Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Apollo of Hérouxville (3)

“Besides,” the man continued, “think of all the advantages, all the possibilities. This isn’t something you use just to get laid, you know.”


“Of course, Ray! Say it to the butcher, and he’ll give you a cut of that truly fine rib roast he keeps in the back for himself. Say it to the professor, and he’ll give you a diploma. Say it to the owner of the club, as you just did, and you’re guaranteed free drinks for life.”

“That guy — the one just here? — He owns this place?”

The man nodded.

“But surely he didn’t believe me!”

“Of course he did — if only for a tiny fraction of an instant… because he already believes it himself. He just wants to hear someone else say it. That’s all any of them really want: to hear someone tell them that they’re hot, that they’re desirable, that someone else sees them the way they see themselves. All these odd couples we see on the society web pages? Gorgeous women with men who could be their trollish grandfathers? Those ladies have it figured out: all they had to do was look at their men and say those two little words, and doors opened like the petals of a field of wildflowers at first sunlight.”

YOO-HOO!” The two looked up to see the Head, practically skipping across the floor. “You’re still here!” he added breathlessly. “I was so hoping you would be! I have so many people I want you to — what is your name, child?”

“Raymond,” the boy replied, “but my friends call me Ray.”

Raymond…” the Head echoed, savouring every syllable. “What a perfectly charming name! Well, Raymond whose friends call him Ray, I have just tons of people I want you to meet. You must come with me, right now, immediatement.”

The bartender looked up and quietly rolled his eyes.

“Ellie, you naughty girl, I saw that!” The Head rolled up to the bar.  “How long have you been working here?”

The bartender shrugged. “Three years, off and on.”

“Hmm. And in all that time, dear Ellie, have you ever once thought of me as… hot?”

“Boss, get real.”

“I see. You know, Ellie, much as I am loathe to say it, you’re no centerfold yourself, are you.”

“Nope. And I know it.”

“And so, knowing that, do you consider yourself then an authority on what is and is not male beauty?”

“Boss, all I have to do is look around this bar and see it. And, sorry to say it, but you aint it. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s true.”

The Head was thoughtful for a moment. “I see. Well, fine. You’re fired.”


“You’re fired. Given the choice between your reality and Ray’s… well, I’m afraid I prefer his. Pack your things. Go.”

“But boss — !”


The bartender glared at the boy, then, slamming down his towel, strode to the front of the bar, then stood practically nose to nose with the Head. “You know, you do this all the time. Some little piece of ass comes along and says all the right things, and suddenly you’re like a finalist at the Miss Gay America Pageant.”

“Are you quite finished?”

The bartender sputtered, then spat on the floor. “Yes.” — then slammed his way through the crowd.

The Head watchfully followed him. “Well, so much for that. So… Raymond, how would you like to be a bartender here? I seem to have a position open.”

The boy started hopelessly at the Head. “I never wanted – I’m not a — “

An angry voice suddenly rocketed from the far end of the club. “SO WHERE’S THIS BITCH THAT’S TRYING TO STEAL MY HUSBAND!”

The Head looked up, then sighed. “Oh dear. That’s my husband Theodore. Lovely fellow… but between you and me, his shadow is nowhere near as lovely as mine.”

The source of the angry voice strode across the room: tall, well-dressed, and — to the boy’s inexperienced eye — very good-looking in a decidedly furious way. “BRADLEY! HAVE YOU GONE COMPLETELY INSANE?”

“Ah, Theo, my love. May I present — “

“No, you may not! And as for you: get the hell out of this bar. Now.”

“He will not get the hell out, Theo. He will be staying. He will be taking Ellie’s place behind bar.”

“Really. Our best bartender. And you’re tossing him over for this little piece of trash? Why on earth — “

“Because Raymond says I’m hot.”

“… You are not serious.”

“I am indeed. This morning, I was a mound of blubber, scarcely able to squeeze into my car…”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much what I saw this morning as well.”

“Tonight, thanks to this lovely child, I am Atlas. And I do believe I prefer his view.”

“Atlas!” Theodore laughed.

“Actually, maybe not…” the boy said quietly.

“Ah, Bradley! You see? Even he cant keep to the lie — “

“No, I was thinking more of something else. Not the Atlas,” the boy continued. “The Apollo of Hérouxville.”

“The what?” Theodore asked incredulously.

The Head suddenly, viciously spun at Theodore. “You know, I’ve had just about enough of you! You have only one purpose in my life, and that is to make me feel good. That’s it! Raymond here knows the score: tell a man what he wants to hear. That’s all you should be doing. Want to know why, my dear Theo? Because when you say it to me, I. Feel. Happy. This young man makes. Me. Feel. Happy. And as such, I see him as one of the hottest men in this room.”
Theo brutally laughed. “Him? You really are insane, my dear.”

The man from Hérouxville raised a cautious hand. “If I may interrupt…”
Theo threw his hands in the air. “And who is this crazy person?”

The man continued. “Bradley — if I may be so informal, sir — Bradley here has posed the perfect question: what makes a man happy?”
Timidly, the boy whispered. “I think — “

“No one cares what you think, bitch!”

The Head spun in fury. “I will not have you insult little Raymond like that!”

“This little… hustler is insulting me!”

“Keep talking, Theodore. Now I’m seeing the real you, and it is Not. Pretty.”

The man from Hérouxville gently interrupted once more. “Gentlemen, if I may. The issue isn’t so much what is hot and what is not, but seeing each man’s beauty, his desirability, his hotness in itself. You just have to know how to look at it. The tall and thin: how they almost hang from the sky. The short and weighty: how they cling to the earth.”

Theodore smirked in none too mild derision. “Please, start singing: Everyone is beautiful! In their own way!

The man raised a cautious finger. “Ah, but you see, they are. Just because you, good sir, can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not so. Look at the people working in this very room. Him, for example.”

Theo and the Head followed his extended finger, pointing at a non-descript young man in barely clean whites as he wandered the room, picking up abandoned glassware and depositing them in a large plastic tub. “Tony?” Theo asked in shocked surprise. “Okay. What about him? He’s probably the plainest-looking person we know. That’s why we hired him, if you recall, Bradley.”

“Ah, but you’re not looking…!” the man continued. “Watch.”

“He’s picking up a beer bottle. Oh yeah, very hot.”

“It’s not what he’s doing,” the man said in gentle admonishment. “It’s how he does it. See how the muscles slide under his skin as he picks up that beer bottle? The gentle, almost loving way he sets in along side the others so it doesn’t break?”

The Head sighed. “I never saw that before. It’s… poetry.”

“It’s nonsense, that’s what it is! Bradley, listen to me. You are not hot. You are ugly as sin.”

“Be quiet!”

“I will not be quiet! Someone needs to soak your ponderous head in very cold water to shake some sense back into you! You are ugly, Bradley! Deal with it and move the hell on!”

“How can Bradley ever expect to see himself as hot,” the man said quietly, “when he lives in an environment that constantly finds him ugly?”

“Environment!” the Head shouted. “Of course! I understand!”

“Oh please,” Theo replied dismissively, “what could you possibly understand now?”

The Head stared at him. “From the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, I am constantly reminded that I’m ugly. And not just by you. All I have to do is look around the condo and see a thousand things that remind me of it. You leave a shirt hanging on a doorknob, and that tells me I’m fat. The paintings that you chose for every room, the decorative photographs, the floral centerpieces, every single damn thing fairly screams at me, Bradley, you’re ugly! The countless mirrors… oh, let’s not forget those, shall we? And your little Italian marble statuette of the David that you keep on the nightstand – well, tonight, my love, it, the paintings, the mirrors, even your shirts, all of it goes in the trash!”

“You. Wouldn’t. Dare.”

The Head turned to the man from Hérouxville. “Do you know what this monster bought last month for our dining room? Louis XV Directoire chairs. I can hardly squeeze into them! Well, no more. Tonight, they go to Goodwill, with my blessing!”

Theodore gasped. “Goodwill? Do you have any idea how expensive — “

I paid for them, so yes, I think I have some idea! Ray, tell me, what kind of chairs do you have?”

The boy stammered. “Mine? Nothing special. A… uh… a couch. A recliner.”

“A recliner!” the Head sighed. “We have fifty thousand dollars’ worth of silver on our dining room table. What’s on yours?”

“A small bowl. I keep marbles in it. Red ones, usually.”

“Red marbles! I think right now I would kill for a bowl of red marbles. They could take all of the silver and chuck it into the river, and I would never miss a single fork.”

“Take one piece of that silver,” Theodore hissed, “and I am so out of here.”

“Suit yourself, my love.”

“You just don’t get it, do you, Bradley! I made you what you are right now! People look at you and then they look at me and then they say, Wow, that guy must have something going on to have a stud like that!”

“Theo, my dear, before you continue this well-trod path, let me just ask something. When you say I’m ugly, is it because I am ugly? Or because you find me so?”

“Because you are!”

“I see. Continue.”

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