Bart Miller, occasionally employed mechanic, spends half the day sleeping, half the day pulling lint out of his belly button, and half the day chucking beer bottles at his wife’s cats. “That’s 3 halves, asshole,” he says to me. I know this, I’m just making sure he’s paying attention. I deduce that he considers me an asshole and an outsider; I’m on thin ice.
An all star athlete in high school, a retired 1-star general in the army, and a starstruck lover ever since marrying his 4th wife Geraldine in ’76, he has seen and done a lot. But there’s two things 63-year old Bart Miller has never done; hit a woman, read a classic novel, and watch Brokeback Mountain on Blu-ray. Today he will do both. He levels more accusations at me regarding my mathematical ineptitude. I brush them off. I’m the one with the degree.
A NASCAR aficionado with a notoriously short attention span and tendency to doze off without warning, the longest he ever pays attention to any one thing is during a NASCAR race when there’s a collision and lots of smoke and flames. He’s usually lost interest by the time the driver is pulled out of the burning wreckage. “My wife says I’ve got a one track mind and the sophistication of a poop-flinging chimpanzee baby. I resent her sometimes,” he admits.
Today he was setting out to prove his wife wrong. He was going to the beach to read Catcher in the Rye, dressed in clothes only a 19th Century Englishman would wear. “Hell, I’d never dress like this, I look like one of them golldang hypesters.”
“It’s hipster,” I correct him.
“Don’t press your luck,” he warns, glaring at me.
“I got this get-up from a second-hand store, reckon it belonged to James Dean or Alfred Hitchcock or someone like that. These here’s my readin’ clothes.”
We walk to the beach.
“I usually only come out here when I’m drankin’ beers and playing horseshoes with the guys,” Bart explains to me as we walk through dune grass into the cool sand. “This is just weird,” he grumbles, attempting a contemplative, literary stroll. He casts several furtive glances toward the road, “I sure hope no one sees me doing this,” he says. “My buddies would tear me a new one, I’d never hear the end of it. Readin’ a book like this dressed like a daggum Quaker.”
He sits down on a log.
After a few minutes of flipping through the pages for “key points” and “takeaways” he returns to Chapter 1 and begins to read,
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born— He stops. “Now why in the name of Greg Kinnear’s quirky smile would I want to know where this lard-eatin’ river rat was born? It’s colder’n a witch’s tit out here and this deader ‘n a doornail guy wants to tell me about where he was born! Classic or not, this ain’t right” he exclaimed, throwing the novel into the sand.
He marches briskly back to his house, up the stone walkway to the door, I see his wife come out to meet us. She calls to him from the door, a Norman Rockwell scene if there ever was one. “Bart, you lazy ignert son of a trailer park tramp, you left your beer bottles on the porch again an’ I ’bout broke my tailbone on ’em,” she yells. “Dang it all, woman, leave me be,” he retorts, landing a nasty uppercut to her country bumpkin jaw and she’s out like cross-eyed first grader playing t-ball in an earthquake. I step gingerly over her limp body, into the foyer, where Bart has cracked open a coors light. He’s putting the Brokeback Mountain disc in the DVD player. “Guess I’ll see what all this gay cowboy fuss is about.”