Another night drinking with his friends at the Attic Bar.
"Hey, Sard," Frank Weathers speaks, "have you got any other job? I mean, besides writing these columns."
The Sardine works occasionally. Has even been known to collect unemployment—that's a job in itself. Filling out forms. Making up places where one looked for work.
"How can you support yourself? You aren't being paid for these things."
With the help of friends like Frank, McNulty, and Joe T. They keep the little fish supplied with cigarettes, drinks, and an occasional french fry. You don't mind, do you, Frank?
"I never really thought about it."
That's the beauty of bumming stuff from people. They never seem to mind or, at least, very few discourage the practice.
"Does your lady friend, Melinda, pay her own way?"
"Do I?" Melinda interrupts. "He lives at my house. I buy his clothes."
It's as if we're married.
"Lucky me if he'll ever ask," she says. "What's the difference. I won't be able to tell the difference between married and unmarried life with him."
That's a bit harsh but certainly what she says is not off the mark.
"The Sardine lived with his parents until he was thirty-five," McNulty chimed in.
"Forty," says Melinda. "Then he moved over to my place."
"That's not right," says Frank. "A guy should want to get out on his own."
"I went into the navy when I was seventeen. Married by age twenty-two."
And divorced ten years after that.
"Didn't he marry his wife's maid-of-honor?" Joe T. wonders.
"So what? I got married, didn't I? Have four or five kids?"
"What do you mean 'four or five'?" asks McNulty.
"I'm never sure whether I should count the illegitimate one I had in the Philippines."
Do you ever see the kid? Or support him?
"No, not really. I have a picture of her as a teenager."
"Her mother tries to lay a guilt trip on me every few months and sends me pictures."
Why the big interest in my private life?
Suspicious of what?
"Your lack of interest in making money."
"He worked at a restaurant for many years," says McNulty.
"Don't defend him," Frank says, "just because he's your son."
"He's not my son."
"You know what I mean. You're his father figure."
The Sardine doesn't need defending.
"I didn't mean to insult you," Frank continues. "But, really, you're a slacker."
The Sardine hates to disappoint Frank. The "slacker" designation is a point of honor.
"You have no shame."
What's wrong not to have ambition? Not to want achievement?
"How do you expect to live? Live for yourself and not off other people?"
As was said, the other people don't seem to mind.
"What would happen to civilization if everyone descended to that kind of thinking?
What would happen?
"You wouldn't have a father here who worked his tail off as an attorney to give you the good life you so robustly lived."
"Goddammit, Frank, I'm not his father," says McNulty.
"You see, Sard, your family is ashamed of you."
Please, Frank, don't be so passé. Slacker is 1990s. And that being the case, I will not refer to a certain Handbook or a cult independent film for precedents and self-definition. In truth, my parents worried about me when I was in high school. They thought I didn't want to do much in my life.
"You were an idler," says McNulty.
No. The Sardine expressed little interest in wanting a career.
"You should have been drafted into the military," says Frank.
The Sardine's draft lottery number was too high. But, really, Frank, the military has its share of slackers. Majored in English at college and not once thought about this major would help me get a job.
"You could've used the English degree to become a teacher," says McNulty.
"That's what his father probably said," says Frank.
My father said nothing of the sort. He just wanted me to find a job.
"Get you out of the house," says Frank.
"You wanted to be a writer," says McNulty. "A fool's game. How pathetic!"
That's exactly what my father thought.
Bob Castle is the unveiled author of A Sardine on Vacation. Check out his bio page.