Volume 11, Issue 4: Pictura
Buzz Flits By
William tottered. He had been expecting her to do something, but nothing like this. The storm warnings had been there, and if William had been a member of that class of people who modify their behavior when impending difficulties are obvious, there would have been no problem. But he wasn’t, and here he was, pink slip in hand.
“Dearest William,” it began. William stopped his fifth reading of it, regret gnawing at his soul like a feverish rodent. He started again.
“Dearest William, You are one of the nicest men I know. You are kind, thoughtful and considerate. You are fully liberated and make every effort not to be possessive. You are also spineless. Goodbye. Much Love, Sandy.”
Besides being tormented, William was also nonplussed. This missive made no sense to him. There was nothing that Sandra demanded of a man that William had not endeavored to fulfill. Everything she required, he was. Everything about men that she held in contempt he avoided. Did she look down upon chauvinists? William also sneered. She could not manifest the slightest disapproval of William’s sex without William also curling the lip.
William sank into a chair fully intending to remain there for the week. Fixing his gaze on a photograph of his mother, the cause, as some observers thought, of all his problems, he began counting his options.
Three hours later, after he had counted to zero in every way known to man, even coming up with a few as of yet undiscovered techniques, there was a sharp, authoritative rap at the door. William thought it would be all right to interrupt his labors to answer the door.
He hadn’t seen Buzz Woljinsky for years, not since college. At that time Buzz had been a particularly enthusiastic linebacker. He excelled at the finer points of the game such as bleeding, and was the sole reason for the controversial increase in the insurance premiums of a number of quarterbacks. Buzz hadn’t been the sharpest tool in the shed, but he had graduated with William’s help and had been truly good for William’s social status. Many aspects of his friendship with Buzz could have pranced blithely around in William’s head, but only one did. Buzz had typically been surrounded by girls. He had been one of those few guys whose chief problem was, as the man said “Women, women everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”
There was a time when William would have welcomed Buzz into his home purely on the basis of their previous friendship. I am sorry to report that William’s motives for the jovial welcome he did give Buzz were selfish beyond compare. He had been burned by a woman; Buzz would know what to do. It mattered not what little trivial things had happened in the life of Buzz in the years since their last meeting. The issue at hand was the throbbing and utterly unjustified gash in William’s heart. If anyone could kiss it and make it better, Buzz could.
“Buzz! Buzz! Great to see you! Come in! Sit down! Please!
“Hey, Billy. Just passing through town, and thought I’d look you up.”
“Of course! Of course!” William scuttered around the living room, making chairs available, taking Buzz’s coat and making friendly noises in his nose.
He was not long in getting down to business. Buzz scarcely had a drink in his hand before William began to unroll the carpet of his private turmoils, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. He held nothing back.
“So then,” he finished, “she shoves me off! I can’t make anything of it. Frankly, Buzz, I need the help of an expert. If I remember correctly, you may be just the man.”
Buzz listened to the horror story with a mixture of sympathy and disbelief. He didn’t understand much, but what he understood, he understood well.
“Let me get this straight, Bill. Your girl broke up with you.”
“That’s right. Not that she was my girl.”
“And you didn’t want her to.”
“But why did you let her? It’s not up to her. Tell her she can’t, it displeases you.”
“Buzz, you don’t understand. In modern relationships, the old autocratic voice of male authority is no more.”
“Right. And in your modern relationship, Sandy is no more.”
William slumped into his chair, realizing that either Buzz had been uncommonly lucky, or that he, William, must scrap the current infrastructure and begin anew.
“But if I do as you say, what will she think? I won’t get her back and I will certainly ruin her fond memories of me. Her note said she thought I was a nice man.”
“Thinking you are a nice man is not the same thing as having fond memories of you. She just meant that she couldn’t pinpoint what it was about you that made her want to throw up.”
William continued to bleat. “But I did everything she wanted. I . . .”
Buzz interrupted. “You did everything she said she wanted and nothing that she wanted.”
“But why would she demand what she didn’t want?
“Those are the rules, and women play by the rules. But that’s her problem anyway. Your problem was putting up with it.”
William gurgled and then was silent. Buzz elaborated.
“What they really want you to do is to ignore whatever it is they say they want, and fulfill completely what they really want, which is not what they said. And then, if you do what they ask once in a long while—but only because you wanted to—you’ll be sitting pretty. Not only would Sandy have liked that, she might even have liked you.” If Buzz was making sense, it was of the perverse variety. But regardless, sense or no sense, there was no way for William to carry out the Woljinsky program. As Sandy had been so kind to point out, he had not the backbone for it. She was right. His eyes began to fill with tears and swam over to the liquor cabinet longingly.
Buzz interrupted his self-loathing. “What’s this Sandra’s number?”
“I think I’ll get you another chance. But if you don’t follow through—like a man, Billy—you deserve everything you don’t get.”
With that, Buzz headed for the phone in the hallway. William followed him timorously, making insecure noises. He didn’t know whether to vomit or cry. There was no way to keep Buzz from making the call, and no way to face Sandra after he did.
“Hello. Could I speak to Sandy, please?”
There was a brief pause.
“This is Buzz Woljinsky. Friend of Bill’s. Right, William. He asked me to call and tell you to meet him at Piper’s for lunch. Twelve sharp.”
There was another pause. William could hear the angry chattering from where he stood. The plan wasn’t working.
Buzz interrupted her. “Is this Sandy Rankin, a friend of Bill James?” He paused. “Well, then, shaddup. He’s not asking you to come. He’ll see you there.”
Buzz hung up cheerfully and turned to William.
“Okay Billy. You should leave in half an hour. If you don’t mind I think I’ll hang out here and wait for the results to be posted.”
“Sure. . . there’s stuff in the fridge if you want it.” It was William’s opinion that Buzz was guilty of what is commonly referred to as an excess. But there was no use fighting it. He would go apologize to Sandy and creep home on his belly. He should have known better than to ask Buzz for help. Sandy was an intelligent girl, not one of those females wowed by brawn and bravado like those he remembered in Buzz’s little college train.
The whole world, it seemed, had decided that the seat of his trousers was the best place for its corporate foot. “Buzz. I can’t do it. I can’t make her do what she doesn’t want. Even if I could I would want her to love me for who I am and not because I told her to.”
“Billy, you don’t have to lie to me. I’m your friend already. We both know that if you thought you could control her, she’d be chained to your ankle tomorrow. All I’m telling you is to assert yourself a bit. Tell her how it is instead of asking. She won’t argue.”
William tried to laugh cynically, but it tripped on his tonsil and instead he entered into an elaborate coughing spree. Buzz’s face dropped slowly at the sight.
“You know Bill, I’m starting to wonder if you can do this after all. Hang on. I’ve got something in my car that might help.”
Jane sighed and sat down on the couch.
“Don’t you think you might be overreacting a bit, Sandy?” She had always been very fond of her cousin but knew from experience that things in Sandy’s world were very rarely kept in perspective. A small explosion exited the kitchen and seemed to be expressing some disagreement.
“Sandy, I know, I’ve never met the guy, maybe you want to get back with him, but there’s no reason why you have to go, unless you want one last free lunch. You told him you were done, right? So why go meet him?”
Sandy replaced the oxygen in the room several times before responding. “I only want to go so I can release the hounds of verbal abuse. I would just wait inside the door and let him have it when he walks in. But I don’t want to go because he’ll think I came because he told me to, even if I ate him. I know how men think. He’ll think he’s running the show if I go, and he’ll think I’m scared if I don’t. What a little tick he is! Never doing anything straight up, always manipulating.”
They sat in silence. Sandy’s mind was dwelling on the uselessness of men and Jane’s on the tickishness of all of Sandy’s boyfriends so far. But Jane could never focus for long, and it was not yet a full minute after the silent musings had begun that she was wondering how many eggs could be balanced on Sandy’s lamp. The answer, of course, was thirty-three if stacking was legal and fifteen if it was not, but Jane would never solve this mystery for just as she was tackling the aforementioned legality of stacking, she realized that a much calmer Sandra addressed her.
“I mean, would you mind really?”
“Mind what? What are you talking about?”
“Going to Piper’s for me?” Sandra suspected that Jane had not been paying quite as much attention as she ought, but she let it slide. Now was not the rhetorical moment.
“You want me to tell him off for you?” Jane was surprised at this idea, even from Sandy.
“Oh, please do! That way I don’t have to do what he says and I’ll know that he got it properly hard in the ear from you!” Jane stared in disbelief. “You don’t actually have to eat with him. Just meet him in the lobby, give it to him, and leave.”
The sensitive minded reader may not think that such activities would find themselves on the itineraries of the nicest girls, but we must remember that all of Sandra’s boyfriends up to this point had truly been ticks beyond belief — the very same type of male who refuses to pay for his date’s meal on the pretense of equality, and whose sole purpose, while in school, was to inform the teacher when other students wrote on their desks. It was just such a man who appeared in Jane’s mind when she reluctantly agreed to her assignment. Hers was a kind heart, but it was also just, and she felt that to let such a man have it would be to strike a blow for freedom, sunsets, pastries and everything else humanity could ever need.
The lobby of Piper’s had exceeded the acceptable limits for raucousness in a restaurant. Or so William had told it. It was quiet now and looked on, chastened, while William thought about life. Life, he concluded, was a good thing in general, but it had too many wrinkles in the sheets that needed fixing. Like this business about Sandy. Why did he have the impression that he had come here to apologize to her? He couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong. And that complete ass, Buzz. Why did he feel the need to go about making the people of the world hold liquids that tasted like pickled gym socks under their tongues for three minutes? He needed a good kicking. Even if he was a football coach now, did that give him the right to sit on William in his own living room funneling foul fluids into him? And where was Sandy anyhow?
These were the issues of the moment for William, and they needed addressing.
“Excuse me sir. Just one today?” An efficient sort of man in a tuxedo was speaking.
“Right this way sir.” The tuxed fellow glided off in the direction of the dining room with William on his heels. Upon their safe arrival at a suitable table for two, and after William had found three other tables unsuitable, William addressed his guide.
“I’m waiting for a girl named Sandra. When she gets here I’ll order. For now I shall occupy myself with the compilation of a list of grievances. Bustle off and fetch me a pen and paper. Better make it a couple of sheets as it might turn into the next great novel.”
“Grievances with this establishment sir?” Such things were shocking.
“Grievances with the world entire. This establishment will no doubt find a spot on the list. For example, you are wearing a tuxedo. I object.”
“You object to the tuxedo?”
“No, to the fact that I have been forced by an ogre named Buzz to lunch at a place where tuxedos are worn. Namely, here. As the guru once said to the snail, ‘With tuxes worn, the sheep are shorn.’ In other words, it is highly likely that you will attempt to charge me rent for the use of my napkin. But be warned, if you do so, it shall appear on the list.” With a wave of his hand William sent the young waiter off on his mission, and it was not half a minute before he had returned with the requested supplies, and Jane in his wake.
If you, dear reader, have ever seen a girl on the warpath then you will know why William contemplated using the paper and pen to whip out a few sonnets instead of his list. Any girl who is intending to scalp a man in a formal setting always wants to look her best. If she appears before the eyes of her victim dressed as a dew drop on a summer morn he will be all the more surprised when she assumes the demeanor of one tigress, minus cub. The fight is over and she has won. Her beauty has the effect of distraction, so the poor fellow is completely incapable of intelligence, let alone the parrying of insults. The technique is outlined in more detail by Sun Tzu, and I refer you to him.
Jane was looking especially spectacular because she had more in mind than the mere pillaging of William’s village. She was familiar with Piper’s, the quality of its menu and the exorbitance of its costs. She intended to get an amazing lunch out of Sandy’s tick before giving him the axe, and the smile she wore was why William’s first sight of Jane made his feet hurt.
“Here is your paper, sir.”
“Thank you. And who is this?”
“This young lady says she is to lunch with you . . . but her name is not Sandra. Sandra it seems, was unable to make it.”
“I see. You may take yourself elsewhere. We would be alone.” All the while Jane stood smiling, but she now thought it time to speak.
“May I sit down?”
“If you don’t think your dress will rip.”
“What are you talking about?” Jane wasn’t sure how to take Williams remark. He was acting pleasant enough and seemed to merely be commenting for her own safety. “This dress isn’t even tight, why would it rip?”
“Perhaps the humidity has caused shrinkage since you last viewed yourself in the mirror. But I do not wish to discuss it. But I feel I must tell you, that dress will be mentioned specifically in my list.”
“List? What are you talking about?” Jane was beginning to wonder what exactly she was in for.
“I am in the process of compiling a list of faults in the world’s make up that have come to my attention. Of course I will also do my best to right the wrongs I find, and that is why you may not wear that dress again.”
Jane was laughing now. “Don’t you think you’re over stepping your bounds slightly? Not everybody is as nice as I am. Believe it or not, there are some thugs in this world who, when told their dresses are too tight, would kick you in the shins. And from what Sandy has told me, you’re a bit too fragile to be kicked.”
As you might have noticed, Jane had given up her hopes for an expensive lunch. She was a girl who, upon receiving, dished out tenfold and enjoyed it. Now she stuck around because things were shaping up to be interesting, even though expecting lunch from a man you have called fragile is a long shot indeed.
William sat back in his chair and was silent for a moment.
“Sandy said that?”
“She did, and who am I to disagree?”
“She always has been a bit of a weed, hasn’t she? Oh well, I don’t ever recall being kicked in Sandy’s presence, but now that my curiosity is roused I shall have to remember to be kicked sometime, just to double check. Hmm. Anyway, do you happen to have any grievances with the world that you want on the list? So far I have Sandy’s being late for lunch, but that’s taken care of, an excrescence named Buzz, the absurd prices in this silly place, geese and their habits at parks, your dress, but I’ve taken care of that, and your hair.”
“My hair! What’s wrong with it?”
“Well, it’s not so much wrong as it is not right. It makes you look like a boy, the kind of boy that always gets pounded for looking like a girl, and featured in Dickens’ novels as fond of gruel.”
“You are the most . . .”
“Hold on and let me speak my piece. We’re dating now and I want your hair longer. Not too much longer mind you, just an inch or two. You are extremely attractive, even with your cropped hair and I can only imagine what exponential growth your beauty would experience if it was done correctly. It is evident from your every line that Nature had great things in mind when she churned you out. You need only work within her specifications and the world would be at your feet. But here comes a tuxedoed chap.”
Jane sat speechless as the waiter approached. There were so many things to say that none of them came. William’s total tonnage technique would have impressed James himself for not only had he bridled the tongue, but he had bridled Jane’s tongue, and that’s saying something. She thought of a biting remark in regard to his claim about their relationship, but gave it up for something juicier about Dickens and inevitably ended up dwelling, as women will, on how beautiful he must think she was, and how much she hated him. All this while he ordered her a forty dollar chicken Cordon Bleu. But William was talking again.
“I’ve got something else for my list. The waiter’s just gone to get the manager. He tells me that this is going to be the fourth weekend in a row he has been made to work. Here comes the cheese responsible now.”
Jane was no longer an active player in the proceedings. She merely watched William work. A man who even she would have been afraid of was lumbering over to their table led by their recent waiter. He was an immensely fat man and looked just the sort of person Jane had described earlier when she spoke so eloquently about kicking shins.
“You wished to speak to me, sir?” He was terrifying in his effusiveness.
“Yes, you savage, I summoned you to inform you that I am sending this waiter home to rest. It is now his weekend off.”
“Sir, I am sorry but I can’t send him home yet.”
“So I gathered, that is why I am doing it for you. Nicholas, or whatever your name is, you may go now.” The waiter however did not move, but the manager spoke. His voice up until this point had been soft, and confident, but it now took on that note that always informs the listener that the speaker spent his youth in Spain quelling the Basque resistance.
“Sir, my employee is not going to leave, but you are. If you will follow me.”
Jane had followed this interaction closely, and had been exceedingly impressed with William’s confidence, although she thought it unfounded. She now believed the inevitable had happened and rose to leave. She underestimated her man. The real show was only beginning.
“Jane, please be seated. Sir, since you obviously do not know who I am, if you did you would never question me, I will not bother to inform you of my name. I will only say that this lady here, and I, will be leaving, not because you have told us to but,” and here his voice began a steep increase in volume “because upon inspecting your kitchen earlier I have concluded that if we were to even approach within a stone’s throw of your chicken we would be ill.” And here his voice was fully raised. “It is no wonder your cook has vomited like Vesuvius all over the kitchen!”
The room was now doing its best to imitate the inside of Grant’s tomb. All the experts agree that had not the man in the corner choked on his chicken and gurgled like a mountain brook, it would have been the best imitation to date. As for Jane her mouth was hanging open. In a less attractive girl it would have been appalling, but in Jane such gaping only displayed her perfect teeth. She had always prided herself on her boldness. But never, in her entire life had she even dreamt of chumping a man so completely in his own place of business.
“Now sir!” William continued in a low voice “if this young man does not walk out of this restaurant in front of us, and retain his job here, I will have you deported by Monday.” And with that he rose and taking Jane in one arm and little Nicholas in the other he departed, leaving Pharaoh and his armies behind him.
While Jane was changing, William had time to think once more. By this time the effects of Buzz’s prescription were wearing off. He had noticed the change in his behavior early on in the day’s proceedings and had enjoyed it. He was now attempting to locate the source. All roads lead to Rome they say, and in this case all leads led to Buzz.
Sitting on Jane’s couch he began to think of Buzz as something other than a jackass. A pill maybe, but not a jackass. William had tasted blood now, and Buzz was the one that gave him that all important first taste.
“From now on,” thought William to himself, “the world is my acorn.” He got up and went to the phone.
“Buzz? Hey, what was that. . . oh it went great. She’s terrific! But how did you know Sandy didn’t come? She came to my place? You’re serious? No! No! It’s fine by me. Hey, what was that stuff you made me drink? Is it legal, or does the government not know about it? You have chemistry students make it for the football team? No, I don’t want to know, just get me more. Sure, Bye.”
“Who was that?” Jane had reentered.
“You look terrific!” Of course Jane had been hoping for something like that but still wanted to know who had been on her phone.
“My hair is growing. But who was that?”
“That was Buzz. Sandy went over to my apartment to leave me a note while you filled her shoes. She and Buzz are coming over to pick us up and then we’ll go out to lunch. It’s almost one thirty and I’m starving.”
“She and Buzz are coming here? Now?”
“We’ve got a couple minutes, Buzz sent Sandy home to change first.”