The first nine chapters of The Regular Guys are free. Enjoy.
The Bellagio Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
On Wednesday afternoon Lenny and Larry were having lunch at The Cafe Bellagio, which is located just off the hotel’s atrium, which was a short walk from the front desk. Larry had actually stayed there on an occasion or two with a lady friend; it was Lenny’s first visit.
“Holy crap, look at this place,” Lenny said shortly after leaving the taxi and entering the lobby through the revolving doors. Off to left was the front desk, off to the right the casino and right at the casino entrance was a bar that featured a grand piano with a tuxedoed man expertly playing it. Up above were dozens of stained glass flowers. They were seated and Lenny got right to the point.
“The ex wants to get back together.”
On the way over Lenny had taken a call from his ex-girlfriend. Again, Larry could only hear one side of the conversation, but while Lenny’s body language did not show visible signs of rapture neither was he acting like someone was trying to feed him Drano
“Boy, the great offers are just flooding in, aren’t they partner?”
“This is even worse than the TV offer,” Lenny said, chuckling. “She said he wanted to come out here.”
“Uh-oh. Isn’t Ann coming out tonight?”
“That could pose problems,” Larry said.
“No kidding. Two women at once, and one who packs heat! Ann would kill me.”
`Maybe she really loves you.”
“Maybe. Who knows? I haven’t really thought of her much lately.”
“Did she know we’re playing Vegas?”
“My dad emailed her.”
“Dad’s kinda psycho in his old age and he keeps her posted on our progress. He’s always been a big fan of mine. He really liked her and wasn’t pleased we broke up, but he’s happy you and I hooked up, so, in the spirit of sticking the knife in, he keeps her updated.”
“So it’s not really a coincidence she happened to call the week we first play Vegas?”
“Probably not,” Lenny said.
A waitress came and took their order; thanks to Larry’s bribe they could see the almost non-stop stream of tourists walking through the atrium.
“She never really took a great interest in what I was doing on stage. Of course, there were times when I wasn’t doing anything interesting onstage, so I can’t get too worked up over that. I think she was intrigued by the prospect that I might hit it big.”
“Which, of course, is one of the reasons you yourself went into show business, was it not?”
“I’m sorry, senator, I couldn’t hear you; could repeat the question please?”
“Well, yes, that is true,” Lenny confirmed. “Back then I was sorta focused on the ends and not the means, too. Guilty as charged.”
“Well, obviously, the ends are important. We don’t work for our supper do we?”
Larry shook his head.
“I might do a set for a free buffet here, but that’s about it.”
“But the means is what’s important now,” Lenny said. “As long as we focus on the means the end will take care of itself. Did you ever read Flesh and Blood?”
Larry thought about that for a second.
“The one about the boxer who does his mother?”
“Yes,” Lenny said, snapping his fingers and pointing at Larry.
“I saw the movie. Suzanne Pleshette was in it.” Larry tried to whistle, indicating his approval of Suzanne Pleshette. Or, rather, it would have been indicative of approval had Larry actually been able to whistle, which of course he couldn’t. Lenny mocked his friend by pretending to dry himself off; Larry invited Lenny to go perform a physical impossibility on himself.
“Anyway,” Lenny said, continuing. “The fighter and his trainer are talking about money. The trainer says the money is important but that you don’t do it for the money. The kid asks what do you do it for and the trainer says you do it for the beauty.”
Larry sat and considered the matter.
“An interesting quote,” he said, approvingly. “We do it for the beauty?”
“Yes. You should know that you’ve insisted on it since the beginning. And now you got me turning down big-money TV gigs. But she’s not even sure of your name. Sometimes she refers to you as Larry, sometimes as Barry.”
“Barry!” Larry exclaimed, sounding as if she had sometimes referred to him as ‘Frieda’ or ‘Shamiqua’.
“Yeah, Barry,” Lenny said, chuckling.
Larry shook his head.
“I don’t look like a Barry do I?”
Lenny put his hands out and framed Larry’s face with his hands. He shook his head.
“No, definitely not a Barry. I could see ‘Ted’ though. Or maybe Dan.”
“Dan is my father’s name,” Larry said.
“Really?” Lenny said, looking at Larry. This was the first time Larry had mentioned a member of his family directly.
“Yeah.” That was all Larry was apparently going to say on the matter. Lenny changed the subject.
“What’s the deal with you and Rachel? Are we gonna have jobs after this week?”
“Lenny, she’s insatiable!”
That was true; Larry and Rachel were humping like bunnies. It had started after Monday’s show when a drink had turned into the whole night and continued unabated for most of Tuesday when Rachel had been obliged to take advantage of the Sahara’s rather liberal paid time off policy. By the time he and Lenny had had lunch Wednesday afternoon, he was grateful for the sustenance, because he was about ready to be placed in a Mason jar filled with formaldehyde.
“Larry, she’s older than you. They’re always insatiable at that age. Or so I’ve heard; I’ve never actually known anyone on Social Security in the biblical sense.”
“Shut up. She’s not on Social Security.”
“AARP? Senior discounts at Denny’s?”
Larry laughed. This was not the first time he’d had this conversation; well-meaning aunts, taking the place of his mother who had died when he was young, had been wondering for years when he would bring home a nice girl of childbearing age. For his part, Larry wasn’t looking for either a wife or kids and his experiences with older women were exponentially better than those with women his own age or, worse, younger than him.
“She’s not that old, Lenny.”
“Oh yes she is. You just haven’t seen her walker yet. Does she do wild things in bed?” Lenny brought a hand to his chin and shook his head. “No, she can’t, she’d break her hip.”
Larry smiled and sighed. Lenny was bound and determined to have a bit of fun at his expense, so he was going to let him have it.
“Hey, as long as her dentures are clean…”
The waitress bringing their lunch interrupted them.
“Lenny, do not knock something until you’ve tried it. Weren’t you the one who said two comedians winging it could never make it?”
“Fine. I’ll go to the keno lounge and find a fossil to take to bed tonight.”
“Are you through,” Larry asked, trying to contain his laughter. Lenny’s talent of being funny without being mean was one of the reasons The Regular Guys had been a success.
“No. I most certainly am not. We should probably plan to hit the bingo room right after lunch because if we wait till after our show they’ll all be asleep.”
Larry drummed his fingers on the table and turned his nose up haughtily, taking on a British air. Feigning indifference, he tried to whistle, with the usual results.
Since he had lost his audience, Lenny quit. He smiled at his partner.
“So, what’s she like?”
“Well, she’s really funny,” Larry said. Now that Lenny’s verbal blitzkrieg appeared to be over, he could get down to the business of telling his friend about his sudden new romance. “We had a lot of laughs; at least until we got in the sack.”
Lenny shook his head. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t picture you as the first date in the sack kind of guy.”
“I’m not, trust me. Must be the comedian’s aura or something, because that is just so un-Lutheran it isn’t even funny.”
“Don’t they get kinda flabby at that age?” Lenny put his hands in front of him the universal guy gesture for boobs and dropped them into his lap.
“That is a myth, my friend. Well, eventually they will, of course, but you’ve been spoon-fed too many anorexic women on TV. Those women weigh 100 pounds and they all need square meals not to mention a complete personality makeover. And, since they only take in 170 calories a day, they have no energy in bed either.”
Larry smiled coyly, seemingly indicating he could go all night.
“Might this be It?” Lenny asked.
Larry considered that for a moment.
“It. What’s It?” Larry said shrugging. “I mean, does It really exist?”
“I don’t really know for sure, but I think most of us need to think it does or else there isn’t much reason to get out of bed in the morning. Or afternoon in my case.”
“It. Who knows? We’ve known each other for three days.”
“But you’ve known her pretty well. And often. I’m pretty sure you’re asking the wrong person if It exists, though.”
“I don’t know,” Larry said. “You seem to provide a multitude of lessons for the bachelor.”
“Like perhaps you can’t live with someone else until you can live with yourself; until you’ve become what you were meant to become.”
“If that’s the case Dr. Phil, how come I don’t go back to her now? I mean, our career is cruising, both on stage and at the bank. I could go back with her and still be a Regular Guy.”
“Perhaps we still have a ways to go. Ovid said something about not hasting so fast because your vessel sails the open sea and the harbor to which we are being steered is still far off.”
Lenny shook his head disgustedly.
“I can’t believe you don’t know the exact quote.”
“Hell, I’m not that boring. I am currently getting laid regularly, after all.”
As they ate their lunch Larry found himself thinking back to the handful of women he had seen seriously over the years. None of them had lasted longer than a year with the average being a few months and he had spent considerably more time as an adult out of relationships than in them. He wondered if what he had just told Lenny applied to himself: that he hadn’t yet been steered to his harbor. Or maybe he was cut out to pass a life alone, which, when you considered how big Americans were getting, wasn’t such a bad option. Or maybe it was just because he had always been a loser who, as more than one woman had pointed out, was not all that easy to get to know.
Larry had no idea.
The Casbar Room
The Sahara Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
Former officer and now sergeant Ann Shelton breezed into town Wednesday night. She had to cancel a weekend with her sorta boyfriend, but it would have been very difficult to keep her away from the first Vegas gig of her other sorta boyfriend Lenny and her friend Larry. Unfortunately the criminal element in her town – and their journeys through the court system – had not allowed her to leave until Wednesday afternoon and she got to the Sahara about 20 minutes into The Regular Guys’ show.
She wasn’t entirely sure how to get backstage so she found a seat in the back and took a second to think about Lenny and Larry, about when they had first met and such sentimental matters that women think about at times like these. She was actually sitting near Morty, though she didn’t know that because she hadn’t met Morty yet. Rachel, pleading overwork both in and out of bed, had taken the night off.
There is never any shortage of Japanese tourists in Vegas, or anywhere else for that matter, and that night a handful of camera-toting Japanese men showed up at the show. It was plain they had no clue what to expect. They had seen people filing into the Casbar Room a little before 9 P.M and, not wanting to be left out, had filed in with them.
When Ann had walked in, Lenny was standing in the crowd, at the table of the Japanese men.
“Hey Larry, you know the Japanese produce and consume horse flesh ice cream?” Lenny had read that somewhere that afternoon; not entirely believing that, he did some research on the Internet and had found it true. Not only that, Japanese palates were treated to whale, seaweed and goat ice cream. And that was just the start of things, too. It got worse.
Larry could tell Lenny was preparing to have some fun with his Japanese guests and didn’t really care about his response so he made a dumb joke about there being a lot nay-sayers, just to kill some time. A few people groaned at the bad pun.
“Hey,” Lenny said, standing above four Japanese men. “Do you like horse flesh ice cream?”
All of the men nodded enthusiastically. “Ah, horse flesh. Yes! Yes!” one of the Japanese men said; his tone indicated he thought he had won a prize.
Lenny, in a pretty good Japanese accent, said “Ah, yes, yes.” To further mock the man he over bit his front teeth and squinted his eyes.
“You know Larry, the Japanese, God love them, are pioneers on the horse flesh ice cream front.”
“This might also explain why dogs have been disappearing from the neighborhood.”
“Horse flesh ice cream is profoundly disturbing on many fronts.”
“No kidding. First off, who in the hell would want to eat horse flesh ice cream, anyway?”
“Ah, horse flesh ice cream!” one of the Japanese men shrieked. “Very good! Very good!”
“IT’S GOT HORSE FLESH IN IT, DINGWAD!” Lenny informed him. “Stop eating it! You’re eating Mr. Ed and Secretariat for God’s sake!”
This got even the Japanese men laughing, even though dingwad doesn’t translate well. Neither did Mr. Ed or Secretariat, for that matter.
“Something else, Lenny. Just who in the hell are the connoisseurs of this crap? I mean, are there people who can actually tell the difference between good and bad horse flesh ice cream?”
“Probably the same people who can tell the difference between good and bad whale ice cream.”
“Excuse me?” Larry said with perfect timing that got a lot of laughs.
“Yeah, they also make whale ice cream…”
“Ah! Whale ice cream! Whale ice cream very good too! You like!”
“No, I no like,” Lenny said.
Larry laughed. “I think I’d rather eat your toenails, sir.”
“No! Toenails bad! Whale ice cream very good!” To emphasize its goodness, the man stood up and punched a fist in the air.
“Larry, you know they also make seaweed ice cream and goat ice cream.”
“Holy crap,” Larry said. “31 Flavors in Japan would smell like the county fair.”
Lenny and Larry could’ve continued having fun with the Japanese men, but he spotted a nice candidate for Bad Magic and besides, it was always best to end a routine too soon than too late.
After the show Lenny and Larry were backstage when Lenny’s phone rang; he recognized the number.
“It’s Ann,” he told Larry with a smile. He answered the call.
“Will you tell these animals at the door that I’m sleeping with you and to let me backstage please?”
Lenny laughed and walked to the door that led from the room. He poked his head out. There was a young, rather serious man blocking Ann’s way.
“It’s OK,” he said confidentially. “She’s one of our groupies. I thought we put her on the official groupie list.” Lenny winked at the guard, who nodded knowingly.
Lenny and Ann hadn’t seen each other for a couple of months. They greeted each other like two lovers who hadn’t seen each other for a couple of months.
Ann looked good. She was wearing a spaghetti-strapped black dress that went just below her knees. Her blonde hair was a little longer than last time, and she’d had some sun recently. As always, she combined beauty and athleticism like few others. After hugging her, Lenny held her at arm’s length and took her in before taking her backstage.
Larry and Ann had a long hug and they shared a friendly kiss, though unlike Lenny Larry’s kiss didn’t include his tongue, nor did he cop a feel. Larry had stopped dating women Ann’s age when he was in middle school and unless they played some special role in his life, like Ann did, he tended not to notice them.
Lenny then presented Ann to Morty.
“Ah, the infamous Ann. It is a pleasure, and I do not throw that word around recklessly, to meet you.” Morty, completely caught up in the moment of meeting the person who originally suggested Lenny and Larry work together, actually bowed regally.
Ann beamed a smile that could have provided solar power for the entire Las Vegas Strip for a month.
“You must be the old Jew Lenny keeps referring to,” Ann said as graciously as if she were greeting royalty. “I am honored, though as a simple public servant I lack the status required to curtsy.”
“She could frisk you, though,” Lenny said.
Ann pushed Lenny, kind of hard to; he fell back a couple of steps.
“I can’t believe I missed your first Vegas show!,” Ann was playful and clearly pleased at Lenny and Larry’s success. “Is it true they had to turn the plane back to let these two get off?” she asked of Morty.
Morty looked at Lenny suspiciously.
“Turn the plane back?”
“Actually, we were in the air,” Larry said. “We had to parachute out. Good thing our seats double as flotation devices.”
“Did I say that Ann?” Lenny asked. “Did I say turn the plane back? You must have misunderstood; I actually said ‘Morty called us while we were waiting for our plane to board’. Anyone could confuse them.”
“Uh-uh. I suppose you haven’t signed a lifetime contract here either?”
Actually, Lenny had never said any such thing, but Ann enjoyed throwing fuel on the fire.
“No,” Lenny said. “But Larry’s sleeping with the boss here. It should only be a matter of time.”
“Reeaallly?? Ann said, obviously intrigued. She took a step back, reflexively bent her knees and curled some hair behind an ear, and regarded Larry. “Is this true, Larry?”
Larry sort of cocked his head a little, shrugged.
“Yeah, well, you know,” he said sheepishly.
“OK, enough chit chat,” Lenny said, taking Ann’s hand. “We have to go…” Instead of making that a declarative sentence, he let it linger, as if he were going to let others provide the end of the sentence.
“And do what, Lenny?” Larry asked as a teacher might as a student why he needed a straw and a sheet of paper.
“Oh shush!” Ann said.
On Friday morning the Las Vegas Herald gossip columnist Ray Evans ran a blurb about The Regular Guys that said Larry and his unidentified lady friend had been seen at the Stratosphere Tower.
It was true that Larry had been at the Stratosphere, and with a woman no less. He had taken Ann there for lunch and to see the view from the top of the tower.
They were not, of course dating. Hell, even Lenny and Ann weren’t really dating and they were sleeping together. Larry and Ann were no more than two friends out having lunch.
Larry called the gossip columnist, who, of course, didn’t answer his phone. But his call was returned within 20 minutes, which Larry found impressive.
“Hey, it’s nice to know you read the column,” Ray Evans said. He had a deep, raspy voice that sounded like it had been around the track a few times and also belonged to a man who had, from time to time, both smoke and drank, all of which were true
“I’ve actually enjoyed it for a while. I visit from time to time.”
Larry told him about the mistake.
“So who’s the chick then?” Ray asked.
“She’s a friend of Lenny’s actually,” Larry said.
“Is that friend with a capital F or a small F, Larry.”
“You got time for a story? On background?”
“Where’d you learn an official reporter term like that?”
“I used to ply the trade in another life.”
“OK, background. Shoot.”
Larry told the gossip columnist the story about how Ann had pulled them over and eventually suggested they work together. He didn’t mention anything about them sleeping together.
“So, she’s the fuzz, huh?”
“Yeah. She’s a nice girl.”
Ann wasn’t a whole lot younger than Larry, or Lenny for that matter, but Larry still called her a girl.
“Hey, how about a few lines for tomorrow’s column.”
“Oh, I don’t want to be quoted.”
“Really? Do you know how many agents call me begging for a couple of lines in my column?” The gossip columnist wasn’t mad, merely being informative.
Larry had no idea.
“You have no clue, including your boy Morty over the years. I could nicely supplement my income if I wanted to.”
“I’m really not all that interesting; anything I have to say I say on stage.”
“Well, I can indulge it, Lenny handles most of that PR stuff.”
That was true. From time to time Morty would arrange a promotional opportunity for Lenny and Larry in whatever city they happened to be in. Larry would dutifully go to the ones Lenny and Morty wanted him at, but things like radio interviews and whatnot, Larry was just as happy to avoid.
Ray Evans had hoped he had stumbled upon a good source for future columns. If The Regular Guys played here regularly, having Larry on his good side would be great. But you can’t make somebody talk. He was ready to drop Larry for now.
“But you know what? Give me a call whenever you need a question answered.”
“Really? So you’re not completely opposed to publicity?”
“Oh, God no; the wheels have to turn, after all. I just want to make sure you have good information. We can’t have Regular Guy rumors out there. So if you have any questions, call. Just attribute it to a pal or an insider or something like that.”
“I heard you’re sleeping with Rachel.”
The gossip columnist wouldn’t write anything about that of course, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that he and Rachel went way back. He told it mainly to show Larry who he was dealing with; the gossip columnist was pissed his first chat with Larry had to involve a correction.
“She didn’t send those pictures, did she?” If Larry was taken aback by the question he hid it well.
“Hell, they’re right here on the Internet, Larry.”
Both men laughed.
“Rachel and I go way back, Larry. Waaaaay back. She’s a good girl. You enjoy her.”
“I will,” Larry said. “And I categorically confirm all rumors that have me sleeping with a live, adult woman,” Larry said. “I don’t get out much. Maybe it will spice things up.”