“I was cold this morning,” he said. He had meticulously taken off his dark gray suit jacket, and he had draped it carefully over the chairs curved backrest. He was average height, and he appeared quite fit as he sat down on the cushioned seat near The Moon’s bar within the Snug section. “As I walked, I walked to work, today.”
“I drove,” the larger man said. “I was quite comfortable.”
He had slouched down on a similar chair next to the other man; but he had kept his jacket on. I thought he could have portrayed a Santa Claus like character during Christmas season, but he lacked any beard, and he wore a rumpled version of the finely tailored clothes for professional persons.
“It was cold,” he said. “But, I like walking to work.”
“Was the snow up over your ankles? Donald,” He said. He grunted and he twisted his head over toward the other man as he smirked. “Really, it was in the high fifties, we live in Florida.”
“So what, Galen,” he said. He waved over at Edwina who was near the far end of the bar. “I was cold, just saying, I was cold.”
I looked over at them, I had sat next to a square column where The Moon’s bar turned a hard westerly direction.
“I got cold, too, this morning,” I said. I drank my Guinness. “I admit it, maybe my blood has thinned?”
The larger man looked back over at me as he untucked his red tie that had been in a single Windsor knot, and had unbuttoned his dress shirt at the collar.
“Really? We don’t live in Antarctica,” He said. He pointed his right hand forefinger like a fake hand gun over at Donald. “You in with The Donald, over here?”
I thought he had intensely inquisitive hazel colored eyes that would have welcomed a mental joust, or a good dirty joke.
“If it’s a thousand degrees outside, almost everyday, for The Donald, and me,” I said. I grinned back over at him. “And then one day, it’s only eight-hundred degrees, me and The Donald are going to notice the twenty-percent temperature shift, but, if you, Galen, I take that is your name, had been living in Antarctica, and happened to land in sunny St. Pete, at the same time, you would have thought it was quite warm, right?”
He grinned as he pondered my statement.
“What you gents having, tonight?” Edwina asked.
Galen glanced over at me, and then he looked up at Edwina. Donald had quickly ordered a Bass, and had started to slowly study the laminated menu as if he had pondered each and every word, and then, he had considered what the words meant.
“I should order water, given my condition,” Galen said. He tapped at his chest. He huffed. “But, I’ll have what he’s having, a Guinness, and a water, please.”
Edwina looked over at me.
“Rob?” Edwina said. She grinned at me, as she wiped the bar top with a damp white cloth. “He’s not very creative, always has Guinness.”
“I guess I’m a creature of habit,” I said.
“So, Rob, I take that’s your name, you assume from my perception, I’d notice the temperature, before I was incinerated,” Galen said. He fumbled the edge of the menu with his thumb and forefinger. “Assuming I’d not already have frozen to death back home in Antarctica?”
Donald looked up from reading the menu.
“We know this already,” Donald said. He grimaced. “Let’s move along from this idle chit-chat. Talk about a good book, a good book is way more interesting.”
Galen set the menu down. He playfully nudged at Donald.
“Now, Dangerous Donald, I know you’re a serious monogamous reader,” Galen said. “We’re just having some mental fun with our fantasy lands.”
“I thought he was, The, Donald,” I said.
“THE, is now president, some, how,” Galen said. He shook his head, his baritone voice lowered an octave. “New nickname, it’s a sign of the times, Dangerous Donald. I think it fits him better.”
“He does look sinister,” I said. “Kinda like how sinister I look, which is not at all.”
“You’re strange men,” Donald said. He staccato laughed. “What are you having?”
Galen looked back over at me.
“See that,” Galen said. He looked over at me as he side nodded toward Donald. “That’s his poker tell, he wants me to change the subject. We must be boring him.”
After a few moments, I noticed Donald kept squeezing his fingers against a common metal paper clip. Galen noticed I had noted the instinctive movement; he acted as if it were nothing unusual.
“Are you visiting our town,” Galen asked me. He had stared directly into my eyes so as to acquire my complete attention.
“No,” I said. I looked back at him. “I just moved back here from Houston, but actually, I used to live over in South Tampa.”
Donald laughed, he wobbled on the chair.
“Not, THE, South Tampa?” Donald said. He grimaced several times, but stopped it by fake smiling. “Over here slumming it in old St. Pete, with us.”
“I know,” I said. “South Tampa has a much stuffier vibe.”
“I used to live over there, used to watch the planes take off from McDill for the wars,” Galen said. He sighed. “It was like watching an apartment building with wings take-off, amazing.”
“C-5’s, C-17’s,” I said. “We used to watch them, had a friend in the air force, they have some freaky equipment.”
“Left the ex-wife over there, too,” Galen said. “Now, Dangerous convinced me to setup our legal practice over here.” He looked up at the silent television. “You know something, now, I don’t think I’ll ever leave. I like this side of the Bay.”
I squeezed the cold Guinness glass between my hands.
“Completely different vibe over here,” I said. I sucked in a deep breath. “It’s like when I’m out on my bike, exercising, I come to an intersection, you know, cross-walk, cars, trucks, or the police, they just stop, wave me across before I even hit the red button for the signal lights.”
“Yes, they, have been encouraging people to ride bikes,” Donald said. He stretched his neck as if he were trying to loosen up before a boxing match. “It’s a big push, good push.”
“I noticed,” I said. “They’d flip me off over in Tampa, or give me the, I can’t be bothered, look.”
“Ever hop on the Pinellas Trail?” Donald said.
“Yeah,” I said. “I just discovered it, people even stop in the sketchy areas, my pasty-whiteness does not seem to matter.”
“Because we look like the MAN,” Donald said. He laughed.
Galen tapped his hand on the bar.
“The Burg’s a town, ninety-five percent here will acknowledge you, even the homeless,” Galen said. He studied the menu. He stared over at me from above the menu. “But be careful, the tourists get lost on their smartphones, looking at maps, we’ve had a few clients that got bulldozed, the bikers had assumed the driver was aware of the local rules.”
“Good point,” I said. But I had noticed that Donald had continued to press his fingers hard against the paper clip. Edwina had then served them their drink orders.
“Donald’s the fitness freak,” Galen said. He rubbed his belly. He sipped the Guinness. “I can’t run to the mailbox.”
I watched Edwina enter drink orders and food orders into the point-of-service register, and then she had swiped a credit card through a magnetic reader. I glanced back over, and I had remembered that Galen had tapped on his chest.
“Heart condition?” I asked Galen.
“Correct,” Galen said. He further loosened his shirt collar. “Very observant, actually, it’s a genetic defect. I used to be a runner like Donald. But, as I got older the abnormality reared-up, it’ll eventually get me.”
I nodded over at Galen, as if I had understood. In truth, I had only a vague notion. It was not my body; I thought I could only truly understand someone if I could have magically seen the world through their eyes, and felt what they had felt. I thought we all lived with our own time-bombs.
“Everybody has something,” I said. “I suspect I’ll get hit something similar, heart disease runs in my family history.”
Donald sat back, he closely studied my face.
“Genetics, you’re born with defects, or they get mutated,” Donald said. He fumbled with the paper clip. “I get uptight, you know, but I read a lot, learned exercising helps. It’s not fair to Galen, he can’t workout, it’s not his fault.”
Galen shrugged the comments off as if he had accepted his fate.
“Rob, do you know how many sex chromosome pairs?” Galen asked. He chuckled, and he winked at me.
“By your look,” I said. “I think you know the answer.”
“That’s called,” Donald said. He smiled. “Being a good lawyer.”
“Okay, I had a case, so, xx,” Galen said. “Get’s you a female, right?”
“That’s what I’ve been told,” I said. I sipped my Guinness.
“Then, xy, gets you a male,” Galen said. He pointed over at me. “But then, abnormalities happen, xo, xxy, xxx, xyy, and, wait for it, xyy.”
“I thought you were a lawyer?” Edwina asked. She had appeared near us. “Want to order?”
“Not just yet,” Donald said. “But, I’ll have another Bass.”
“I am,” Galen said. “And I’m a really good one.”
“Case?” I asked. “What sort of case?”
“Hospital,” Galen said. “We sued a big facility, we discovered they weren’t actually testing all the samples from the amniocentesis; so a bunch of children had developed some nasty syndromes that if caught early, could have been better dealt with, but, that’s why we have a law firm.”
“I used to work for a medical malpractice carrier,” I said.
They both amusingly stared back over at me.
“On behalf of Donald and I, we thank you,” Galen said. He smiled, and he held up his Guinness. “I appreciate them helping to buy my house, cars, trips and fund my existence, oh, cover alimony, it’s the American way.”
“You’re welcome, but I broker it these days,” I said. I clinked his glass with mine. “Paid for my existence but on the defense side, sometimes paid-well, sometimes, not so well.”
They both acknowledged me.
“We make a good team,” Galen said. He patted Donald on the back. “Donald hates conflict, I live for it. So, I do the loud mouth litigating, he does the case building, interviews clients, has the legal mind for it. We could both make a lot more money, but, we like our independence. And believe it or not, we really do like helping people.”
“We do, but I don’t like the arguments,” Donald said. He shook his head. “It gets me wound up, I don’t like it.”
“I understand,” I said. “I don’t like being mean to anyone, but, I do have that nasty arrow, if needed.”
Donald had gotten up, and he had tapped Galen on the shoulder.
“Be right back,” Donald said. He strolled over toward the restrooms.
Galen maneuvered forward, and he leaned over closer to me.
“So, you’re curious about Donald’s paper clip?” Galen whispered.
“Well, yeah,” I said. “Sorry.”
“No worries,” Galen said. He waved at me with his left hand.
“It helps him calm down, we just left a contentious mediation, he was not happy. I, of course, was having fun.”
“Like a stress ball?” I said.
“Yeah,” Galen said. “But not as obvious, it’s a low key way to help him chill out, I do the same thing at hearings. I give a paper clip to my clients when they are being deposed, and in court, what-not, I figured it’s a good way to keep my adversary unaware we’re nervous.”
“Law of the jungle,” I said. “Stay chill.”
“Exactly, don’t leave any blood in the water, so to speak,” Galen said. He leaned back onto the chair. “Everybody has something that messes with them, I have a heart issue, Donald gets wound up… that’s life.“
“I get it,” I said. I shrugged. “I can be extremely introverted, I can drive for hours without a sound, used to drive my ex-wife crazy.”
“Oh, you have one, too,” Galen said. He nudged toward Donald’s empty chair. “He’s too nice, he’s had several.”
“I guess there are not any white picket fenced houses, anymore,” I said. “No Ozzie and Harriet.”
Galen stared across the bar at an older couple.
“That was all fiction, you know something, I think reality just piles on the stress, it’s the human condition,” Galen said. He thumbed the menu. “I just use paper clips to keep it hidden, deal with it, and hopefully at bay.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.
“If you need a paper clip,” Galen said. “I have boxes to share?”