If you like this story, please check out my completed book, “Butts in the Seat”; one reviewer said it was “amusing, entertaining, and provides therapeutic value.”
Champagne Mike, as we have learned, is a retired high school English teacher with a penchant for flowery quotations and British slang. He has also made it a practice to have an archenemy; he believes it keeps him mentally acute.
While he was working, there were many colleagues to choose from, and he usually switched up from year to year. Most never knew they made the top of his shit list; Mike felt it better served his purpose to be alone in this knowledge.
Over the years, his internal ire was aimed at:
• Department head Brett, because he acted like he was Mike’s boss, which for all intents and purposes he was
• Librarian Edith, whose old-fashioned name he loathed; he particularly disliked the “th” sound
• Student teacher Allison, whose youth and enthusiasm he found depressing
• Science teacher Fred, who Mike perceived to be disdainful of the liberal arts
• And many, many others
In retirement, he has decided to stick with one archenemy, and that’s Rugby Rudy. It started one night about a year ago, when Rudy dragged Mike into a conversation he was having with Jim and Ben. (Later that night, Mike immortalized that moment in his journal: Into my soft reverie he came, with hobnail boots.)
“Mike, is it?” Rudy had asked.
“Indeed,” Mike answered.
“Do you know what a merkin is?”
Crikey Moses, what an improbable question, Mike thought, while saying, “Of course I do.”
“Well, tell Jim and Ben. They don’t know.”
Mike felt this was a challenge; Rudy’s way of testing whether he really did know. And so Rudy became the latest of the despised ones.
“It’s a pubic hair piece. Came into use in the 1700s when gonorrhea and syphilis were treated with mercury. One of the side effects was the loss of pubic hair.”
“Impressive,” said Rudy. “I didn’t know about the mercury. I thought woman shaved because of lice.”
“That too. Not mutually exclusive.” Mike said this as he sniffed, both literally and figuratively.
“I’m Rudy, by the way. I don’t know if we have officially met.”
“How do you do,” Mike said.
Mike in fact knew who Rudy was, and knew that the regulars referred to him, if not addressed him, as Rugby Rudy. He was close to legendary at Stenny’s; a legend mostly of his own creation. Everyone who had more than a half-conversation with him knew: a) he was one of the best rugby players in the state over a stretch of 45 years; b) he was practically bionic, with two artificial knees, two artificial hips, and one artificial shoulder; c) he bedded more women than any other 20 men combined and was not particular about age, looks, or marital status; d) he made and lost several fortunes in real estate investments; and e) he taught English for a few years right out of college and his vocabulary was unparalleled.
That last point explains why he was quizzing Ben and Jim, and later Mike, on the definition of merkin, a word 99 out of 100 people don’t know and (fortunately) have no need to.
Since that night, Rudy chats amiably with Mike whenever they happen to sit next to each other at the bar; Rudy tells Mike he enjoys what he calls their discourse. He has no idea that Mike thinks of him as Pubic Enemy Number One, a reference Mike finds clever in light of their first discussion.