Ben shifts on the hard stool, trying to find a spot that doesn't make his butt ache. In the mirror behind the bar, he can see Craig at the far end chatting up a forty-something blonde. Similar mating dances are going on all around him. He has no idea what he's doing here.
When Craig came into his dorm room earlier, Ben was eyeball-deep into one of the Prescott-Kydland treatises. He was struggling to wrap his brain around dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models and wondering why the hell he’d ever majored in Poli Sci.
“Come on, Dude. Let’s get out of here. I’m going stir crazy. Let’s go grab a beer at the Den.”
“I can’t, man. I’ve got an Econ mid-term on Monday and I’m in the weeds on this,” Ben said, indicating the books scattered on his desk. “I gotta study.”
“Balderdash.” Craig is currently on an Arthur Conan Doyle tear and seasons his speech with Holmesian phrases. “You need a break. Tomorrow the mist will clear. Besides, having your nose in a textbook on a Saturday night effects a negative social demand curve detrimental to stable capitalism. I think Keynes said that. Come on, let’s go.”
Rolling his eyes, Ben says, “You are so full of shit. You may have a point, though. Maybe a break would help. Staring at these books sure isn’t. But do we have to go to the Den? It’s really not my thing.”
The Dragon’s Den is a bar on Route 74 about forty miles from campus. Until a few years ago, it was a real dive. On a typical Saturday night, there would be a collection of dirty pick-up trucks and the odd Harley in a parking lot, all lit by the glow of the flickering beer sign in the front window. No more. Tonight will find the lot crowded with BMW sedans and other higher-end icons of suburban success. Thanks to one of those quirky shifts in fortune that seem to come out of nowhere, the Den is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, supported in large part by the college crowd from the several schools clustered in and around metropolitan Monroe City. The male college crowd. For whatever reason, the bar has become a favorite of cougars – who some of the guys have taken to calling “dragons” -- on the prowl. The frat boys are more than happy to drive a few miles to become prey.
“Oh, come on.” Craig grabs the hat and jacket hanging from a hook on the back of Ben’s door, jams the hat on Ben’s head, and hands him the coat. “We’ll just have a couple of brewskis, check out the action, and get back early.”
Yeah, and maybe we’ll see some pigs fly, Ben thinks as he pulls on his coat and follows Craig out the door. “All right, but I’m driving. I want to get back here before it snows.”
OK, he came, he drank, he saw, and now he’s ready to go. Ben drains the last of his Guinness. Time to pull Craig away from his blonde (who looks way too much like Aunt Lois for my taste, Ben thinks) and hit the road. He starts making his way through the three-deep crowd edging the bar to Craig, stopping along the way to greet a friend from the Delt house. As he speaks, a little flurry of activity at the door catches his attention. He glances that way, does a double take and is suddenly struck speechless.
The woman pauses at the coat check just inside the door to the Den. She hands her coat to the attendant and pulls a hat from her head, shaking out a lush mane of shoulder-length titian hair. She’s dressed completely in black, a simple jersey dress clinging to the curves above a pair of high boots. Unbidden, strains of the Hollies’ A Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress fill his mind. Except anyone could tell that this woman was way too hot to be cool.
All thoughts of the Delt, Craig, the snow, and dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models leave his mind as he walks toward the redhead. He passes Craig, who grins and says, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” as he reaches out to clap Ben on the back.
He reaches the redhead, now laughing with the several admirers vying for her attention. She turns from a guy who looks like your typical meathead jock to face Ben, and her lusty laugh fades as quickly as it came.
Finding his voice, Ben croaks out, “Mom?”
Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.