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Hard Up For AnswersBy Josyah Wilton Danfield
The Daily Apocrypha Staff
The word hung on the air, as if indistinctly whispered. The usual conversations in the Alley Bar were still there, but subdued. It was after 7, so my 'man on the street' drinking buddy Marty was already gone. It was the time of day that seemed to invite an exclusively male clientele. The roadies from the paving crew had come in, some of the Daily Apocrypha staff were in for a quick bite -- quick in that you can make a quick choice between chips and a meatball sub. Back when Al Egreti owned the place, strong coffee would have been the only non-alcoholic beverage allowed in the bar. These days, management (Max or Millie, depending on the day) stocks a selection of designer waters, soda pop, and some herbal teas that taste like lawn-clipping infusions.
But it was there, in the bar....the spectre of Viagra. Strange, really, since the conversations you _could_ hear spoke of conquests of the sexual kind, exploits of such endurance and ingenuity you'd be hard up for answers or a single reason as to why the guy would be interested in drug-enhanced performance.
I was waved over to a corner booth occupied by two roadies, Mel from the department store up the street, and Abe from the Speed-O-Grease, in town for a rare visit. One of the roadies was halfway into his story about his "old lady" and some tale about making out on the back of a Harley that frankly contravened about sixteen laws of physics. At the climax --of the story-- there were appreciative guffaws and loud praise, then the roadie looked at me and winked.
"Ever done anything like that, son?"
I smiled, and shook my head. Back in the old locker room days, I'd never been one for the "mine's bigger/longer/sturdier" type of fantasies. It was then that the roadie shared some sort of look with Mel, then Abe. When Abe gave him a single sharp nod, the roadie teased a fold of paper out from beneath the soggy beer coaster and slid his cupped hand across the top of the table, his fingertips pulling the paper along under the shelter of his hand. His fingers urged the folded paper partly into obscurity under my discarded napkin. His look was one any journalist would recognize immediately: the "you didn't get this from me" disclaimer.
Any spymaster would have been proud of my nonchalant and pronouncedly surreptitious peek at the note. There was a name and an address on the paper and judging from the grease and beer stains and the dirty imprint of fingerprints at the corners, the note had been in circulation for a while. I nodded, sagely I hoped, and a few eternal minutes passed as I stared at the note long enough to memorize it. I pulled out my little notepad from my jacket pocket, and tore off a sheet while I talked about the time I'd roomed with a Japanese reporter while covering a West Coast computer convention and how he'd taught me this neat trick of folding a bit of paper into a soccer ball. I made a show of 'finding' the note as a second sheet of notepaper, and then folded first the scrap and then the note into two miniature soccer balls. I batted them between my hands on the tabletop, then had Mr. Roadie make a goal with his hands. My fingers did the walking --kick, score!, kick, score again!--and the roadie studied the folded papers then pocketed the two as if for further study.
I wasn't any wiser about the import of the name and address until Mel followed me up to the bar, ordered another round for the roadies' table, and whispered "Doc Gray can get it for you fast, not dirt cheap, given the Viagra demand, but at a decent price. Tell him Mel sent you." He grabbed the four bottles by the necks, two per fist, and sauntered back to the group.
Viagra again. The guys in the bar detailed their sexploits while passing the name of their Viagra source hand to hand. It was a peculiar sort of true confession, inflated egos beckoning performance to match. I paid for my drink, nodded good-bye to the quartet at the booth in the corner, and headed out of the bar.
I passed the department store on my way up the block to the city parking lot. A demo of the latest wide-screen TV and VCR was in progress, the video of a popular musical movie dancing its way sharply and brightly across the tinted flat screen. I watched for a moment, the buildings across the street a transparent reflected backdrop for the twirling dancers in the musical.
And it all came together at that moment, the video and the bar -- in the bar I'd seen the classic tale of love and desire and promise, updated so a small pill figured prominently in the resolution of the drama, the small pill made from a drug so much an embodiment of hope and success that its name would be immortalized in song, just like in the musical. I turned from the window and laughed all the way to my car.
It will be a while before I can get the song out of my head.
"...the most beautiful sound that I ever heard: Vi - a - gra ..."
Josyah Wilton Danfield is the author of "'All The News That Fits The Prince' and Other Tales in Ink", published by Sublingua Press in 1997. His Letters of Opinion appear regularly in The Daily Apocrypha.
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