As promised, here are the Top 3 Winners of Bukowski Tavern’s 17th Annual Pint & Pen Contest! Thanks to fellow sponsor Harpoon. First Place prize: $2,500. Second Place: $1,000. Third Place: A SET OF STEAK KNIVES.
3rd PLACE: NICK LEHR: “THE JOB INTERVIEW”
So the lady interviewing me sits me down in one of the booths. She seems real sweet, tells me her name is Michelle. Definitely not hot though. I look around the place, and all the other girls have their fake blonde hair, fake nails, fake eyelashes, and I’m thinkin, Jesus, I’m gonna need to teach them how to properly put on makeup, tell them not to fake bake so goddamn much, be a real girl.
“So, Ann Marie,” this chick says.
“Call me Mo, hun – it’s what my friends call me,” I reply.
“Okay. So, Mo, it says here that you were previously employed at the 99 in Waltham.”
“And why did you leave that job?”
“Oh there’s too much drama there, and overall that place is just so fucking tapped.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Let me exemplify for you what I mean: so last week my manager Rick messages me and is like, ‘What kind of panties are you wearing for me tonight?’”
Okay, Mo – ”
“All I say is, ‘Rick, do you think you’re fuckin special?’ And he goes, ‘You know you want me.’ I say, ‘Honestly, I could care less.’ Then he says, ‘Well if can’t get you then I’ll hook up with your friends.’ I’m like, ‘None of my friends will hook up with you and your pint-sized pecker.’ Then he goes, ‘Krissy would.’”
“Mo, you – ”
“Hold on, hun, let me finish. So I’m like, ‘good luck with that, Krissy gives horrendous head.’ And he’s like, ‘well your head wasn’t that great,’ and I’m like, ‘okay buddy I’ve had enough of this immaturity my head is bomb and if you didn’t think it was then you’re obviously a homosexual,’ and he’s like, ‘I’m just kidding obviously I dig it.’”
“Mo, I think we have to move onto the next question.”
“I just can’t deal with that kinda immaturity and stupidity, you know?”
“Alright, next question. At Hooters we have a motto: ‘our girls earn their wings every day.’ As a waitress here, how would you earn your wings?”
“Do I get to eat the wings once I earn them?”
“No, it’s just a motto.”
“I know, I’m just kiddin, hun. Well, to address your question, I’m the nicest girl you’ll ever meet, and I love meeting new people. I love my friends and would pretty much do anything for them. Partying is my favorite activity, and I am always there for my friends no matter what. Oh, and I hate drama and I just love when everyone is happy. And if I hate you, there must be a reason, because I seriously love everyone.”
“Thank you for that response,” she says.
“Why, you’re welcome, dear,” I reply. I even bat my eyelashes for some extra brownie points.
“Okay,” she says. “Now, at Hooters, the job can get hectic. People are yelling out orders, groups want pictures with you, people want their checks. Are you the type of girl that can think quickly on her feet?”
“Yeah, most definitely, I can think real quick, like last summer, there was this guy, he took me to the fuckin Capitol Grille, bought me a one hundred dollar meal – iceberg wedge, steaks, Harpoon drafts – kid tried to class it up hard. So after we’re done he drives me back to my mother’s house, and he kinda gives me this look, like, ‘let’s do it.’ Now, this guy was just some retard who thought he was goin pro for hockey – he was livin in la-la land if you ask me – so I’m like thinkin, and I need to think quick on my feet, so what do I do? Tell me what you think I did.”
“I don’t know, Mo, what did you do?”
“Gave him a peck on the cheek! I bet you thought I would at least – ”
“No, Mo,” she says. “I didn’t think anything.”
So then Michelle taps her pen and kinda gives this sigh, like she’s actually makin a difficult decision – just to make me squirm, even though I know I’ve had this job in the bag ever since I set foot in the place. Meanwhile some cute guy walks over, gives me a look, then whistles. I give him a lil wink and a wave back.
Michelle looks at the guy, then looks back at me. I give her my prettiest smile. She looks over her papers again. She says, “Okay, so when can you start?”
Goddamn right I’m the shit.
2nd PLACE: STEPHEN UYS: “COTTON BALL”
*NOTE: As Stephen could not attend, the $1,000 Second Place prize was donated to The Karen Rand Fund.
I wanted to be a revolutionary. That’s what reading too may books did for me. That and punk rock. The biography of Lenin; The Communist Manifesto; My Friend Ernesto; Sandinista; Billy Bragg; Woody-this-machine-kills-fascists; Castro. A work boot to the ass of the American Fruit Company. Not some Baader-Meinhof clown robbing banks.
I didn’t want to free monkeys. I wanted people to get what they deserved. Health, food, school, a living wage. I had these things, but may didn’t.
Violence didn’t bother me. Someone blows up the Stock Exchange. Sorry, but your daughter, son, husband, father died doing what they loved: Screwing the working man.
Ask any worker over a pint of Harpoon, if they have ever taken it up the ass and you are looking for a fight. Ask them about the banks and you’ll get the Fox News line.
I don’t know when I figured out my revolution was lost before I was born. Probably the day some yuppie bastard crossed a picket line at Whole Foods to buy some organic tomatoes. He was wearing a Clash T-shirt. I asked him to take it off but he told me the store required shirts. “Sexual Intercourse off,” would been far better. He didn’t get it. The descrimisados walked a slow funeral march in the parking lot. All they wanted was health insurance.
That day, for the first time in my life, I respected a cop. The man’s car, some sporty European job, was being hoisted by a town truck. He screamed at the officer who had called it in. He’d parked twelve inches into the disabled spot. “Call a non-union cop, maybe they’ll help you.” The officer didn’t say another wor.
Won the battle, lost the war. I became a teacher.
One of the mothers would visit often. I’d failed her son again. She pointed out that he was deserving of more. I agreed. He was easily my finest student. I’d rectify it with a quick dash of my pen. I started failing him more often. It was a cheap tactic.
He always marked his paper “Anonymous,” and the class, “we are everywhere.”
One afternoon she stopped talking and looked at me. She seemed curious why her beauty didn’t work on me.
“You are the saddest man I know.”
“The saddest example of one, or the saddest?”
She held my feelings like a hollowed egg. “The latter.”
She put the egg back in my chest. Then she was embarrassed. She didn’t have a wedding ring, but it proved nothing. Eventually she asked if I’d like to have a drink. I didn’t mention I’d had three from my flask after the last bell.
I took down two little Dixie cups and poured a finger of Scotch in each. The cups had smiley faces and the wax came off in your nails. She assed a splash of Evian.
Pint glasses don’t usually have smiley faces. At least not the first six or seven Harpoons.
We had sex on the desk. When she got up there was a cotton ball stuck to her ass and one of the third grader’s sheep was missing its head.
She cried softly. I felt awkward standing in my classroom in boxer shorts, drinking Scotch from a Dixie cup.
“Are you married?”
“Widowed. He was in Bogota. There was a bomb.”
They said. I think it was us. Nobody wanted to dig any deeper.”
“FARC kidnaps. He was a journalist, a writer, a dreamer. He went to teach English. We were supposed to join him. He wanted to be a revolutionary.”
We were married six months later.
1st PLACE: SARAH CADORETTE
It isn’t my intention to be punching the priest mid-sermon, I swear, I came to church with only a modicum of healthy skepticism, and yet here we are, my fist kissing his closely-shaven jawline. I wonder, between pulling my elbow back and hitting the spot where his jawbones meet, if he uses a special razor. Maybe even a shaving brush.
I don’t know at what point, during which hymn or after the recitation of which Psalm, I decided to rise from my pew and walk calmly up the aisle to the pulpit. Hard to be sure what set me off, but I’m screaming, “IF ALL IS POSSIBLE THROUGH THE LORD, THEN WHY DON’T YOU KNOW BASIC SELF DEFENSE?” so I think I have some idea. I’ve always found over-confidence to be a sign of poor character.
Women pull children into their conservative necklines, their husbands huff and puff, and yet the only person to approach me is an elderly woman with lipstick smeared around her withered lips.
“Who do you think you are,” she scolds, slapping me on the shoulder, “to challenge God and His believers?”
Though her words are laughable, she’s half my size and three times my age and the only person standing up to me at all and I find her moxie refreshing. To show my appreciation, I pick up an urn that’s full of (I assume) holy water, take a mouthful, gargle, and spit it towards the horrified congregation.
“I AM MAN!” I scream, before running down the aisle and out of the church.
When I visit my shrink a few hours later, she asks about the dried blood on the sleeve of my fading button-up, the only shirt I own without holes. I tell her I was doing a social experiment.
“And, in case you were wondering, there was only one person of courage in the whole damn congregation.”
I spare her the gory details; there’s no need to stress the poor doctor. “An elderly woman who probably understands the depravity this society has fallen into, though not enough to keep out of the oldest pyramid scheme in the world.”
“Uh huh.” The good doctor stares at me for a long moment. “Have you ever heard of Bukowski Syndrome?”
“Sounds sexy,” I say, licking the words.
“Right,” she continues; no need to entertain my ill-begotten arousal. “It’s a form of functional nihilism in which sufferers attempt to impose their philosophy on society through aggressive and risky behavior, often sabotaging themselves at the same time. Do you think you might have Bukowski Syndrome?”
“Well, Doc, it seems unfair to give you my opinion for free when I pay for yours.”
She smiles. “Well, I believe you have an advanced case. I’m going to recommend that, before it gets any worse, you start writing apologies.”
“I mean, if it fixed Mel Gibson’s anti-semitism, it’s gotta work for me, right, Doc?”
She is both a professional at listening to me and ignoring me. “Write an apology to whoever was part of your social experiment,” she says, eyeing my sleeve. “Then write a list of things you like about yourself.”
I realize I will need some lubricant for my mental cogs to get this assignment going. I shuffle to the nearest bar, the only worthwhile joint for miles.
“I want the Hemingway beer,” I say, pointing to a handle.
“You mean the Harpoon?” the bartender asks, eyebrow raised.
“Yeah. A pint of that,” I bark. He obliges. I pull out a pen and a copy of the Dig, which is written by my kind of people. In the margins and between gulps, I begin writing my apology:
I am sorry for our conflict of interest yesterday. I have a condition that makes me act on my principles, but I recognize it’s not always constructive. As someone who has devoted his life to some idea of morality, I hope you can understand.
Then I jot down a list of qualities about myself that are somewhat redeeming:
-Great critical thinker
I pause and take a sip. A long sip. I ask for another Hemingway beer, and as I start into my second drink, I remember the horror of the congregation and the look on that old woman’s heavily wrinkled face, her certainty, her spunk. I smile and write,
-A fucking fantastic zest for life