Solving the world's problems at Carrol's Popcorn Grill, an uncomfortable truth emerges.
Far from the insulation of the Ivory Towers of Academia an uncelebrated meeting of the minds coalesced in a small island of obscurity. Men without letters and no Greek, just a collection of working stiffs, of forgotten men, overlooked men, nameless faces easily forgotten. The shadows of society that inhabit the nether regions of a world all too happy to exclude them from any meaningful discourse. Located among the twirling ocean currents of asphalt, among the islands of steel and concrete of Pennsylvania, is Carrol's Popcorn Grill, nestled in a forgotten harbor of a dusty sideshow attraction of Glassport. Some would note that this town is a beacon of high culture, an art unto itself when juxtaposed among the surrounding communities. Those people are fools worth ignoring. A wise man once remarked that the typical denizen of this spot of muck, with clarity of thought and precision of speech, are 'A bunch of daffy bastards.' A man of brilliance, once noted that even fools have something to teach.
Meet the current Saturday night college of scholars, meeting as they do, to begin their journey of social thought powered by alcohol. Sitting as they do at the bar, in no order is John Stone, occupation, security guard at a prestigious downtown warehouse, whose days came filled with making his patrols among stacks of paper products and barrels of ink. Next is Justin, a much-revered man of few words and insight the retail clerk at the local beer distributor. Lastly, his twin brother Lorenzo, a personality in search of a meaning. This gaggle of misfits, falls under the severe eye of Avery Number Two, archetypical governess of teenagers that in the current era, is a barmaid.
"Why do you call me Bird Cage and why do you drink things like Aqua Velva...It's an old man's drink," Avery the much abused and often slandered barmaid, asked blandly as she rendered the concoction to Stone.
"As for the drink I'm and old man and the hangover isn't that bad," Stone replied flatly. "Secondly your name means bird cage. That's the definition of Avery. Bird Cage."
"Wrong it means ruler of elves, both English and French" Justin corrected him. "It's a declension of the Anglo-Saxon Albert and the older Germanic Alberich. Once masculine, it's now gender neutral."
"So, it's a pronoun?" she asked looking baffled at Justin. Then nodding her head toward Stone, "I expect weird shit from rockhead but not from you..."
"A-v-I-ary, A-v-E-ry now that's a not declension. Your use of the 'D' word is wrong. I'm making a pun, a pun and here you are with a dictionary..." Stone shot back, past the bewildered barmaid, to Justin. "Simulism...Homophone. Homonym. Process that through your..."
"I fucked a midget last week..." Lorenzo spat interrupting the conversation.
"Say what?" Stone erupted, then staring at him in a state of icy shock.
"Huh?" Justin belched, nearly spilling his beer. "A midget? Where'd you meet a midget?"
"Was she any good?" Avery asked blankly.
"She's four-foot tall!" Lorenzo spat, then in a singular gulp, made his beer disappear. He ordered another with a shot of whiskey.
"Was she legal?" Stone asked seriously.
"Twenty-seven," Lorenzo replied, his glassy eyes staring into space.
"Yah, that's legal by a longshot..." Justin commented.
"Just the right height, eh?" Avery observed as she delivered his order.
"And? She's a woman...What's the problem?" his brother asked.
"She's four-foot tall...Lovely flaxen hair like amber waves of grain cascading across the fruited plain..." Lorenzo went on, staring into the air, lost in a trance.
"You're talking like that asshole at the end of the bar does. Stop it," Avery commanded him. "I put up with him because I have too and he's a big tipper but I'm not putting up with that from you. Cheapskate."
"So, you're saying if I tipped you, I could use a more colorful vocabulary? As opposed to four letter or four syllable words?" Lorenzo asked as he snapped back out of his fugue state, threw the shot of whiskey back. Without a flinch.
"No, I'm saying you're a cheapskate. I'm a head taller than you...You're still not talking to me like that," she menacingly smiled. It didn't take too much effort to see her as a one-hundred-sixty pound, six-foot-tall puma.
"Gentlemen!" another patron announced as he strutted into the bar. Wearing a dated black leather jacket, along with an all-black motif, not Johnny Cash but something different. He handed a standard flier, in color to the barmaid. It's an advertisement for a studio wrestling event hosted by the local fire hall. His name Sylas McCarthy, a punk rock throwback...In black and leather. "Studio wrestling event...Come one, come all! Could you post that somewhere?"
"You bastard," Avery venomously hissed.
"You're still pissed off over that?" he replied looking baffled. He then looked around confused, "I said I was sorry."
She then double-glanced at Stone then asked, "How come you look like him?"
"Who?" Sylas gulped.
"That asshole!" she yelled. She pointed at Stone without taking her eyes off him.
"That's my dad! Who do you think I'd look like?" he shot back.
"I think you'd look funny wearing your ass for a hat," Lorenzo threatened as he turned slowly, deliberately, around on his barstool. "I know what you did to Avery. It's all over town. It's all over for you."
"Yeah, what makes you think you could do that?" Sylas barked getting in his face.
"He's compensating for the fact his girlfriends a midget. What you did is just an excuse," Justin interjected calmly as he got off his barstool.
"Your girlfriends a midget?" Sylas queried, clearly thrown off his game. "We're talking midgets...Not those short people with tiny tyrannosaurus rex arms?"
He then held his arms up as if they were shorter, like on the dinosaur.
"Midget. Not a dwarf. Two different things..." Lorenzo answered.
"Yeah obviously. SO...What's the problem?" Sylas went on. Baffled.
"Studio Wrestling isn't a martial art," Justin calmly said.
"Nobody here said that. I'm an entertainer..." Sylas replied, still baffled.
"I'll just turn around and stick this on the wall..." Avery whimsically announced, turned around while producing a premonitory wince.
There were two things struck with great violence. The first when Lorenzo knocked Sylas out with an upper cut to his jaw. The second when the floor jumped up violating the known laws of reality, and struck Sylas on the back of the head. As the brothers dragged Sylas outside by his ankles, Avery asked Stone how that happened.
"Got lonely, a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20," Stone shrugged. "Didn't know about him until six months ago."
"Yep, that'll do it..." Avery remarked as Jim, a local proprietor of a legitimate small business walked in. He stopped, looked out the door and grimaced before turning to Avery and asking politely for clarification of the ongoing festivity. She explained it to him using her own personal idiom whereas he responded 'After what I was told he did to you...He deserves worse.' As he took an available barstool Lorenzo flew violently into the front door, knocking the door open and through the doorway. He skidded on his back on the floor stopping at the feet of Jim.
"Hey Jim, nice to see you! How's things at the rental business?" he inquired politely. As he got up off the floor, he the added. "Love to chat but I have a situation here."
He then ran out, taking a barstool with him.
"You break it you pay for it!" Avery yelled as he disappeared into a cacophony of animal screaming, glass breaking, other sounds all punctuated by the incessant blaring of car alarms.
"Enough of this happy horse shit," Stone muttered polishing off his drink. He drew a .45 automatic from underneath his left arm, carefully with a well-worn habit double-checked the round in the chamber then told the barmaid to have another drink ready when he returned. None of this even warranted Jim's attention who by now is drinking his beer while scrolling through a Legitimate Small Businessman Insider article on his cell phone. A second or so after the door closed, three shots rang out followed by a deep silence.
"Well didn't need this," Lorenzo announced to Avery as he strutted through the door holding up the barstool. Behind him followed a smiling Justin, then a disgusted sour looking Stone.
"You don't even think about saying anything..." Stone ordered Avery before she could even ask.
"So, to change the conversation, what does Jim think today?" Avery chirped as she wiped the bar down, changing out several ash trays.
"The price of tea in China went up and in four months, thereof, the knock-on effect enhanced by the Import Tariff of 1998 will make beer cheaper," he answered authoritatively.
"You tell us we talk funny," Justin giggled looking at Avery.
"That's because he went to Community College and has an education," Avery shot back.
Jim laughed, then asks her "What else do you do beside bartend?"
"Mortuary Cosmetology. Good money but people don't die fast enough to make a living off it..." Avery answered. "Want another beer?"
"Did you wash your hands before you came to work?" Lorenzo asked with a touch of urgency.
"Yeah, I did...Smell!" she shot back offering him a hand.
"People get shot all the time anymore," Stone observed. "Take those two twits that got shot down in Wilkinsburg. What were they fifteen? Sixteen years old?"
"Do an adult crime, do an adult time," Lorenzo mused and asked for another one.
"They were teenagers...Don't know shit," Justin observed.
"Why were they out at two in the morning? My mom would have my head on a stick for that! Hell, Donna would have my head on a stick for that..." Lorenzo chimed in.
"Bet it's a big stick," Avery chuckled. She then looked over at Jim who seemed confused and explained. "His old lady is a midget. Four-feet of furry terror."
"Her names Donna? Works down at the hospital?" Jim then asked Lorenzo.
"Yeah...You know her?"
"Rented a storage space to her. When she moved in around Christmas last year, she dressed in an orange Christmas outfit that made her look like a road cone. Said she's laid off from Santa's Workshop and needed a place for her shoes," Jim shrugged. "Hell, had shots fired down my storage units last night. Druggies everywhere. Gott' a get a handle on that."
"Hang'em all," Lorenzo observed.
"Won't stop anything," Stone interjected. "The dead teenie boppers never had a chance. Under those circumstances. You're holding children responsible as adults...They're not adults."
"After what you just did? A bit two faced..." Lorenzo observed.
"I'm an adult, you were in on it. Sylas might have had it coming, he's an adult that should've known better but I still say everyone is over reacting to what he did. Bias so noted. Opposition from a man that's dating a road cone, is morally bereft of value."
"Hey! She's short but still a bit taller than a road cone! She's an accounts clerk with a real job...Not a reject from Santa's Workshop!"
"You missed the point there, mister flaxen hair like amber waves of grain," Avery interjected.
"Which would be what? All he's noted for at this juncture in time is a colorful and eccentric use of vocabulary. That, and shooting the car alarms on two Honda's and a Jeep. Which I have to say is a bit extreme, but understandable as those devices can be taxing on the nerves."
"Granted. But you're hot and bothered by dating an adult that's sub-par in vertical accomplishment. Unconsciously you see your adult, full blown girlfriend as a fifth grader. Adults don't date fifth graders, that leaves you conflicted despite you know she's a full-blown woman with wants and needs just like any woman. Now we have a bunch of kids acting like animals and shooting the place up. We treat them like adults that should know better, when they're not adults, don't know better and we don't realize the conflict. Typical of QTPD..." Avery observed.
"QTPD? What's QTPD?" Stone asked. "Sounds pretty advanced for a barmaid."
"Up yours. I have to keep up with things to keep my mortuary cosmetologist license," she shot back and pulled up a magazine, Funerary Arts and Services, from under the bar. Pointing to a sub-title announces, "See...Understanding QTPD. It explains the concept as part of your client bereavement process. Now its big article takes up several pages...Understanding the heuristics of QTPD as a part of the cognitive dissonance of passing by Dr. Song Bagavatiddi-Guptalarrie. From my grasp of it. You all here except maybe Jim, have QTPD."
"Huh?" Lorenzo grunted.
"The basic thesis is society imprints on the unconscious mind a set a behaviors and viewpoints people adopt unknowingly. So, when the conscious mind encounters a conflict, these unconscious principles acquired by exposure but not time dependent...That means when you get it, you keep it...Gives you an irrational short cut to framing the answer in a manner to avoid conflict. Case in point Lorenzo's girlfriend's height impediment elicits a response of conflict. Part of him thinks he's a pedo unconsciously but his super ego the adult within knows better. Hence the conflict which is irrational because Donna is an adult. Then you have the conflict which says teenagers shouldn't be getting greased in drug deals gone bad. So, the big people mind finds that circumstance infuriatingly and being helpless to do anything about the decadence of society...Which is exactly what is happening...Defaults to the QTPD heuristic that says, 'DO an adult crime, do adult time.' Naturally there's arguments if this is a thought disorder or not but the somatic response is a verbosity of color, jocularity, or verbal syntax that falls short of the Horatio de Balzac standard but not quite. QTPD."
She then smiles self-satisfyingly, leans back against the wall and makes the claim she is more than smiling face. As for Stone and the brothers, they sat there silently stunned the only response is finishing their drinks and ordering more in silence. Jim didn't say anything, he seemed to be contemplating what she said, and before he could ask anything the door opened. Stumbling over the threshold, collapsing to the floor a beaten black and blue mess, Sylas McCarthy crawled over to the bar. He pulled himself up using a barstool as a crutch.
"Do you know what you don't have and a packed bar in West Virginia does?" Avery asked him before he could say anything.
"What?" Sylas painfully slurred.
"A full set of teeth," she answered.
"I told you I was sorry," he answered her. He then looked over at the brothers and his father and stated, accusingly. "I could understand kicking my ass. Kicking in my head and more than likely breaking all my ribs. I can deal with the concussion...But did you have to shoot the yellow Honda?"
"What makes the yellow Honda special? I shot a white one and a brown Jeep," Stone answered.
"It was mine! I still have payments on it!" Sylas yelled.
"Well next time I'll shoot it twice!" Stone shot back. "One hole! Two holes! What's the difference?"
"Point taken, but I still have payments left on it and a repair bill! The alarm was OEM. Don't know where I'm getting another one!" Sylas responded.
"Okay I'll buy you one to make up for the car alarm..." Stone related.
Before he could get a beer across his lips, the rotating lights of multiple police cruisers shone themselves through the front window of the Popcorn Grill. Seconds later four of Glassport's finest swaggered in, saw Sylas, and menacingly spread out. The Sergeant looked around the bar and said 'I guess nobody here knows what happened, eh?' Whereas the patrons of the bar and Avery played stupid.
"Thought so," he barked. Looking at Sylas, he said "We know what you did to Avery...You bastard. There should be laws against you. But there's not, but there is laws against lewd conduct, drunk and disorderly and what ever happened out there. So, why'd you, do it?"
"Do what? I do allot of things..." Sylas answered in his normal idiom.
"Okay we're like Burger King...You can have it your way," a patrol officer replied and then air tasered him. His last words were, as they dragged him out by his ankles was 'Damn, am I going to feel this in the morning.' Once it seemed things had settled and would remain that way, Jim spoke.
"Quinten Tarantino Personality Disorder..." Avery answered. "See! I taught you all something! Now tomorrow when you go to work or where ever it is you slither to...You can talk about something."