He had not written that name on the side of his machine without a purpose in mind. He drifts into the green cursive on poked yellow metal as the raucous around him begins to get started. The red lights of the bar seems no different than that which cautions sailors at sea recognize. As he stares into the mirror on the other side of the bar at his mug, his wispy hair, his skin tugged down now, his face is framed by the badges of the pride of unions of men. Under the Bridge was a bar for the men who broke stone and built order. It was located most appropriately; beneath those who used the structure to fund more, hidden from them—not for shame—for they did not deserve to shoulder the bridge. Use it they could, but shoulder it, no. When men in suits walked into Under the Bridge, they were always too drunk to know better; sober men did not walk down the likes of York and Jay and Front. And those who did fall under the bridge would be received as such; one who fell; one who was to be pitied, not admired.

The bartender, Harry, wiping down the bar for no reason whatsoever (the bar’s very age and history mocked cleansing) comes near to Joe’s revery and nods. “Joe.”


The bartender leans on the bar giving the ten or so patrons in the small front room a quick glance to insure that he is not busy, and then, “Why don’t they have you on #3?”

Joe is not quick to leave the red reflection of neon in the suds of his beer.

“I mean, everyone knows about you and… Beatrice?”

Joe shrugs.

“I guess the only reason I ask is that… well, you seem like somebody who would want to see that.”

Joe looks at Harry and shakes his head. “I go where they tell me to go. Every demo looks the same to me, Harry.”

Harry waits a while and then says, “My Dad was a sandpig.”

This actually peaks Joe’s interest. “No shit. Where?”

“New Jersey Transit.”

“No shit.”


Joe rubs his chin, tugs at his mustache. “They had some accidents.”

“See that’s what I mean. You know that. Most guys come in hear and they wouldn’t know…” Harry wipes a particularly annoying spot for a moment. “You know your history. I’d figure you’d want to work on something that was gonna’ be history.” Harry checks his customers glasses again and, “Shit. They’re gonna’ be doin’ that until… forever.”

“It’s supposed to be about until 2070.”

“For real!?”

“C’mon. We all know it’ll take longer. How else are the contractors gonna’ get any money out of the city.”

They share a derisive bastards-don’t-know-how-shit-works look.

“Lemme get you one, Joe.”

Joe considers. “I was gonna’ go home and read ‘Flatland.'”

Harry just waits for the explanation. Joe has been drifting in to Under the Bridge for nearly four years now, and he never expects to know what the hell.

“It—it seems like a book about math; about dimension, but it’s not. It’s just about manners.”

Harry, nodding, “Joe, that is precisely why I am buying you a drink: so you will keep coming in here and saying shit that is awesome. Math and manners, huh?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“Shot o’ whiskey to loosen your tongue and a lager to get you to tell me what the hell math has to do with manners. Hell—” Harry looks to the clock, “It’s only nine. You got time.”

But Joe just thinks that in one hour… well, in one hour she might just be smashing in to Flatland just to prove some bizarre point that he does not understand. A drink might take the edge off of that. “All right, Harry, since it’s Thursday.”

“Let me just check on folks and I’ll be right back for that lesson.”

Joe looks away to the front door at his right as Harry ambles off. He looks to a rhombus jammed inside another rhombus set to let the wind in. The spring at the top is rusted and in disuse. The window is gummed in filth and covered in a metal mesh to keep anyone from smashing it in. He tries to imagine the door when it was built; straight, metal shining. He sees the window new and square. And when that door opened, more than friendliness abounded—that would have been a door to a club, to a home away from home. It would have been a door that opened without complaint to a place where all these union plaques (now also all covered in the same gummy filth) would have been something more to behold.