Closing Redux

Jo (the name befits her role as generic lover for all sorts of desperate and intelligent young men in Sheridan) pestered me drunk again two nights ago while I was at work crunching numbers. She has a habit of binges, doesn’t seem particularly interested in any of the disposable cocks she takes home, and will on occasion when un-partnered totter out the bar and fall into my arms attempting, I suppose, to elicit some response from someone.

Tonight she told me of her conviction that Dale (the horsetrading wheeler-dealer from Texas who owns the place where I work and is Pa to Brent & Brian) is masterminding a plot to destroy the Sheridan Center, close it down, make it go kaput.

“Why is Dale trying to wreck this place?” she wondered for me.


“It’s obvious, he’s doing everything he can to ruin it!”

“Like what?”

“Oh, come on! You don’t go serving the Big Horn Executive Club with a dirty banquet room; you don’t serve Rotary the same meals two months in a row!”

“What are you talking about, that’s just simple mismanagement! It is all LaVerne’s fault, it is… just because he doesn’t keep hotshot middle management on their toes… ”

This, of course, was more proof. “Ha!” she cries. “More proof! You know why he keeps LaVerne here, don’t you?”

“What now?” I say. “Isn’t this getting a bit melodramatic?”

“It’s because Dale used to sleep with her.”

“And this is enough to protect a job?”

For Jo it is clear as a bell. “She could break up Dale and Billie.” An afterthought, though — “But Billie probably knows about it anyway.”

Right, thinks I. They’re all over sixty if they’re a day. I don’t see what it will matter. Or why any of this matters, for that matter. I begin to understand after a while.

“Look,” I expound, “You’re not being rigorous, scientific about this. You’re using the assertion, the hypothesis, as proof of itself, which is invalid.”

Bring drunk, Jo nods sagely, missing it all, probably watching the hair on my head or something. “The board forced him to take a leave on the place this summer,” she tells me. “They got all pissed off and shafted him.”

This is getting tiresome, I thought. “So what? So what? I don’t care!”

“But why is he trying to kill the place?”

“Oh, so he can take a tax write-off or something. It’s all the coke money, this place is really just a laundromat for the Mafia or something. They’re getting rich from Mason smuggling, they need a money sink.”

“Be serious,” she tells me.

“Yeah, right, be serious. You haven’t given me any conclusive evidence to back up these assertions that get you so emotionally worked up. If you’re going to be scientific, you take the data, generalize a rule, and then test to see if the rule holds true in cases previously unexplored. So what do you have for me? He keeps on some washed-out help, sure. He lets them insult the good customers, lets them serve bad food, lets them turn the place into a pigsty. This isn’t at all enough to go on for generalizing the rule unless you’re paranoid.”

I pause for breath.

“And more — if it were true, we’d have to find out more evidence of it. If he really wants to do this, wouldn’t he be going at it with more vigor? Why does he do some things that are good for the place?”

“It would be too obvious.”

“Argument from silence. If that’s what he’s doing it becomes obvious after a time anyway. He might as well go whole hog.”

“But you don’t wipe the banquet slate clean, you don’t let them all go, you don’t give in!”

“More! It has to obey Occam’s razor! If there is a simpler answer, that’s the one! All your evidence adds up to nothing more than a tired old man who’s given up the ghost, who leaves everything in the hands of his corrupt and decadent lackeys! What about the union, he would have let that slide through if he really wanted to bust the place, but he fought it!”

“Dale is smart,” Jo warns me, “he’s no dummy. You mean to tell me it’s just a case of incompetence, the way he has four people working maintenance and the walls haven’t been washed in ten years? The grime is so thick you can wipe it off with your fingers in the kitchen alone.”

I give a little. “And the walls of the hallways, the brick, I know, I’ve spent some time trying to do them with a spray bottle and towels, but I just don’t have the tools.”

“See! See! He’s trying to ruin the place!”

“No, he’s not. It’s just another case of power being blind. If stupidity is an answer, or laziness, then that suffices. He means to do X, but the law of unintended consequences means that Y will result. Among other things, he maybe just doesn’t pay attention to details that the lowly ones like us see all the time.”

“But why does he keep on all these idiots, these fucking jerks!?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know. Why worry about it, anyway?”

“It’s your job, it’s my job, aren’t you worried about that?” Now I begin to understand where Jo hails from.

“What can you do about it?” I ask. “You buys your ticket and you takes your ride. Do your best to prepare for unpleasant events.”

“But he shouldn’t be allowed!”

“You’re making a claim to some sort of authority over him, making a claim to title that isn’t just. From where do you derive title?”

Drunks don’t see it that way. We haggled for a while, until we got on the subject of drugs, and I elicited a promise.

“What do you need?” she asks, power over me now.

“Need, no, need?”

“Well, what do you want?”

“I like chemicals, synthetic opiates, maybe some Darvon, Percodan.”

“How many? I’ll get you twelve, I have hundreds, every doctor in town hands me prescriptions.”

I’m amazed. “What, your back?”

“Sure! I’m a trained actress, I can get whatever I want!”

Later it ran back onto the unfounded suspicions.

“I tell you, he means to close this place down.”

It dawns on me then. We’re not just talking about Dale or the Center. I recall, Lord, I recall, who ended up buying all that cheap rock bottom price land in the years after ’29, and I recall, I’m now singing the blues, and she says, “He makes money whether this place is open or closed.”

He makes money whether this place is open or closed. Tim has a new baby son. I am flat broke. Jo wants to save and go back to school. The rest? They have their ends, and one means, but He makes money whether this place is open or closed. I still don’t think he wants to close it down, though. Not Dale, anyway. David? Ronald? Edwin Meese? Come down to the Chase when you need a loan.

Originally appeared in Inside Joke #24

archive: minifictions

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