David Shipko is a Los Angeles based scholar and writer.


Retrieving my top coat from the bar’s coatrack, I bumped a lanky man slightly taller than myself who turned on me stony eyes and answered my sincere apology and offer to replace his drink—which it seems I had caused him to spill on himself, although I could see no wetness on the spot to which he furiously pointed while spitting something incoherent about what had apparently been an expensive liquor—with extreme agitation that quickly escalated into verbal assault. Taking note of my hat and three-piece suit, he called me Cowboy and sputtered something about my returning to Fort Worth, apparently unaware I was a local and the hat a fedora. Tilting my brim to block my view of him, extending my open hand in a gesture intended to signal calm and distance, I said nothing and headed for the door, but he quickly stepped into my path, practically screaming that I should take my Cowboy self back to Fort Worth where he knew someone who could wrap a lasso around my neck. I retreated to the side exit and into the lobby of the hotel. He stalked after me, rolling briefcase in tow, something frightening in his gaze and tensed body. I am not sure what else he said, for I was now wondering if there would soon be a fight, and I was observing my surroundings, taking note of obstacles, potential shields and weapons, and escape routes, hoping that my celebratory evening out with my friend—who had followed me into the lobby and seemed to be also sizing my newfound foe—was not about to end in farcical violence. The man sprayed another dose of venom and then, perhaps coming to some self-awareness of the situation and his behavior and the approaching hotel staff and proprietor who were advancing on him with the measure of animal control approaching a rabid coyote, he fled through the front doors and tore away down the sidewalk into the anonymous night. Realizing I had dropped into a low stance appropriate for combat, I eased myself into a more leisurely posture and turned to my friend. Who knows what his problem was, he said. I think I have some idea, but only some. I do not think even that man himself knew, or knows. 


A Story That Was To Have Been