Reinventing the Wheel

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)
(Act III: Covet thy Neighbor)



“I’ve never actually been to a wine bar before,” Emma told me as we sat down on a pair of comfortable easy chairs.

“Neither have I,” I admitted. “I thought this would be a nice place where we could relax and not have to be in a bar.”

“Oh, no,” she insisted, “I didn’t think it was a bad idea.”

“I didn’t think you thought that.”

Even though she tried to keep it to herself, I could hear her grunt. This was going to be a long night.

Ever since my last girlfriend dumped me, my neighbor Emma was one of the only two women in my life with whom I’ve had any sort of relationship. Both simultaneously aroused and frustrated the hell out of me, but I could deal with my coworker, Gretchen, pretty easily; I just tuned out her prattle and fantasized about having conversation-free sex with her while in the privacy of my own home. Emma, on the other hand, was more persistent. For starters, she called me Dude, which is not my name. In addition, she seemed to delight in invading the sanctity of my apartment building and fire escape. Also, we can’t seem to stop fucking each other.

In retrospect, we should have just left well enough alone.

“So,” I said.

“So,” she replied.

A minute passed.

A cute waitress showed up at the table with a bright smile and a tray under her arm. “What can I get for you today?”

I smirked at her. “Hi, I’m Max.”

Her smile went from being commercial to intrigued, and the pitch of her voice lowered just a little. “Dakota,” she replied.

“North or South?”


“Nice.” I asked her, “What do you recommend?”

“Red or white?”

I shrugged at Emma.

She replied, “Whatever you want.”

“I’ll put it to Dakota, then.”

“Casual or serious?” she asked.

“Casual or serious what?” I clarified.

“Your date.”

Emma and I glanced at each other. She said, “We’re not on a date.”

After I took a moment to frown, I returned my attention to the lovely Dakota. “Casual acquaintances.”

“I’ll be back with a shiraz,” she replied.

Turning to Emma, I said, “I thought you wanted a date.”

“Well,” she told me, “I’ve been thinking about that. If we were serious about getting to know each other, then we absolutely, positively cannot have sex tonight.”

“Just with each other, right?”

She glared over at Dakota. “What do you think?”

“Fine,” I admitted. “That does make sense.”

She leaned forward and extended her hand. “Swear?”

I peered longingly at Dakota before shaking Emma’s hand. “I swear that, no matter what happens tonight, that our clothes will stay on, and we will sleep in our own beds.”

We both sat back.

“So,” she said.

“So,” I replied.

A minute passed.

Dakota returned with a bottle of wine, which she corked and poured with professional grace, all the while making eye contact with me. When she finished, she asked, “Can I get you anything else?”

“I’m sure I’ll think of something,” I replied. “How about I call you?”

She scribbled in her little server’s notebook, tore out that page, and handed it to me. I didn’t even need to look to know what was on it, so I folded it up and dropped it in my shirt pocket.

She winked at me and sashayed away.

Emma reached into my pocket, removed the paper, wadded it up, and dropped it on the floor. “Just because we’re not on a date that doesn’t mean you get to pick up girls.”

I sighed.

“So,” I said.

“So,” she replied.

A minute passed.

“I don’t know where to start,” she told me.

I gulped down some wine, and she played with her fingernails.

“Um,” I said, “So what’s your favorite movie?” Yes, I was getting desperate.

Derelict,” she replied.

I guffawed. “Really?”

She recoiled. “Yeah,” she said. “It’s based on one of my favorite comics, and it’s got some really thoughtful ideas about patriotism and loyalty, all wrapped up in people getting kicked in the head.”

“Oh, my god, you’re serious.”

“I didn’t say it was the best movie.” She shrank a little in her seat. “I just said it was my favorite.”

“The dialogue,” I moaned, “the explosions; I swear that thing was written by a thirteen-year-old boy.”

“So you’ve seen it?”


“Why would you do that then if you hated it so much?”

“I had to watch a screener to prep for an interview with Reese Kensington.”

Her eyes widened in admiration. “You’ve met Reese Kensington?”

With a shrug, I said, “I drank him under the table.”

“Why would you do that?”

“I bet him an exclusive that he couldn’t keep up with me.”

“What could you, of all people, possibly have given him if you lost?”

“I didn’t lose.”

She rolled her eyes. “So what’s your favorite movie, Mr. Critic?”

“Easy,” I replied. “Janine.”

“Isn’t that that British one?”

A little surprised that she was familiar with it, I nodded.

“Starring what’s-her-name?”

“Sophie Atkinson.”

“That’s her.”

“You are such a girl!” It was clear from her tone that she wasn’t kidding.

“So shit didn’t blow up in it.”

“Nothing,” she moaned, “happens.”

“It’s called subtlety.”

“It’s called ‘the most boring two hours of my life,'” she snorted.

“Clearly you and I won’t be watching movies together.”

She sighed. “Favorite band?”

“I don’t really listen to music.”

“How can you not like music?”

“I said I don’t listen to music,” I explained, “not that I don’t like it.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“People are way too possessive about music,” I told her. “They get mad when others don’t like their favorite songs, and they look down at other people’s tastes.”

“Kind of like you and movies.”

I took a few moments to glare at her, hopefully disguising the fact that she was totally right. “I just don’t think it’s worth getting that worked up over.” I asked, “Who’s your favorite?”

She spoke with the confidence of someone who didn’t give a fuck about what I thought of her. “Easy: Upward Feedback.”

“What’s the front-man’s name again?”

“Shane Brown.”

“Right,” I said. “That is a guy is a self-absorbed asshole, but a self-absorbed asshole with really good hashish.”

Emma drained her glass and refilled it. “Do you name-drop because you’re trying to impress people; or does it make you feel more important?”


“You were right,” she told me. “This was a big mistake.” She rose and strode past the bar and into the ladies’ room.

Massaging my eyes, I waited until she was out of sight before retrieving the wad of paper from the floor, smoothing it out, and stuffing it into my back pocket to keep it safe from the immature, self-righteous monster I’d come here with. There was no point in wasting the entire evening.

to be continued…

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