Two Old Soldiers Go Into a Bar
Two old soldiers - General Ive Gresspro and General Serve Conivat -- met, quite by accident, in the Dew Drop Inn on
Broadway, on New Year's Day. (Ive was a regular customer, but Serve had just wandered in, in a misguided quest for a cup
of tea.) They barely recognized each other from the old days when they were mortal enemies. Ive had grown blowsy and
ruddy with age and too much high living, while Serve was stooped, leaner than ever, and now a bit rigid and jerky in his
movements. He had a wary manner about him, glancing over his shoulder suspiciously every few minutes.
Ive, true to form, fell all over himself to greet his old rival warmly, and offered to buy drinks. "Champagne -- as it's the New
"No, no, I don't take much of anything -- maybe just a light beer . . . American."
Ive wouldn't have it, honoring his reputation for living beyond his means, with shocking sums on his credit cards. "Oh, come
on, Serve, we'll drink a bottle for old times' sake." Serve didn't say yes and didn't say no. Soon a bottle of Perrier-Jouet
graced the table -- no cheap American bubbly for Ive on New Year's Day.
Despite being pushed, Serve wouldn't drink much; so Ive had too much, and soon they were at each other with the same old
"The trouble with you, Serve, is that you are a congenital pessimist, a glass-half-empty-er if there ever was one. Why can't
you relax a little, have some fun? Enjoy the milk of human kindness, the camaraderie of your fellow creatures."
Serve glowered. "There's no trouble with me, thank you. I mind my own business and expect everyone else to mind their
own and not come at me with their hands out. Really, the trouble with you . . . is that you are far too optimistic. Where do
you get off imagining that human beings are enjoyable company, or that they could possibly cooperate to improve things?"
Now this wounded Ive's pride. He drew himself up. "Well, my friend, I have faith. Did you ever hear of that?"
Perhaps the introduction of a theological concept was a mistake. Serve had barely touched his glass, but what he had drunk
mounted in a flash to his brain, and now he was no longer in command of himself. He lurched to his feet and grabbed Ive by
the lapels of his expensive tweed.
"Faith? That beauty left you for a younger man years ago, you old idiot! So much for that perfect union."
Ive lumbered to his feet and tried to grapple Serve into a bear hug to pen his flailing arms and fists. They stumbled together
this way and that, bumping against the tables and booths, while muttering every insult and curse they had been nursing for
all the years of their acquaintance.
The next thing they new, they were being hustled toward the door by a multitude of hands amid a chorus of reproaches:
"You're old enough to know better." "Have you no shame -- on New Year's Day?" "Get out and stay out!" "Old windbags!"
When the door slammed behind them, they found themselves floundering in a huge mud hole, where once had been a good
wide sidewalk. As the icy puddle soaked them, they were pelted with freezing rain and sleet. The weather had turned
unexpectedly nasty for Broadway, which normally enjoyed a soothing temperate climate. Soon they were chilled to the bone.
If this were an opera, you would know how it ends.
- Dwight Childers
2 January 2011
Copyright 2011 Dwight M. Childers
All rights reserved.