In eleven seasons, the bar depicted in the television show Cheers was almost never crowded. Almost never was it besieged by a throng of patrons struggling to get their servers’ attention. And I think I can tell you why: Sam Malone. He doesn’t drink. Not only does he never drink, but on top of this he’s a retired ball player, still an athlete in the bedroom. And that hair. And that tan. And that jaw. He is maleness in full. Who could possibly loosen their burdens and their neckties while drinking in the shadow of a bemused and sober phallus? Well, Norm can. And Cliff can. But they are already saturated with self-loathing and distrust. They are inured, insensate. They leave the bar, and the shadow comes with them.
Ben Reed’s work has previously appeared in Big Fiction, [PANK], and West Branch, among other places. His story “My Neighbor the Pilot” recently won the Texas Observer Shorty Story Contest. Ben teaches writing and literature at Texas State University, and he is the fiction editor at Arcadia Press. He lives in Austin with his family, and online at benjamin-reed.com.