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Art pushed his empty mug across the bar. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and nodded. "TV blew up last week."

Teddy murmured, just as though she hadn't heard this every day since Art had come in stinking of Shalimar and chagrin. It happens, Artie, sooner or later." We watched the head rise above the rim. "If you're lucky, later."

"It never runs over," I offered, part honest praise, part hope I'd head off Art's story.

It didn't work.

He sprinkled salt on his beer. "Of course, it was just a table model, no loss, not much of one anyway."

You ever see Darlene again?" I asked, taking mean-spirited delight in knowing the answer, even as we sat here in splendid fellowship.

"But the insurance won't cover the fire-damage."

I didn't push the Darlene issue.

He stared into the mug like he might find something down in there that he'd want to keep.

Teddy poured me a gin. Warm.

The three of us spent some time talking about insurance, how it never covers what you really want to protect. We're in here, as safe as certified vampires.

We never even got into deductibles.

Over the bar, the television screen flickered, closed captioned. "Can't you turn that off?"

"Sorry, Artie. The boss says ..."

"It's just that this show reminds me. It's what was on that afternoon," his voice rose like the whine of a single engine plane climbing too steep, too fast.

"This here's her favorite show." He didn't ask Teddy to switch the channel. "She's probably watching it right now."

I said he was probably right about that.

Then he started on how he'd wanted to have sex, and Darlene had said ok, but only if she could watch Oprah at the same time. He tried, but it didn't work. When he asked for a little help, she divided her attention between the TV and him, mostly paying attention to the TV, though she swore to him that she was doing her best. Now this, I personally, doubt, as Darlene could raise the dead in 43 seconds. But I didn't interrupt to venture my opinion, and he went on, "So I grab the lamp, throw it at the television. Perfect aim, right through the screen. Knock it off the stand. Candle topples over into the wastebasket. Smoke detector... firemen busting in."

"Idiot..." I muttered. I stared up at the TV and the credits, like I was really interested in who did the makeup or catering for Oprah. It was about time.

"They're all bitches," he said. Teddy didn't flinch. "Present company excepted."

Barely a minute after the show was over, the bar phone rang. We all could guess who was calling. And I, well, I knew the bell tolled for me.

(c) 2004 Miriam N. Kotzin
"Showtime" first appeared in Storied World, June 4, 2004.

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