High above the small crowd, the president was on TV addressing the media with a golf club in his hand. His dad, the president before Clinton was president, was in a golf cart behind him, his face splotched with beetlike sun lesions. The marks on his face were the same color as the Texas A&M cap he was wearing. With those guys, it’s always Texas, Texas, Texas, isn’t it? Gotta represent.
Next to the CNN in the corner of the screen was a scrawl mentioning something about violence in the Middle East, a bomb on a bus somewhere in Israel. The president, on a golf course on television, was addressing the media with a driver in his hand. The same president who leans – slumps – on the podium with the presidential seal when addressing the assembled masses.
Something else in the scrawl about a month-long vacation.
Nice work if you can get it.
“You gotta be shittin’ me, man,” came the voice that pulled my eyes from the president, his golf club and his sunburned dad. “I’m talking about putting fifty bucks down here. How you only gonna give me three to one on New York? Never be there again.”
“What do you think it should be, then?” The other guy at the table replied. “I think they get it again, Trade Center or not.”
“Bullshit, man. You know lightning don’t strike the same place twice. Unless,” he started to laugh. “Unless it’s five to one or something, then I might put some money on it going down in the exact same place.”
His Hispanic partner laughed and drank from his Budweiser.
The first guy, a light-skinned brother, wrapped bony fingers around a bucket of brown liquid; coke or bourbon, I couldn’t tell. Wearing a Lakers tank top, he was a lanky guy with receding hair and kinda reminded me of Alex English.
If I had to say who the Hispanic guy looked like, I couldn’t. People that look like him don’t often get famous. Maybe this guy looked like that pitcher on the Brewers, Ruben Quevedo. He was smiling, and I’d seen him in there before. All appearances led me to believe he was a good guy. A guy’s guy, but respectful and fearful of his wife.
“Dog,” he said. “New York’s just too big and too famous to be anything higher than three to one. I mean, you think there are really two other cities that would be better targets?”
It cracked me up as I listened. Their conversation was nearly identical to one I’d had with Kevin back around on March, on one of our rides to work. I think we had Washington and New York favored one and two, with Los Angeles a close second. Had I cell phone, I would’ve called him to tell him these guys were talking about the same thing. Instead, I grabbed my beer and turned toward the two guys.
“Excuse me,” I said. “You guys talking about odds for the next attack?”
They both half-nodded, checking me out with appropriate suspicion. White dude and his cute question. Smart guy.
“The reason I ask is, I was wondering how many cities you’re giving odds for,” I said. “A buddy of mine and I did the same thing a while ago, but when we were finished we realized we’d left a lot of good targets out – like Boston.”
They looked at each other, and the black guy started laughing again, with a sort of descending enthusiasm.
“That’s a good one, man. We forgot all about Boston. Maybe another tea party, Gordo? What do you say?”
“Yeah, how could we forget about Boston. Isn’t that where some of the planes took off from?”
I’d cleared up the Are you a cop?
question for them. My beer was getting warm because I hadn’t taken it out of my hand for about five minutes. After I swallowed, it dawned on me that drinking didn’t really do it for me anymore, that it was just something I did because I knew how.
“I think we had Boston at like five to one,” I said, an intriguing number for a city legendary for curses and political wickedry. Kevin and I figured the racist and WASP currents swirling in Boston coupled with the large and vocal Muslim population there might make it an attractive target. Factor in the photos of Atta at Logan airport and the week-after threat that something was definitely going down in Boston, and it’s hard to overlook in our little survey.
Alex English nodded again.
“That’s a pretty good number, there, young man,” he said. “Where’d y’all have New York?”
“Right up there with Washington. Maybe like two and a half to one, three to one.”
Exactly what Quevedo wanted to hear.
"That’s what I’ve been telling him, but he don’t want to hear it,” he said. “He thinks they don’t want to hit the same place twice.”
“Wouldn’t that prove how good they are? To do the Big Apple again? And maybe have a chance at knocking down the statue of liberty or something with some major symbolic clout.”
“Like the Brooklyn Bridge,” Alex English said as he lowered his glass from his freshly moist lips. “I can see your point.”
Gordo looked and me and said he’d been trying through $20 of drinks to get Alex English to see his point. I jokingly told him my pleasure
and drained my beer bottle. After I grabbed my keys and left a couple of dollar bills on the bar, I turned to my friends on my way to the door.
“Did you guys offer odds on San Diego?”
“Nah, man,” Gordo said. “Some of the fellas I work with mentioned it, but even at a long shot, nobody wanted to put any money on it. Everybody was with the Big Five: New York, L.A., Washington, Chicago and San Fran. Why, you wanna get down on it.”
Smiling, I shook my head.
“No thanks. It would be a creative little gesture on their part – and we do have plenty of military here – but something tells me I shouldn’t anticipate my own demise.”