When the forecast said it was going to be 80, Flora and Lea took the drive out to Rooster Rock and hit the nude beach.

“Is that a tattoo on your butt?” Lea asks Flora as they get settled on their over-sized towels. “I thought you were against them. You’re always going off about how a flower on a teen will look wilted when they get in their thirties.”

“I have a twin sister, Fleur. Whenever she got caught doing something bad, she’d say she was me.”

“That’s kind of rude.”

“Not really. We both did it. Our mom couldn’t tell us apart and we’d game her so much she never knew which of us to punish. She finally got fed up with our antics and convinced a friend of hers to tattoo and x on my ass. We were only six, too young to have it done legally.”

“She really couldn’t tell you apart?”

“We were the most identical twins the staff at the hospital had ever seen, and we remained so as we grew up.” She rubs tanning lotion on the little x on her butt. “And then we weren’t. I had this nasty little x that marked me as imperfect.”

“Let me get that,” Lea says, takes the bottle and squeezes lotion on Flora’s back.

“But when my sister and I looked old enough to pass for eighteen, Fleur got an identical x on her butt and I had mine re-inked. Not that it mattered to our mom at that point, but it did to us. We were identical again, both marked imperfect.”

The Barstool Cowboy – Tall Tales

When I take my seat on the barstool next to McCluskey, he has the newspaper spread out on top of the bar in front of him. He gives it a tap with his fingertips and says, “This used to be an actual full-size paper, the kind you wrapped your dishes in when you moved. Now, at tabloid size, it’s not much more than an advertiser with staples. You might be able to wrap a saucer with it, but not a dinner plate, and totally worthless in the can if you run out of tp, unless you want a bunch of colored newsprint on your bum.”

The bartender sets down my usual in front of me. “But there you sit, reading it,” I say.

“I’m looking to see what lies they’re shilling to the masses today, that and checking the comics. There used to be two full pages of comics and celebrity pinhead gossip, now there’s not even enough amusement to last a cigarette. It used to take me three beers to read the paper, now I’m done before I’ve finished even one.”

“Maybe you just drink faster now with all the practice you’ve had.”

McCluskey grunts.

“So what have you discovered in it today?” I ask.

“Looks like people are pretty upset about this Brian Williams character telling tall tales about his helicopter rides in Iraq, seems he’s told it quite a few times and a few other boppers.”

“His credibility sure has taken a hit. I wonder if he’ll recover.”

McCluskey shakes his head. “What gets me is the number of people he worked with who help him spread and maintain his tails. I mean he had his film crew and editors and support flunkies. The media wants you to think the story is about Williams and whether his career will survive the hit, but that’s just a diversion. The real story is that tall tales are so commonplace in the news industry that it took more than a decade for the ones Williams was telling to accumulate to the point of being out of the norm enough for them to be noticed.” He swigs his beer. “So they drop in another anchor to take his place, but nothing will change, the news culture remains the same. The others will sacrifice Williams to cover their own asses so they can continue to tweak the news here and there to fit what they want people to think.”

I sip my beer. “That’s awful cynical.”

He shrugs. “They should lure Dan Rather out of retirement and he and Williams can be co-anchors. Now that would be a news team worth watching.”


Previous Barstool Cowboy: One Plus One Is Three

The Barstool Cowboy – One Plus One Is Three

“You need to embrace the new, McCluskey. Don’t be afraid of the technology,” I say as I shake off my wet jacket, hang it on a peg and take the stool next to him at the bar. He stops swearing at his iPhone and shoves it in the pocket of his plaid shirt.

McCluskey shakes his head. “I miss my flip-phone. At least I had that one figured out, but no, the wife says get an iPhone, they’re much better, she says. I hold out, but then she gets me one for Christmas, so I’m stuck with it. Whenever I see ‘New and Improved’ I think it’s a con. ‘Sweeter But With Less Sugar.’ Like just because they print it on the box I’m going to believe it. ‘All Natural Ingredients.’ Hell, so is cancer.”

I order my usual and say, “Advertisers are good at selling emotions and vague promises of whatnot. A lot of people get taken in by it.”

I know what McCluskey is going to say, but I wait for it.

“Yeah, well a lot of people are stupid,” he says.

“That’s your answer to everything, more so when it’s raining.”

McCluskey laughs. “But you, old buddy, with all of your politeness and sensitivity to others, have yet to dispute me on it. I think you secretly agree that a lot of people are stupid. But that’s okay, stay in the closet with the rest of the politically correct. It’s only a matter of time before you get so fed up with them telling you one plus one is three that you won’t be able to stomach it any longer and you’ll admit to yourself that not only are a lot of people stupid, but that you’ve been one of them by buying into that politically correct bs.”

“Ha, you are who your friends are,” I say.

“That’s one of those asinine memes to keep the sheep in line. Fear of going against the flow makes people stupid, but when their heads clear they’ll know I’ve been speaking the truth all along.”

“So I’m stupid with fear and a sheep?”

“Consider me a missionary of truth and this barstool is my pulpit.” McCluskey swigs his beer. If we’d been fishing or camping, he’d let a out a loud burp, but he restrains himself as the waitress passes. He turns in his seat and looks at me pointedly. “I’ve faith truth will win out in the end. Do you remember the 80s?”


“How’d that New Coke taste? Or that Dry Beer? I remember you drinking both and nothing but and where are they now?”

“Point taken.”