Heart, Dick and Ego Argue Over Dinner

Heart curled up on the futon and flipped through an old scrapbook, stopping at a picture of Machu Picchu crowned in fog. An ex-girlfriend, (Susan "What Would You Do if You Had a Child?" Seminow), stood in the foreground of the picture, one bare leg propped on a mossy step. A pose I was left out of, for posterity. She was so charmed by the fuzzy guava that she got a case of the trots and flew us home early.

"We should really go somewhere, someplace new," Heart said hopefully.

"Let's go south," Dick cried from the bathroom. "Spring break towns, eh?"

"I don't know," I said from the stove. "We really can't afford it." Ego grunted from the worn rug, where he did pushups. It was a note of contempt rather than exertion, a sound as familiar to me as their voices.

Coltrane's Love Supreme ended and I called everyone to dinner. They grudgingly gathered around the lone candle on the breakfast bar. It rattled as Ego nudged Heart out of his barstool. I stood across from Dick.

"Let's go out, treat ourselves," Heart chirped, moving last week's newspaper to sit on the edge of the counter between Ego and Dick. I spread peanut butter on the bread, refusing to look up. If I did they would mistake it for permission. I ladled out the soup.

"Why?" Ego snapped. "So you can be nurtured by some maternal figure whose kindness is based on tips?"

"She could be young," Dick stirred his soup, "looking for fun."

"No, no that's not why," Heart retorted. "To be among people, to see beauty, to hear laughter..."

"Or old and looking for fun," Dick continued.

Everyone got quiet. The last girl, (Gina "Wouldn't it be Great…" McBride) which lasted for almost three months, used to enjoy going to patios, where she would sip her one-Equal-one-cream coffee and people watch. People watched her too and she upgraded to a guy with a wallet and an apartment with a bedroom and windows.

It still stung Ego. When the Puerto Rican clerk with the butted chin from the unemployment office would laugh or when the corner store girl didn't look up after the initial eye contact, Ego would hiss socioeconomic slurs. Now he glared at Heart for suggesting a potentially painful evening of run-ins, rejections or morning regret.

"Little too much garlic," he dipped the bread back into the modified Ramen.

"That's OK," Heart said. He was trying too hard to make our loneliness collective, trying to keep us unified from blame. "Garlic is good for us."

"It makes your goddamned breath stink," Ego tossed his crust at Heart.

"Jesus Christ," I muttered. "I need a drink."

"Open that nice bottle of Merlot," Heart started to say.

"Wine. Of course you'd want wine. All you do is whine. Get the whiskey," Ego growled. The handle of Jameson was bought the same night Gina brought over the wine. Power went out and she was in no mood to play Scrabble by candlelight. She spelled out her assessments of me on the playing board: L-A-Z-Y, L-O-S-E-R. When I responded with a laugh and a tug on her hand, she spilled out the bag of tiles, spelled ‘f-e-c-k-l-e-s-s' and left. In her absence, we splurged on the whiskey.

I paused at the fridge, wishing I had beer.

"You know," Dick slurped down the remaining broth, "We should go out."

They all looked at me. Dick winked.

Brain spun around from the desk in the corner to scowl at everyone. "You're kidding me. Did you go to the post office?"

I nodded.

"The bills went out with the resumes?"

I nodded. Heart, Dick and Ego glanced back and forth, amused by the eternal tug of war between responsibility and pleasure. Despite Brain's frugality, we knew enough people and places to catch a deal. And there was always credit.

"And we get the check for the cleaning tomorrow?"

This time I nodded vigorously. There were some words with the building manager that I still hadn't decoded. Take a bit of Heart and be optimistic. It might lead to something better than vacuuming halls and moving dumpsters.

"Let me understand this," Brain stood, casting a parental shadow over all of us. "We're broke, eating hardened flour for meals and you guys want to go out, blow money on indifferent women, and get drunk enough to sleep to the afternoon?"

None of us dared deny this inevitability.

"Go do math," Dick muttered.

"Watch your stress level," Heart whistled.

"Don't you get it, you impudent imbeciles?!" Brain's fury made Ego bump into Heart, who fell into Dick, who stood still. "The allure of the poor idealist is transitory. And it rarely lasts past the mid-twenties. Grow up, all of you. Get a job then get a life!"

"Sounds like her," Ego whispered to Heart.

"Like Mom too," Heart rejoined. Dick smiled.

"You know, Brain," Dick slouched, "your fantasies have become a bit routine."

"Can you justify it?" He ignored Dick. For all of Brain's capacities, he had become temperamental. It stemmed from being idle. He's only content when he's occupied. It was summer, a good time to be unemployed. We didn't need him to weigh the costs and merits of every decision.

"I worked out today."

"I could use the inspiration."

"I don't even want to hear it from you, Dick," I said. We always know where he stands.

Dick shrugged and sat back down.

We did it for Brain. He wouldn't want us bickering in our cramped studio. He needed some time to himself. We locked him inside and stepped into the street. Heart pleaded for the Lounge while Ego demanded the Tavern. Dick was up for anything.

"She could be at either place," I reminded them, letting a cab pass to placate Brain's financial concerns. We decided to walk to the local hole, where the bartender didn't hate us and the prices were good.

About the author:

RT Duffer is looking for a publisher for his first novel, "A Place to Call Home." He lives in Chicago with his soon-to-be baby and babymama. Email him at dufferrt@yahoo.com, especially if you want a one bedroom condo.