“I’m a man, but I can change. If I have to. I guess.”
– Man’s Prayer recited by Possum Lodge members on the Red Green Show.
A certain group of men meets for coffee once a month, second Thursday. They live in a small town; many have for most of their lives. Some would call them elderly: those backpacking their way across campus or zooming through careers and young parenthood. These guys have already done all that and have been put out to pasture. Their paychecks now come from IRA’s, 401k and pension payouts, and Social Security. Their status meetings are now coffee gatherings. Their parenting has evolved from scolding disciplinarian to indulgent grand. Doesn’t mean they’re out of it, though. Maybe they’re not quite as stylish and trendy as they once were, but still hip in their own archival sort of way. They do have cell phones but only because texting is easier than listening. Their collective wisdom doesn’t result so much from a level of IQ as it does from experience.
The venue is a converted garage. A stand-alone structure, originally called a workshop buy its owner, although little, if any, work takes place inside it. It’s a place offset from one of the member’s other dwelling where he lives with a woman with whom he has shared over half a century of his life. The other men there appreciate the place and the implied but un-posted rule: “No wimmin allowed,” ala the Little Rascals’ Clubhouse. But it’s a two-way decree. Truth is, no woman would have the slightest inclination to set foot in the place. Besides, women have their own enclaves.
Around the table there’s Hayward, a once dairyman turned unpaid Uber driver for his grandkids, part-time golfer; Punch (Gale), an ex- mechanic, ex-carpenter, ex-trucker
who spends a lot of time and money at Bass Pro; Soc, a Cherokee elder, golf nemesis to Hayward, and miser of the spoken word; Abel, an ex-banker now tomato grower and birdhouse builder; and White Oxley, a callous-handed working man and unsolicited philosopher. There are others who come and go at the monthly meetings, but these five are the “regulars.” Some fish, some golf, all attempt to avoid their wives. These coffee meets are one such escape. It’s not so much a misogynistic thing as it is their lifetimes of confoundation with the female of the species. The all-male coffee meet gives them a forum to discuss this issue without fear of reprisal, as well as other such topics that confront their predicament.
One such instance:
“You know, women is a lot like bass,” White Oxley said.
That statement was offered after Hayward had said, “A man once told me, if it weren’t for sex, men and women would’ve killed each other off a long time ago.”
White stirred the lukewarm tan liquid in his mug, as he waited for someone to request further elaboration on his bass analogy. The cup once held coffee, but had become so diluted with creamer and sweetener, it now resembled, and tasted like, the tan icing atop that last remaining maple bar in the Donut Shoppe box on the table. When no one responded, White continued on his own. “You can spend a lot of time trying different lures to attract them, but they can always find a way to jump off your hook.”
“Had this crankbait once,” Punch cut-in, “called Plum Crazy.” Everyone waited, sipped. Tolerant of Punch’s frequent non sequiturs. “Pretty thing; expensive, too. Ole boy at Bass Pro told me when bass saw it, they’d wet themselves. Then he laughed, sort uh crazy like. Never caught nothing with it, though.”
“Now see, that’s what I mean,” White said. “Your women just don’t often appreciate what a man has to offer.”
Soc grunted, held out his cup for Hayward to fill from the pot his comrade held. “In fishin’,” he said. “You need to lower your expectations and raise your commitment. ‘Spect that’s true between women and men, too. N' mebbe golf.”
The table got thoughtfully quiet as the others pondered Soc’s aphorism. One or two nodded as if they might agree.
Punch grabbed the forlorn maple bar from the Donut Shoppe box and bit off one end of it.