The Culture Proof Short Story

Phil Hoag was trying not to listen to the worse ‘show on Earth’. It was a slow Friday night, so Phil got himself up and sauntered down to the coffee place across the street from his apartment. He felt left out staying in his quiet place while the rest of the building was getting ready for the fun and release at the end of the week. Expecting to join just a few other lonely spirits, he wasn’t expecting some ‘natter’ earning their stripes at the expense of a bored audience and Phil, seated across the room.

Phil wondered if these young city-slickers realized how their social outings are to end – charming one another with empty flourishes and big words they picked up in ‘real situations’ that couldn’t be further from their idyllic life. And that all of this, no matter how good they got at it, ended with having kids and marrying one another. Phil was thinking these thoughts in order to wash out their pointless prattle when the bored audience lost interest. The ‘public speaker’ noticed and drew the show to a close. Maybe they caught a chill from the door where they sat, because they soon left.

The coffee place is a wonderful, sarcasm and all, to know the local society. It only draws the different tribes from within walking distance. Like young ladies who dress like miniature women and the young gentlemen who put up with their prancing, instead of the ‘gay’ boys who spend Friday nights with each other. Or the funny ones with baby-faces that oughtn’t go pass their door at all. Obviously Phil was hiding from people his own age – it seemed everyone of them were abiding their time now that it was two weeks into the month of November and all of the ones like Phil had suddenly met with unexpected expenses of their own doing. It was a choice between cigarettes or burger buns; to fix a broken phone instead of a case of beer.

Standing outside, just before the November light turned to early winter evening, with a few of the other guys, Phil drew on a cigarette and fantasized that they were all in a pan waiting to be brought home. There was ‘No Sex And The City’; HBO stood for hobo and if you wanted ‘some’, it stood for Harvard. If you still watched that show, you were one of those prancing gents whose girlfriends had ditched you for one of those ‘gay’ boys; and you were left holding the bag, which was worth the price of an Appalachian mansion, with clapboard extensions for rooms as your in-laws grew and your grandparents moved in.

With just a little more than that, independent travel at Phil’s age would feel like a hammer to the head. Though he easily waxed with a romantic hue about the low cost of a steak dinner with fresh Czech beer, it now meant actually having to live there. And being able to order a Starbucks in his native English was now more precious than having a crush on a Czech violinist whose friends were lesbians who kept talking about Star Trek, while she was necking with a busker in the dark.

Each group of ‘retards’, that’s what they force upon people Phil’s age, because ‘apparently’ there were things we missed at their height – each group upon their entrance created a wave that made Phil winch as it reached across the length of the room. If you are sick of the city, it is because it can be like a salon instead of the dark hard streets of poor writers. They have a term for it and they dress accordingly; Phil was an ‘idle man’ of fashion. Lexus Nexus Plexus were the cars parked in front of the shops next door.

The neon light of laundry mats and businesses only seemed sadder but their isolation was dispelled by the contented shop owners under the bright lights inside. It was after dinner time, 7 pm, and everywhere, the electricity of the young people who were happy, happening and hopeful sizzled in the air.

Welcome to Friday night, as it always has been. Sizzling, laughing and if you tried to be isolated, your magic was quickly and remorselessly dispelled.