August 10th, 2001
Erika and I have been seeing each other on a regular basis (again). To what must be her constant displeasure (She is an expert at hiding her true emotions…and nature.), I often meet her after work at the Balmoral.
Willy has taken to…fraternizing with us most frequently, and by now considers himself a part of our little…clique. That suits me just fine, because this time round it has been my intention to have it happen exactly this way. Maybe this time he might not be inclined to screw my woman if he considers us (Him and I) to be good friends. Who knows, maybe the man has a conscience after all?
Today I arrived at the Balmoral about 5 minutes ahead of Erika.
Willy wiped the counter in front of me and asked, “The usual?”
“Yeah, make Erika’s as well. She’ll be here any minute.”
“Sure, this must be the first time you got here before her.”
“You’re very observant, Willy. I wanted to talk to you…alone.”
He seemed delighted at the request. “Yeah, what’s up man?” Then he smiled. “You wouldn’t be looking for a best man, would you?”
“You’re getting a bit ahead of yourself, Willy. Let’s not rush things.” I pulled a $100 bill out of my wallet and waved it under his nose. “I’ll put another one of these in your tip jar if you can answer three movie trivia questions.”
“Is that all, man?” He seemed disappointed. Then a little more chipper said, “Okay! You’re on! Shoot?”
“‘I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse?’”
“The Godfather!” he said swiftly. “Next?”
“The next was the tagline on a movie poster. Shouldn’t be any problem for you.”
“Okay! Hit me?”
“You have no idea how much I’d love…?”
“That’s the tagline?”
“No,” I chuckled before asking, “‘In space no one can hear you scream?’”
“Alien, man. Too easy! One more. Let’s go!”
“Think very carefully before you answer the last one. It’s also a poster tagline.”
“Bring it on, man! I’m ready for you!”
“Be careful now! Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water?”
“Jaws, daddyo!” He held out a flat hand. “Give me some skin, and put that muthafucker in my tip jar. Hoo-whee!”
“Sorry, but you lose,” I said returning the bill to my wallet.
“No way, man!” he said shocked and surprised. “Maybe you’re thinking about Blood Beach, which came long after Jaws, man. Jaws was first to…”
“Uh-uh! It wasn’t Jaws, Willy. It was Jaws 2!”
“What? Yeah, well you knew what I meant, man.”
“Did I? Just as I know you know the difference between Dirty Harry and Sudden Impact? I warned you not to answer too quickly.”
“That’s dirty, man. You tricked me!”
“No, I warned you.” I smiled mischievously. “Forget about the $100. Tell you what. I’m going to make it up to you in a really big way.”
“I’m gonna really make you an offer you can’t refuse.”
“I’m in the negotiating process of trying to purchase The Greatest Bar on Earth.”
“Well, if the deal goes through, I’ll be needing a manager.”
“I was hoping you’d take the job?”
“The manager? Wow, man, that would be cool!”
“Yeah, I kinda thought you’d like the idea.”
“The manager? I ain’t never managed a bar before, man? Sure, my dream is to have my own place one day, but…”
“That’s okay. I wasn’t expecting to throw you in the deep end without giving you some swimming lessons first.”
“Yeah, don’t worry, you’ll do just fine.”
“That’s great, man! So, where’s this bar gonna be.”
“I’m disappointed! Any barman worth his weight in gold knows where The Greatest Bar on Earth is?”
“You mean you’re talking about the real…the actual The Greatest Bar on Earth?”
“The one and only!”
“That is un-fucking-believable, man. That’s gonna cost you a small fortune?”
“A big one actually. But it’ll be a pretty sound investment,” I said calmly. “So don’t be fucking it up?”
“I need to sit down, man!” He did. Then he suddenly realized. “Shit, that means I’ll have to move to New York!”
“Is that going to be a problem?”
“Is what going to be a problem?” asked Erika sitting down next to me. She leaned over and kissed me.
“Moving to New York,” said Willy.
“Who’s moving to New York?”
“What?” She was unable to conceal her displeasure. “Why? No!”
“What’s wrong?” I asked innocently. “Why not?”
She ignored me and spoke to Willy. “Why do you wanna go to New York?”
“I got a very good business proposition.”
“Moi,” I said fluttering my eyelids.
“You? Why? What business proposition?”
“I’m helping Willy to realize his dream. It’ll take him forever to get there if he stays here at the Balmoral.”
Willy gave me his support. “I’m going to be the manager of a bar. Manager means better pay.”
“Of course,” I added. “Much better pay! He won’t get tips anymore, but that will be small change compared to the sala…”
“Do you really want to do this, Willy?” she asked glaring at him.
“Yeah,” he answered timidly. “I guess I do?”
“You do, hey? You didn’t think about first discussing it with…first thinking it over properly and thoroughly?”
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said regaining some bravado.
I gave Willy my support. “That’s for sure. Only a fool wouldn’t jump at the opportunity.”
If looks could kill, Erika would have decapitated me then and there. She gave Willy the same stare before asking, “Are you quite positive about this, Willy Newood? Do you really want to run off to New York?”
“Hey!” I said lightly. “It’s okay! We’ll still see plenty of him. I make plenty business trips to New York each year.”
There was a very slight improvement to her irritability as she asked, “You do?”
“Sure, in fact I’ll be doing a few business deals there next month.”
“That’s you – not me!”
“I never knew you liked Willy so much.”
“I love you, Cornelius Crane, but I’ve known Willy much longer. We have a special friendship.”
“It’s not like you may think. So no need to get jealous or anything, okay? Willy is, and always will be a dear friend to me…to both of us, I hope?”
“Of course, why else would I be offering him the business opportunity of a lifetime?”
“Hey,” said Willy. For a moment I could almost swear that his eyes went a little watery. “I love you guys. Both of you! You’re my two best friends on the face of this planet. I mean it, man.”
“Excuse me if I skip the group hug, Willy!” snarled Erika. “Somehow, I’m just not in the mood tonight.”
I decided that it would be most civil of me to give them a little moment together. “Excuse me, ladies, but I feel the urge to shake the dew from my lily. In the famous words of General Douglas MacArthur, ‘I’ll be back.’”
“Uh-uh,” said Willy. “Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator.”
“I stand corrected! Was that part 1 or 2?”
“Both of them. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”
“I like the sound of that second one – Judgment Day. It has a nice ring to it. A sort of grim…inevitability.” I pointed a finger at Willy and made a clicking sound. “You sure know your flicks, Willy. Wonder how you get to see so many between all the women?”
“What women?” blurted Erika.
“I’m sure a good-looking guy like Willy here must have them lined up on a platter every night.” I slapped the counter. “Willy the stud, I want to see a fresh whisky standing here when I get back.” Then I pointed towards the gents. “‘Once more unto the breach.’”
“Star Trek: DS9!” said Willy. “Season seven – episode seven!”
I glared at him. “Sometimes, Willy, you scare the bejesus out of me.” I pointed yet again. “Once more into the bleach. Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or was it The Seven Year Itch.”
Erika managed a slight chuckle, but Willy said, “I never heard that one, man.”
“Forget about it, Willy.” I moved off. “‘I came through and I shall return.’ Back to the Future!”
I gave them a good ten minutes, and they were still at each other’s throats when I got back.
The last words I heard Erica say was, “…if I find out you been screwing around with any of those Big Apple sluts…” She stopped talking as I sat down.
“Hey?” I queried eyeing the empty counter in front of me. “I thought I said I wanted a fresh drink waiting for me?”
“Sorry, man,” apologized Willy. “Coming right up.” Nobody said another word till he placed the drink in front of me. “Sorry, man.”
I declared, “I have another surprise announcement to make.”
“Any more surprises like that, and I may just slit my wrists,” mumbled Erika.
“You’re gonna love this. Trust me. It’s gonna be very romantic.”
“Yeah?” her tone was skeptical.
“I was sitting on the can thinking that…”
“You had a romantic thought sitting on the can? Men! Typical!”
“Hey, that’s why we sometimes refer to it as The Think-Tank. We squeeze a lot of our best ideas out while squeezing out…”
“Please, spare me the gory details! Just skip to the chase!”
“I want you both to join me next month in New York. All expenses paid.”
“I need for Willy to have a look over the bar he might be managing.”
“The deal hasn’t been finalized yet.”
There was suddenly a remarkable improvement in her disposition. “So it’s not a done-deal yet?”
“No! Didn’t Willy tell you?”
“No!” she said glaring over at him again. Then asked, “So why do you want me along as well?”
“I was hoping we could have some fun together. All work and no play, makes Cornelius a dull boy.”
“The three of us?”
“I was thinking more along the lines of just us two. We can hire a babysitter for Willy.”
“Yeah, I bet he’d love that? An eighteen year-old blonde with big…”
“Would you forget about Willy for a moment? I’ve been gathering the courage to ask you something.”
“Let’s just say it’s also a…business proposition. Well, sort of.”
“It needs the proper setting; the proper atmosphere…ambiance. All that sort of thing. Three would definitely be a crowd.”
“Uh-huh?” she said with a mischievous grin. “And would this business proposition have something to do with…”
“Just shut up and drink up! To say anymore would…spoil it.”
“I’ll have to put in leave. When next month?”
“That’s more like it.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
I pulled out a little notebook and checked the dates. “We’ll fly on the morning of the 10th and return on the afternoon of the 12th.”
“I don’t want to make any trouble for you at your work?”
“Don’t worry about that. I know how to handle old Bill Skinner.”
“Great!” I checked again. “I suppose I could cancel my meeting back here on the 13th. That would give us till the afternoon of the 16th. That’s almost a full week.”
“Great! You did say all expenses paid?”
“You can both leave your credit cards at home. Cornelius Crane will see to all your needs.”
“Sounds wonderful! And wherever and whenever possible, I’ll see to yours.” She winked.
“I’m a man - I only have one!”
“I’m a woman - I know!”
We both laughed.