I toyed with the idea of putting this Pork Pony story in the non-fiction section because this may have been a chapter out of Craig's real life. When I met Craig in 2002, he indeed wore a ponytail, a goatee, and glasses. Does the underground society he speaks about here exist? Only Craig's dopplegangers know for sure. (CL)
Barry stood outside the large wooden door, clutching the newspaper clipping in his hand. He consulted it to be sure he was at the right address and, steeling himself, opened the door and crossed the threshold.
The bar was mostly empty - only a few regulars. At least, Barry imagined they were regulars. He scanned the room and then checked the newspaper clipping again. Spying a staircase in the back, he hastily crossed the room. As he climbed the stairs, he heard two voices in casual conversation.
"Well, once a week I simply don't use shampoo on it," the first voice said.
"Oh, yeah? How does that work?" asked the other voice.
"I've found that it helps keep its body in better shape."
"Really. I'll have to try that."
As Barry reached the top of the stairs, he saw two men - both around his age - at a table with several empty chairs around it. Both of them had half-empty drinks in front of them. He couldn't help but notice that both of them had long hair in ponytails, goatees and glasses - just like him - and that they were both looking at him.
"Can we help you?" said the first man.
Barry hesitated for a moment. He had never been good with strangers.
"Umm, yes," he started, consulting the newspaper clipping. He wanted to get the name exactly right. "Is this the Society of People Who Look Just Like Me?"
The two men exchanged a glance and both rose to greet the new arrival.
"Yes, it is," said the first man. "Come on in. Pull up a chair."
Barry shook both of their hands and then, once they returned to their chairs, warily took a seat, folding the newspaper clipping and putting it in his pocket. There was a long pause while nobody said anything. Finally, the first man turned to the other.
"Well, what do you think?" he asked.
"Might as well start," the other replied.
"Very well," said the first man and rose. "I call this meeting of the Society of People Who Look Just Like Me to order. Roll call."
He took out an attendance sheet and pen. "Gary - here." He put a check mark next to his name. "Larry."
"Here," said the second man.
Gary checked Larry's name and moved on to the next. "Harry." There was a long pause. "No Harry."
"He called me," Larry said. "Unfortunate shaving accident."
Gary scratched out Harry's name. "All right. Larry, please read the minutes of the last meeting."
As he sat, Larry rose, opening a small notebook and reading the last entry.
"At our last meeting, two of our long-standing members resigned. Terry resigned due to the fact that he had to cut his hair for a job interview, and Jerry's new girlfriend forced him to shave off his beard. There were no new recruits."
Larry sat and turned the notebook to a new page, yielding the floor to Gary.
"Thank you, Larry. Now onto new business. New recruit, what is your name?"
"Umm, it's Barry."
"All right. Barry, would you please share with us why you wish to join our Society?"
Barry hesitated, but after a few gestures from the others, he rose to speak.
"Well, I've spent a number of years cultivating what I considered to be a unique look - this look. I started in college and ever since then I've kept it. After a while, though, people started coming up to me and saying things like, 'Hey, you look like one of my brother's friends,' or, 'You look like this guy I knew in college.' Some unique look. Most people I run into know someone who looks just like me. So, the other day I saw this ad in the paper." He pulled out the ad and flashed it. The other two nodded. "So I came here tonight. End of story."
Barry hesitated again, and then sat down.
"Well, we're glad to have you aboard," Gary said. "As you can see, our numbers have been dwindling as of late. In fact, Larry and I are the only two original members of our little society left. So, Barry, do you have any questions?"
"Yes, are there any dues?"
"No, we just ask you to retain your present appearance for as long as you wish to remain a member."
"I think I can handle that. So, we get together once a month and...what?"
Larry stopped writing for a moment to answer him.
"Talk, support one another. You know, just be there when the going gets rough."
"Yeah, ever since Disney started its goatee equals evil campaign, it's been a hard road for us," Gary chimed in. "And the yuppies of the '80s practically drove the ponytail into extinction. But that's a discussion for social time. Now, back to business. Is there any more new business? No? All right, then. I call for an adjournment."
Just then, Larry rose dramatically.
"Wait, I have something to say."
"Yes, what is it, Larry?"
"I have something to confess. I... I've been living a lie."
"No, not you."
"What?" Barry asked, unsure of what was going on.
Slowly, Larry removed his wig, with the ponytail attached. His real hair, while the same color, was quite short in comparison. Gary was livid.
"How long?" he growled, barely controlling his anger.
"Does it really matter?" Larry asked.
Gary's look told him that it did. Larry's eyes fell to the table, unable to meet Gary's. When he spoke, it was in a small voice.
"It was a couple months ago. I decided that I needed a change. But I still liked hanging out with you and the boys - when they were the boys, I mean. So I got the wig and--"
"Get out," Gary said, turning away from him.
Larry finally looked up, his eyes pleading.
"Please, Gary. It'll grow back eventually. Just let me--"
Gary grabbed him by the collar and bellowed at the top of his voice.
Larry sheepishly slinked out. As he descended the stairs, Barry looked at him out of the corner of his eye and saw the saddest man in the whole wide world disappearing from view.
After a few moments, Gary recovered his composure.
"Okay, looks like we need to elect a new secretary," he said, speaking quickly. "I nominate Barry. Does anyone second it?"
"Uhh," said Barry, nervously, "I guess so."
"Right, then. Motion carries. Congratulations." He reached across the table and shook Barry's hand. "Now, if there is no more new business, I call for an adjournment. Second?"
"I second it," Barry said, gaining confidence.
"Thank you. Meeting is adjourned."
Swiftly, Gary slammed his drink down on the table, spilling whatever was left of it. He sat, silently fuming, muttering to himself. Unsure of what to do, Barry started to rise.
"Okay, should I just leave or..."
He trailed off when he noticed that Gary was staring at him.
"Nothing," Gary said, conversationally. "I was just wondering, how long did it take for you to get your goatee so full and dark?"
Barry hesitated, perhaps for the last time, but took his seat when Gary offered it.
"Oh, well, I've been working on this for about six years now. You see, I started with a full beard and then decided to cut it back..."