The High Table by Bonnie Carasso

Oh, my god, they keep blathering on about politics, PX workouts, and fractious women’s fractious parts, these dogmatists, pontificating on high stools, blathering about lives beneath their own. These greying, fit, ungentle men dress each day in sports clothes and big black watches, their lavish sneakers only slightly worn. Groomed and tooth-capped, these infuriating men exhibit year-round tans in tank tops, even in the cold, when their jutting jaws and nipples are as uncomfortable to be around as their braggadocio.

Today a young pup has joined them. He is everything they think they are and aspire to be, if only time was an element they could stretch like their lycra bike shorts. They circle the unsuspecting son, who name-drops his military service, while he props hard, flexed arms on the table, and leans in to accept the adulation he is learning to expect. Their strategy is subtle, an inculcation he will never notice, until he tries to love another and discovers nothing but an unflexed muscle where his heart should be, beneath a hardcore shell of expectation that will never be met by anything outside the silver-plated perimeter of his own reflection.