Sam knew he was in too much of a serious mood. Yet here he was just outside of a bar, having a cig. A pipe-smoking dude next to him was yammering on about baseball. Out of the corner of his mouth, just below the Nietzsche-stache, there it was. A pipe like the one an English scholar in a double-breasted tweed jacket would’ve smoked in the early 20th century. Except this guy was wearing a worn, navy-blue, Irish wool sweater with a traditional crew neck collar. The guy must’ve noticed Sam staring.

I’m Baylor. Sam wasn’t going to be deterred by faux kindness. He ignored the extended hand and paid attention to a random person exiting the bar. “You look like an idiot,” he blurted out to Baylor. Sam became a comedian when he was drunk, but the jokes came off as being too intense for some. Baylor took two puffs from his pipe, ostensibly to relight the tobacco. Sam thought maybe this guy did have some heart. Where you from, bub?” Baylor said to Sam, ignoring this sleight.

“Baseball’s for pussies,” Sam interrupted. Baylor had been blabbering about it inside the bar. Baylor pointed his thumb to Sam. You gonna chill the fuck out or what? As Baylor started to get up from the bench, Jay dashed forward and smacked the pipe away from Baylor’s lips. The end of the pipe was probably between the guy’s teeth because it gave a clacking noise before it flipped out.


On the television screen, next to the top shelf of Hibiki whiskey and Macallan Scotch, they were showing a black and white movie. As Sam and Baylor waited for their drinks, Sam tried to figure out what it was about. He was buying Baylor a drink so he wouldn’t call the cops and so Sam could keep returning to his favorite watering hole. Also, he felt a twinge of guilt for this guy. Baylor had reluctantly agreed. On the screen, Nazi zombies with immaculately black S.S. uniforms were biting into young high school kids.

Sam and Baylor got their IPAs. Sam liked the dark ale. He slowly switched into a lighter person. Lighter in the sense that the weightiness of life was pushed back. Or maybe it was something else. After wading through an enthusiastic but feigned interest in baseball, Sam was delighted to learn that Baylor was into Nietszche. Baylor’s interpretation of the philosopher was a bit hazy, though, liberally extending the man’s views to social-justice causes, battling micro-aggressions, and believing that art was all about liminality. But his non-stop talking was persuasive. He and Sam would, at points, converge on a point of agreement after going through a philosophical impasse, and in the end, had drunkily agreed. Maybe it was the beer. One became two. Two became three. Three became four. They decided to go to another bar to continue their conversation on Kant. When they stepped outside into the cool air, Sam felt that familiar friend: nausea.


Sam hurried to the side of the bar not covered by the streetlights. He threw up all that he had drunk. He leaned his hand against the outer wall. He could hear Baylor crying and complaining to a group of guys. Something about how a guy kicked his ass. Throwing up returned Sam’s senses. Clarity came when you least expected it, but what it revealed was that the dark ale was still speaking and the knuckles on his left hand stung when he opened his fingers. He had remembered the earlier anger and had swung on Baylor out of the blue. To flee, was that another way of surviving? Baylor’s wobbly voice was still talking, but further in the distance. The poison was out. There was nothing more left to give back. Sam stood up straight.