you off in that note?” Max said. “Not exactly,” he smiled. “Rematch. Next week. Same time, same place. You game for that, Max?” The bartender looked at his patron. “For a fat tip and a chance to look down that girl’s blouse, it was well worth $100 for the view. I’ll be here.” He said, “Hey, wait a minute. You didn’t pay for the view. I did.” “That made it even sweeter,” Max said. “Closing time,” he shouted to the straggling drinkers. “Everybody out—now!” He made his way toward the door, where the pretty barmaid smiled in anticipation of an evening with this curious and exciting man. “Sorry, darling,” he said to her. “But I’m already taken.” He walked out, leaving the stunned barmaid behind. “I’ll drive you home,” Max shouted. “Got my own ride, thanks,” she said and slammed the door. Max put the wedding band into a box, mingling it with about 50 other bands. He sighed. He put it next to a pink box containing about 30 engagement and wedding rings for women. Max turned out the lights and went home. He was glad he had a loving wife at home. He didn’t understand these strange people. The fat tip warmed his pocket. ##

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