It's 10:30 at night and I'm sitting here in the Times newsroom, well actually in what we call the sport bullpen, trying for the tenth time to polish off a story about the latest win by our local junior college basketball team. The team is just 14-17 this year but they have a very good power forward on their less than spectacular team. The kid has a real chance to transfer to a four-year college if he can just get some good ink and that's been my goal all year. Earlier this evening he shot 73% from the floor, a great night but still, he's on a mediocre JC team going nowhere, just like my sports writing career. I guess that last statement should be obvious to all... if my career was going somewhere I wouldn't be assigned to covering JC and high school sporting events. My name is Sam Perlazzo and I am a 38-year-old, almost has-been sport writer for a major West Coast newspaper.
I glanced up from my computer screen and saw that there was only one other person in the entire newsroom, a young intern named Janice Watts, the 20-year-old, mostly gofer for the papers Life Style editor, Lisa Pearson. I wondered why someone who wrote stories about family gatherings, cats and dogs and sewing bees would be in the newsroom so late at night, so I asked.
"Hey Janice, what are you still doing here?"
Janice looked up from her computer with what I think was a smirk on her face. "Actually Sam, I'm trying to finish off a story for the weekend edition, this one has the distinct possibility of being on the front page of Life Styles, albeit below the fold. I am also trying very hard not to do whatever the fuck you did in your career to be at such a dead-end!"
Fucking smart-ass bitch! "How fucking nice for you Janice," I retorted as my eyes dropped back down to my story. A story on the front page was what every reported strived for even if it was printed in something as mundane as the Life Styles Section, although the ultimate was above the fold where readers saw it as soon as they opened the section... still below the fold would be a coup for anyone.
I finally finished off the piece and signed the traditional #30 at the bottom of the page signifying the end of the story and sent it downstairs to the proofreading room. There a bevy of others would check it for spelling errors and the like and then send it to the on-duty editor for inclusion in the morning edition. I looked up at the wall clock and saw at it was 11:04 and I idly wondered if anyone was still over at McGinty's. McGinty's is an Irish pub located about a half a block from the Times building and has been a hangout for reporters for as long as anyone can remember. The current owner of McGinty's is Ray McDougall, a big burley red-faced Irishman and former light-heavyweight boxer with a less than stellar career. When Ray purchased the pub some 20 years ago he created a separate bar in the back he aptly named the 'Editing Room.' The Editing Room comes complete with total privacy from the prying eyes of the masses that we write for and has two pool tables and five booths, a perfect place to make a complete ass of yourself without any witnesses. It's very similar to the myriad of local bar that the cops hang out in across the city.
I took in a deep breath, thought about it and then sighed and decided to check out who was still at McGinty's. I got up and grabbed my hat and windbreaker and headed out the door. When I walked by Janice's cubical I asked, "Hey, I'm headed over to McGinty's, want to go see who's still standing?"
"Naw not time, but thanks anyway Sam."
"OK, but I think you're working way too hard. A little relaxation wouldn't hurt you any Janice." She mumbled something as I walked by but I wasn't paying any attention. When I left the building the wind was blowing up a storm and I pulled my jacket tight to my body and held it closed with my hand, the zipper having given up the ghost of working a couple of years ago. I half walked and half trotted down the sidewalk then hit the bar door with my shoulder as I walked in. There were a half dozen regulars still in the bar and Ray yelled his normal greeting at me as I walked in.
"Hey 'Professor' how's it hanging tonight?"
"Good Ray. How are you doing?"
"DD-SS, you know, different day, same shit."
I laughed, as I always did, at his remark while he hit the buzzer that allowed me entrance into the Editing Room. Inside there were just three regulars left; Bob Cooper, the Assistant Sports Editor, Brian Caulkin, Assistant to the Editor, for World News and Lisa Pearson, the Life Styles Editor and it was obvious that all three of them had been drinking for a while. Bob was a good guy, 28 and fast rising on the national sports scene and I expected him to get an offer from an East Coast newspaper or maybe even a TV gig in the next couple of years if he kept writing as he had been. Brian I didn't know all that well but he was always friendly to me which I appreciated, after all my reputation as a has-been, was well known throughout the paper. And then there was Lisa Pearson. Lisa was probably 54, tall at 5' 8" or so and always dressed like she was going out on the town in, oh say... San Francisco. She was always decked our in a designer suit, the perfect blouse, the right length skirt with perfectly chosen and matching high heels and an attitude of supremacy over anyone and everyone. It was also widely known that she lived a life style that was decidedly gay, something that didn't bother me in the least.
Bob was the first to spot me coming through the door. "Hey Professor, welcome!"
Bob was obviously drunk and was slurring his words as he spoke, but I yelled back anyway. "Good evening Bob, nice to see that you're still standing."
"I'm... I'm... very fine and go fuck yourself very much."
Hi Professor." It was Brian speaking and although he only sounded a little mellow I could see that he was holding onto the table so he didn't list to one side.
"Good evening Mr. Assistant Editor, good to see you too."
"Why the hell... hic... do they call you The Professor Sam?"
It was the last of the drinking triad, Lisa, asking the question. Actually all the guys in the newsroom knew my nickname was 'The Professor, ' but only a handful actually knew why. "It's just a nickname Lisa, that's all, just a nickname."
"Horse shit Sam, I know it's a nickname but I want to know why? I mean, after all it's not like you are a real professor or anything, so how come the moniker?"
"None of your fucking business Ms. Life Style Editor, it's a guy thing." Bob slurred.
I laughed at Bob but I could see that Lisa wasn't going to give up that easily so I said. "Let it go Bob, it's not a big deal anyway."
"I don't mean to be nosy Sam but I'm curious too, what gives?" Brian asked.
"Look you two; I really don't want to get into this, at least not tonight. Hey Ray," I shouted out, "How about another pitcher of beer in here." A couple of minutes later Ray came through the door carrying a pitcher of cold brew as well as an iced glass for me.
"Here you go Professor, do you need anything else?"
"Naw, I think you've got us covered at least for a while, thanks Ray." I poured myself a glass and filled Brian's and Bob's and topped off Lisa's. "There you go gang, and now a toast, 'To reporters everywhere."
"To reporters everywhere." They repeated back as they toasted and took sips from their glasses.
I watched Lisa take a sip of her beer and then she looked over the rim of her glass directly into my eyes, and smiled as she spoke.
"Look Sam I'm not leaving this bar until you tell me why you have that nickname so you might confess right now!"
"Lisa you really don't want to know, trust me it's a guy thing."
"Fuck you Sam, I'm one of the guys too, after all I'm a reporter just like you and everyone else here!"
"One of the guy's?? Does that mean that you're the one on top Lisa, when you fuck your girlfriend, is that's why you're one of the guys?" Bob slurred and then started giggling.
I didn't say anything but looking at Lisa's glare at Bob I thought that if looks could kill Bob would be dead meat right now. "Really Lisa I don't think this would be something that would interest you in the slightest. If I did I would tell you."
"Nope that won't do Sam, I want to know."
The only one at the table who knew 'why' I was called The Professor was Bob and when I saw him lean over and whisper something into Lisa's ear I cringed.
"What!" She said looking first at Bob and then over to me. "I don't believe it, not for a second. Christ Sam, tell me it isn't true."
"I don't know what the hell Bob told you so I can neither confirm nor deny the rumor. What did he tell you?"
She unbuttoned her suit jacket and let it hang open, a definite breach of etiquette from the Editor of Life Styles, and then she leaned forward, her elbows on the table and focused her eyes on mine and said, "He told me you were called the professor because you had a Ph.D. in pussy eating! What the hell does that mean?"
I laughed and then took a sip of my beer. "That's what they say Lisa, what can I tell you?"
"I can't believe this crap. God you men are all alike, you think that you're God's gift to the opposite sex when you're nothing but a means to an end. If you eat pussy as good as you write sports Ray it's no wonder you don't have a girlfriend. I mean who in the hell would want to go out with such a looser anyway?"
Now she had my full attention, a challenge of sorts had surfaced in the Editing Room. "Look Lisa, it's true that I'm not a very good writer that I'll cede to you but in the pussy eating venue I'm the very best, and that's no shit."
"Alright hot shot, what makes you so damn good?"
.... There is more of this story ...