“Come on, William. Time to get going,” Barry’s voice called out, accompanying the pounding at the door. William rolled over in bed and sat up for a minute trying to wake up before the pounding started again. He rushed to the door and answered it quickly, primarily concerned with stopping the pounding.
“What the hell, mate? What time is it?” William asked, looking out at Barry, Lester and Hugh, all clad in their workout gear. He answered his own question by turning around and looking at the clock on his nightstand. “God damn it. My alarm isn’t even set to go off for a half hour. What the hell are you assholes doing here?”
“We came to get you up. To run. Like we discussed at the pub last night,” Barry said, smiling and bouncing up and down excitedly. He turned and looked at Lester, then back at William. “Except for Lester. He just wanted to see you in your underwear.”
“They’re nice undies,” Lester agreed.
“Oh, fuck off,” William said, turning around and walking to his sink to grab a glass of water. Uninvited, the other three followed him into his apartment. William filled the glass with water and drank it down in one gulp. Catching his breath, he turned back to the group. “I’m not going for any bloody run.”
“What?” Hugh said. “But last night at the bar, you said you wanted to rededicate yourself. To get in shape and practice so that we can stick it to the Wolves next year.”
“And last night, I meant it. This morning, I want to get as much more sleep as I can before I have to drag my miserable ass into work. Not wake up an hour before I need to to go do something I hate.”
“Yeah, well you’re up anyway at this point,” Barry said, going through William’s drawers. He grabbed a shirt and pair of gym shorts and threw them at William. “So, you might as well get dressed and come with us.”
“No,” William said, tossing the clothes back at Barry.
“But you gave such an inspirational speech last night at the pub,” Hugh said in protest.
“No, no he didn’t,” Lester and Barry said in unison, both shaking their heads. The brothers looked at each other, then Barry said, “No, the speech was nonsensical, but it did get us up and over here this morning. So, get dressed. We’re going.”
“Come on, William. Think of Norman.”
William looked at Barry with a confused look on his face. “What about Norman?”
Barry shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s a prick because he does his job, I guess. Or expects you to do yours. You never clearly articulated exactly what your problem with him is, but you were ranting about it for a good long while.”
“I do hate me some Norman,” William said, nodding thoughtfully. After a moment, he winced and shook his head. “But last time was such a disaster. I’m not looking to try that again.”
“We’ll take it slowly. Baby steps. The season doesn’t start for another eight months, and we don’t have to play the Wolves until the end. We have time to build up to it,” Barry said. “Just think of Norman, all trying to get you to work and what not.”
“Yeah, and think of Devon, all banging Jackie and what not,” Hugh said. The other three went silent and an awkward pall fell over the room. They stared uncomfortably at Hugh.
“Hugh, don’t,” Barry said.
“What?” Hugh said with a shrug and a tone of legitimate confusion. “They’ve been married for like ten years. They’re obviously fucking each other.”
“That’s not the point. Just don’t bring it up,” Barry said.
“Thirteen years,” William said solemnly, muttering under his breath.
“And I mean they’ve lived together for what? Fifteen, twenty years?” Hugh said, continuing obliviously.
“Sixteen years,” William said quietly.
“Hugh, for the love of Christ, stop talking,” Barry said.
Silence again overtook the room as Hugh got the message. William looked up at Barry, who threw the clothes back to William. William turned and walked into the bathroom.
“Give me five minutes to get dressed. Then we’ll get going.”
“You’re bailing on me too?” William said, talking into his phone. “Come on, man.”
“I’m not bailing on you. No one is,” Hugh’s voice came from the earpiece in William’s phone. “I’m just tired and don’t feel like heading to the pub tonight. Besides, we’ve been going there a lot recently. I need to spend some time with my kids.”
“You’re ditching me to drink with your kids? Some friend you are.”
“Yes. Well, no,” Hugh said. “I’m going to spend time with my kids. I’m not going to drink with them.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Um, maybe because I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t drink alone, I drink to socialize with you and other people. If I’m the only one drinking, it destroys the point for me.”
“Right. So, you’ll be drinking with the kids. They’re other people. Well, kind of.”
“My kids don’t drink, William. Obviously.”
“Oh. They religious nuts or something?”
There was a long pause at the other end of the line. “They’re children, William.”
“Right,” said William, failing to grasp this simple concept. “So, they’re going to puke all over and piss themselves anyway. You might as well let them drink.”
An audible sigh came from Hugh. “Goodbye, William.”
Hanging up the phone, William shrugged and entered the pub, taking a seat alone at the bar.
“Dave. Another pint, please,” William said to Tommy the barkeep six pints later. Tommy nodded and brought him his beer.
“Anything else, William?”
“Not for now. Cheers, Dave,” William said, holding up his glass and taking a sip.
Tommy leaned over to William and said quietly, “I don’t normally get in the middle of this sort of thing, but that lady at the other end of the bar was asking about you. You know, if you’re interested.”
William looked down the bar where a couple of women sat. “Which one?”
Tommy glanced behind him quickly. “The one in the light blue shirt.”
“You mean the fat one.”
Tommy winced. “I would never call a customer fat. That seems mean.”
“But you are talking about the fat one, right?”
“She’s not that fat. Sure, she’s bigger than the other ladies she’s with, but I wouldn’t call her fat.”
William sighed. “Fine. The plus sized one, then?”
Tommy thought for a moment. “I think even plus sized is considered inappropriate.”
“Well, Jesus Christ, Dave. I don’t know how to put it any nicer. If I can’t call her plus sized, what should I call her? Fat fuck sized? Are you referring to the fat fuck sized woman at the other end of the bar?”
“See? That wasn’t so difficult, now was it?”
Tommy shrugged. “So, I’m guessing I should tell her you aren’t interested?”
“Whatever. I’m not, but honestly I wouldn’t mind the company.”
William looked into his beer. For a moment he zoned out, lost in his thoughts and his drunken haze. Then, a voice brought him back into awareness.
William looked up at the woman in the light blue shirt who was now sitting next to him. Though Tommy was right and she wasn’t as fat as she looked across the bar, her face and teeth did more than enough to kill any attraction William might have had for the woman, even through his increasingly heavy beer goggles. He mustered a weak smile.
“How do you do?”
“Pretty well, I suppose. I’m Kathy,” the woman, Kathy, apparently, said, extending a warm, moist hand which William took. Cringing, he shook the lady’s hand, and she responded with her own relatively weak handshake. The woman smiled at him. “So, what’s your name?”
“Huh? Oh. It’s, uh, William, I suppose.”
The woman laughed a lot more than she should have given the situation and the half-hearted nature of the joke. “You’re funny.”
“It wasn’t intentional, I assure you.”
Kathy leaned over and rested her head on her hand in an attempt to be seductive. “So, tell me about yourself, William.”
William shrugged. “Not much to tell, really. I work a dead end job at an insurance company, so that’s rather boring. I live alone in a small, crappy apartment. Overall, I guess I’m something of a pathetic loser.”
“Oh, come now. I’m sure that’s not true.”
“It most certainly is. I also drink too much, eat like crap, and am an emotionally crippled and closed off loner incapable of forming an emotional connection with another human being.”
Kathy reached over and touched William’s hand. “I may be able to help with that.”
William looked around the room, searching for a response. “I have a small penis,” he said, grimacing. Again, Kathy laughed an inappropriately large amount. William sighed. “So, tell me about yourself.” He paused for a panicked moment. “Katy,” he guessed.
“Kathy. Well,” she said, sitting up excitedly and smacking her lips. She gathered her thoughts as if preparing for a dissertation. “I’m 36 years young. I’m a bank teller. Well, I work as a bank teller, but I’m really a writer. That’s my passion. I just work at a bank to pay the bills while I follow my dreams.”
“So, you’re a bank teller?” William said, taking a sip of his beer and rolling his eyes.
“I like my friends, and I like to have fun.”
“That’s a unique perspective. Most people I know hate their friends. And I personally have never met anyone who likes to have fun before.”
Kathy slapped William playfully, and continued. “I don’t care what other people think about me, and I dance like nobody’s watching.”
“Of course. You have to show everybody what a free spirit you are.”
“I know, right? See, you understand me. Nobody else gets the real me,” Kathy said, smiling as sweetly as she could at William with her misshapen buck teeth.
“Yeah. It’s almost like people judge you based on what you do and say as opposed to the fantastical image you have of yourself.”
“You know, we could get out of here,” Kathy said, licking her lips. “My place is nearby.”
“No. Uh, thank you for the offer and everything, but I think I’m just going to sit here and drink.”
“Come on,” Kathy said, leaning over and rubbing William’s thigh. William pulled away slightly.
“No. I’m good.”
“Pretty please. With an extra sugar coated cherry on top,” Kathy said, sticking her tongue out in a gesture that was supposed to be sexy, but ended up being just plain weird.
“Seriously?” William asked with more curiosity than disgust or anger. “Has that ever worked? Has a man ever been like ‘well, I wasn’t really interested in having sex tonight, but since you said please, I’ll give you my cock’? It just seems like it would be a wholly ineffective strategy.”
“Fine,” Kathy said, standing up angrily. “I get the point. You men are all so shallow. Just because I’m not conventionally attractive, you won’t sleep with me.”
“You aren’t attractive by convention, or any other standards that I’m aware of,” William said, shrugging and returning to his beer. “Though I agree it is absurd that men find sexual attraction to be an important component in deciding who they engage in intercourse with.”
“You know what? I don’t care what you think. I’m sexy damn it.”
“No. You aren’t. And that’s alright,” William said, putting his beer down and turning back to Kathy. “Not everyone is going to be physically attractive, and for the most part it’s not something you have control over. But not everyone needs to be. There are a lot of other positive qualities an individual can have. You could be smart, caring, funny, creative, industrious, or have any other number of positive qualities. All of these traits are more important than physical attractiveness, so who cares if you aren’t sexy?”
“I know. Right?” Kathy said, happily sitting back down and turning back to William. “I’m so glad to hear you say that. I totally agree.”
William shrugged and picked up his pint glass. “The fact that you feel the need to sit in a bar and insist that you are sexy tells me you probably don’t have any of these qualities, but you never know. You might.”
Kathy got up from her seat again. “Goodbye, William.”
“Mmm, that smells like, well, like food,” Hugh said as he walked through the door. He walked over to Amy, who was cooking something at the stove, and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before gingerly walking over to the kitchen table and taking a seat. “What are you cooking?”
“It’s a new recipe I found online for shrimp and vegetables,” Amy said, continuing to stir the pot on the stove.
“Shrimp? That doesn’t have shrimp in it, does it?” Hugh asked, his voice growing heavy with concern. “Because I’m allergic to shrimp.”
“Ooh, it might,” Amy said, wincing and turning around to face Hugh for a second before returning her attention to the pot. “Don’t worry. If you die, I’ll just tell the kids I meant to kill you. Probably for the insurance money.”
“What? Why would you do that?”
“Well, honey, it’s easier than admitting I made a mistake,” Amy said, turning to look at Hugh. She laughed at the humorless expression on Hugh’s face. “Relax. How long have we been married? I’m well aware of your shrimp allergy. I replaced the shrimp in the recipe with chicken.”
“Oh. Uh, good,” Hugh said, slowly sitting back in his seat and closing his eyes. Amy turned around and looked at him curiously.
“Everything all right?” she asked with a tinge of concern in her voice.
“Hmm? Yeah, why?”
“I don’t know. You just seem a little quiet, that’s all.”
“I’m just tired. These morning runs are beginning to wear me out,” Hugh said. He took a deep breath. “Oh, well. I’m sure I’ll get used to them eventually.”
“I suppose,” Amy said, taking the pot off the stove and carrying it over to the table. “Kids, dinner’s ready. Anyway, it does seem a little silly. Doing all that effort to win a football game.”
“Meh. It has nothing to do with that, really,” Hugh said, scooping a serving from the pot and putting it onto his plate. “Sure, that was what motivated William to mention the idea. And maybe it’s what drives him. You know how fucked in the head he is.”
“I do. It’s kind of sad, really. He’s such a nice guy, at the heart of it.”
“But anyway, I just like the idea of getting into shape. I’ve been fat my whole life, and slow, and I just thought it was a good opportunity to maybe change some of that. Hell, even if nothing works, at least I’ll have tried, you know? I don’t know. Maybe it’s stupid, but I figure it can’t hurt.”
“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m very proud of you,” Amy said, taking a bite of her own meal. “I think you’re setting a great example for the kids.”
Amy smiled at Hugh, who returned the smile across the table as the kids came running into the kitchen, took their seats, and began to eat.