For a moment he is rapt, intent on the voice he hears. Then he reacts sharply: "No! Absolutely not! Look, Governor, your reelection is your problem, not mine. I'm not going to abandon my ancestors to do you or anybody else a favor. When you're ready to talk land swap, I'm all ears."
Dennis notices you eavesdropping, lowers his voice and turns his back on
you, so you wander over to the pool table.
Tom Atkins, (Cliff' '73) is shooting a game of pool with his son, Dylan (Cliff '99). This is only the second time the two have seen each other since Dylan matriculated last fall, and only the fourth since Dylan's 3rd birthday when his mother, Melinda Dorsey (Cliff '73), left Tom and took Dylan off to Des Moines, Iowa.
Father and son don't have much to say to one another -- one is totally disengaged to avoid the guilt he feels for having provided neither emotional nor financial support to his only child; the other is so resentful that silence is the only thing chasm wide enough to stand between him and five-to-ten for assault.
An attractive older woman sits beside you and orders a beer. She notices you watching the game and strikes up a conversation by filling you in on the gossip. Tom is a would-be poet, she says, an ersatz Longfellow who went on to the University of New Hampshire for his Ph.D. after graduating from Cliff. Tom's dreams of achieving greatness as a poet -- or at least of being profiled on NPR -- were sabotaged by the mediocrity of his talent. He's applied to over 85 colleges for teaching positions over the past decade, but to no avail. So, for the past twelve years, his muse has been parched and stranded in the desert of freshman English at Cliffton High School.
Your attention is drawn back to the pool table as Tom makes a typically ill-conceived attempt to break the ice: he asks Dylan how Melinda has been. Dylan lashes out like a spitting cobra, accusing his father of having blown his marriage by pining for the love of another -- the great unrequited passion for whom Tom's poetry has been intended since college, the muse for whom his heart has always sung, the bitch for whom he broke Melinda's heart.
Tom reminds Dylan that it was Melinda who left him, not the other way around. He admits to having been less of a father than he could have been, but now that geography no longer separates him from Dylan, he would like them to grow closer. He asks if Dylan needs anything... is he okay with living expenses?
Dylan reacts bitterly, hissing more than saying that he and his mother have managed just fine without any help from Tom, he's not about to take charity from his sonuvabitch father just to help the man relieve his guilt. Sure cash is tight, but he'd work his way through school scrubbing toilets if he had to before he'd take a nickle from his father..
Dejected, Tom hangs his cue in the rack on the wall. His eye catches yours and he feels humiliated. He slinks out. Dylan turns back to the pool table and begins clearing the balls. Dennis strides over and asks the boy if he'd like to work at the Firewater. Dylan eyes him suspiciously -- why would a stranger want to help him? Dennis replies that Melinda was a dear friend during their college days.
Dylan thanks the Indian Chief, but wants a few days to think about it. At the moment, he's late for rehearsal. Dennis has no problem with this as Dylan rushes out.
The woman beside you asks if you're married. You ask her why she cares.
Back in Time
Back to the Tavern