Life Is a Short Story

A barmaid frustrated with guys her age talks a much older man into asking her out.

An excerpt:

"I think I can handle another one if you can," he said. Karen opened a beer, wiped the top of the bottle with a napkin, and brought it to him. "Want a fresh glass?"

"No, I'm still getting this one broken in," he said.

She poured some beer into his glass. "Pigs," she said. "A bunch of fucking pigs, pardon my language. Those are the only guys I meet nowadays. Know something?"


"The last date I had was more than a month ago. I kind of liked the guy, we had a pretty good time, but he expected me to jump right into bed with him that night and I wouldn't. He said he'd give me a call but he didn't, so finally I called him and he had nothing to say, practically hung up on me."

"That's too bad."


"My next book will be entitled Women Who Say They'll Call But Don't."

"Women do it, too?"

"Oh yeah."



"You know, not to be nosy, but I can't figure you two out. You're here sometimes when I come in and you look lovey-dovey, and then you leave together, but sometimes she leaves and drives away and you have another beer. It's really strange."

"As Claus von Bulow, a.k.a. Jeremy Irons, said in Reversal of Fortune, 'You have no idea.'"

"Sure don't. Want to enlighten me?"

"It's a long story."

"But is she your girlfriend, or what?"


"Okay, I guess you don't want to talk about it."

"As I said, it's a long story."

"Nothing wrong with a long story, if it's interesting. And I bet it is. But that's okay. Just-well, you've been in here two Saturdays in a row now, and like six out of the last eight Saturdays, and when you leave, you say you're going home to work on your book, so I guess there's not a whole lot going on between you."

"It's what you might call a fallow period."

"I guess. But..."


"You're a decent guy. You might be the last nice guy left. And you're the kind of guy I'd like to go out with."


"That's it? Thanks?"

"I'm flattered."

"Jesus." She fumbled another cigarette out of the package. He flicked his lighter on and held it toward her. She leaned forward, puffed, leaned away.

"Karen-I really am flattered. And tempted. But-the problem is, I'm easily old enough to be your father. I have two daughters older than you, and another daughter who's almost your age. Shit, I have a grandchild who's older than either of your kids."

"So you're saying you're too old for me? Isn't that for me to decide?"

"No, I'm saying you're too young for me. I've-well, I have this sort of rule, I guess, I've never actually formulated it as a rule, but in the back of my head I kind of have this idea that I shouldn't go out with anyone who's younger than my oldest daughter."

"How old is she?"


"Shit. That's a stupid rule. Look, I know what you're talking about, sort of, I usually hate it when some old guy comes on to me, but-I still don't think age should make any difference if two people are attracted to one another. And I am attracted to you, I really like you-"

"I 1ike you too, Karen. And I think you're very attractive, that's why, one reason anyway, that I take a break and come down here nights when you're working, I'm not often here any other night. As I said, I'm not only flattered, I'm very much tempted. But-look, I'm fifty, almost twice your age, when you were born I already had two kids, shit, I'd already been married and divorced, and I have a daughter, by my second marriage, Maureen, she's twenty-five, and I don't think I'd like it very much if she were going out with someone my age."

"My father died five years ago, so he doesn't care. And he was a lot older than you, he'd be almost sixty-five now, so it's not like I'm looking for a surrogate father or anything like that. I mean, you don't even look fifty, I thought you were younger than that, but it still doesn't make any difference to me-am I blushing?"

"It's hard to tell. It might just be the light from the Budweiser sign."

"Shit. You're laughing at me, aren't you?"

He shook his head. "No. I wouldn't laugh at you, Karen."

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