PX, Old Town Alexandria. 2:47 am, September 7th, 2017
In the waning hours of another humid summer work night, the bartender turning down the business grimaced when the door opened and an older gentleman came shifting through the entrance. No doubt, this old timer couldn’t sleep and thought to himself that the cure to his insomnia would be to make this bartender fish back out half of the mixing wares for a single drink, rewash everything, and leave a dollar tip — at least that’s what the bartender thought and he was happy to verbalize it to the only other staff member still in the establishment. After all, he was the most experienced mixologist here and he had been around long enough to hear that African-Americans were known as poor tippers.
“You dolt. Get pissed about men who consume too much and then complain about men having just one drink,” Lin Sue reached over the bar to fill a lowball glass with ice, tonic water, and two lime wedges. ” The world is about more than you.”
The bartender scoffed as he reorganized the lime wedges and watched the old man invite himself to sit with the only other patron still placing orders, a small man in a corner booth. The same small man who has sat in the same corner booth for the last two months with whom the bartender would get pissed at for overconsumption. He never vented his frustration beyond the waitresses though because, frankly, the small man tipped well.
Lin Sue was in tow but, it being the darkest corner of the establishment, the bartender lost sight of her when she leaned over to present the unsolicited drink.
“Virgin gin and tonic, Justice Thomas; can I get you anything else?” She did not need to present her sexuality to be noticed with him.
“Just some privacy, thank you.”
“I…uh….one more. Again, please.” The small man spoke. Sweating, sick, with his glasses crooked and slipping from his beet-red face, he did not take his gaze off the pile of papers strewn across the table. He groaned at his own request but Lin Sue knew, after two months, that objections were not to be acknowledged.
They waited until she was out of earshot to commence their conversation.
“You need to hire a firm, Dan. You’re never going to complete this on your own and, quite frankly, I stuck my neck out on that judgement so you need to take this more seriously.”
Dan Snyder, still hunched over the table, stared jaundiced daggers at the judge with puss-lined blood-shot eyes. “As seriously as a nightly bout of alcohol poisoning?” He casually turned to the waste bin beside him and vomited, splashing four more heaves of…liquid…into the already half-full receptacle. Muffled by the interior of the trashcan, he continued, “As serious as losing all comprehension of what is going on with our roster?”
Lin Sue returned with five shots of tequila and lined them up in front of her new regular. Snyder smiled casually to the waitress, as if the sweat, vomit, and papers were invisible to her senses. She returned the smile but walked away without comment. Again, the men waited for their privacy.
“I appreciate your personal sacrifices but this is foolish. The Tam ruling was an abortion of justice but I lobbied for it because I believed in you. I believed you when you sold me on how we could use it to change America for the better, and for a long time. Now — shit, Dan, you look like you won’t make it to Christmas.”
“I’ll make everything to Christmas!” Snyder took the first shot.
“Faggy Smokes!” He took the second shot.
“Steer Queer Truck Driving Institute!” He continued in this pattern through the remaining three shots before scribbling his epiphanies on whatever sheet happened to be laying on top of the pile. Mid-sentence his hand slipped forward and his body went limp, sending the empty shot glasses, his embossed Aurora Riflessi fountain writer, and a share of his papers — many with dried specks of vomit adorning the sheet edges — to the floor.
Thomas, clearly disgusted by the scene, set down his glass and addressed the darkness in the corner behind the limp body joining him at the table. “Looks like he’s done for the night. Please get him out of here. I’ll find him another time.” An affirming grunt returned from the shadows.
Justice Clarence Thomas exited the booth and tipped his hat to Lin Sue, who was behind the bar making a call from the house phone that Mr Snyder was ready for his car. As he walked by the bartender, a wiry young man more interested in toweling an already-dry poco grande glass than addressing the suffering in the corner that was happening every night as a result of his imbibes, he placed a $50 bill on the bar.
“For your efforts.” He rolled his eyes and adjusted his tie.
Ten minutes later, Lin Sue had Dan Snyder in his jacket sitting on the front steps of the building. His papers in his attache case, her final duties of the shift would be getting him in his car.
“I’m a monster,” Snyder mumbled. She had him alone for the only time since he began his nightly visits around the beginning of summer. Her mouth went dry with the opportunity to ask him why he said this.
“May I ask, Mr Snyder, what it is that you are working on each –” She suppressed her words.
— Door Flies Open —
“We’re settled up inside. I’ll take him from here.”
As was the case every night, Dan Snyder’s private car pulled up to the curb and his associate helped ease him into the back seat. And, as was the case every night, Snyder would check that his papers were accounted for before bracing himself from crying.
“Thank you Josh.”
Lin Sue stood next to Josh, watching the car pull away. Halfway down the block, the brake lights twice blinked then held pat as the vehicle came to a stop in the middle of the empty roadway.
“I knew that final round of shots weren’t going to stay down until he made it home. I’d better have Dr West meet him when he gets home. Tomorrow is another night of fighting bigotry and battling hate.”
“Pardon my intrusion,” Lin Sue’s subdued voice seemed to roar through the empty streets, “but isn’t that the man who insists on calling his team an offensive slur of native americans?”
“You don’t get it?” Josh cocked his head, as if studying the waitress for signs of sarcasm. After convincing himself that her comment was sincere, he waived a stack of stamped envelopes Dan Snyder had stuffed much earlier in the evening. “These are cease and desist letters addressed to some of America’s most deplorable organizations.”
“Cease and desist?”
“See this one? Last week a college student in Idaho had her car tagged with the words, go back to the jungle. School officials did nothing and the local government, as racist as any Jim Crow Era Alabama city council, sat quiet.”
“I don’t follow.”
“When Guns N Roses came through town earlier this year, Mr Snyder trademarked go back to the jungle. So now he’s bringing down the full brunt of the Washington Football, Inc legal powers on the little shitbirds who used his intellectual property without permission.”
Lin Sue stared at the stack. “So those are all letters to silence white supremacists?”
“Some are; most from tonight are new applications. Mr Snyder found the loophole. A brilliant mind indeed, with the Tam ruling he intends to claim intellectual property rights to every statement the Alt-Right might attempt to appropriate. And when they do cross over into an area for which he has legal ownership — actual or perceived — he hits these nazis with a crushing lawsuit. It’s a highly offensive exercise and it cripples his spirits but the drinking makes it….tolerable.”
“But the Redskins name…”
Norman smiled, grabbing his jacket from the railing and wrapping the letters in it.
“Is the perfect cover. Racism, intolerance, bigotry, hatred — it’s never going away. The Dan Rooneys of the world may try to maneuver around it but Mr Snyder is sacrificing himself as the vessel who will embrace it and challenge these evils head on. He calls himself a modern day Neo. He will own it. And he will use the laws of the United States to protect his property and keep it off limits to anyone who dares use it.”
Josh peered up at the dark morning sky, more to keel his excitement than confirm the cloudless sky meant there was no threat of rain.
“Well then. If you’ll excuse me, I have practice in the morning. See you tomorrow evening.”
Lin Sue stood anchored to her square of sidewalk as Josh skipped down the street, twirling around every third light post he encountered, performing steps to a silent waltz that was audible only to him.
A breeze passed by and a shiver overtook Lin Sue. Instinctively, she stuffed her hands into her apron where she found the Aurora Riflessi that she had forgotten to return to Mr Snyder. In the blue light of the stairway, she read the inscription along the barrel:
History’s greatest double agent
and my best friend.
Lin Sue slipped the pen back into her pocket and began walking down the again-deserted sidewalk, smiling, knowing that she would return it the next evening.