Dave marches into the bar with a purpose. He's been lied to before, but never as beautifully as this. It's time to seek vengeance or at least an explanation. The perpetrator's present and probably drunk. It is, after all, almost noontime.
"Goddammit, Hank. I've heard your lisp on the tapes. I see through your blind braggadocio. You've drank more screwdrivers than you've turned. You've probably never even owned one."
One of the neons in the gin mill's window flickers. Neither burnout fazes Hank. He continues staring straight ahead at the mirror behind the bar shelves. A small crease forms at the visible corner of his mouth. This is assumed to be the makings of a smile, thus infuriating Dave even further.
"You think this is funny, old man? There comes a time in every recordist's life when he chooses the pen or the promise. I've had my fun at their expense, and the more..."
But Hank cuts in before he can finish.
"You've chosen neither, kid. You've got to have both in order to decide on one. Do you really think you've mastered your passion? How cute, how precious, how sickening."
Hank sips his Vodka Seven and turns to a man propped up in the darkest corner, his hand on a mojito sweating profusely onto the oak. "Hey, Ernie. Can you spot me lunch? Martin's got a a check in the mail this week."
Ernie raises his hand in agreeance. The barkeep shouts an order to the cook without asking Hank what he'd like to consume. Regulars have it that way. Barflies take it, like it or not.
By the second gin-and-tonic Dave is almost back to normal. His ears have lost their redness. They flush when he's been prodded. He pulls his stool alongside Hank's, who's now working on lunch. The plate of ribs before him is half-way gone.
"So what am I doing wrong?" Dave asks, his tone exuding humility.
"Do you want the list in alphabetical order?" Hank quips. He sucks barbecue sauce from his bony fingers and turns to face his progeny. "Writing's not for weak of heart. That much you've got, but there's more to it than that." He swivels a bit to address the inquisition.
"It's like this rib," he says, holding a morsel of pork in his hand. "The bone is the truth: hidden, but there. The details of how her hair smelled, the plot you've pulled from dead-end jobs, the characters you've met at whorehouses: they're the meat of the story. And see this?" Hank asks while pointing to the blubbery edge of the rib in his hand. "This is the fat. Trim it at all costs. That's what most hacks can't muster." Ignoring the knife set before him on his place mat, he reaches into his pocket for a pearl-handled switchblade. With a flick of his right wrist he slices away a strip of lard from the rib he's holding up with his left.
"But you've cut too deep," Dave points out, more confused than accusatory.
"Not unintentionally," Hank replies as he brings the culinary metaphor closer into view. "See that sliver of white poking through? That's what separates the good from the great."
He sucks the meat from the bone and turns back to his stoic self, his work and good deed for the day being done.
Dave kills his cocktail and tips the girl heavily. He's back at his desk before the sun sets; and like that old pal who bought lunch for Charles says: that bastard sometimes decides also to rise.