Fiction

Happy Hour

by Terry Wynne

Dusk had settled into the glass and chrome and cement cityscape. Harry had put in a solid day of writing advertising copy, meetings, preparing for presentations. As far as he was concerned, he had earned that pint of Guinness at Mulligan’s. He was on his way to meet two friends at the pub and turned left onto west 55th street towards Seventh Avenue.

An amber tint spread across the front window of Mulligan’s with the early evening rays filtering in from the western sky. The scent of stale beer permeated the walls. Mulligan’s was a blue collar bar with construction workers and people who looked like cops and fireman. It was the perfect antidote to the day’s mid-management poison.

Harry joined his friends at the one-sided window. You could see out, but nobody could see in, only their own reflection. The trio commented on the parade of people who walked by. Senior executives from the agency with their administrative assistants; professional women striding the pavement, rushing for the bus or cab; sad faces of the walking wounded, heading home to lick their wounds with cable TV and alcohol. Most wore the mask of desperation, eager to escape the corporate confinement of Manhattan. The kind that, day in and day out, eats at your soul.

“Now check this nerd out now,” said Vallerio, a media planner, glancing out the window.
His boss was sauntering down the block, talking to himself in an animated conversation. “See what I have to deal with? He’s even nuttier at work!”

“Well my boss goes on junkets to Wimbleton and the Olympics on the network’s dime, then writes us memos not to have lunch with media reps,” said Kelly. “Ethics my ass!”

Mulligan’s didn’t have waitresses, so Harry stepped up to the bar to order a Guinness. They took a while to pour a proper pint at Mulligans. As it should be. Kelly and Vallerio were all set, drinks in hand and cigarettes in the other. Harry had to contend with the swirling smoke and it sank into his collar so he could smell it on him when he came home. A lot of people smoked back then. Harry was in the odd man out..

“Hey, isn’t that your imaginary girlfriend coming up the boulevard?” said Vallerio. Harry could see Mary Wentworth, carrying a heavy satchel, pacing towards them in her white Nikes. Her smiling green eyes, brunette hair and delicate, almost angelic face always got to him. . The kicker was her southern charm. That really did the trick. He was never sure how real it was, but in those days, he didn’t care all that much. It was true that he had feelings for her, but she was living with a guy who was a sculptor or modern furniture designer, he never really knew for sure.  “Go ahead and knock on the window,” said Vallerio. “Show her your true nature and who you hang out with.”

“I bet you ten bucks she gives you the brush-off,” said Kelly, with a sardonic smile.

“Thanks for your vote of confidence,” said Harry. “You two mugs hide if she comes in.”

He rose to his feet and knocked on the window. Mary turned her head to look in the direction of the sound, but could only see her own reflection and kept going. He stepped out the back door to greet her on the street.

“Hi, Harry. What a surprise, to find you at the pub,” said Mary. Her face didn’t look sad and desperate like the others. It exuded the kind of warmth and charisma that momentarily propelled Harry into a dreamy, higher state of life. Anything could be possible when she smiled. Maybe the world was not so dreary when she drew him into her orbit.

“It’s cheaper than a psychotherapist,” said Harry. “Would you like to join me and my colleagues in an adult beverage?”

“No thanks! I’ll take a rain check,” said Mary. “It never ends with JCPenney and I have a pile of work when I get home. Maybe we can have lunch sometime this week?”

”The last time you took me to Anne Taylor afterward and made we watch you shop for a half hour,” said Harry.

“Scouting out the competition,” said Mary.

“Hell, I’m probably the only agency guy who buys his suits at JCPenney,” said Harry. “I’m loyal as they come “

Here came that radiant smile again – “That you are, Harry Moran. That you are!”

Harry’s face flushed, his pulse quickened.

And that was that. She bid him goodbye and he returned to his table.

“I’ll let you slide because it’s plain to see she is entirely out of your league,” said Kelly. “She has looks and brains. What do you have? A broken down Toyota and an Archie Bunker house in Brooklyn.”

Harry sipped his Guinness and soaked in the truth of what they were saying. He really had no chance with her. And yet, wasn’t worthwhile just being around her? Didn’t it give him a lift? Isn’t this why we are on this crazy planet?

Kelly had to leave at seven. His wife had a strict code of conduct for him and dinner would be ready. Vallerio was like himself, single and could stay on for another.

But the trio departed.

By now the sun was low in the western sky and the shadows loomed large on the eastern side of the buildings. Harry descended the greasy steps of the subway to Brooklyn.

All those desperate people and who was he kidding? He was one of them too.

About the Author:

Terry Wynne is a freelance cartoonist whose cartoons have appeared worldwide. He lives in Camillus, New York with his wife, Noghma, his daughter, Gabrielle, and his mother, Marianne. His work includes sight gags, comic strips, children’s books, political cartoons, and caricature. He devotes his time to cartooning, charity, golf, and softball.

 

 

 

 

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