Hi all... just thought I'd give you all the next chapter before I left. I dint get a chance to read it over, so I am sorry if it sucks.
“What are you guys drinking over here?!” Edwin says, noticing the pair of cola beverages on the bar. “You guys are gonna have a drink with me, right?”
“No thank you.” Danny and Mae say in sync.
“C'mon, you're off the clock.”
“We can't. Were recovering alcoholics.” Dannys says.
“Agoraphobic alcoholics.” Mae corrects him.
The bad inside joke is lost on Edwin. “That's cool. I won't mess with your wagons or anything.” Edwin flags down the bartender and orders himself a light beer and a round of Jose Cuervo shots for his posse. They down the tequila and in the span of five minutes down several more, as Mae and Danny quietly observe. The group, their first two sheets already to the wind, break of into four smaller sub-groups for some obligatory company bashing.
And with three shots of liquid courage in his system, Edwin finally feels loose enough to begin his conquest of Mae. He pulls up a stool, wedging himself between Mae and Danny, and joins their non-conversation. Mae acknowledges him with a nod of the head and a half-smile, but says nothing. Edwin refuses to look directly at Danny, so there is no exchange between them. Instead, Edwin tries to engage Mae with embellished tales of his all time greatest drunken stupors. Yet he finds her a less than captivated audience. Her intolerance of him is compounded further by his wandering eyes, which seem to be holding their own separate conversation with Mae's breasts. She yawns and orders another round of cokes for Danny and herself, as Edwin concludes his monologue. She doesn't see Joan walk into the now well packed bar. Instead, she makes eye contact with Danny who is already trying to accomplish the same thing. An unspoken understanding is established between them. As if achieved via some psychic transmission, each expresses to the other, the desire to leave the bar together so they may be allowed a some privacy. The vibe is more than sexual, although there is definitely a lust factor involved. The desire for privacy is primarily to satisfy their individual needs to learn more about each other. They are both drawn to one another, feeling an inevitability about their relationship. Unfortunately, their sense of decorum, and fear of emotional ramifications, prohibits them from leaving. Instead they weather the storm that is Edwin, patiently enduring the hurricane winds blowing out of his mouth.
Joan is fashionably late to everything, including events that don't warrant such protocol. It is no surprise then, that she arrives thirty minutes into this little get together. Her arrival is first noticed by Henrietta Budge, who, in the throes of some serious intoxication, stumbles over to greet her. Joan tries to look for Danny, but is dragged into Henrietta's group before finding him. Henrietta forces her to do two rounds of shots before Joan breaks away to find Danny. Feigning a need to urinate, she escapes her new best friend's clutches and hunts down Danny. She is surprised and a little hurt to see Mae there, not because she senses Mae's attraction to him (she doesn't), but because Mae had flat out refused to go with her. For the first time since sixth grade, Joan feels slighted by someone she calls a friend. It is an alien feeling that she finds unacceptable, so she buries it down deep inside, placing it in an unmarked grave beside those middle school memories of betrayal that still haunt her. She forces her bubbly nature to come to the surface, giving out a round of hugs. She takes a seat next to Danny and unfurls her social butterfly wings.
Immediately, the dynamic of the group changes, as Joan forces her will upon the group like the oratory shaman that she is, and resurrects the floundering conversation. Even Mae is compelled to contribute to the conversation, in spite of the two-pronged discomfort caused by Edwin's unsavory intentions, and her desire to leave with Danny. Joan draws them in with a light hearted conversation that is innocuous and free of the hidden agenda beneath Edwin's prattling. She knows that stealth and guile are required when stalking prey, and is sober enough to act according.
“You guys may think I'm stupid.” Joan says. “But I used to drive by this place, and think it was a gay bar.”
“Why?” asks Edwin.
“The name. Hardballs. It sounds gay.” Danny chimes in. “I thought the same exact thing.”
“Me too.” Says Mae. All but Edwin, still slow on the uptake, are amused.
“If I had my own gay sports bar, I'd call it 'The Catcher's Mitt'.” Joan says.
“That's great. If I had one, I'd call it 'The End Zone'.” Says Danny.
“What about 'Switch Hitters'?” Mae adds.” Of course bisexuals would be welcome, too.”
Edwin, finally catching on, starts laughing along with the rest of the group. “Wait. I got one. How about 'Homo Runs'?” Edwin says.
“Homo runs?” says Mae.
It takes a few seconds for the joke to register with the others, but the effect is quite powerful. Unfortunately, it evokes a response that is exactly the opposite of its intended purpose; it kills the moment. One by one the grinning faces are changed into wrinkled brows and blank stares. Edwin stops laughing when he realizes that he is the only one still doing so. It occurs to him (correctly) that he may have stepped over the boundaries of good taste.
“Okay, I got a better one.” Beads of nervous sweat appear on Edwin's forehead. “How about 'Cock Fighters'?”
“I don't get it?” Joan says.
“Neither do I.” says Danny. “Where's the gay reference?”
“Is cockfighting even a sport?” adds Joan.
Edwin looks to Mae for support, but she just shakes her head. Seeking to exercise damage control, he blurts out a flimsy defense for his statement without thinking it through.
“You know, fags like cock, and fighting is a sport.” He is met with the same blank stares. Edwin's sweat glands kick into overdrive. “It is a sport. And they do like cock. I mean, I hear they like cock. I'm not gay, but I have a gay friend, and he says he loves it. He really loves it. I swear. That's what he says.”
No one responds to his rambling. Instead they stare at him incredulously, like rubberneckers at the scene of an accident, horrified by the carnage but unable to keep themselves from looking.
“You know. I'm just saying…” Edwin offers. “I'm just saying what he said.”
“Of course they like cock. Who doesn't?” Danny says, enlivening the mood.
Edwin seizes the opportunity to change the subject, ordering a round of tequilas for the group. The waitress brings back four double shots of Jose Cuervo 1800.
“C'mon guys, bottoms up.” He lifts the shot glass in the air, but only Joan responds in kind.
“On the wagon, remember?” Danny gestures to Mae and himself.
“I respect that.” Says Edwin. He toasts Joan, and with a clink of shot glasses they inhale them. They then take Mae and Danny's unclaimed shots and drink those too. Edwin, his blood-alcohol level well above the legal limit, starts to feel pretty fucking intoxicated.
The four shots give Joan a nice buzz, and produce an eagerness to face the challenge seated beside her. So she spends the next ten minutes feeling Danny out, like a heavyweight contender, flicking quick jabs of innuendo, trying to find a rhythm. Danny unknowingly plays the role of Rocky Balboa in this contest. Like Rocky he is an easy target for her to hit, but to her dismay, his Italian Stallion like constitution enables him to absorb blow after blow with virtually no effect. Danny does not pick up on her intentions even after a barrage of not so thinly veiled innuendoes. He recognizes her overuse of sexual metaphors and her touchy-feely hands, used in subtle but suggestive ways, but fails to make the connection that these signs are intended for him. He automatically attributes it to her outgoing personality rather than consider it an invitation meant for him. For an intelligent man, Danny has a blind-spot when it comes to the opposite sex. He misreads their feelings with a yeoman's regularity, and is all together illiterate when it comes to reading the signs of seduction. But, Joan has a champion's fortitude, and is willing to go the distance if she believes victory is within her grasp. Little does she know that it isn't. She has no chance, since Mae has already put him on the canvas for good.
Edwin, also clueless to his doom, takes a less tactful approach. He tries to be suave and irresistible, breaking into a British super spy routine that took him years to perfect and has yielded a high degree of success in similar situations. But it was never designed for use against women with even the suggestion of self worth, so it has no effect on Mae. In fact, the only indication she gives that she is even listening to his slurred, third rate cockney accent, are the drawn-out yawns that she makes no effort to conceal. Failure of his James Bond schtick gives way to basic gawking as Edwin's alternative tactic. Although, in the entire history of man's mating practices there is no known record of this device ever working, Edwin ogles at Mae as though she were a burlesque dancer flaunting her wares. He does so until she is so uncomfortable that she gets up to go to the bathroom. He trails behind, and waits for her by the restroom door. Danny watches from the corner of his eye, just in case he is forced to intervene on her behalf. Edwin tries to shake of the intoxication so he can muster up one last assault on Fort Mae. She comes out of the restroom and he lays siege.
“Can I tell you something?” Edwin doesn't wait for a reply. “I hope this doesn't sound like a line, but I gotta say, your farts smell amazing.”
Mae decides that there is no acceptable human response to such as statement, so she says nothing.
“I'm serious. I don't care if you had ten cans of pork and beans, I'd still go down on you.”
“I'm going home now.” Mae side steps him and walks off.
Mae returns to her stool to find Joan giving Danny a hand massage as she asks him about computer networking. Danny politely tries to answer in layman's terms, even though he has little interest in the subject. Joan incorrectly assumes that because he is “tech-guy” that he loves talking about computers. Danny finds himself in a position similar to the one Mae spoke of earlier. He wonders if, in the same situation, Mae would disdain Joan's disingenuous interest in what she assumes is a passion of his. This sparks a revelation that feels like an epiphany; Joan is trying to seduce him. Her hidden agenda now clear to him, he takes back his hand in hope of stopping the strange feelings of infidelity burgeoning within.
Mae sees this gesture as an attempt to cover up Danny and Joan's budding love connection. She considers this a slight against her perpetrated by Joan upon an unsuspecting Danny. Mae assumes that Joan's sexual prowess is so powerful that Danny can't help but be sucked into her web of sin. She doesn't notice the look in his eyes that tells her otherwise. Nor does she pick up on his body language, when he turns to face her, giving Joan his back.
“You're back.” Danny says.
“It's getting late.” Mae grabs her purse. “I'll catch you guys tomorrow.”
“I'll take you to your car.” Danny gets up to leave with her, but she doesn't wait. He waves goodbye to Joan, and leaves her to feel jilted by herself. Danny catches up to Mae before she reaches the exit.
“Yeah?” She keeps on walking.
“Hold on a second. I'm you're ride, remember?”
“That's okay, I'll grab a cab. You can stay.”
“I don't want to.” Danny gets her to stop and turn around. “Let me drive you back to your car. Okay?”
She decides that there is no reason to be upset with Danny. All he has ever done is act like a considerate gentleman around her. If anything, her ire should be directed at that conniving tramp she once considered a good friend. With a nod, Mae leads him to the car. As he opens the door for Mae, Joan emerges from the bar.
“Wait up!” Joan calls out. “Can you guys give me a lift?” Joan jogs over to them, stumbling once.
“Where's your car?” Mae asks.
“Over there. But I probably shouldn't drive. Man, if I get another D.U.I, I'm so freaking screwed.” Joan looks to Danny for sympathy, appealing to his big heart with her best Oliver Twist impersonation. Danny, in turn, looks to Mae for guidance. Mae's first instinct is to say no, on the grounds that Joan is faking it so she can horn in on the action. But Mae allows herself a moment to consider how guilty she would feel if she allowed Joan to wreck or get arrested because of her own jealousy.
“Do you mind?” Mae asks Danny.
“Not at all. Better safe than sorry.”
“Great. I owe you one.” Joan winks at Danny in another of her endless stream of innuendoes.
They pile into his car and head out. Danny assumes that he should drop Joan off first since she is the interloper, but she has other ideas. In fact, her lobby to be dropped off last is so strong (and actually makes more sense since she lives closer to Danny's house), that he is forced to relent. Mae, tired and eager to be rid of Joan by any means, offers no objection. So, Danny drives Mae back to the office, in elevator like silence. Danny quietly wonders if Mae understands that he only has eyes for her. Mae secretly hopes that Danny will be able to withstand Joan's pornographic onslaught. Joan concocts a plan to deceive her way into Danny's apartment.
They arrive at the office, exchanging good nights before Mae gets out of the car. Danny watches her get into her own car, concluding their evening in a most anticlimactic fashion. They wave goodnight to one another behind the glass of their windows, a moment that feels like the end of a prison visit. Danny, in the role of inmate, puts his hand up to the glass and watches Mae drive out of sight. Joan, playing the part of prison guard, cajoles him out of the moment with a tap of his knee that turns into a suggestive squeezing of his thigh.
Danny tries to take Joan home, but she turns her drunken routine up a notch by pretending to get them lost. They drive around for thirty minutes until Joan comes to the telegraphed conclusion that she is so smashed that she can't remember where she lives. Not knowing what else to do, Danny reluctantly offers to let her crash at his place. She pseudo apologizes for the inconvenience, and accepts the invitation. The go back to his apartment, and he helps her into his bedroom. Danny takes out a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt for her to sleep in and leaves the room, shutting the door behind him. He fishes out an old blanket, his lone memento from his childhood, and an extra pillow from his linen closet, and turns his couch into a makeshift bed. He lays down, turns off the light and allows his mind to drift back to Mae. Minutes later, Joan comes out of the bedroom wearing only the T-shirt he gave her. She turns the light on so he can get a good look at her legs in all their splendor.
“Are you going to sleep out here?” Asks Joan.
“Yeah. You take the room.”
“I don't mind sharing the bed. It would be a shame to make you sleep on the couch when there's more than enough room in here.”
“That's okay, I sleep out here all the time. It's very comfortable.”
“Okay then, goodnight.” Joan goes back into the bedroom and closes the door. Danny turns the light off again, and goes to sleep with visions of Mae dancing in is head.