Frankly Celibate and the Tavern Writers Guild
For as long as he knew, for forever, Francis Leigh Charles was called Frank by his family of origin and therefore requested all the people who came into his life ever after to also please call him Frank. He tried to show the world good manners, so all would know he was a gentleman, like Frank Sinatra, or Tony Bennett. A few people, women almost exclusively, girl friends and his mother and sister, sometimes added his middle name making the tired, to his ear, joke. Beckoning to him, calling: “Frankly...” That was the gag, addressing Frank Leigh as “Frankly”- a descending conspiratory tone, raised eyebrows, often with open palm next to mouth in stage whisper pantomime, always with the pause after, as if they were about to confide some telling bit of gossip.
His wife Regina, of all his lifelong significant female companions never made this pun, thankfully. Perhaps because she’d had the experience of being teased in schoolyards herself with the mangling of her own maiden name, childishly chided by playground bullies morphing Regina Faulk into Vagina Fuck. She didn’t think mispronouncing another’s name was funny, apparently she didn’t think much of anything was funny, she really could be a humorless bitch. Frank thought Vagina Fuck was really very funny, a real knee slapper, and thought it a shame to waste such a good one simply to spare his spouse’s feelings, although he did refrain from ever saying it aloud to her because she was so beautiful. He believed it would reflect poorly on him, his character, to affront such beauty with such ugliness, but mostly he refrained from expressing his resentment because of the retaliatory grudge she would bear. The woman could hold a grudge like no other, excepting all the women of her family.
The Faulk women as a group could really be a grudge holding bunch of fucking cunts. Frankly, with that lineage it came as little surprise to Frank the depth of hatefulness Regina could bestow upon him, he was aware of the limitless capacity of her sisters and especially the mother-in-law. He was convinced that the end of their sex life, according to Regina a common circumstance among many couples in their 50s, was an active attempt, (probably at the bequest of her people), to cause him to contract prostate cancer. It was bound to be the plump sister-in-law Posey’s idea for Regina to withhold intimacy from her husband. She was a sullen slattern, barren, twice divorced and driven in her evil against Frank ever since the New Year’s french kiss that escalated to medium groping with a smattering of inebriated grinding. Goddamn that Posey Faulk. Guess what the kids used to call her.
“Are you going to your writers group thing again tonight Honey?” She did have a sweet voice, melodious, all the Faulk girls could sing like birds.
“Well yes, yeah, it is Thursday, I go Thursdays. Thursday is always when the Murdering Our Darlings Writers Workshop meets” Frank liked to proclaim the full name of his writers club at every opportunity.
He went there to drink. The group had dwindled since it’s inception down to 3 sorry members: His ownself- Old Frank The Celibate, Franklin Glick, A.K.A. Frank the Younger and Norman, who was a poet, who nobody ever liked, nobody, ever.
Norman was perhaps the most accomplished writer among the survivors, he had self published a dozen chapbooks, been awarded a few prizes, done some adjunct teaching and held an advanced arts degree. He was a good poet by all accounts but was singularly unattractive in his social manner and hygiene. It seemed Norman did not use shampoo, soap or toothpaste. He’d developed health problems of late, showed up disheveled with a shunt sticking out of his arm and hospital grade band-aids on the back of his liver spotted hands a half a year ago and only made it to the tavern once in a month of weekly ‘workshops’ at best.
So, of the multitudinous lies Frank (the celibate) told himself and the world, the writers group was yet another sham, just a place to disparagingly talk about published writers as if they were peers, expound on popular culture, T.V. and literature, and most important of all, a haven for excessive beer drinking. The drinking allowed them to inhabit the used-up tavern as a clubhouse and was the only main reason Frank and Frank the Younger kept up the appointment. Norman just showed up when he did and contributed little but his presence as a listener, he was the Franks audience, so maybe his subtle contribution to the group was more profound than they consciously understood. They rarely composed much actual writing. Frank the Younger drank less, supplied all the cigarettes, paid for the majority of the rounds. He wrote more than Frank the Celibate, outlines and titles and character descriptions, but never actually finished a damn thing. Young Frank was an avid bloviating pontificator who could be childishly defensive about his own florid prose.
On the odd Thursday when Norman did show up he was generally ignored by the Two Franks even as he sat with them nursing a single rum and coke the whole melted ice cube evening. The old poet was a keen observer and filled reams of notebooks at home alone, never sharing a word with the other two thirds of his writers group.
Franks wife paused futzing with the dishes, “Well, OK, could you at least walk the dogs first, and try and have a good time, don’t get drunk. It’s not easy on me and the boys when you come home all... agitated.”
The way Frank saw it, besides their banal biannual argument wherein rehashed versions of how he didn’t contribute enough to the family and she was unsupportive of whatever he was on about, they only ever spoke in the kitchen. They only ever spoke in front of the boys, they only ever spoke if she cheerily started a chat, usually with an instruction or admonishment, to show their children that they talked and related like a normal married couple and that the boys had parents after all. It didn’t take much of a showing anymore since the boys did alright raising themselves. They had cell phones and expanded social lives with texting and cartoons and you-tube funny videos and incomprehensible video games and their music. The children could give two shits about their father, it wasn’t their fault, they were straight brave handsome boys, but children after all. Frank thought children who held their parents in too high esteem were not always the healthiest, were sometimes creepy late bloomers reluctant to leave the nest, so no matter how neglected Frank felt at times he appreciated the boys independance. Where did his little babies go though, swallowed by these enormous hairless billy goats. Frank blamed society, he blamed the government, he blamed West-Coast hi-tek-hypestyrs and their stupid spelling and Madison Avenue and The Educational Industrial Complex and pan-Asian electronic manufactures for his estrangement from his family. They were so good, his beautiful wife gave him sons, good fine sons, he should’ve felt proud, he should’ve been happy. He never took them hunting, maybe if he took his sons hunting.
“Sure, I’ll take the dogs, on Thursday, before my writers group, even though it’s not my night. You guys wanna walk the dogs with Dad? Go on patrol with the hounds and yer old man?” No response whatsoever, crickets. “Fellas? Awww c’mon, come-on-along-a-ding-dong...”
“No, I have homework and Sybil’s coming over.”
His beautiful wife, the mother of his children lovingly handed him the leashes and some plastic poop bags as the dogs tap danced maniacally on the linoleum.
After the asinine opener, “Can I tell you the truth?”, Young Frank who wouldn’t become Little Frank for almost a year even though he was larger than the man who would become Big Frank, began his speech in earnest, and it got thick quick.
“You know your mother didn’t love you right. That she, sure you know, did her best... But that if she really Loved You loved you like the wonderful mothers of great men had, Marc Anthony’s mother, and Robards mom, what’s his name- the black guy, the Emperor Jones guy -the athlete and actor -you know, Robeson. Paul Robeson whoever his mother was. Mrs. Robson. If you had had the Sterling mom, the real deal type “A” kind of a mother, you would be in a better position right now, right? You know I’m right. In your life. You can, you should look at it as her fault, not where you have to confront her or anything, you’re a grown man for fuck’s sake, you shouldn’t even tell her about it, be a man, but if you can process and assimilate that your own mother, who did carry you to term, after having sex with your even more of a no-count daddy, the lady who sang to you, and breastfed you, well, that lady was a loser. She did what she had to do, she wasn’t a sadist or a crack whore but her incompetence in shepherding you to adulthood, well shit, Frank actually a shepherd might have done a better job. Look at yourself. You’re still a kid up here, in your head, which is going grey by the by, in case you haven’t looked in a mirror lately, unless you have one of those wrap around mirrors where you can see the back of your head, you are getting kind of thin on top too. Thin on top as you get the opposite around the middle and in back. You got a woman’s backside. I’m just being honest. You have your mother’s ass, she did give you that. But don’t take offense, just admit it, Moms let you down, not her fault, to be naturally that kind of a mother, that type of person. Takes all kinds to make a world. But yes, all her fault for not rising above and persevering through her own faults and laziness to bring up her only son to be a solid grown-up hardworking confident man of the world.”
Young Frank had never met old Franks mother and was unaware that she was dead.
Old Frank held young Frank’s eyes in an unannounced who’s-gonna-blink-first contest.
“You are a white male in America, how the fuck did you end up being such a broke dick, hunh? Ask yourself for the sake of yourself and the respect and love of your family, what the fuck happened to you? Once you see it was your child disliking ambivalent ass mother, and not until then, can you move on and upward, cause face it dude, you are a complete nobody doing a whole lot of nothing going nowhere and there is no reason to have no reason anymore. Encourage yourself, Excelsior to you from you, pick yourself up. Throw off slumber. Shake a leg and do something before it’s too late. Pull up your socks man.”
Norman surmised that Young Frank was experimenting with a kind of improvisational stand-up comedy monologue, taking this brash insulting persona out for a test drive. This he felt was unwise of him so Norman put a few chairs and a table between himself and the Franks.
This speech was of course demoralizing and debilitating in its accuracy and truth and it hurt Old Frank’s feelings even as he was aware of the clumsy attempt at jest. It was embarrassing to be so wholly disrespected. Even if it was only in front of Norman. He felt like this lengthy familial character assassination was beyond insulting. He couldn’t feel insulted by the merit of the argument, hell it wasn’t even an argument, more a list of facts, if it were untrue he could at least feel simple insult. No, he felt deeply cut, stung to the quick. Just blown away by the young man’s boldness and willingness to talk shit so freely about his mother. He said it all so easy-peasy. The young man on the other hand believed that to be circumspect with the poor old guy, and to not call a spade black was an exceedingly bigger offense than the impropriety of his remarks. He was just being frank.
As quickly as he’d started the cocksure young man from the barroom writing group curtailed his assessment of the poorly lived life of his old friend and associate, not because he was aware of the hurt he was inflicting but rather because on an animal level he sensed that old Frank was about to throw a punch. That could not end well, fistycuffs across generations in a bar, clearly ugly. On a weeknight. Also the old fart might really hurt him, the young man was afraid of the old on a purely physical combative level. This fight / flight consideration was not at all consciously understood by either man, it was primordial, animal, olfactory, like when you can tell buttsniffing canines at the dog park are about to go at it, even though they’ve been playing and chasing and wrestling for the last past half hour. There is pre-blood in the air sometimes among male mammals, they sent it and know it, even as they are powerless to articulate or avoid it.
Young Frank made the socially acceptable act of contrition as deftly as any number of his favorite Hemingway characters might’ve. He said, “I gotta take a leak, you want another I.P.A. Frank? Back in a flash.”
Norman impassively crunched an ice cube between his fillings. Achy Breaky Heart played on the jukebox as Old Celibate Frank let his half drunk half sad thoughts drift miles away to the opposite coast, and years apart, over 25, back to Gina, his ex girlfriend, her breasts specifically. An image that excited him in his early thirties calmed him in his late fifties.