So, bin Laden came over. Like he has done in the past, and continues to do from time to time, he just stopped by. Just knocked on the door to see if I was home, asking to hang out.
"Osama," I said. "What a surprise. What's up?"
"Just passing through, dude. Mind if I come in?"
"I'm a . . . I was a little busy, actually. Kind of had my hands full but, ah, yeah, sure."
And the lengthy bin Laden ducked through my archway. The door closed behind him, and without removing his shoes, he stepped into my home, pausing briefly to examine my digs, see what changes I had made since his last visit.
"Place looks good, bud," he said as I went to the kitchen to grab a few beers.
"I would love a Frangelico," he said before I returned. As it happens I did have a spot of the hazelnut liqueur, and I poured him one on the rocks while cracking open a Budweiser for myself.
I returned to bin Laden, libations in hand, to find him looking closely at the pictures upon my living room walls. He examined each for a time, squinting his eyes and massaging his beard, before moving on to the next.
"This your family, eh? It really has been a long time," he said softly, almost to himself, as I handed him his cocktail.
"Yeah, yes that's Margie in the boat there. You two have met, right? At that New Year's thing a while back?"
"Maybe. Such a long night, bud. I may have missed her."
"Sure. Ah, that right there, yeah, that's Danny at the ballpark with me last year, and in the next one that's Susan with me in the same seats."
"You crazy Americans and your sports..."
We grabbed a seat on the couch, and while I really did have lots to do, I was an amiable host, refreshing his beverage, bringing out a bowl of pretzels.
"So, bud, where's the fam' tonight?"
"They're gone. Took a vacation without me. Somebody's got to watch the castle, right?"
"So much responsibility having a family, bud. Remember your single days," bin Laden reflected, wiping a dab of the gooey liqueur from his graying beard.
"I remember those bachelor years well, " he continued. "You were one crazy twist. Staying up late, getting into fights, not a care in the world."
"Yeah, it sure is different now, but to tell you the truth, the lifestyle suits me just fine. Sure, the added responsibilities can be tough to handle sometimes, but I honestly feel I'm a better man now than I was before."
Bin Laden got up to use the restroom, and I stole a look at the clock. He returned quicker than I expected, and caught my glance.
"Getting late for you, bud?"
"No, well, I ah, I really do have some things to get done tonight, but--"
"A game of chess perhaps, eh? Loosen up, it's early."
Knowing where I keep my board, he removed it from a nearby dresser drawer before I could respond. Making himself at home, bin Laden threw his legs up in my recliner, as I organized a series of strong, shiny pieces across the playing surface.
Time passed slowly at first as we moved players over the marble board. Bin Laden, making his way through glass after glass of the syrupy cordial, played with a focused mind and determined eyes, attributes I had come to know and expect over the years. The booze had loosened his tongue, and he was quick to comment on the prowess of his moves and the lacking of mine.
"You haven't been practicing, bud," he taunted. "Getting rusty, eh? You crazy married boys--'All work and no play makes Marwan a dull boy,' as they say. Damn, this is good booze."
I tried to ignore his smack, as his flapping lips began to touch a competitive nerve within me. All I really wanted to do on this night was address a stack of papers that lay on the desk in my study.
Yet, as we played on, as the words continued to flow from the bottle, down the hatch, and through his mouth, I became more player than observer. I took longer to counter his moves, and longer still in deciding my own.
And, with the heightened playing terms, booze began to run steadily on my end as well. I cracked open Bud's with ease, allowing the liquor to ready my stare and enhance my words.
"A known philosopher once spoke," I began, "That, 'You can observe what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to intimidate you.'"
"Now you're talking, bud. That's the guy I know. Stir the pot a little, eh? That's the ticket."
We continued as such until dawn. Bin Laden making quips about my more conservative lifestyle, and myself filling in the gaps with personal shots ranging from his money to his mobility.
"I think a guy with your kind of cash would have settled down by now," I said through my ninth beer. "You know, buy a nice big spread, a gal by your side, a dog at your feet."
"I'm a mover, a shaker, bud. I'm crazy-nuts, you know me. Can't stand still for a minute. Plus, I hate dogs."
With my eyes on our playing surface, my grandfather rang seven bells, causing a sudden break from my playing trance.
"Crap. Is it really seven? Oh man, I gonna' be late for work," I said while running upstairs toward the bedroom. I grabbed the first shirt and tie I saw, and matched them with the previous day's slacks, while running a brush over my teeth, a comb through my hair.
"I'm calling you a cab," I shouted downstairs. "Margie and the kids are coming home late this morning. If she finds you here, she'll be seriously pissed."
When bin Laden didn't respond, I arched my head through the bedroom door to repeat the words, only to find him asleep, stretched in full across my recliner.
I made a hurried, confused call to the cab company, then returned to the bathroom to complete the morning rush job I had begun two minutes prior.
"Man, what the hell are you doing," I said to the reflection in the mirror, my hands fumbling over a series of buttons.
"You're too grown up for this kind of stuff. You've got a family to consider now, a mortgage to cover, two cars to finance. You've got beer on you breath, sleep in your eyes, and a shirt that reaps a horrible injustice on this fine tie. Get your act together."
A car pulled up the drive and honked twice. I ran down the stairs to bin Laden and shook him awake. Drip-drops from the glass in his hand beaded upon his clothes and atop my recliner.
"What? What is it, bud?"
"Get up. Get up, let's go. There a car out front. C'mon now, up we go. Don't make me later than I already am."
"What's the fuss? What about the game?"
"Let's go. Let's go," I repeated as the cabbie released another pair of honks.
He arose slowly, blinking and rubbing his eyes. I led him toward the door, as he stumbled forward, trying to find his bearings.
"What's the fuss, bud? What's the big rush, eh? Where's my drink?"
We reached the door and I left him there for the slightest of moments, running to the kitchen for the bottle of Frangelico.
"Here," I said, forcing the bottle into his hands. "I don't want it, take it. It's yours. You really have to go now."
He untwisted the cap, taking a short swig.
"All grown up, eh bud," he said through smacking morning lips. "When do we finish the game?"
"C'mon, c'mon. I've got loads to do today."
The cab honked a third time and the front door opened, and bin Laden began stumbling down the walk.
"When do we finish the game?," he said again, his voice trailing off as I went to my office and began stuffing a series of paper and files into my briefcase.
I again ran upstairs as the door shut. I heard the car leave the drive as I quickly re-inspected my shirt, my hair, my face.
Moving back downstairs, I fast disposed of the beer bottles and pretzels. I gave the couch and recliner a once over, fluffing the pillows, matting the fabric. I got together my case and my keys, and opened the garage door, before returning to the living room once more, a final check before Margie and the kids got back.
My eyes moving over the chair and the couch and the carpet and coasters, I came to the table, where the playing board sat, pieces standing as evidence of the evening past and morning present.
I set down my case and thought for a moment, time moving seemingly slower now. I picked up the board, aware of the pieces and their respective places, and patiently placed the game into the dresser drawer.
I then went to the car and started the ignition. Making sure to close the garage behind me, I adjusted my tie in the rear view mirror, then drove to work.
Author Note: Therapy comes in many different forms. During times of tragedy, we cling to, and seek comfort in the things we know best, the people we love most. In this time of national mourning we stick to our strengths: singers will sing, carpenters will build, writers will write. My unending sympathies to the families of the victims of the September 11th attack on our country.
© 2001 Judd Spicer. All rights reserved.