“You know what, we just might fucking clinch this”, I screamed at Darrel, over the mess of hundreds of murmuring conversations which, over the past few minutes, had suddenly become animated. A curious atmosphere thickened an already hot, sweaty air. It wasn’t quite elation, but an anticipation tinged with caution; the sort that precedes elation – like those hopeful moments before the final wheel comes to a stop at the slots, to complete the winning ‘777’ combination.

It was a complete fucking commotion, an eruption of roused murmurs contemporaneous with dumb-fuck, trashy bar music. I despised places like this. Why I let the floor 63 guys drag me in here straight from the office I hadn’t a clue. I guess I just got caught up in the excitement of it all. Every four years we go through the same fucking process: next-day starts keep plans clipped and conversations apolitical, but before long some fuck utters some antagonistic bullshit about immigrants or taxes and the whole fucking office explodes. Battle lines tear us apart and we’re left to gestate for the entire god-damn work day: more than long enough to draw out an angry energy that eclipses our best judgments, and, before we know it, we’re smashing Buds at 6pm with the waster fucking barflies, watching the pre-game and professing profundity like the god-damn Aristotles we all know we are.

Those few hours now felt like an earthquake ago. Buds and quiet optimism had become tequila and cautious victory, and the barflies had long-since been consumed by a barrage of other suits that had broken down the doors at around 9.

“You’re a fucking ass hole, come here!”, Darrel yelled back at me. In my desperate and drunken attempt to transcend the racket of the room I’d managed to spit and phlegm the contents of my mouth onto Darrel’s face. I noticed flicks of green phlegm hanging between the strands of a shitty, patchy, 20-something beard. He knew I had the flu, or some other contagion, so prepared myself for a fist to the face. He grabbed my shoulder and pulled me into an embrace with such a force as to implant the contents of my JD and Coke directly onto the designer blazer of the woman in front of me, but she didn’t seem to notice, or if she did, she didn’t care.

“Fucking god-damn it!”, Darrel screamed, heaving me backwards just as fast as he’d pulled me in. His eyes were darting about for something, and the view of the floor below his ankles was as black as his brogues in the dim-light. “Lighten up you dick, what the hell’s the problem?”, I said, guardedly. His gaze rose to meet mine with an apparent anger and I immediately grasped the problem. “Oh”, I muttered, and knelt down to feel around the floor for the red hat that’d been knocked off his head by the hug, not that I felt responsible.

I pivoted on my feet as my hands grasped around in the darkness, when one foot gave way and my leg jolted suddenly backwards. I kicked around to determine the culprit before reaching back down and clasping the hard-rim of a baseball cap between my thumb and finger. I buffed the thing out, gave it a blow a and shoved it back on its associated head. Darrel turned to face me and, his face drunkenly aghast, pinched at the thing I’d just placed on his head curiously – as if it could’ve been anything else, the fucking clown.

“Yeahhhhhhhh”, he growled, punching two clenched fists into the air above his head. “This, this right here is what it’s fucking all about. Good Americans helping good Americans”. He plucked the cap from his head, brought it down and gave it a long smooch. He waved it high above him, back and forth like a flag at an Olympic opening ceremony, or a lighter at a concert. “USA, USA, USA, USA”. The three letter bellow punctured the din of the room and infected the crowd, which soon joined in chorus. More red hats were flung skyward with those words, “USA, USA, USA”.

By 5am everything had become more of a haze and, fuck, I was due back at the office in less than 5 hours. Some of the boys had stayed back or moved on to fuck-up some other fine establishment – relishing in the absurdity and sheer anarchy of it all. I’d decided to walk back with the fuck-wit, after all his building was on the same block as mine, and I’d probably have felt a pinch of guilt were he to stumble into some alley and choke to death on his own puke; though just a pinch. The tool hadn’t shut up since we’d left the bar, spouting some crap about a new order, or some shit. I had my arm around his back, propping-up the prick who had just crippled himself with his own victory. Barely conscious, he murmured something inaudible, though I discerned the word “foreigners”. The glow of dawn was just starting to spill out into the streets of Manhattan, but I felt fucking shady. I glanced left beyond the cripple I carried and through the window of a burrito place I sometimes ate at. The door read ‘closed’, but three people sat inside, in chairs around a tv in the corner of the room. A girl sat alone in a booth behind with her head in her hands, sobbing.

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