There are six of them gathered in the bluing twilight, all fathers at least seven years older than Henry. They all live within a half-mile of Gerard’s house and all, except for the Osborne brothers, who grew up in the first iteration of this subdivision, have landed here through the randomness of corporate migration.

Gerard is working three separate cooking stations: a coal-filled Weber kettle for the indirect purists heat, a massive stainless steel Weber gas cooker for bulk, and a smoker that for the last 16 hours has been working its magic on Gerard’s self-proclaimed (yet never before attempted) World Famous Brisket. There’s a red plastic tub filled with an eclectic variety of international beers, Belgian Ale, India Pale Ale, German Hefeweizen, Slovakian Pilsner and, in a nod to Gerard’s less exotic college years in upstate New York, Genesee Cream Ale. Henry randomly selects a bottle of Blue Point Toasted Lager (Long Island), which, as he fumbles with the opener, Gerard is quick point out recently won a gold medal in Munich. Henry hears himself saying “Wow!” even though, except on nights like this, he doesn’t drink, especially beer, and he could give a shit about Munich or lager or medals. But after his first sip he has to admit that, while nothing about this tastes particularly toasted or medal-worthy, it is good. He says as much to the group, because, saying no to beer on manly meat night or poker night is much more of a lightning rod for sarcasm than nursing one or two until it’s time to go home.

He takes another swig and begins shaking hands with his geographically-mandated friends. Forty-something WASP Gerard; the forty-something Irish American brothers Osborne, John and Eric; 42-year old Chinese-American Victor Chan, who has a yet-to-be explained purple and black shiner around his left eye; and 41 year-old African-American Marcus Leblanc.

They’re all employed in some form of corporate middle management. Financial services. New Media. Apps. Digital widgets. They’re all wearing cargo shorts with cell phones clipped on the waistband, sport sandals and colored cotton T-shirts stamped with the logos of places and things that might be cool if any of them actually existed. Freddie’s Bait and Tackle. Death Valley Road Rally. Chattanooga Charlie’s Chile Sauce.

“Gentlemen!” proclaims Gerard. “Honorable members of the Ministry of Meat, behold the bounty and the spectacle, the revolting beauty that is…Meat Night!”

He raises the platter of assorted meat over his head as if it is the Stanley Cup, the Holy Grail, something more than dead flesh.

Henry would laugh if he hadn’t first been exposed to each of these “spontaneous” outbursts via an embarrassing string of emails, messages bearing subject headings such as A Meat-eater’s Man-ifesto to Man Rules for Meat (#3: Gristle is our friend).

He would laugh if it weren’t for his own sad contribution to the spectacle: Kobe beef hot dogs.

They’ve been gathering like this, once a month or so, since they recruited Henry two years ago. Not only for Meat Night, but everything from Lawn Jarts and horse shoes to bocce and Wiffle Ball. Last fall they even had a brief beer pong season that concluded on an ugly note, with that night’s champion and subsequent former group member Louis Bell getting a DUI from a State Trooper on Route 9.

The games themselves didn’t matter. What supposedly mattered was the ritual of talking them up for days and sometimes weeks prior to the event. At first Henry wasn’t interested in any of it. The drinking, the I’m a Jarts God! email shit, and especially the company of men much older than him.

At first he went out of politeness and because Rachel had encouraged him. She said it would be good for him. Then later, during her obsession with getting pregnant, her obsession with staying pregnant and her prolonged depression after she had lost the baby, he found himself wanting to go, looking forward to it. Anything to get out of the house.

But now he’s unsure of where he’d rather not be: in his giant empty home with Rachel, ignoring each other or worse, talking about his vasectomy; or here, feigning camaraderie in the universal epicenter of displaced manliness.

Before settling down, he announces to the others that he has to take a piss. That’s what you do on Meat Night, you announce it – I’m pissing in your house whether you like it or not, perhaps with the seat down — because excusing oneself is a sign of weakness, is for pussies. He stops in the kitchen to look at the corkboard near the phone. Besides the preponderance of takeout menus, which reinforce his theory that Gerard’s wife and kids may be “vacationing” in Long Beach Island longer than Gerard wants to admit, there are two calendars, both turned to the month of June even though it is now mid-August.

The first calendar is for Gerard’s soon-to-be fourth grader, Gerard Jr., and every day is meticulously inked in, from morning until bedtime, with appointments for everything from soccer practices to karate and alto saxophone lessons to three times a week SAT prep tutoring with a woman whom, Gerard has told Henry, virtually guarantees that Gerard Jr. will be accepted into an Ivy League school if he sticks to their long term, increasingly expensive plan. The second calendar is for Gerard’s other son Phillip who is in pre-school. There are no written words on it, only hand-drawn smiles for the days on which young Phillip hasn’t bitten anyone. Of June’s 30 days, there are only three smiles.

Back on the patio, while the meats sizzle and sputter on clean-brushed, recently oiled grates, Henry takes the only remaining seat at the glass-topped patio table, in between the Osborne brothers. The seat is empty for a reason. The brothers are notorious for their passionate discussions, with one taking the opposing view of everything the other believes in, from sports to how to light coals to, of course, politics. Henry’s never seen it but several times the Osborne’s arguments have escalated to the physical, the most famous of which was a 2004 St. Patrick’s Day dance that left the basement of the Catholic church in ruins and Eric cupping his hands over his bleeding, shattered septum.

Henry’s not even sure which one is Eric and which is John. He’s known them long enough that he should, (it’s not as if they’re twins) but to ask for clarification this late in the game would be counterproductive. They give him the slightest of nods before resuming their debate on immigration. One wants to close the borders and build an electrified wall and the other, he wants to…Henry stops listening. Lately he’s been doing this a lot. As soon as someone starts in on politics or taxes, playgroups or some neighborhood committee, he glazes over, shuts down. Same goes for stories about Facebook or Twitter or the social network de jour. Sports, too, especially golf. And office crap. Lately, even the parts that involve him. Sometimes he daydreams and others, such as now, he wonders how he ever got himself living this doomed existence, at his age.

Rachel had become convinced that their troubles were some kind of sign, that their having children just wasn’t meant to be. As soon as he agreed to at least consider having a vasectomy, she threw herself into the research. She downloaded articles and printed diagrams for him that were intended to allay his fears about loss of libido and the pain of recovery. What he was most concerned about, beyond the mental state of his wife, was having someone take a scalpel to his testicles, and no chart or penis-friendly phrasing could make it go away.

Whenever he tried to tell Rachel that perhaps they should wait just a little longer because one day they might want to try to have a child again, she told him that she couldn’t handle the emotions of expectation and loss, that if it happened again it would break her completely. Whenever he mentioned therapy, or counseling, she responded with anger, accusations, and prolonged periods of silence. Pushing harder, he thought, would be the end for them. So, while not assenting, he let her run with it, with the hope that things would change, she’d get better, or at least find a replacement obsession. But she didn’t. Soon Rachel knew enough about the vicissitudes of vasectomies to do a dissertation for The New England Journal of Medicine.

Henry accepts another beer. “A Slovakian — not Czech, there’s a huge difference — Pilsener,” Gerard explains. One of the Osbornes, deep into a criticism of the latest government bailout, stops pointing his index finger at his brother long enough to say, “That’s what we want to see, Junior. Pounding some fine eastern-European swill. We’ll make a man out of you yet.”

Henry raises the bottle in a toast. They had taken to calling him Junior, or Kid, or H. After two years he is still the plebe, the pledging frat boy. He has remained the disciple and they the wise elders, the savvy veterans of the mysteries of suburbia, marriage, fatherhood and the sub-prime lending fiasco. They played every aspect of their hazing, mentoring roles to perfection he thought, except the part about the actual dispensing of wisdom, the leading by example, or the solving of even the smallest problem.

LeBlanc asks Victor Chan for more details about his swollen and blackened left eye. “Happened at Kenny’s T-ball game.” Chan looks away from LeBlanc, hoping that this is description enough.

“What,” shouts Gerard, “did you get clipped with a line drive by a toddler on steroids?”

“Or did one of the parents clock you?” Henry offers with a laugh.

Chan turns and stares at Henry. “Well, actually, yes,” he says, as if Henry is the one who had done the sucker punching.

“What happened, V-Chan?” asks Marcus. “This is T-ball, correct?”

“Yeah. There was this little kid, this little prick, actually, who started mouthing off to the first basemen, a nice kid twice the size of the other kid. The first baseman didn’t do anything, except catch the throw that sealed the other kid’s fate. I thought they were playing but the little brat began throwing punches. Soon the big kid had him on the ground. I ran over and started pulling them apart and the next thing I know this other father, the little kid’s father, grabs my shoulder, spins me around and clocks me.”

Gerard approaches from the grills, brandishing tongs, a long grease-slick fork from which dangles a piece of charred grizzle. “Holy shit, Victor, what’d you do?”

“What I did is fall down, Gerard. You think I know kung fu or something just because I’m Chinese?”

“You didn’t hit him?” Gerard is shocked. “I would’ve…”

“I would’ve sued him,” says Osborne the First.

“Further destroying our overly litigious society,” counters Osborne the Second.

“I did nothing. It wasn’t even my son in the fight. My son who, by the way, won’t even talk to me because I walked away.”

“You have to redeem yourself,” Gerard insists. “You must bust that dude right in the nose, Victor Chan, for your dignity, your son’s future and the integrity of our national pastime.”

“Did he at least apologize?” Henry asks. “Have you seen him since?”

“No. We have a game tomorrow. I feel sick just thinking about it.”

They grimace as one as the testosterone is sucked out of their manspace. No one speaks for a while. Clearly this tale of passive non-violence at, of all things, a sporting event, has been a Level One Meat Night buzz kill.

“Well,” Gerard finally declares. “That’s just weak, V-Chan. Effin’ pathetic.” Victor doesn’t respond as Gerard heads back inside. A few moments later Green Day’s “American Idiot” comes through the exterior wall-mounted speakers. Marcus LeBlanc starts jerking his head to the music. The Osborne brothers finger-jab to the beat. Henry is fairly sure that none of them know what’s playing, what it’s saying. What’s important to them is that, even though it was released more than six years ago, it sounds younger than they are and that, at least amongst themselves, they are getting away with co-opting it.

Gerard reappears and turns to Henry. “Too loud?” he asks, but what he means is, “Too much of a reach?”

Henry shakes his head and gives Gerard two rocking thumbs up. Meanwhile, Victor Chan seems to have collected himself after his tale of T-ball terror and is proudly removing the contents of the traveling martini kit he received for his 40th birthday. Not especially macho, Henry thinks, as Victor reassembles then begins to measure and pour and shake. But there is hard liquor involved, in this case a Polish vodka distilled from a particular type of wheat or something (Henry had lost interest after the words “distilled from”), and it does provide the others with the opportunity to point out Chan’s numerous tactical errors. Henry takes a long drink of a beer (English Porter) that he doesn’t remember opening and closes his eyes.

“That rude son of a bitch.”

Henry opens his eyes. It’s Victor Chan. “Who?”

“Gerard. The man’s man. If you only knew.”

Henry knows he’s supposed to follow up Chan’s tease but he doesn’t. Doesn’t care.

Rachel wasn’t the only one doing research.

He told her about the man who’d gotten one yet his wife got pregnant anyway a month later. Then he told her about the guy at work whose wife had him get one even though she’d secretly had her tubes tied after a C-section. When the man found out, after it was too late, his wife said she didn’t want him to go running off and having kids with some bimbo and watering down her children’s estate. “But can’t I still get it reversed?” the soon-to-be cuckolded man had asked her. “Nope,” his wife said. “Yours is irreversible. We got you the permanent snip.”

At the end of the story, Henry asked Rachel, “Do you want mine to be permanent?”

“No,” she said. “I just want it to work.”

Six weeks after the procedure date he’s still haunted by dreams of phallic mutilation, is still reminded of it in the quotidian images of his daily routines. So it’s understandable that watching Gerard take a Ginsu knife to a heat-plumped kielbasa and his own sizzling Kobe beef dog, is something his eyes cannot abide. Instead he looks away, drinks his martini and manages to listen to the Osbornes argue long enough to discern that they’ve changed their topic from the auto industry bailout to water boarding.

Soon after Victor gets up to make another batch of sub-par martinis, Marcus pulls a chair alongside Henry. Marcus is drinking seltzer. He says it is because he is on antibiotics for Lyme Disease but they all know it’s because Marcus is on anti-depressants. Marcus’s wife, who is white, had told the other men’s wives, including Rachel, after their Firefighter’s Workout class that Marcus is depressed over his diminished blackness in white suburbia. But Henry and the men at the round table of meat know that the real cause of Marcus’s depression is because his wife has been cheating on him with a man who has significantly more ghetto in him than Marcus. They know because Marcus confessed to them two months ago after being overserved on Small Batch Bourbon and Rawbar Night.

Marcus tried to win her back. He gave up golf, khakis and, for a while, the Protestant church. He tried cooking soul food, watching BET, Samuel L. Jackson films and listening to old school hip hop. He tried to alter his diction and even attempted to cultivate a genuine resentment of the Man. But none of it worked, he told them, because he was the Man. Born and raised in white suburbia. Soccer coach. Church-goer. Occasional cardigan-wearer. What he realized, or what couples counseling helped him realize, just before his wife abandoned him and his two daughters and moved in with a man in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn for five weeks, is that she had a thing for dangerous black men and Marcus in retrospect, was way too white.

The Brooklyn experiment a failure, they are currently living under the same roof, trying to make a go of it for the sake, they say, of the children.

“Mister Tuhoe.”

“Monsieur LeBlanc.” Henry smiles. He likes Marcus LeBlanc. On occasion they’ve actually had some decent conversations.

“How goes it at work?”

But apparently not today. And yet –though he hates talking about work while he’s away from work, primarily because talking about what he does for a living (which in itself is a depressingly accurate phrase) angers, humiliates and frustrates him — here he is finishing up Polish specialty wheat martini number two and beginning to tell Marcus LeBlanc about his day.

About how goes it. How went it. About working hard or hardly working. About everything.

At first he hadn’t noticed but now he sees that they’ve all stopped what they were doing – Gerard (cooking), the Osborne’s (ranting: Presidential citizenship), Victor Chan (fretting) – and, smelling the blood of genuine emotion, the scent of angst other than their own, have gathered closer to revel in his tale. He tells them about the morning gravestones, the fainting woman and Giffler’s ambiguous ultimatum. He tells them about Norman from the gym, the geriatric lurker in the locker room and Warren’s Bangalorian reverse outsourcing ambitions. He even tells them about Meredith, his big boob web star admin, though he refuses to reveal her name, real or porno.

Mid-tale, Victor refills Henry’s martini glass and Gerard gets him another beer (Hefeweisen, Germany). Moving back and forth through time, pausing for dramatic effect and occasionally standing to pantomime an event, Henry tells them that he fell into an entry-level job at his current company after graduating college and never did like it. He tells them that he probably would have left the job long ago if he had the slightest clue about what he’d like to do, about what gives him satisfaction or pleasure. He tells them that he’s probably being transferred, or expatrio-sourced is the name he invents on the spot, to what he’s being told is a customer service satellite for newly acquired water division, even though he has little call center knowledge and none of the bottled water industry, and that he’d probably have to travel quite a bit, probably to a third world type place – India, China, South America – and that it troubles him deeply because, as they know, he hates flying and has a bit of a germ phobia.

When he’s done he feels spent, but in some ways better for having told them, for having told anyone, and they certainly seemed to be eating it up, to be moved by his story, the tale of a man with whom they are sort of familiar, in actual conflict. Indeed, here was a chance for all of them to know Henry better – to know any human being better — and it seemed, Henry thought, to have registered with them on some deeper, more visceral and pure emotional level, to have transformed the banal dynamic, to have brought all of them a little closer toward having more meaningful, truer relationships. To signal to them that his tale is now done, that he’s ready for a little Q&A session if they’re interested, Henry pushes aside the martini and takes a long drink of the Hefeweisen.

Gerard, (Of course it would be Gerard, Henry thinks. Gerard the wise. Gerard the caring.) steps forward. He has a dripping piece of ostrich meat on a barbeque fork in one hand, a Trappist ale in the other. Gerard the shaman. “Tell me,” Gerard says with the warmth of an uncle, the gravitas of a trusted advisor. “Tell me more about this porn-whore secretary of yours.”

“Yeah,” says Marcus. “Exactly how big are that chick’s funbags?”

There is a condition that occurs among a small number of men known as a Post Vasectomy Pain Syndrome (PVPS). Symptoms include a dull ache in the testicle beginning immediately or months or even years after the procedure. It may resolve on its own or require another surgery. In some cases the patient experiences psychological depression seemingly unrelated to the vasectomy. –Vasectomy.com

The meat is paraded across the patio like May Day missiles past a Kremlin reviewing stand. Kielbasa, Italian sausage, veal chops, ostrich strips, T-bone steak, Gerard’s tender brisket and Henry’s Kobe beef hot dogs. Henry takes some of everything and a second helping of the ostrich – not because he likes the way it tastes, but because it’s giving him a rarely experienced sort of primal pleasure, eating ostrich. “I never liked ostriches anyway,” he announces, spearing another piece off the main platter.

“Better get used to eating weirdness, the places you’re going,” says Osborne the second, and for a moment his brother laughs before catching himself.

“That’s the thing, and I told you guys this,” Henry says, gesturing with his martini glass, which is impossible to do sober let alone buzzed without spillage. “I am not going to goddam China, India, anywhere that requires the administering of shots or the crossing of an ocean, dateline or border.”

“So you’re not ruling out Mexico, then,” says conservative Osborne, winking at his soft-on-immigration brother.

“No way. I’d rather take a job in the mailroom of another soulless mega- conglomerate. I like my life right here. In quiet, vanilla, American suburbia with easy access to New York City restaurants and the occasional Disney-fied theatrical production, just fine.”

“So, what does Rachel make of all this?” asks Marcus, but the way they all lean forward to hear the answer, it’s clearly a group question. “What does she think of the ultimatum, of them wanting you to drop everything and relocate to the other side of the world?”

Henry rubs his face, and drags his fingers through his hair. “Well, that’s the thing. When I got home this afternoon she was on the phone, a conference call, and I had to get the meat, the veal – viva la Veal! — so, you know, it had to wait.”

“You’re gonna tell her when you get home then?” Gerard asks on behalf of the group. Gerard the snoop. Gerard the girlyman. Gerard the cuckold.

Henry raises his glass, finishes the final half of his third martini. Or is it his fourth? Something buzzes in his head and he feels a little sick. The dull ache in his groin has spread up into his abdomen, his chest, his brain. “Tonight?…I think not,” he says, before unleashing a magnificent belch. “For a light-drinking semi-vegetarian I’m not doing bad tonight, eh fellas?”

Victor Chan leans back and shakes his head. Marcus LeBlanc folds his arms. One Osborne gives him a thumbs-up. The other a thumbs-down. Gerard Fundle stands and whistles the universal melody of “Oh boy, are you in some deep shit.”

As directed by his urologist, he stopped taking aspirin two weeks prior to the procedure date because it thins the blood, increases the risk of bleeding. For three nights before the date he thoroughly scrubbed his scrotum with an anti-bacterial wash to reduce the probability of infection. Although not essential, it was recommended that he shave from the base of the penis down to the front of the scrotum. Just to be sure, Henry shaved everything from his navel to his inner thighs. In those final weeks he made a point of keeping Rachel appraised of everything, to demonstrate that he was on board with the idea, that he had embraced it.

In those final weeks he also started to masturbate more often. Much more often. With urgency. With abandon. Indiscriminately. At first, maybe once a day in the shower, or in bed during a middle of the night anxiety attack fused with an erotic dream. Sometimes he’d do it to downloaded porn on his home computer or old school-style with a discreetly archived Playboy or Victoria’s Secret catalog. But with each passing day he stepped up the intensity and frequency of his self-pleasuring, while conversely broadening the standards of what he found arousing enough to make him reach for the Nivea.

In the final days this included not just the conjuring of fantasies traditional and kinky or the watching of porn downloaded or purchased, but also the absorption of whatever sexual nutrients he could extract from sources as diverse as late night basic cable erotica to a Scarlett Johannsen appearance on “Conan” to a scantily clad cartoon heroine in a graphic novel to, disturbingly, on more than one occasion, the late morning giggles and cleavage of the prize girls on Game Show Network reruns of “The Price is Right”.

Come on down.

The way Henry had begun to see it, he and his penis had been given six weeks to live, and short of committing adultery, having sex with his wife, or fantasizing about Meredith, AKA EEEEva EEEEnormous (which for some reason he had always declared off limits), they were going to make the most of every remaining sperm-laden salvo.

Henry thinks he hears children but he’s still sober enough to remember that Gerard’s children are not home. Now he hears a splash, followed by more youthful laughter. Must be the neighbor’s kids in their crystal-clear, perfectly balanced pool, he thinks, and not a malevolent hallucination. A few months ago he might have let himself slip into sentimentality about children, or his and Rachel’s lack of them, but as he listens he feels nothing of the kind. Rather than coveting children, or resenting them or, if Rachel had been around, trying to pretend they’re not there, he feels only happiness for them, and instead of wishing they’d be quiet, he finds himself wishing that he was one of them again, splashing about in midweek, midsummer, preadolescent twilight with nothing on the agenda for tomorrow except a lot more of the same. Of course, he realizes, the primary reason that he feels this way is because he is drunk, his formerly pure system churning with the chemicals of four or more 100-proof vodka martinis, five different kinds of imported beer and the flesh of six different animals.

The tiki torches are lighted. Gerard is in the kitchen Saran-wrapping the un-devoured meat. Victor, Marcus and Henry are talking music but although he recognizes the names – Springsteen, Clapton, even Kiss for Christ sake – the artists seems to Henry as if they had come not just from another generation, but another species. As they continue to talk his mind wanders again, this time to the Upper West Side. To images of people his age doing the exact opposite of what he’s doing now. People who would rather be on the menu at Meat Night than attend it. It’s gotten to the point where even the sorriest New Yorkers with whom he works seem to have more exciting lives than his. They tell him about the Hal Hartley movie they saw the night before at the Angelika, the installation at Emergency Arts in Chelsea, or the next killer band he’s never heard of in Williamsburg. Up here the Cineplex’s are filled with talking animals and incendiary spectacle. White-haired women in museums that close at five champion the art. And the music scene is a guy with a guitar named Joey doing covers for the after dinner crowd at the Lakeside Bar & Grill.

In the city, even the people with kids seem to lead much more interesting lives. Henry lowers his face and rubs his eyes, as if his fingertips are erasers. But before the scene around him can be wiped away he hears one Osborne tell the other that he’s “An effin A-hole.” Then Henry hears the anti-war, pacifist Osborne’s martini splash against the pro-war Osborne’s face. By the time Henry opens his eyes they’re lunging out of their chairs, bull rushing each other. Henry is knocked back against the table. A beer bottle (Magic Hat #9, Vermont) smashes on the bluestone. The others quickly descend upon them and begin prying the pacifist’s hands from his brother’s neck.

Everyone except Henry. Still seated, all that he can manage is to say, “Hey. Guys. Not cool. Not effing (when did I start saying effing?) cool.” Which he does not say with a great deal of emphasis because part of him wouldn’t mind seeing the brothers fight to the death with steak knives and shish kebob spears. Once separated, they quickly give up the fight and within seconds they start feeling foolish. They apologize to Gerard and the group, and then to each other. After they clean up the broken glass together, the fighting Osborne brothers apologize all over again and then say their goodbyes and leave together, because they have to. Tonight is John’s turn to be Eric’s designated driver.

After the Osbornes leave, the remaining four make a game of trying to remember what topic had sent the brothers over the edge. Marcus thinks it was executive bonuses for government bailouts, combined with the more disturbing aspects of Henry’s just told whopper. Victor thinks it was gay marriage. But Gerard and Marcus eventually determine that the topic that had driven the brothers to violence, the last of their many subjects was, appropriately, the obscure House Bill 5991 (A resolution to Prohibit the injection of carbon monoxide in meat products).

“Whatever that is,” says Marcus.

“I think,” Henry offers, “I think that House Bill 5591 has to do with protecting the individual’s, or group of individuals’ inalienable right to completely fuck up an otherwise tedious social gathering.” The other three almost begin to laugh and then realize they shouldn’t.

Gerard lowers his head and wipes his hand on his apron. For a few moments the men on the patio are silent and it looks like the night might be coming to a close. A ridiculous near fistfight between brothers and an increasingly obnoxious young maverick who can’t handle his liquor seem like good enough reasons, but Gerard decides to let Henry’s comment pass. Gerard the patient. Gerard the lonely. Screw the housewives, Gerard’s the one who’s desperate for companionship, likely to remain alone at his house until his family comes home at the end of the summer. If they decide to come back at all. One of Victor’s compilation CDs –“Chick stuff this hot tech person I work with burned for me,” — has taken over as the soundtrack of their lives. “So, Henry,” Gerard prompts. “What’s with you tonight? What’s on your mind?”

Never taking his gaze off Gerard, Henry rises and walks to the cooler. Henry opens everyone a fresh beer whether they are ready or not. When Victor starts to wave him off he tells him to sit back down, that the night is still young, then proceeds to tell each of them what he really thinks, about life and meat and vasectomies real and falsified, and about everything that’s really on his mind.

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JAMES P. OTHMER is the author of the recently published novel HOLY WATER (Doubleday). An excerpt of his acclaimed first novel, THE FUTURIST (Doubleday, 2006) was published in The Virginia Quarterly Review and was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in Fiction.

His advertising memoir ADLAND: Searching for the Meaning of Life on a Branded Planet (Doubleday 2009) was named a Best Book of 2009 by Fast Company magazine and Hudson Booksellers and is now available as an Anchor Books paperback. His stories, essays, Op-eds and reviews have appeared in Esquire, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Conde Nast Portfolio, The Daily Beast, Virginia Quarterly Review, Forbes.com and NPR.

Othmer has two children and desperately wants to remain an ex-ad man.

9 responses to “Holy Water: An Excerpt”

  1. Nice. Picked this up not long ago but haven’t yet cracked it; went with The Futurist first, figuring that was your first novel (and which I liked a lot), and then I got distracted by Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour and TNB’s own Greg Olear’s Totally Killer.

    So: next up. Because, hey, Y&RNY ftw!

    Really, really looking forward to Adland. Just haven’t figured out where it’s shelved yet. The novels were easier to locate. And I hate asking clerks. I want to find my own books, you know? Probably silly.

    • James P. Othmer says:

      Thanks, Will. Totally Killer is a blast. Where is Adland stacked? Hmmm. Stacked implies there might be more than one copy at an establishment and if there is, please let me know so I can send them a box of taffy. Some shelve it in memoir, others business or pop culture. If at all. Cheers.

  2. dwoz says:

    My dear James;

    Are you intimating that you changed the working title of your book from “Lemmings, emasculated” on the advice of your editor?

  3. […] The Nervous Breakdown excerpts from James P. Othmer’s new novel, Holy Water. […]

  4. A bunch of very nice lines in here, James. I think my favorite was the calendar marking days in which the little boy doesn’t bite. This has a sort of Richard Ford feel, except Mahopac instead of CT. Just guessing there. And, of course, Green Day comes on. That album in particular. I didn’t realize until that sentence that I’d been expecting it all along.

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