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At Least He Was Dead

By T.v. Locicero

We had friends in from out of town a few weekends back, and because their Dallas Cowboys and our Detroit Lions both had games that started at 1 pm on Sunday, the local sports bar was in order. And so well ahead of game-time the four of us were ensconced in a large booth partaking of typical pub fare and surrounded by big-screen TVs.

For a while we were practically the only ones in the bar, but our waitress assured us the place would be jumping by 1:30 or so. And sure enough about that time, with the games well underway, most of the tables and stools were occupied, and the scene was getting a little raucous, with one helpful fellow screaming “He’s goin’ deep!” every time our quarterback decided to launch a pass more than 20 yards downfield—just in case, I suppose, the rest of us hadn’t noticed.

The booth behind us remained empty until about 2 when a party of four well-dressed, middle-aged black women slid into place. Their waiter explained that for every touchdown the Lions scored while the ladies were there, 7% would be taken off their bill. They didn’t seem impressed, and it soon became clear that they had zero interest in any of the games on screen in the bar.

Now I need to tell you that I am an inveterate eavesdropper and a dedicated observer of unsuspecting folks in public places. I really can’t help myself. But on this particular occasion, with two games to follow simultaneously and while sharing comments on both with my Cowboy-rooting buddy, I was mightily distracted and only caught a snippet from the ladies here and there, enough only to surmise that they had just come from church and were at the bar strictly to socialize. It was something they did, I guessed, every Sabbath.

Why this bar? Who knows? Maybe it’s the closest one to their church. Maybe they’re partial to the burgers or the wings. Or maybe they prefer an atmosphere where they can be pretty darn sure that no one in the place will pay the slightest bit of attention to them or what they wish to talk about.

Except that on this particular Sunday, and unbeknownst to them, they had just happened sit next to an incorrigible spy. And so as I sat there following the intricacies of two NFL games, kibitzing on brilliant or dim-witted strategies, play-calling or execution, I was also half-processing the reports and analysis (gossip is another word that comes to mind) emanating from the booth next door.

Their subject was of course not the trivialities of football, but the profundities of the human condition, or their own little slice of it, which seemed to most often involve insecure ministers, wandering wives, hopeless husbands and treacherous best friends. As I mentioned, I was getting none of this in anything close to coherence. It was all mixed in with amazing one-hand grabs and ignominious dropped passes, depressing quarterback sacks and remarkable tight-roped sideline scampers.

Until, that is, there arrived, as clear as a bell, a line delivered by one of the women behind us, a line so simple and perfect in its way that it held three or four times the impact of the guy on the other side of the bar screaming, “He’s goin’ deep!”

As fate in this noisy place conspired to offer a two-second window of relative quiet, the woman said with a calm firmness, “At least he was dead.”

Wait a second, I thought, did she just say, “At least he was dead”?

Yes, exactly: At least he was dead.

“Did you hear that?” I whispered to my gal-friend sitting next to me. “She just said, ‘At least he was dead.’”

“Yes, I heard it,” said my friend. And then I realized that I wasn’t the only one eavesdropping.

So I said, “What could possibly have come before to which that was an appropriate comment?”

“I’ll tell you later,” said my friend.

And later, after the Cowboys had won and the Lions lost (because of three missed field goals, although their two touchdowns had meant 14% off our bill), once we were back in the car and driving home, both my gal-friend and my buddy’s wife did indeed fill us in on what had been coming from the church ladies in the next booth.

By the way, it was not that our gals had missed out on the finer points of either of the games we’d all been watching, in order to better apprehend the colorful chat next door. It was only clear evidence once again that women are much superior multi-taskers.

As it turns out, the moment I was curious about had come soon after the ladies had picked apart the rather pompous male minister of their church, who turned out to be so completely intimidated by a new female associate minister that the old reverend had quickly managed to find a way to send her packing.

And then it was onto a series of lurid tales about married female friends and acquaintances who had been fooling around on their sad-sack husbands, and sometimes with one of their hubby’s good and trusted friends, the friend being, of course, “just a dog,” who was only too happy to take advantage of a deplorable situation in which the wife was acting “like a whore.”

Finally, it was in the context of this rich conversational string that one of my favorite overheard lines of all time had arrived. One of the good church ladies had been recounting the story of a friend who had just recently been widowed and then, no sooner had she put the poor man in the ground than she had immediately taken up with her newly deceased husband’s best friend.

Which from another of our good ladies in the booth behind had elicited the undeniably sage observation:

“At least he was dead.”

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