Six empty beer bottles lay strewn like a defeated army unit across the coffee table. The last period of a hockey game wound down on the tv.
“Here Johnny-boy. Drink up!” A beer flew into John’s peripheral vision and landed on the couch beside him.
“Can’t. Old lady’ll be pissed off enough as it is.”
“Aw, shit. She can’t do anything. What the hell’s the difference between six and seven. What does she do--make you blow?” The speaker had a laugh over his pun.
“Naw, it’s not that; it’s just getting late. I should really be pushing off.”
“Fuck man, it’s eleven thirty. Work doesn’t start until seven. We got almost eight hours.”
John bristled. The desire not to be seen as rude coupled with a hatred of most people had long created in him a bizarre demeanour. Sometimes he was overbearingly friendly, others inexplicably caustic. Perceptive and sensitive people perceived and sensed in him an absolutely inhuman insincerity.
“Sorry, Bill, I just can’t. You know how Amy’s been the past couple months.” John was fishing for a sense of comradeship.
“Hell, I know it. Well, I guess I can’t blame ya. I’d probably be pussy-footing around worse than you are if I was you. It’s just good to have you back, you know? The line’s been damn boring, and Jim shooting off his mouth all day! Christ!”
“Well thanks a lot for the beer, Bill.” John got up.
“At least stay and finish up the one you got--the game’s not even over.”
John’s voice was steadily weakening. “I can’t.” He drew out the words. “I’ll take it with me.” He shoved the half-empty beer bottle into his jacket. “See you tomorrow.” He was stepping out the apartment door into the hallway.
“Sure, Johnny-boy. Whatever you say.” Bill looked confused. The door shut, and Bill walked over to lock it. On the table beside the door he found a fifty dollar bill.
The walk home was only twenty minutes, but it took John thirty. The beer in his jacket stayed untouched the whole way; when he got in sight of his town-house he pulled the bottle out and tossed it behind some bushes. He fumbled with his keys for a minute, keeping an eye on the upstairs window. Once inside, he took off his jacket and boots, and went upstairs. Amy was asleep. He stood and stared at her in defeated disgust. She moved. He froze, but then she was silent again, so he relaxed. His rolled up jeans landed on his shirt in the corner. In boxers and a t-shirt, John navigated the mine field Amy’s body had turned his bed into. Each touch of her skin made him cringe. He hadn’t brushed his teeth, but he had left the window open, so she probably wouldn’t know about the beer. Besides, he got up an hour before her. Once had made it six days without seeing her conscious. If he could fall asleep before one he would be lucky. Time passed. He had already assembled six lawn mowers in his head and nothing had happened. He lay awake. Lawn mowers didn’t seem to be dull enough today. French revolution: 1789. Estates General is convened at Versailles. Third Estate names itself National Assembly. Fall of Bastille. March to Versaille. King and Assembly are brought back to Paris which becomes centre of revolution. National Guard formed. Blake publishes the Songs of Innocence. 1790. Civil Constitution of Clergy and abolition of Nobility in France. Naval mutiny at Brest. 1791. Louis XVI flees to Varennes but is brought back to Paris, accepts new Constitution. 1792. Coalition of Austria and Prussia against France. France declares war. Battle of Valmy: French defeat...