“I’m sorry Dan, I don’t know what’s come over me. I’m just overwhelmed theses days. I didn’t mean what I said.”
Dan put his hand on Tom’s shoulder. “I know Dan. You’re at an age where that’s going to happen a lot. Every male in this family knows what it’s like. Your father had quite a temper as I recall.”
Tom considered for a moment. “Yeah, I remember. When I was young he’d fly off the handle quite a bit. But you never do. Come to think of it all of your friends are easy going too. You’re always so calm. How do you do it?”
Dan pondered his next move then gestured for Tom to have a seat. “Son, I believe it’s time you found that very thing out. I’ve watched and waited and I think you’re old enough to decide.”
“Decide what Dan?”
“Tom, you know I go off to meetings twice a month. You’ve asked me many times what is I do when I’m gone. If you still want an answer you can have it tonight. What do you say?”
“Sure. I’ve always wanted to know.”
“Good. Now listen carefully. When we get to our destination I want you to watch and listen when we get inside. You must not say a word. We’ll only stay and hour. You’ll see many men you’ve met before.”
That evening they dressed up and Dan drove to a commercial establishment on the edge of town. There were no signs to indicate what sort of club it was. They went to the door and Dan knocked.
“Dan, so good to see you again. Who do we have here?”
“Al, this is my nephew, the one I’ve raised for the last seven years. He’s here as a prospect. He knows not to speak, I want him to learn what we do.”
“Great Dan. I’ll spread the word.”
They proceeded inside and all eyes were upon them as they entered a large space with many men occupied with various activities. As they passed some men playing cards one of them spoke in a booming voice to another.
“Andy, you low life scum bag, I’m pretty sure you’re cheating.”
His opponent guffawed. “Screw you Ralph, you’re crooked as a three dollar bill.”
Another at the table looked up at Dan. “Hey Dan, you asshole, where you been? What rock did you crawl out from under?”
Dan stopped in his tracks. “I’ve been banging your old lady, what’s it to you?”
Tom was aghast. These men were friends of Dan’s and he’d never heard them talk like that. They were gentlemen of the first order. Dan saw the look on his face and put his finger to his lips. They moved on.
A man Tom and his uncle had dinner with many times walked by and as he did he bumped into Dan.
“Watch where you’re going to stupid sack of shit.”
“Fuck you dimwit, you watch it.”
Scenes like it were repeated everywhere they went in the room. The air was blue with foul language. It was like crank night in a biker bar. Tom’s unease was increasing with each passing minute. Dan looked at him and decided it was time to leave.
When they got outside Tom burst like an overloaded dam. “What the hell was that about Dan? Those men are friends of yours. A lot of them are town leaders!”
Dan smiled and led Tom to a park bench. “Now you know out secret Tom. Twenty years ago we were young men a lot like your self. We were ambitious and full of ourselves, but were also quick to anger and cocksure of everything. We saw much the same all over town and some of us knew it wasn’t good. We got together and asked ourselves what we could do to make things better.”
He stopped for a moment and felt the cool evening breeze on his face. “We resolved to be kinder men, wanting to lead by example. Of course it didn’t work. Human nature is just what it is; you can’t wish it away, that’s the way it is. We fell back into our old ways soon enough. Then it came to us. What if we made a place and put aside time where we could offload our baser emotions in a safe environment where it was understood that we could say whatever we wanted but that what happened in that space stayed there. The result is what you saw tonight. We’ve been making it work for twenty years. You know those are all good, decent men.”
Tom shook his head, trying to take it all in. “That’s incredible Dan. So that’s why you’re so calm and steady. I want to be a part of it.”
“Good Tom. I was hoping you’d join us. It will do you a world of good.”
“So what do you call that place anyway?”
“That, my son is The Asshole’s Club.”