Sitting at the bar skimming a newspaper at the end of a long day Al ordered a fresh beer and was just about to take a sip when he spotted Manny coming through the door. He thought of heading for the bathroom to avoid Manny the Mooch but it was too late. Old eagle eye had spotted him.
“Hey Al, good buddy, how the hell are ya? Long time no see.”
Not long enough. “Manny, where you been keepin’ yourself?”
Manny ran a hand through his lank, stringy hair and parked his butt on a stool. “Oh, here and there.”
Manny was eyeing the beer in front of Al as he spoke. The bartender came over and gave him an expectant look.
“Maybe in a minute.”
Al glanced around the room. Here we go again. “Where you working Manny?”
Manny hemmed and hawed. “Oh, nowhere at the moment, but I’ve got some prospects. I’m tryin’ to decide what would suit me best.”
“Uh huh.” Al stared straight ahead. Manny licked his lips and kept his eyes glued to Al’s bottle. He drummed his fingers on the bar for a minute and then sighed. Al stood his ground. Manny fondled one of the empty bottles on the bar.
“Hey, Al, you ever heard of the concept of paying it forward?”
“You mean like the movie?”
“Um, yeah, that’s right, they made a movie about it. I forgot. But right, you know, its like people go around doing good deeds for others and then good things come to them. Sorta like Karma or something.”
“Yeah, Manny, something like that.”
“So anyway, what do you think about that?”
Al drained his beer and signalled the bartender for another. Manny leaned forward in anticipation.
“Well, it was a good movie.”
Manny was crestfallen. “Yeah, forget about the movie Al, I mean what do you think about the deed, you know, doing things for others.”
Al shrugged. “Yeah, sure, great. The other day I was about to pull into this parking place but this good lookin’ broad got there the same time as me so I let her have it instead.”
Manny stared at him and looked as if he was about to cry. Al picked up his beer and took a long pull on it and let out a satisfied burp.
“Well, that’s great Al, but you know –“
Al turned and cut Manny off. “Look Manny, if you want a beer why don’t you just cut the bullshit and ask. Is it really so hard?”
Manny scratched his head turned his palms up. “Okay Al. Would you buy me a beer?”
Al took another sip and looked at their reflections in the mirror. “Manny, have you ever heard the story about the ant and the grasshopper?”