Bobby’s office, for the time being, was the Berkeley Public Library. On a Thursday afternoon in August, with sunlight pouring through the arched windows of the reading room, he closed his book and quietly observed the homeless man sitting across from him. The man was bald and sunburned, and he had grimy strips of duct tape wrapped around his fingertips. With a chewed-up pencil in his hand, he scrawled notes in the margins of an old physics textbook that was crawling with ants. Bobby couldn’t take his eyes off the ants; he watched them moving in clusters across equations and diagrams, and it occurred to him that the ants were messengers, reading the book for this infernal professor, and when they were done they would crawl up the man’s arm and into his ear, burrowing directly into his brain.
Bobby hadn’t slept in two or three days.
He looked around for another table, but the reading room was packed with the elderly and the unemployed. Some people seemed hard at work, or at least pleasantly engaged, but most were either asleep or staring out the windows, as if waiting for something. It felt more like a bus terminal than a library. Bobby wore a Cal T-shirt and a pair of boardshorts. He was trying to read a reference manual on patent law, but it was boring and his eyes kept slipping off the page. The hours were melting together. Last night, after Conan, he had fallen into a vortex of infomercials, and then, at some point, he snuck off with his roommate’s laptop and sent another pleading e-mail to his cousin, Nora. When the sun came up, he left his apartment in the Berkeley Flats and rode his bike up University Avenue. He ate breakfast at McDonald’s, and when he got to the library at nine o’clock, a crowd was already waiting to get inside. He struggled with his work all day—he kept taking long breaks to read magazines—but his lack of concentration, he knew, had more to do with excitement than fatigue. If anything, he worried that he was too awake.
It was three o’clock. Far up the hill, on campus, the tower bells were ringing. Bobby closed his eyes and listened. As a student, he had always loved the swirling bronze melody of the carillon. Ten years ago, he had gone to Cal on a swimming scholarship. He majored in business, pledged a fraternity, and flunked out his junior year.
“See you later,” he said, standing up and collecting his things, but the homeless man ignored him. In his own pungent way, this guy was a snob, and Bobby could respect that. It was a snobbery well earned. When he died alone in a gutter, in a puddle of his own piss, he would take with him a crazed and singular form of expertise. Bobby ran his fingers through his buzz cut. He wished he had a nice hat to doff, a bowler cap or fedora. He hated belonging to such a crude and hatless generation.
He sat down at a computer. His Yahoo! mailbox was filled, almost exclusively, with undeleted spam. Some day, Bobby imagined, a single pill would grow hair, restore virility, and consolidate debt, but until then the market was wide open and he still had a chance to capitalize on his terrible idea. With this in mind, he scrolled down and was relieved to find a response from Nora. He had been trying to reach her all week, to get her advice on how he should go about branding the Man Handle, but she wouldn’t answer her phone or reply to his e-mails. This happened sometimes. She was director of marketing for a company that sold investment-management software. When she was on the road, she closed ranks and forgot about everybody in her life who wasn’t a client or prospect. He would go weeks without hearing from her. Then she would come back to the city, haggard and lonely and claiming that she was sick of her job, that she was ready to meet a decent man and go into full suburban lockdown. Nora was tall and pale, and because of her stylish pixie haircut and listless expression men often asked her if she was a model. She had actually paid her way through college doing catalogue work, posing in cardigans next to duck ponds, but she liked to tell men that she was dying of consumption. Bobby and Nora had always shared a certain ghoulishness. At his father’s funeral, when they were both seniors in high school, she met him on the front steps of St. Bonaventure in Huntington Beach and said, “Your eulogy sucked.” They rode together from the church, passing a bottle of Jameson back and forth, and when they got to the gravesite Nora took off her heels and ran across the expansive lawn, scattering crows like a burst of black confetti.
Now and then she met a guy who appreciated these qualities in her, but it would never last. They either got frustrated with the demands of her career, or she got bored with them. Bobby despised most of the men she dated. She had a weakness for solvent hipsters—architects, creative directors at advertising agencies, and other lieutenants in the corduroy mafia. They all supported progressive causes, not in any active or financial way, but just in general, as they walked around the city in vintage Japanese tennis shoes. And yet, in some ways, Bobby understood the plight of these slender princelings. Nora had a unique gift for turning cold on people.
The last time he saw her was three months ago, in May, when she asked him to accompany her to Geneva Software’s Annual Client Appreciation Party. The latest staff restructuring had decimated marketing and direct sales, so her boss, Dave Grant, executive vice president and general manager of global accounts, had encouraged the survivors to bring guests, because the clients would feel more at ease in a full room. “There’s free food for you,” Nora told Bobby. “Just look presentable and keep me entertained.” He got a haircut, wore a gray suit that he found in a roommate’s closet, and in a hotel bar overlooking Union Square he shook hands with Nora’s colleagues, mostly men, who seemed weirdly impressed by the fact that Bobby was stuck doing plumbing work. He used to work summers with his dad, doing repair and remodel jobs, so he knew what he was doing most of the time, but he didn’t have a license and he was getting paid under the table by a shady house flipper in Castro Valley who had posted an ad on Craigslist. But still, the men from Geneva Software expressed wonder and delight, as if they were shaking hands with a sea captain or gunslinger. When Bobby asked what they did, most seemed vaguely ashamed that they were marketing associates or software engineers; in parting, they all shook his hand with a firmer grip than they did before.
Nora introduced him to Dave Grant, who, despite being the boss, seemed nervous around her. “That fucker’s in love with you,” said Bobby, as soon as Dave left, and Nora feigned vomiting. They were having a great time. Someone handed Bobby a drink; someone else, mistaking him for a client, handed him a gift bag filled with coffee mugs and key chains emblazoned with the Geneva logo. He watched a stray red balloon wedge itself in the crystal arm of a chandelier. Bobby told Nora that he wanted a job with her company—“I have sales experience,” he reminded her, crushing a lime into his vodka—but then one of her company’s actual clients found her and said hello. Nora turned her back on Bobby and began speaking in tongues. Bobby heard the word functionality repeated over and over. She made no attempt to introduce Bobby, and for a long time he hovered behind her, feeling invisible. When the client finally left, she turned around like nothing had happened. Later, in the cab, Bobby screamed at her. “You literally turned your back on me.”
“It was client-appreciation night, not Bobby-appreciation night,” said Nora, offering him a sip from the bottle of champagne she had stolen on the way out. When they stopped at a light, he grabbed the champagne bottle and threw it out the window. It smashed against the curb, and for moment they both sat there in silence; then Bobby jumped out of the cab.
He hated Nora for a couple weeks, but kept hoping for her to call and apologize to him. When his cell phone got shut off, he checked his e-mail obsessively, but there was nothing. Since they were kids, growing up a few blocks from each other, they had always fought and made up, and the time in between was pure desolation. But he never heard from her, and he realized that he was being overly sensitive and a little self-righteous. He envied Nora’s ability to turn herself on and off, to indulge in vile misanthropy one minute and false pleasantry the next. This golden switch guaranteed her future. She had a great place in the Richmond, and on more than one occasion she had loaned him money, though both knew it was a donation. He didn’t have the on-off switch, and he understood now, with thrilling clarity, that Nora’s path to success—corporate, dignified, incremental—would never work for him. Bobby required a bonanza.
In the e-mail he sent last night, or early this morning, he told her he would be in the city tonight, ready to show her the prototype. He encouraged her, only half joking, to bring along some of her venture-capital friends. The Man Handle, he explained, would appeal to the very men who had the power to invest in it. Indeed, it was a tool that no depraved capitalist could do without. He sketched out his business plan, which had evolved over the last few days from a few bullet points of satirical bombast to something that actually seemed plausible and real, and then he took some time to tell her how things had been going for him, personally, since they last spoke that night in the cab. In June, the house flipper had disappeared without paying Bobby for his last month of work. After that, he answered a Craigslist ad—“$$$$ Sales Pros Needed $$$$”—and got hired to sell ad space for an East Bay newspaper conglomerate. It was horrible, and he discovered, once again, how much he hated sales. At some point he stopped going to work, and by now he was pretty sure they had fired him. He was broke and the walls were closing in, but in this moment of darkness he had found inspiration. Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man Handle: the thing pretty much marketed itself. However, his sudden lack of income and increase in free time was causing friction with his latest batch of roommates. The guy farthest down the hall, a programmer from Lahore, had caught Bobby using his laptop a few times, and Bobby knew that it was only a matter of time before the guy slit his throat with a bejeweled dagger. Looking back, it was a pretty macabre e-mail and it worried Bobby that her response was so short. Nora usually wrote back in a tone that was as equally paranoid and macabre, but this time she just said that if he was around, she could meet him for a drink in the city at eight o’clock, and she named her favorite Irish pub. Even worse, she had signed her name without the usual “love.”
As he left the library, the alarm went off. A security guard asked to see his duffel bag. Bobby complied and watched the guard remove a book.
“I forgot to check it out,” Bobby admitted.
The guard pulled out a twelve-inch length of brass pipe that had been wrapped in black grip tape, the kind that went on skateboards.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“It’s a prototype.”
“The dumbest thing ever invented.”
Bobby grabbed the bag from the guard and brought his book to the front desk.
“Please get in line,” said the young librarian, a cute and supremely archetypal librarian—shy, bespectacled, and wearing a green cardigan, the kind Nora used to model. Bobby had wanted to talk to this librarian for the last couple weeks, but it seemed that whenever he had a book to check out, the desk was occupied by some miserable crone who would give him grief about his fines. Now, with a clear-cut opportunity, Bobby felt suddenly embarrassed by his appearance; he wished he had shaved, but all of his roommates’ razor blades were dull.
The librarian stood a few feet back from the desk.
“This will only take a minute,” said Bobby, putting his book on the counter.
“You can’t check out reference books,” said the librarian.
“Just me, or everybody?”
“I’m joking!” Bobby handed her the book. “What’s your name?”
She nodded, and Bobby felt good when he got outside. He finally knew her name, at least. In the distance he could hear the final movement of the carillon. Before he got on his bike, he turned back to the library, a block of dusty green marble reposing in the milky afternoon light. It looked like the palace of a Babylonian king.
Earlier that morning, on her flight back from Los Angeles, Nora examined a laminated safety card that depicted plucky cartoon figures surviving a series of airborne catastrophes. Whenever she got on a plane, some part of her hoped for a crash landing. She was interested in her own reaction to mortal danger—would she act stoically or just shit herself?—but more than anything, she thought about how fun it would be, afterward, going down one of those big, yellow, inflatable slides.
They were somewhere over the central coast. She could see brown hills, the ruffle of breaking waves. A few clouds dotted the sky, but otherwise it would be a pure, blue drop. Members of the Geneva marketing team were spread throughout the cabin, sipping coffee and staring at their laptops. In the next seat, Nora’s assistant, Jill, scrolled through her iPod. Nora ordered a gin and tonic, and when the drink came she asked the stewardess if she ever had the chance to go down the rescue slide.
“No,” whispered the stewardess, a cheerful, older woman with gorgeous silver hair. “And I hope I never do!”
She patted Nora on the shoulder, and, feeling her touch, Nora almost melted with gratitude. She wanted to follow the stewardess down the aisle and sit with her on the jump seats. She wanted to ask for a job application.
This year’s CTI Media B2B Software Development Conference & Expo had been, as Nora feared, a brutal dry hump. Geneva had dropped ten grand for their booth, five grand for collateral inserts in the official conference backpacks, fifteen grand to have the Geneva logo placed on water coolers and cups spread throughout the exhibit hall, and twenty-five grand to sponsor a luncheon that featured, as entertainment, a sullen stand-up performance by a former cast member of Saturday Night Live. The carpet-bombing strategy had come down from Dave Grant, and with another staff restructuring on the way, Nora had asked him how he could justify this kind of spending. Dave felt confident that the risk would pay off, not so much in the short term, for staff, but down the road, for the company. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but that’s the reality of the situation.” He showed some discretion, however, by staying in San Francisco and sending Nora to Los Angeles to handle the conference. That way, when she came back with a meager list of new prospects to hand over to sales, her name would be tarnished, not his. It was a suicide mission. Nora, who had always taken great comfort in the endless sorrow of Irish history, thought of de Valera sending Michael Collins to sign the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
For three days the pipe-and-curtain corridors were empty; the only people she really talked to were other software exhibitors. The asset managers and hedge-fund reps who did show up to sample the goods were greeted as liberators; they nodded their heads, shook hands, exchanged cards, and left each booth laden with spoil. Yesterday was especially bleak, and after packing up their booth, the Geneva marketing team ran up a huge tab at a trendy tapas bar. Nora considered tapas a scam, so she left early and walked by herself through the barren maze of downtown Los Angeles, hoping to get mugged. Then she hailed a cab and instructed the driver to take her to the nearest Del Taco, which was the only thing she missed about SoCal. At the Bonaventure Hotel she ate her number-six combo in a concrete alcove above the main lobby and spent an hour riding the glass elevators, feeling more relaxed than she had all week. Later, curled happily in bed, with a full stomach, she turned off her Blackberry and finished rereading O’Flaherty’s Famine.
“Are you okay?” Jill asked.
“You’re just staring out the window.”
“I can see the ocean.”
“If you’re bored,” she said, offering her iPod, “I have some NPR podcasts.”
“I’m not a lesbian.”
Jill laughed, mechanically, and reinserted her headphones. She had no time for the curdled sarcasm of her elders. A year removed from Stanford undergrad, Jill embodied the kind of blond, forthright striving that Nora associated with Viking oarsmen. Nora amused herself with visions of what would happen after the next restructuring. Jill weeping at her desk; Jill throwing herself off the roof; Jill running amok with a shotgun. But these were only fantasies; in the end Jill would use her severance to travel through Asia or South America, and then she would write about her experience in her business-school application.
The plane landed safely, and Nora and Jill got in a cab together. As they swerved onto the 101, Jill called her mom. She talked loudly and without embarrassment. Nora could never get over this—it was as if Jill and her mom were friends. Nora felt obliged, finally, to turn on her Blackberry. It was only ten o’clock, and she already had six e-mails from Dave Grant. There was a meeting at three o’clock in “The Golden Gate Room,” which was actually just conference room B. Two years ago, when Dave became executive vice president and general manager of global accounts, he renamed all the conference rooms after local landmarks.
She scrolled down farther and saw another message from Bobby. He had a “business” idea, apparently, but she couldn’t tell if it was a joke or not, which gave her a sinking feeling that she hadn’t wanted to deal with in the middle of the conference. Now, as she opened his latest message, the sinking feeling came back. The first paragraph didn’t seem to end. She kept scrolling, and the paragraph went on for another three or four pages. Entire sections were set off in parentheses. She went back to the top of the e-mail and saw that he had sent it at four o’clock in the morning.
They drove past Candlestick Park and through the gloomy hills of South San Francisco. The peninsula was shrouded in fog, but across the bay Nora could see the bright green hills of Berkeley and Oakland. He was somewhere over there, marauding in sunlight. She wrote back quickly, telling him she could meet for a drink. She would have to collect him, get him drunk in a friendly atmosphere, and bring him back to her place and slip him a Valium. It had worked before. Then she would call his mom, who was now remarried to a blackjack dealer and living in a trailer outside Las Vegas. She would be very worried but in the end offer no real help. Nora’s parents had always been there to bail out Bobby’s parents—Bobby’s father, an independent contractor, had been a better plumber than businessman—and this arrangement had been passed down to the next generation. Six years ago, when Nora announced that she gotten her dream job in San Francisco, everyone on both sides of the family, instead of congratulating her, said with great relief, “You’ll be near Bobby!” So now she would collect him, again, and then he would end up sleeping on her couch for a month or two, eating all her food and generously offering to move in full-time, to help her out. The worst part was this: they would have a great time together, staying up late, watching crap on TV, and she would miss him when he was gone.
With a few hours to kill, Bobby decided to have a swim at the Claremont, a luxury hotel and country club in the Oakland Hills. He rode his bike through campus and down Telegraph Avenue. He saw people on the sidewalk selling tie-dyed shirts, and he smelled vomit wafting down from People’s Park. As a rule, he believed in the extermination of hippies, but here he was, ten years on, still hanging around Berkeley. After he flunked out of school, Bobby thought he would return to SoCal, but his mom wasn’t there anymore, and neither were any of his high school friends. He kept trying to leave Berkeley, but then he would find a job or a new girlfriend. He paid cheap rent in the flats, and he stayed in good shape riding his bike everywhere. Nora, on one of her rare visits to the East Bay, told him that he might as well learn how to play the sitar.
By the time he got across town and up the hill, he was soaked in sweat. He locked up his bike and took a path that led to the back of the hotel. Three years ago he got a job at the Claremont’s poolside café. During his orientation, as he sat between two Senegalese nationals, the hotel’s operations manager said that if anyone took more than fifteen minutes for their breaks, they were stealing from the hotel. Bobby didn’t mind the job. He walked around the pool all day, delivering gourmet sandwiches. The sprawling patio offered panoramic views of the East Bay, and on clear days you could see the Golden Gate Bridge. For a while he dated another server, who had just graduated from high school. One afternoon she stole a pass key from a maid, and they fucked for fifteen minutes in the tower suite. In the fall, she left for college, and shortly after, Bobby got fired for stealing avocados from the kitchen.
Café employees used to take their smoke breaks on a balcony overlooking the tennis courts, but members complained and so management set aside a designated smoking area behind the hotel, next to the Dumpsters. This was where Bobby found a high school kid in a café uniform. He asked him to get Salif, who, after three years, was still working as a cashier. “Tell him Bobby’s here,” he said. “We’re old friends.”
A few minutes later, Salif arrived. He was fifty years old, tall and spindly, with yellow teeth and gray hair. Bobby once asked him what he did in Senegal, before coming to the United States, and Salif told him that he had worked in a hotel.
“This is the last time,” said Salif.
Bobby laughed. “You always say that.”
At the pool gate, Salif told the guard that Bobby was a hotel guest who had lost his key card. They walked in together and Bobby threw himself on a lounge chair.
“I want an eggplant sandwich,” he said, “and a glass of Chardonnay.”
“Fuck you,” said Salif, in his sharp French accent.
It was warm and sunny, but across the bay Bobby could see fog rolling over the city. The guy in the next lounge chair was snoring. All around him, women shuffled around in white robes, on their way to spa treatments. Bobby once bought Nora a treatment for her birthday—he got an employee discount—but when she came she ended up getting drunk in the hotel bar and never made it to her massage.
Bobby jumped into the water and for a long time did an easy breaststroke, so he wouldn’t splash anybody. He lost track of his laps. At some point, a bunch of kids dragged him into an epic game of Marco Polo. Volunteering to be all-time “it,” Bobby torpedoed through the crystal-blue depths, hearing muffled screams on the surface. Every time he popped out of the water, he shouted “Marco” as loud as he could. He could hear his voice echoing across the patio. The kids loved it and answered in kind. All his victims sat along the side of the pool, cheering on the last two kids in the water. Bobby trapped one of them in a corner, and then heard footsteps on the pavement. “Fish out of water!” he yelled, right before he heard a thud and a collective gasp. Opening his eyes, he saw a boy crying and holding his head. A few moms in white robes ran to him and started calling for hotel staff. Bobby ducked underwater and swam to the other side of the pool. He grabbed his bag and left without drying off.
Coasting down Ashby Avenue, he kept seeing colorful flags out of the corner of his eye. It was like riding past a row of embassies, but when he turned to look, the flags were gone. At the BART station, Bobby walked to the end of the platform and stood by the tunnel, bracing himself for the rush of wind. Inside the train he concentrated on the BART map, its routes marked by elementary bars of red, yellow, and blue. It kept his mind off the black watery abyss waiting above him.
He got off at Powell, emerging into cold, gray twilight. In his T-shirt and damp boardshorts, he thought he might freeze to death waiting for the 38 bus, so he did jumping jacks until it arrived. He sat next to the window, looking down on Geary Boulevard. At one stop, in the heart of the Tenderloin, an old drunk staggered up the steps and offered the driver a bouquet of dead transfers. The driver motioned for him to take a seat, but instead the guy walked down the aisle to the exit doors, threw his transfers in the air, and hopped off. Bobby laughed, but no one else on the bus seemed to notice the man’s performance.
The pub was in the Richmond. It was nice and warm inside, and the walls were decorated with portraits of poets and rebels. He had been here a few times before with Nora, who described it as “a proper pub.” Now that she had money, Nora spent all of her vacations in Ireland. It was her bizarro way of establishing legitimacy, like some derelict countess tracing her bloodline to an ancient king. Bobby didn’t understand why someone who was born and raised in Southern California cared so much about a wet, miserable country she had no real connection to; but she always came back from her trips seeming refreshed, like she had gone home.
The girl tending bar looked underage. He asked if he could make a local call.
“I’ll let you dial the number,” he offered.
Her face was pale and freckled, like Nora’s, and once again Bobby wished he had shaved. She handed him the portable phone and walked down to the other end of the bar. When Nora didn’t answer her work phone, he quickly hung up and tried her cell. She didn’t answer, so he left a message:
“Hey, it’s Bobby. I hope you’re having a proactive day, adding value and so forth. I’m at the bar. I got here early. I’m going to run a tab and let you pay for it when you get here. I’ll probably need to stay at your place tonight. Also, my cell phone got turned off. And I need a new kidney. And the mob wants to kill me. And I’ve got the stigmata, again. Hurry up and get here.”
He gave back the phone and asked for a menu.
“They’re doing a pork chop tonight,” the bartender said. She had an Irish accent.
“That sounds great. I’ll start a tab.”
“I can’t run a tab without a credit card.”
“Where in Ireland are you from?”
“A small place. You’ve never heard of it.”
“I bet my cousin’s been there. You two should talk. She’ll be here soon. Do you know her? Nora Sullivan. She’s in here a lot.”
“I do know her,” she said. “She always puts ‘Fairytale of New York’ on the jukebox.”
“She said to go ahead and start a tab for her. She’s on her way.”
“I need a card.”
Bobby handed her a credit card. “This one’s expired, but just barely.”
Her face was blank, but somehow a friendly blank. She took the card, and he ordered a Guinness and a pork chop.
A few men in the bar were wearing suits. One gentleman, grinning warmly at the bartender as he ordered a drink, had on a paisley tie and a sharp-looking vest. In this den of brass and mahogany, Bobby felt a sudden kinship, and once again, he wished for a hat, something he could remove in their presence, as a sign of respect. He pictured himself sitting in a top-floor office, with papers spread neatly before him, awaiting his signature, and he saw on the far side of the polished table, cast in silhouette against the window, a row of faceless investors, nodding silently to one another, communicating annualized return rates through some sinister form of clairvoyance. Bobby was excited to shake hands with these fragrant and shadowy men. Once they felt the rugged texture of his hand, they would instantly understand the physical and psychological advantages provided by the Man Handle, and they would have no choice but to furnish Bobby with grotesque sums of money.
His pork chop was dry, but he enjoyed it, gristle and all, and ordered another Guinness and a basket of fries. He finished those, ordered another Guinness, and at some point John, Paul, George, and Ringo walked through the front door. Four guys wearing Beatles wigs and dark, high-button suits. They were lugging instruments. Bobby called over to the bartender, and she said it was Beatles night. A bunch of cover bands were going to play.
“Why are you making concessions to the British?” he asked.
“It’s just some locals playing music.”
“Why not a U2 night?”
“Because I’d fucking gag,” she said, taking his empty glass.
In walked four Sgt. Peppers, arrayed in full Edwardian pomp.
“Who the fuck are these guys!” said Bobby, but the bartender was helping other customers. The pub was getting crowded. One of the mop-top Beatles, a short husky guy in his forties with a red, pockmarked nose, came up to the bar to order drinks. He had meaty hands, and he was holding a scuffed pair of drumsticks.
“Ringo!” said Bobby, slapping him on the back.
Ringo looked startled, but smiled.
“You guys are really going for it,” said Bobby.
“That’s what we do,” said Ringo. “We always go for it on the second Thursday of every month.” He tapped the brass bar rail with his sticks. “How’s your night going?”
“Me?” Bobby was taken off guard. He couldn’t remember the last time somebody had asked him a question about himself. “I’m meeting my cousin. She’s late. It’s already nine o’clock. I’m worried she’s not coming. She’s in here all the time. Do you know her?”
Bobby described Nora, and as it turned out, Ringo did know her. He pointed across the bar to the band’s John Lennon and said the poor guy had tried asking her out, without success.
“What’s Lennon’s day job?” Bobby asked.
“He doesn’t have one at the moment.”
“Then he doesn’t have a chance,” Bobby laughed. “Nora tries to slum, but she doesn’t have the heart for it. She’s going to marry somebody rich and boring.”
“I thought she was very nice when I talked to her.”
“I don’t think she’s coming.”
“That’s too bad.”
“No, no! That’s the thing. I should be in a bad mood, but I’m excited to hear you guys play.”
“Are you a big Beatles fan?”
“Can you guys play ‘Paperback Writer’?”
“We can definitely do that.”
The bartender brought over four bottles of beer, and Bobby, with a gallant flourish of his hand, indicated that this round was on him.