Barbarian Soiree

By on Sep 11, 2016 in Fiction, Humor

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Selection of types of meat

Timmy lugs around a Falstaffian frame, and has a disposition best described as provincial. Lumbering in somewhere in the middle in a slew of children, he was most likely born in a neighborhood with a name like Old Mill Towne or Country Valley Heights, where residents gather each year for a pig roast and potato sack races. As always, his engineer’s cap flops on his bulbous head. Timmy has all the modernity of a typewriter.

Why am I here?

Timmy roars, “So, Sprouts, what do you feed your dog? Green beans?”

I imagine Timmy wearing a fur pelt and clutching a double-edged axe. “He’d like this place.”

Timmy, with his Chicago Southland accent, the one that all those blue collar guys whose last names end in “ski” or “icz” have. “One time me and Hunter were walking and there was this rabbit, and boy, that son of a bitch Hunter? Boam. He took off like lightning. Nearly pulled my arm right out of the fuckin’ socket.” Timmy clacks two bottle caps to get the attention of the woman with enough makeup to cheer on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. “By the by, so what do you think about guys that are vegetarians?”

An I’ll-be-the-little-woman-you-want-me-to-be blue fills her glass, which curves with a Beaux Arts naivety. “They’re fine.”

“Sprouts here’s a vegetarian. He likes sprouts and napa lettuce and vegetables. He prays to the fruit and veggie goddess.”

Ms. Nebraska giggles. I drink until my martini glass is as empty as her head. “It’s napa cabbage.”

Timmy circles his index finger as if dialing a rotary phone. “I’m not buying it, this whole vegetarian thing. Monkeys can’t eat meat. They can’t digest it, but we can. Our bodies can digest meat. Doesn’t that tell you something, Sprouts?”

I dangle his beer. “I have the ability to drop this.” I point at Ms. Nebraska. “I have the ability to poop in my hand and throw it at her.”

She makes a face. It looks shiny enough to skate on.

I text my girlfriend:  “Savages. Whole lot of em. Savages.”

The text that went to all the docents said the gathering would be at Hypnobox. I figured I could put up with some of my companions’ zeal for historic design if I could enjoy Hypnobox’s exquisite lentil cubes and leeks. Then the plan devolved, to this torture chamber-cum-steak house. And where are they?

She texts me: “Chuga chuga clue clue.”

Timmy has a full-time job at Sunny Peaks Railroad Museum. All day, he pilots a miniature steam train, driving kids around a track. You got trains in Shanghai going two hundred-and-fifty miles per hour, and Timmy likes steam engines.

Timmy wears his engineer’s cap during his architecture tours. Sometimes, on the boat tour, as I point out the slender elegance of Legacy at Millennium Park, or the unassuming sophistication of 300 North LaSalle, Timmy’s boat will float by and, to the delight of his group, he’ll toot his train whistle.

First, he’s on a boat. Second, this is Chicago, 2015.


As a prelude to his main course, Timmy tears at buffalo wings covered in glop. They’re supplemented with celery, which is mere décor to Timmy.

Text time: “If I ever get stuck in the arctic, I hope T with me.”

Timmy throws down a wing. “By the by, how’s Nu?”


“You should take him to the dog park. Lots of people.”

“He’s not really a people kind of dog.”

“Aw Sprouts, come on Sprouts. All dogs are people dogs. Man’s best friend?”

If nobody shows in ten minutes, I’ll come up with an excuse to go.

“It’s good to see that, Sprouts. People with their dogs like that?”

“Dog park people are a bit too Mary Poppins for me.”

“Huh? But it’s a good place. You can . . . it’s a good place.”


There’s a painting behind the bar: fox hunters on a chocolate box countryside, if each morsel in that chocolate box is filled with cruelty and death.

I return to MCA’s website. There’s a Tate Bedford feature exhibit.

Still no sign of my cohorts. Howling and clapping at the other end of the bar. Football.

My girlfriend responds: “Protein. And FAT.”

They’re starting to gather in the waiting area. I’d use the word “herd,” but I don’t want to insult animals. Their attire matches that of the protagonists in the latest one-dimensional action films, while their palates lean toward those of cavemen. Soon they will discuss their political views while tearing into lamb shanks, or ponder the economy while gnawing on rib bones.

It was at a wedding in the urbane state of Nebraska that I decided to become a vegetarian. The reception was at a facility best described as “sparse,” but not sparse in the way that contemporary architecture is praised; it stood in the middle of a fairground. Think “Footloose.” The facility had cracked concrete floors and block walls. I dined on fried chicken and a salad of iceberg lettuce infused with carrot strips. The selection of dressing included Italian and ranch, in packets that many guests ripped open with their teeth.


The three at my table (folding, of course) were straight out of an 80s John Cougar Mellencamp video: a guy who wore a button-down jean shirt, and who held his fork (plastic) like a sword; his obedient wife who didn’t look much older than the first of their bevy of children; and a bearded relic whose mouth displayed an ever-shifting abstraction of the evening’s fare. When I was in the toilet room, this latter gentleman clomped up to the urinal next to mine, depressed one nostril, and then shot a string of snot. He must have been an academic. A professor of agriculture, perhaps.

Their answers to my questions were eloquent. “How did you like the wedding?”


“Do you all live around here?”

“Bout 20 miles westa North Platte.”

“I’m from Chicago. Have any of you ever been to Chicago?”


On the way home, I was suffering the eternity of Route 20, when a Nebraskan cop pulled me over. He was in a car, as opposed to a tractor. I received a $125 ticket for going ten over. Surely the Illinois plates and the “Meat Bad, Veggies Good” bumper sticker had nothing to do

with it.


The barbarians down there watch a high-def flat screen, probably a few inches larger than mine. There’s a commercial. A clichéd Old West street. Two cowboys walking away from each other. They turn, ready to fire. A gleaming pickup, the High Noon, stops them. Cut to the pickup bouncing along, reconciled cowboys thrusting out their hats. That TV with that commercial: it’s like using a Napier bowl as a bed pan.

An older guy heaves a massive book onto the bar, then sits next to me. A white powder covers his hands. Like he just rubbed chalk all over them. Another professor. History.

Ms. Nebraska asks me why I’m a vegetarian. I pull up one of my slaughtered pig pictures on my PM3.

“Oh that’s gross.”

“Gross enough for you to stop eating meat?”

She squints.

I could be at the MCA now. Bedford’s display is called “A Portal to the Present.”

Chalky Hands’ book says something about the Renaissance. How many trees, I wonder, had to get axed to forge that monster?  

I text: “Help I’m growing suspenders!!”

The pin on Timmy’s hat says, “Sonny Peaks Express – Official Engineer.” He submerges the bottom of his beer bottle in his stomach. His mouth, smeared with wing sauce, hangs open as he stares at the idiots on the screen.

Last fall, I covered for Timmy on the day of the Chicago marathon. One of my co-docents told me that when Timmy was eight, his father collapsed while jogging in a forest preserve. Hours later, they found him, dead, his dog standing beside him.

I asked my colleague whether Timmy’s father ever heard of a cell phone.

It seems that Timmy has retained some of his father’s lack of foresight: he never brings a phone anywhere. I don’t even know if he has one. So when people ask questions, he can’t come up with answers. He asks if he can get back to them.

My girlfriend responds: “Corn and iceberg boy.”

Timmy returns, stinking of smoke. “There’s a 1985 Pontiac Firebird out there, Sprouts. Mint condition. Firebird. Now that’s a car.” Really? I thought it was a chariot. “I like the headlights.” He dials his imaginary rotary phone. “All thin like that? The thing’s in mint condition.”     

My brother lives by a McDonald’s. Every Friday night in summer, people park their classic cars in the lot. Then they lift their hoods and, while 50s rock ‘n’ roll plays, they stand there with their hands in their pockets as tattooed and mustachioed aficionados examine the cars while digesting their milkshakes and burgers. Meat, milkshakes, and old cars. Aren’t those the symbols on the Nebraska state flag?

“So yous never been to the dog park, huh?”

A gaucho speeds by. He’s clutching a hunk of meat large enough to feed a shipload of war-weary Vikings. Chalky Hands licks his chalky finger, then turns a page of his tome.

The morning after that Nebraska wedding, I took a jog. I saw a farmer kill a cat. With a hoe.   

Where are they?


Here’s an e-mail from Hank. A masonry magazine is interested in an article on his Starner Prairie train station. Great. Another article in which I talk about how historic design—guess what style this station is—builds pride in residents, links a community to the glory of the rail age, and shit like that.   

The Forzy PM5 is rectilinear, lightweight, unadorned. And Hank, the person who the powers-that-be have appointed to bear this piece of technological perfection, has thrived on creating structures that are curvy, bulky, and ornamental. It’s like appointing a farmer who eats sausage and gravy-smothered biscuits every morning as a personal fitness trainer.

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Douglas J. Ogurek's fiction appears in the British Fantasy Society Journal, The Literary Review, Gone Lawn, The Milo Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, and several anthologies. Ogurek is the communications manager of a Chicago-based architecture firm and has written over one hundred articles about facility planning and design. He lives in a Chicago suburb with the woman whose husband he is and a pit bull named Phlegmpus Bilesnot. Ogurek also reviews films at Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction. More at