"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Minerva, Chapter 39
Matt sauntered back to the table, a wide smile on his face.
'I just took,' he announced, 'the smoothest shit that has ever been moved by a bowel.'
'Glad to hear it,' Jim said.
'How many sheets of toilet paper?' Nook inquired.
'My friends,' Matt said, 'in this case, wiping was a mere formality.'
* * *
'All I'm saying,' Jim said, 'is that I'd be embarrassed.'
'So let me get this straight,' Matt said. 'My people take over half the world and put yours in chains, and I'm supposed to feel stupid because you've got more rhythm.'
'Yeah, slavery's something you should really be proud of,' Jim said.
'Oh give me a break,' Matt said. 'Everybody was fucked up back then. The Africans would've enslaved the Europeans if they could have. It was just too bad that we invented civilization while you were running around the jungle with a spear while your women were picking berries with their titties flopping out.'
'Oh so now the white man invented civilization?' Jim snorted.
'Basically,' Matt said. 'That's why even during Black Heritage Month we learn about that clever George Washington Carver and his sixty-four uses of the peanut. Sweet, man. We've got Einstein with his Nobel Prize for relativity, and you're putting up a peanut scientist. And even there,' Matt added, 'he was so white his parents named him after a slaveowner.'
'Actually,' Dan interjected, 'I think Einstein won it for his work on Brownian motion.'
'I know that,' Matt said, 'and you know that, but if I said 'Brownian motion' Jimmy here would think it a slur.'
'Don't listen to him, Dan,' Tara said. 'Matt subscribes to the philosophy of might makes right. I mean really, if women and minorities are so talented, how come they don't own everything? Right Matt?'
'Are you shitting me?' Matt said. 'Danny, don't let your mother's fantasy distort your vision of the world. You try go walking around a nice white neighborhood, then go to Compton and hang with the niggers''
Matt caught himself, but too late.
'Oooh,' Tara whispered, sipping on her drink.
'What'd you say?' Jim asked, standing up.
'I said the people in Compton lead a very niggardly lifestyle,' Matt said. 'I guess they didn't teach you that word in P.S. 187.'
'What do you think, Tar baby?' Jim said. 'I'm thinking Rocky III.'
'Fuck you,' Matt said. 'It slipped, okay? Sue me.'
'I'm not gonna sue you,' Jim said. 'I just want to hear a little of the Italian Stallion.'
'This is gay,' Matt protested. 'How old are you?'
'Old enough to remember the scene where he calls for Adrian ,' Jim said. 'Let's hear it.'
''Yo Adrian , I did it,'' Matt mumbled.
'Get up and say it like you mean it,' Jim said.
'You just held your own against Apollo Creed,' Tara reminded him.
''Yo Adrian , I did it,'' Matt said, louder this time.
'Hmm, I don't know,' Jim said, walking over to Matt. 'Danny, you tell me if you think he hits it.'
'Okay,' Dan said.
''Yo Adrian , I did it!'' Matt yelled.
'Not bad,' Dan commented.
'Now for my Hulk Hogan,' Jim said.
Jim grabbed Matt's shirt with his left hand and Matt's crotch with his right. He lifted Matt up over his head, and held him parallel to the floor. As he talked, Jim slowly lifted Matt up and down a few inches.
'What do you say?' Jim said.
''Somebody catch me,'' Matt mumbled.
Jim threw Matt at a neighboring table. The three customers had been monitoring the developing situation, and backed away with their drinks as Matt landed on their table.
* * *
Matt and Dan sat at the bar. The official excuse was that they had gone to gamble a bit, but in reality Matt had just wanted to get away from the table to calm down.
'Do you know that's the third time he's pulled that shit?' Matt asked.
'Nah, that's the first I'd seen of it,' Dan said. 'How's it work? The n-word sets off a Rocky scene?'
'It's not always Rocky,' Matt said. 'Last time the fucking bully held me against a wall by my neck and demanded to know where Princess Leia was.'
'Gentlemen,' the bartender said as he walked over, 'the four ladies at that table want to buy your next round.'
Dan felt a rush of excitement. Matt looked over his shoulder at the girls.
'All pigs,' Matt declared. 'Though you might want to consider the one on the right, what with the B.O.U.S.'s.'
'The what?' the bartender asked, obviously amused by Matt King.
'Breasts of unusual size,' Dan explained.
'Look,' Matt said, 'if we decline the drinks, does that mean we don't have to talk to them? I already had bacon this morning.'
'Oh come on now,' the bartender said, chuckling. 'Not too many guys get drinks from strange women.'
'Not the adjective I would have chosen,' Matt said. 'Ahh shit.'
Two of the girls headed toward Matt and Dan. Although he would never admit so, Dan thought one of them was quite cute.
'What's two hunky guys like you doing in a casino like'' the cute girl started to ask.
Matt grabbed the plastic sword out of his glass and spun on his stool to face the girls.
'Thunder,' he said, pointing the sword to his left. 'Thunder,' he repeated, pointing it to his right. 'Thunder,' he said, now pointing the sword straight up. 'Thunder-thighs . . . HOOOOs!'
As Matt raised his arms and yelled, he fell backwards off his stool and spilled onto the floor. The girls rushed to help him.
'Are you all right?' the cute one asked.
Dan felt sick to his stomach. Matt did nothing but mock girls, and for some reason they adored him.
* * *
'Glad to see you back, Mr. Balboa,' Nook said as Matt and Dan returned to the large table.
'Don't flatter yourself,' Matt said. 'Dan and I are just stalking that hottie over there. Sure, we'll make like we're friends with you clowns, but I just want you to know I sit here only for the view it affords of her ass.'
'So Matthew,' Tara said, 'Jack tells me you're not returning to active duty.'
'Fuck no,' Matt said. 'There's too many girls I have yet to bang for me to be hijacking battleships.'
'It wasn't a battleship,' Quinn said.
'It was when I told the story to two Swedish girls last night,' Matt said. 'Seriously, have you guys tried that out? We're actually famous.'
'It won't last,' Quinn said.
'Ooh, ooh,' Matt said, nudging Dan. 'Good news, she smokes!'
Dan looked to see the swimsuit model taking a drag from a cigarette.
'Why is that good news?' Nook asked. 'She won't eat as much when you take her out?'
'No, dipshit,' Matt said. 'If she's a smoker, it means she's willing to degrade her body for immediate pleasure. Everything I want in a woman.'
Tara whispered something to Jim. He started laughing.
'Something you want to share with the class?' Matt demanded.
Tara shook her head no.
'What, you rip on me and can't even say it to my face?' Matt asked.
'All I said was,' Tara explained, 'that I thought the reason you liked a girl who smokes is that she's willing to suck on skinny white rods.'
* * *
'Now that we're good and drunk,' Matt said, 'I want you to tell me what Nook said to you at that restaurant. I've been trying to figure out for decades how the hell he does it. I'm like fucking Mr. McGee, going up to people after the fact. 'Didn't anybody hear what he said? For the love of God, didn't anyone hear it?''
'Why don't you ask him?' Tara said.
'Huh, no shit,' Matt said, 'I never thought of that before. Because he won't tell me, that's why. So how bout Aunt Tara entertains us all with a story about what Chris Nook said to her when he tried to break her up.'
'Okay Matthew,' Tara said, 'it all started when Peter left the table to receive a phone call.'
Matt's eyes widened. He couldn't believe she was actually going to tell him.
'Well, as soon as Peter left,' Tara continued, 'Chris came in and sat at the table. But he didn't call himself Chris. Anyway, he says, 'Miss McClare, I have something to tell you about the man you're dating.''
Matt leaned forward. He was finally going to learn the Cockblock Jock's secret!
'And then he says, 'Are you familiar with Matt King?''
Matt sat back. What the hell? There were plenty of girls who hadn't known Matt, and yet Nook had always been able to work his magic . . . .
Of course! He says something different every time!
'So I said yes, I know Matt King,' Tara continued. 'I actually still thought you were yummy at the time. I didn't know what a meanie you really were.'
Tara stopped her tale to hug her knees to her chest and turn away from the table.
'Yeah yeah, that's great Tara ,' Matt said. 'You can start pouting and give me a stinger. B.F.D. honey, it's nothing but a biological reaction. If you throw pepper in my face I'll start sneezing too. Finish the goddamn story.'
'Well,' Tara said, sliding her legs back down, 'Chris says it's good that I know Matt King, and then pulls out . . . a nude photo of you.'
Matt was flabbergasted. It was certainly possible for Nook to have photos of him . . . the two had made countless amateur videos in their younger days.
'So of course,' Tara said, blushing, 'I was a little worked up by this point. Then Chris tells me to focus on the genitals.'
'Stop,' Matt said, 'let me digest.'
Matt had often toyed with the idea that his relatively small penis was actually a turn-on to women. He conjectured that his intimidating fa'ade made the girls relieved to discover that he didn't actually have the horse cock that one might have inferred from his behavior. So what was Nook's angle? Would he tell Tara that Matt was interested, and get her to drop O'Toole? It seemed implausible, but then again, maybe Matt was even sexier than he realized?
'You may proceed,' Matt said.
'Well,' Tara said, 'naturally I analyzed the photo with great enthusiasm. When I had finished, Chris said, 'I know this may come as a shock to you, Miss McClare, but I can't stand by and do nothing.''
'Yes??' Matt said when Tara paused.
''Miss McClare,'' Tara said, ''I have reason to believe that Peter O'Toole's dick is even smaller than Matt King's.''
The table was silent for almost three seconds.
'Ohhh nooo!' Nook yelled, laughing uncontrollably.
'That's my girl,' Jim said.
Matt fumed. It wasn't the insult that pissed him off, but the fact that she had actually led him to believe she'd tell the real story. And that little bitch knows it, too.
'Let's go Dan,' Matt said, standing up. 'No wonder the kid's all fucked up with girls, with a psycho for you as a mom.'
As they walked away from the table, Matt said, 'I wonder if she'd still have that shit-eating grin if I bent her over the bar.'
'Again,' Dan protested, 'my mom.'
'I'm sorry Dan,' Matt said, 'but she pulls a stunt like that? I'm already your father, might as well make it official. You want a brother or a sister? I can aim left or right.'
Dan said nothing as they walked.
'Hey, you know what?' Matt said, stopping. 'You go on ahead. I'll meet you at the blackjack tables.'
'What, do you have to take another shit?' Dan asked. 'Don't forget about me.'
'Sure thing, don't worry about it,' Matt said, waving him away.
After Dan had turned the corner, Matt headed back to the table. Tara looked up as he approached.
'You know what, Tara?' Matt said. 'You really suck as a human being. You get away with your shit because you're hot and rich, but I just want you to know that you suck as a human being. Sure, I'm an asshole, but at least I have boundaries. You just say whatever the hell pops into your head. So I just want you to know that you suck. That's why you don't have any girlfriends, because they're not blinded by your looks so they know how much of a bitch you are.'
'Come here, Matthew,' Tara said.
'Fuck no,' Matt said, and turned away.
'Matthew, come here,' Tara said.
'Screw you,' Matt said, and started walking away from the table.
Tara got up and ran to catch him.
'Oh tut tut Matthew,' she said, taking his left arm. 'I need a drink but I don't have an escort. I wouldn't want some scary fellow to hit on me.'
Matt couldn't resist. He allowed Tara to steer him to the bar.
'Bartender,' she said, 'this gorgeous gentleman will have a Jack and coke, and I'll need a Bloody Mary.'
'Coming right up,' the man said.
'Were you really upset at my story?' Tara asked.
'Hell yes,' Matt said. 'I really want to know what he says to girls.'
'Well,' Tara said, 'I'm not sure it would be ethical for me to divulge his trade secret.'
'Yeah yeah,' Matt said, picking up his new drink from the bar.
Tara took a single sip from her drink and then threw it in Matt's face.
'What the fuck?!' Matt yelled.
'You listen to me you little shit,' Tara said. 'Nobody talks to me like that. Your problem, Mr. King, is that you don't even know what it is to care about someone'not even yourself. And just so you know, the only reason I even let you associate with my son is so he sees first-hand how bankrupt your lifestyle is.'
Tara turned and walked away.
'Can I get a fuckin towel here?' Matt asked.
As the bartender scrambled for a towel, Matt noticed three men at the bar staring. They had obviously been quite fascinated by the scene. Matt gestured at the dipshit bartender and shrugged his shoulders. The men smiled.
'Thanks,' Matt said when he was handed the towel. After wiping his face, he tried his best to clean off his shirt. Couldn't have been gin, he thought.
Matt noticed that the three men were still stealing glances at him. He leaned in to talk confidentially with them.
'So last night was the first time me and the lady . . . I stuck it in her poop chute. And then I just talked soooo dirrrrty.'
The men had wide eyes and open mouths by this point.
'And of course she's loving it, begging me for more,' Matt said. 'Now all of a sudden today she's all, 'You don't love me anymore. You never used to stick it in my butt.''
The men laughed.
'Ain't that always how it is, the first time you ride the caboose with a woman?' Matt asked.
The men agreed wholeheartedly, even though none of them had ever engaged in anal sex.
'I'll grant you,' Matt conceded, 'she's entitled to a little resentment; if someone stuck a chub up my ass, I'd be a bit peeved myself.'
The men endorsed Matt's sympathetic analysis.
'But a drink in my face?' Matt asked.
'That's bullshit,' one of the men finally spoke.
'And you say she loved it?' another asked, emboldened by his friend.
'Fuckin A she loved it,' Matt said. 'And you, my friend, have just hit the nail on the head. What are you guys drinkin?'
'Nah nah,' they protested. 'We're buying.'
'Whoa, fellows,' Matt said. 'The last drink someone bought me ended up on my shirt. I'm buying.'
After placing their order, one of the men dared, 'So are you two an item?'
The man was simply curious; he knew a beautiful redhead like that wouldn't give him the time of day.
'Well ain't this guy bold,' Matt proclaimed, looking at the other two. 'Here I am, buying him a drink, dripping in tomato juice, and he's trying to fuck my date.'
The other men laughed hysterically while the first man apologized profusely.
These guys would blow me, Matt realized.