[This is a total repost, but it's got the benefit of brevity. You could consider it a freebie but then you'd have to imagine actually paying for this crap.]
Frankie sat quietly in his apartment. The dishes were piled high from the party, but he observed the mountain without expression. It was, he was aware, nearly 7:00, and, since he still had time, he preferred to play his CDs over washing them just now. Power chords banged away in the background as Frankie inspected the underage lingerie models in the new Maxim. It would be cool to do stuff with girls like that, he concluded inwardly--the guys at work were always laughing about that sort of thing, and he’d finally be the center of that conversation. He skipped to the joke page, and began picking out words.
The music could not stay on past eight o’clock, and at that time, Frankie rose from the couch and turned it off. He began, with neither resolution nor resignation, to work on the dishes, methodically rinsing them out, and placing them in the dishwasher, as he’d done for years when his mother was still alive. When the dishwasher was full, he started it, and since it was nearly bedtime, he made sure that all the doors of his small apartment were locked, the lights off, and, with nothing else to check, he got into bed. Frankie knew that he had to get to bed early in order to get to work on time. Mr. Johns didn’t like him being late, and so he never was.
When Frankie awoke, he showered, shaved slowly, dressed himself, and drove carefully over to the store. It was in the new mall, and he liked telling people about all of the shops and restaurants there. He walked through the employee entrance, found his time card, and punched it as he was instructed to do every morning. He pulled out his bucket and apron from the closet, looking around for Charlie, his best friend at work, who was strangely absent. Frankie wheeled out his gear and got to work swabbing the aisles, rehearsing some small talk for anyone he might run into, but no one got close enough.
When the floors were done, he started on the garbage. Finally, he saw Charlie laughing with Julio by the main entrance, next to his first two cans. As Frankie got his customary smile and script prepared, a thought occurred to him, which, unplanned, found no intermediate purchase and tumbled directly from his lips. "Hey Charlie," he stammered, "h-h-how come you didn’t make it to the party?" Charlie looked painfully at Julio, choking on the last of his smoke. He turned his tearing, bloodshot eyes to the janitor. "Sorry Frankie-man," he coughed, "maybe next time." Julio clasped Charlie's shoulder, less able to conceal the guffaw, and guided the smaller man back inside, leaving Frankie to haltingly craft a reply to only the receding laughter, muffled now, on the other side of the swinging glass.
As his words slowed and failed, Frankie looked at the place where Charlie and Julio had been standing. It was not an expression you'd normally call thoughtful, but Frankie was, in fact, thinking. He was thinking about Charlie, his best friend at work, and how his brother had brought over extra burgers for him and Julio to eat, which Frankie himself was not allowed to eat, but which he had to put away in his own fridge yesterday all the same, at least till his brother visited again. He thought about the red, narrow eyes and the greasy, black, bobbing ponytail that served as his address and his goodbye. As his mind explored this unfamiliar territory, something was getting hot in his head, a kernel of warmth flaring uncomfortably behind his brow. He inspected the heat like it was a photo spread, and found he did not like it. It made him think about the first and only time he’d been late to work, when Mr. Johns had yelled so much, about the fucking dishwasher, about his mother. There was also something more, close now. "This...is...not..."
Frankie started to a halt in front of the dumpster. He had been walking. He looked up at the buzzing flies and then down at the bags in his hands. He was at work, doing the garbage. He put the bag down and touched his forehead, found it cool. Wasn't there something? Yes, the joke. He hoped the guys at lunch would like it.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
[This is a total repost, but it's got the benefit of brevity. You could consider it a freebie but then you'd have to imagine actually paying for this crap.]
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Bradford J. Scanlon (59), founder of Alcase Corp., loving father, former athleteWilliam Butler paused, sucked in air. He took a pull at his bourbon, and then took another, upper lip fanning the liquid surface imperceptibly. Brad Scanlon?
Mr. Scanlon died on Nov. 5 in his home after a brief illness. He leaves behind his wife of 32 years, Suzanne…Good lord. Suzanne.
…and their two children, Douglas and Jennifer. Mr. Scanlon is best known for founding of the communications firm Alcase, which he developed from lowly beginnings into the state's fourth largest employer, after buying rights to the initial technology from a local inventor. A native of Parwich, he has maintained his parents' home there since 1973. In addition to his business success, he's remembered in his home town as cracking the winning home run to bring home the 1958 state championship in an upset victory over Darlington. Services will be held in Parwich First Presbyterian Church, where Scanlon served as a deacon until his untimely death. In lieu of flowers, his family requests...Bill pushed down the paper. He filled his glass. He got up. Before long, he filled his glass again.
His head still throbbing with more than its usual measure of Tuesday fog, Bill shakily pushed back his lank, sparse hair and examined his work. There was no jawline was to emphasize, he noted (not for the first time)--not at his age and not with his habits--but there was no choice but to scrape the gray grit that covered his face in the morning like a stain. Finding no stray stubble, he stepped back from the mirror and grudgingly examined the rest of his body. The relatively fit, though stocky, build of his youth had melted into something grotesquely spider-like, featuring a bloated, sagging abdomen that sprouted spindly, pendulous limbs and a bulbous, poorly delineated head. His torso was decorated with short uneven bristles, many of which were white now, and longer scraggles of heavy gray hair dangled from his thinning pate. Grunting, he pushed these backwards into reluctant order with his comb.
He trudged across the tile to his bedroom and, after coaxing a reluctant bronze stream of urine past his reluctant prostate, he dressed himself in his customary fashion. He nurtured a thin pride in the fact that he still maintained his basic work attire: a buttoned shirt (now open at the top--he'd still wear the tie if he had the neck for it), slacks, sport coat. He pulled it all on quickly, unhappy with the results of his earlier inspection, and grabbed his overcoat as he marched out the door of the suite. He humming along to the muzak on as the cab creaked downward, remembering when the tune was still something relevant and alive. He sighed. He needed some caffiene.
He exited the elevator with the best face he could wear, and Marisa, as usual, met him in the lobby, leaning on her broom and flashing a big Latina smile. Her curls bobbed and her dimple appeared as she greeted him.
"Uh-oh, here come the big rich man, Bill Butler. You got some advice for me Mr. B.?"
"Be careful of old men, Marisa," he replied with a hoarse laugh, his eyes gliding from her slim uniformed waist to her pierced grin, his libido rattling the bars of its elderly cage.
Women these days. He tried to imagine bland white milk meeting something a little more coffee, but the thought of his loose, pasty flesh was too incongruous to continue far with the fantasy. If I were nineteen again… Well, he woudn't piss away the revolution this time, that was for sure.
He grabbed a /Wall Street Journal/ from the rack by the door and walked the half block to his favorite breakfast joint with the paper tucked under his arm. It was a beautiful morning to walk. The air was still cold, but the sunshine promised spring. His head was just starting to clear as he entered the diner. He was nothing if not punctual. He walked in and perched primly at the counter, spreading the /Journal/ out before him.
"The usual, hon?"
Bill loved it when Sofia took on the fifties waitress routine, even if she was doing it just for the tips. He grinned at her with his flaccid lips and did his best to reciprocate. "You betcha, sweetie."
He took a grateful swig of the coffee that Sofia had deposited (black, with a tall glass of water next to it) and skipped ahead in the paper to the stock listings and mentally scanned his portfolio. Like shaving, it was a habit that had long since lost its luster. Barring a market collapse, his investments woud take care of themselves well past his lifetime, and would probably fund his profligate heirs for the duration of theirs as well, had he any. He counted himself lucky in that regard--most of his original assets were inherited from his parents and were already stabilized before the marriage, and, if nothing else, he had fabulous lawyers.
Sofia returned with his bacon and eggs (two over easy, with extra crisp bacon and extra butter on his white toast), bending low over the counter with an exaggerated wink as she served the plate. Bill looked her in the eye with his best boyish grin. If he knew then how damn easy it was to talk to women…
He turned the /Journal/ back to its front section and found, below the fold, the inevitable hagiography of Brad Scanlon. He sighed as he dutifully plowed through it, his mind drifted elsewhere.
No, he did not understand women in those days. Yes, it was high school, and all kids were awkward, but Bill, nonetheless, had thought that it was love. It was, he admitted, a quiet and stingy sort of love, clumsily and infrequently expressed, but it consumed him, and it was pure in its adolescent way. And good lord, that purity was a foolish and useless thing. If he could go back, he'd take or leave a girl like Suzanne. Hell, he'd know enough that he could afford to. He'd know enough to not trust his naïve romantic fantasies; he'd see beyond that bullshit glamour; and screw the books too while he was at it. None of that stuff mattered, really. None of it had brought him satisfaction. If he had anything like an adult presence of mind, he wouldn't have married the first girl that reminded him of his unrequited sweetheart, and he wouldn't have squandered his youth to that childish despair.
Bill lowered his hands to his paunch. Pushing 60, it was simply too late to revisit these thoughts. He'd been resisting them for years, but Scanlon's death…
Brad had been at the heart of it. If he could pinpoint the moment it all went south, the instant his spirit broke, it was there, with Scanlon. After that, the spiral down from an earnest youth to an impotent old man seemed to be merely a force of nature. Brad was perfect--student council head, baseball team captain, possessor of those all-American good looks that defined his generation--but that wasn't it exactly. True, Brad was the kind of guy that had it all figured out, and true, Bill had never trusted that about the prick. With all that going for him, he shouldn't have needed Suzanne. Bill had always suspected that the rumors had started with Brad, even if he never heard the patronizing bastard actually utter the hated nickname in his presence. Who else, after all, knew? The stigma followed him well out of high school, leaving him desparate for anyone to plug that gaping hole in his ego, and never mind his heart.
What an ass he was to care. He sank deeper and deeper into his thoughts, and didn't acknowledge Sofia as she cleared his plate.
Bill gave in to his cups a little earlier than usual that day. Two o'clock saw him stumbling along his usual route after a four martini lunch, and by eight, he was slurring his life story to the club's patiently attentive bartender. Men like these justified the 18 dollar highballs, and never mind the dues. The barkeep nodded solemnly to each of Butler's points, and quietly kept topping the glass with the vengeful spirits of old Kentucky.
"I'd doit diffrent, dammit…"
"Anythng…I'd givit. Sonvabitch brad…"
"Yes sir, you've mentioned your acquaintance with Mr. Scanlon a number of times. If you seriously mean anything--"
"...I've been informed that a man of your unique assets may be eligible--"
Bill blearily repeated himself, raised his eyebrows at the bartender and drooped his jowls like a drunken bloodhound. "ANYthng," he implored.
"Yes, sir. Please take this. It may interest you later. Would you like some coffee now, sir?"
Bill gazed uncomprehendingly at the business card, as the bartender discretely made arrangements that a room be prepared for Bill. The club took care of its members.
Bill stumped his way into the night's lodging. He examined the card. An impossible hope sprung in his watery eyes, even as his soaked brain struggled to register the faintest waft of bullshit. What the hell else was he going to do with his money, and what else was left for him anyway? He dialed the phone. On the third try he got it right. "…Yesh. Yes. Of course I'm shure. Yes, t'morrow then. Okay, here's the routing number..."
Bill scowled over his morning coffee. The first thing he'd done when he got home, well, after the ten glasses of water and the Advil, was to check his bank records online. No dream then, and the bastards had wasted no time, no doubt operating before he was thinking soberly. Ten thousand dollars to talk to a bunch of pseudoscience frauds, for just a consultation. What the hell had he been thinking? Well, he'd sic his lawyers on the swindlers this afternoon, but right now he was in the perfect mood for laughing in their faces. He examined the address on the card.
Not that he'd have time to go home before he visited these jokers. They were damnably early risers too, and they'd be suffering for this intrusion into his routine as well. He looked at his watch, and hauled himself off the stool. "Keep the change," he rasped at Sofia, and paced out into the morning drizzle (which also suited his mood) raising his arm to hail a cab.
The office was located a small, old, handsomely refurbished building, in, to Bill's surprise, a fairly affluent section of town. He climbed the stairs to the hallway, and approached one of the several glass doors that lined the passage. Legacy Associates occupied a small corner of the floor amidst a dentist's office and an independent insurance agent, apparently a single room, the frosted door revealing only a number. Bill squinted at the portal, but could seen nothing through it. He pulled and entered a typical, if unusually clean, waiting room. It had that new-office smell, Bill noted, having occupied a few of them. The reek of phthalates was everywhere, emitting from carpets and furniture that every instinct told him should be shabby and abused. A young, handsomely dressed man lounged in the one of the brown upholstered chairs, and rose to greet Bill as he came in.
"William Butler? Raymond Bennet." A solid, confident handshake got a surprised grunt from Bill. He was expecting something more of a mystical charade, something with robes or crystals or some damn thing. Bennet, on the other hand, resembled one of Bill's old junior partners, only likable. "I'm glad you came. I must apologize for the unusually large fee, but it's important to guarantee a face-to-face meeting, and these days people are much less trusting of our claims."
"You got that right," Bill growled. "Look Bennet, I hope you're prepared--"
"Please call me Ray. I am aware that your lawyers are formidible, Mr. Butler, but please be advised that my firm has, literally, centuries of powerful connections. I suggest that you hear me out."
With a precisely timed chuckle, he added, "although I'd have to study up on my secret handshakes. By the way, may I call you Wil--"
"Bill," he muttered, "please."
"Very well. Please have a seat Bill. I've prepared a short presentation, and then we can talk in more detail." Bennet pulled a projector and a laptop from under one of the chairs, setting it up on a nearby table. Bill tried to look at the address labels on the improbably neat stack of magazines, but Bennet was too fast for him. The younger man smiled disarmingly over his shoulder, "Technology is something of a mixed blessing, isn't it?"
"If you say so."
"That should do it." The wall lit up with the logo on the card. "Welcome to Legacy Associates, Mr. Butler, the most elite club that exists in the world. You would recognize many of our members instantly, world leaders, businessmen like yourself, powerful people of all kinds. Legacy literally moves civilization, and people like us deserve certain advantages..."
Bill's powerpoint cynicism gradually faded to attention, and soon, the sodden hope of the night before began to dance again in his eyes, as he followed with rapt concentration. He didn't believe it, of course, but as he listened he it occurred to him that he really had nothing to lose. He had no family, no one close to him, and really nothing to look forward to but more decay. He'd stopped enjoying life, he realized, years ago, and as his body continued to fail him, the despair only mounted. Bennet, it seemed, knew him very well.
"Now it is harder to make arrangements than it used to be," said Bennet, "but in your case it is simplified considerably by the fact that you have no familial connections. The charitable trusts to which you've assigned your assets can be easily arranged and diverted by us. We have connections there, as everywhere. In fact, you are in a lucky position indeed: remarkably few people with families can afford this.
"And furthermore, you have little to lose if you still mistrust us. We are strictly a handshake enterprise. You would simply die before long, and your estate would be passed--"
"Not at all," Bill interrupted. "You've convinced me!"
"Excellent. In two days, I will visit you in your home, and sedate you as I discussed. You may buy your own medication if you wish, but I assure you that I have access to your home anyway, and will take nothing so long as you retain this physiognomy.
"A portion of your remaining assets will pay for your early arrangements, and the rest will be held in trust for you when you reach majority. Again."
"Unbelievable," whispered Bill. "What if I had refused?"
"You would not have."
Bill opened his eyes painfully. God but it hurt to think, and he was unbelievably thirsty. The urge to urinate was even more overpowering. How much bourbon had it been last night? And visions now, too: the last he'd remembered, that Bennet guy was sitting in a chair by his bed. Groggy, he sat up, looking back and forth to see if the pretty crook was still around. He squinted at where his bedside clock usually sat, which only made the room blurrier. He scratched at his shorts, noting an unusual sensation. He looked down stupidly at his unfamiliar erection, at his thin straight fingers, his unblemished hand…
He shot out of bed, suddenly wide awake--and stopped, dumbfounded. He didn't lumber, strain, shamble. He /shot/. He gasped a deeper breath than he'd managed in twenty years. Did it actually work?
A mirror! This was a bedroom he was in, a child's almost. Not small, but his bed was narrow and uncomfortable looking. He looked around for the dresser, the mirror--there! The wide-eyed stranger was not at all like the last guy he saw there, and bore only a passing resemblance to his own younger self. His unruly brown hair cascaded to his muscular shoulders, smooth chin shadowing a lean chest, with only a hint of fuzz in the very center. He jumped and spun, ran out of the room in his tented boxers.
He clambered down tastefully carpeted stairs into a white kitchen. A bored-looking middle-aged couple sat at the table, sipping coffee and chatting idly. The woman eyed him up and down as the man dusted his hands and rose.
"Hi, I'm Rod. Bennet said you'd be waking up this morning, so we made it a point to be here to meet you. I suppose you should get used to calling me Dad when people are around, and…uh, the bathroom's over there." Bill nodded sheepishly, and sprinted to the head. The torrent could be heard in the kitchen.
"Amazing," he said, coming out.
The dark-haired woman at the table rolled her eyes. "Yeah, hey. I'm Rita. 'Mom.' Don't expect me to make you dinner."
Rod glared at her. "You'll be Anthony from now on, OK? We've all just moved in, and we have a few weeks to help you get the whole story straight, before you have to go to school and while we start the new jobs Bennet got for us. Too bad we weren't all bigger players, but going back can be a little hard on the budget, as I'm sure you're aware. But we should do fine with your trust for a while. You'll maybe want a haircut, and need a new license, clothes..." He looked at Bill. "Yeah, and we'll grab some breakfast right now. It's on you, after all."
"But it's worth it, right?"
At breakfast, Rod explained more as Bill (Anthony) ate ravenously.
"So you're seventeen again, and even though you've still got your old man brain, you've got the hormones and the body of a teenager. Kind of a blessing and a curse, really. You'll be clumsy for a little while, and you may be unaccustomed to actually being healthy. And all of the idiot authority figures will bug you even more than you remember, but how you handle that is pretty much up to you."
"Not that we care much what you do," Rita added, "we're paid either way. But I'd just as soon not have to deal with the cops on your behalf."
Rod continued, "it's been a few months since anyone's seen your old self alive, whoever you were. I don't suggest you try to go back. They watch for that. And don't expect to see Bennet or anyone else from Legacy unless they need something from you, in which case you'll want to make sure you comply. You are what you are now, but you're as free as someone your age can be."
Rod grinned ruefully. "Look, that's just the standard spiel. I had to hear it too, back when it was my turn. From me to you, it's even better the second time around. But it goes by just as fast, and unless you're one of the real hotshots, it's tough to get a third crack at it. Make this one count. You apparently had enough assets left for a decent car, and a passable allowance to get you to whatever 'inheritance' you have left after that. I can help you out with some of the logistics--beer, driving, or whatever--if it's not too far out of my way."
Bill, hunched over his plate and still shoveling, nodded understanding. Rita looked past him and idly lit a cigarette.
First things first, thought Bill.
He had to admit, Bennet had arranged his entry very well. His endowed car was a used convertible white Mustang. It went like lightning, sat two closely enough, and wasn't so spectacular as to look suspiciously outside his means. For a high school kid, it showed that he was paying attention, but wan't showing off. And anyway, he realized that it was all how you wore it. Correspondingly, his look was classic jeans and solid-color tee shirt and he kept the hair shaggy but clean, something he knew he could pull off without looking like he was trying too hard, and which he supposed he'd hone as soon as he got a young lady or two under his spell.
And that, basically, was the first order of business.
The local mall wasn't much to speak of, but it proved to be a good place to begin observing. Bill avoided girls who were out with their parents, or who were otherwise timid or nervous. He examined the behavior of girls with their boyfriends, isolating the ones who hung in adult-free packs, the ones who had cars, who looked back at him when he smiled. Sipping at the food court (doing his best to look mysterious), he decided that some intersection of these latter sets were what he was looking for--the independent spirit with followers. He watched one group in particular. A good first mark.
He waited until one promising young lady separated from it, heading for the door. He strode that way too: bumps, apologies, a warm smile, and thirty years of impotent conversational skill finally paying off. It did not take much effort to get her talking, and Bill did his best to make his new friend feel comfortable, gathering as much inside information as he could stomach from this chatty specimen. It was helpful stuff, and not all of Bill's interest was feigned. He touched her shoulder from time to time during the conversation, looking frankly into her face as he listened. Gratifyingly, she was not uncomfortable with this.
"Lisa, I was planning to buy some outfits for this year, maybe we could help each other shop."
"Oh Anthony, I was going to meet a friend."
"That's fine," he smiled, uncaring. "Maybe some other time."
"Well, we aren't supposed to meet for another half hour. Let's go."
Bill mostly let Lisa tell him what she liked, and made some concessions to his wardrobe appropriately. "By the way," he brought up, just as she was hurrying off. "Even though I'm new in town, I wanted to have a party to close out the summer. Get to know some of the other kids around here before school starts. Maybe you could help me figure out who to invite. It'll probably be a little out of control, if you know what I mean, but my parents are cool with it."
A moment of nervousness passed Lisa's face, but the smile which followed had teeth. "Can you meet me here tomorrow?"
Bill sauntered through the crowd, working it. He'd planned this well, it seemed. He was careful to engineer the invites, and he'd more or less worked with Lisa's advice to drag mainly the richer, more popular, better looking crowd in. The male/female ratio was calculatedly low, but enough boys were invited to save face. It was important to demonstrate his superiority relative to the popular guys as well, and friends, boyfriends and such were inevitably dragged along. It's not like any of them could match his self-assurance--Bill had had years to observe this silly mating game. He shook hands with all of the young men as though they were respected professionals, keeping track of their names with a comfortable but impersonal friendliness, setting most of them off-guard immediately.
He looked at the keg. Cheap beer was fine for the young people, but Rita had a supply of some decent bourbon in the basement bar, which Bill was sipping now (two fingers, neat). His stepmother was talking drunkenly to some uncomfortable-looking boys in the corner, showing why she apparently volunteered to 'supervise.' It's a bitch getting old again, ain't it Rita? Her behavior would have to be explained later, if anyone remembered, but he didn't exactly crave the Brad Scanlon image anyway. Even if no parent let their kid come back here, he'd be remembered by the females as an irrepressably charming bad boy, and by the males as the guy who made them all feel like the kids they were.
He tried to remember any parties from his youth, and even though his typical evening in those times had involved a good browbeating rather than a good party, he still managed to recognize the personality types and the activities. The music was terrible, but then it had always been. If anything, today's sixteen and seventeen year-olds were even more liberated than his sixties peers, with the piercings, the making out, and the prevalent weed. Some even had tattoos. They grew up faster, but what the hell, it was only going to make his second seventeen that much more fun. His teeth glinted at the thought. He spotted Lisa in a crowd of giggling girls (all looking at me, he noted), and approached her, looking her square in the eye.
"Hi Lisa, please introduce me to your lovely friends." More giggles. It almost didn't matter what you said, so long as you said it with confidence. After some chitchat, he took Lisa aside, under the guise of asking about teachers and student cliques and other high school claptrap, just to get her talking really, as he pretended to listen. The music was blending with Lisa's voice into a fine haze.
"…and then she said it /didn't fit!/ Anthony? Don't you get it?" Bill snapped up, laughed (he hoped appropriately). He'd only had a couple of drinks, but his head was starting to really swim, and he needed to pee badly. Damn this youthful body, he thought. I'm a lightweight.
On top of this, he swore he'd just been hearing voices. He spotted the source. "Hey Lisa, who's that guy by the bathroom there? I don't remember inviting him."
"Oh he just moved in with his family last week. Right after you did, I think." She giggled. "Jenny and Taylor both think he's cute."
Well this wouldn't do at all. Looks like my first big test, Bill thought, or maybe his first big test after ducking into the john and relieving himself, that is (and maybe a splash of cold water on the face). This was just a kid after all, and it was important to make sure this pecking order was set straight.
As Bill approached, the new boy stepped in to theatrically block entrance to the bathrooom door, looking at the host with too-bright eyes--he'd apparently been drinking a bit too. He paused, then spoke in the familiar voice Bill had heard from across the room. "I know you, don't I?" He lowered his voice in exaggerated awe, "I don't believe it. It's Willy, isn't it? Oh man, this is too good." He put his hands on Bill's shoulders and leaned on him conspiratorially. Bill looked into the bathroom, scrabbling with his back-stretched hand for the knob behind him. Failing this, he slowly swung back to the person leaning on him.
Through the alcoholic fog and the throbbing urge to piss, Bill's mind finally registered the face. He felt his stomach drop down, and later he'd swear that the push of his churning gut on his strained bladder was what set it off. The possibility that he responded with wild primitive alarm to the presence of a bigger alpha was a notion with which he was less comfortable. He didn't feel the moment of release, but he recognized the warm heavy sensation in his shorts and the feral scent of urine.
Arms still on Bill's shoulders, his adversary looked down, and then laughed loudly. "Nice pants, /Ant/hony." He moved in closer, and leaned boozily into Bill's ear, "Sorry Willy, coming back this time was just too damn expensive to let a /pissant/ like you steal my show." He shoved a wet, trembling Bill back against the wall and turned around to face his crowd. "Hey everyone, take a look at the /pissant/!"