“Oh shit,” Joanna says to her husband Matt, who had joined her at the bar once his work day was done, but not before she assured him she was done with her napkin duties. Matt finds it odd and irksome that Joanna offers to fold napkins, or shine silverware, or fill salt & pepper shakers every time they go to Stenny’s, which is pretty damn often. “You never do anything remotely domestic at home, but you come here and are Suzy Fucking Homemaker,” he once said. Joanna responded with a shrug; she seldom feels the need to explain herself.
“Oh shit what?” Matt asks.
“Bullshit Billy just came in. I think he’s heading this way. Can you sprawl out so it looks like the stool next to you is taken?”
“You know I’m not going to do that, Jo,” Matt answers.
Joanna sighs. “Ok, but don’t make eye contact and for God’s sake don’t ask him any open-ended questions.”
Bullshit Billy does in fact sit on the stool next to Matt. “Hey, Matt. Hey Joanna,” he says.
“Hey, Bill,” Matt says.
“Hey,” Joanna says, and pretends there’s something very interesting happening in her French martini.
“What’s new?” Billy asks Matt.
“Not too much,” Matt answers. “Although I did have a close call downtown today.” Downtown is center city Philadelphia, about 20 miles from Stenny’s suburban location. He hasn’t had a chance to tell Joanna yet, and she looks at him with a furrowed brow; it makes her look 10 years older than her 47 years.
“Yeah?” Billy responds. “What?”
“I was walking along Sansom Street and a chunk of concrete, big as a loaf of bread, fell off a building from about 3 stories up. Hit a guy in front of me right on the shoulder. He went down hard. I was the closest one to him so I called 911. The ambulance came pretty quick, thank God. Poor bastard was in a lot of pain. I think it broke his collarbone, maybe separated his shoulder too.” Matt was a phys ed major 30 years earlier and has retained his interest in injuries, sports-related or not.
Billy makes a scoffing sound. “That’s nothing. Yesterday I was walking my route and a tree branch—a huge one from an old oak tree—fell right on my head.” Billy is a mail carrier.
“Ouch,” Matt says. “What made it fall?”
“There was a cat sitting on it; biggest cat I have ever seen, must have been 30 pounds.”
Joanna begins to say something. Matt touches her thigh; he knows that she knows it means Don’t get into it with him, it’s not worth it.
Matt can’t help some questioning of his own. “What happened to the cat?”
“I don’t know, I was too stunned to really care about the damn cat, Matt.”
“Sure, I can understand that. How badly were you hurt?”
Matt can’t stop Joanna this time. “Billy, you don’t have a mark on you.”
“Internal injuries, Joanna. I’ll need to be under observation for at least 8 weeks. The doctors said the only thing that saved me was my abnormally thick cranium.”
Oh, that’s too easy, Joanna thinks. I’ll be nice and let it go. But nice for Joanna in this situation is saying, “It’s remarkable, incredible even, how many things happen to you, Billy. Every time I’ve heard someone tell you a story, something similar happened to you, only worse.”
“I live a bold life,” he responds.
Walking under an oak tree is not particularly bold, Joanna thinks but doesn’t say, as she has given this conversation all she is willing to give.