Scranton Values: A Short Story

With flushed faces shimmering beneath a green neon beer sign, their argument started early and finished late, with punches, of course. Violence lurked just under the skin of any disagreement in most Scranton bars. Yet, this infusion of emotion fueled neighborhood lore and the working-class legacy, stories told and retold over the years with each recitation adding new layers of bullshit.

Brian meant no harm.

They ought to name the street Joe Biden Boulevard, he said.

Kevin flared.

You just called it a street.

Boulevard sounds classier, Brian said.

You can’t even spell boulevard.

Neither can your mother.

A couple of lushes crowding the bar grabbed both men by their shoulders and pulled them apart.

Another lug chimed in.

How about Joe Biden Way?

They already named the intersection up by his childhood home that.

So then why’s he need another street?

City Council’s pushing for the name, not him.

So why should I give two shits?

Because honoring him honors us, Brian said.

He tried to explain.

Joe’s from Scranton. We’re from Scranton. I heard a guy on the news the other night say the whole world is watching us.

But he couldn’t help himself when he turned back to Kevin.

Just like your brother said he used to watch your sister undress before she took her bath after high school cheerleading practice, Brian said.

More drunks again pulled Brian and Kevin apart.

Yet another Einstein piped in.

Avenue is better than boulevard because boulevard is a Black name like Martin Luther King Boulevard.

I never even thought of that, Kevin said.

So what’s Irish?

Street. Like O’Connell Street.

Where’s that, Boston?

It’s in the heart of Ireland.

How about Biden Court?

Like an NBA basketball court? No way, that’s all Black Lives Matter Land.

Joe Biden Highway?

You need to hit the highway, you goof.

Brian glared.

Joe Biden Lane.

Like that cowboy singer Frankie Laine from the 50s who did Mule Train?

You calling Joe Biden an ass?

Duh, like what’s the Democrats’ mascot, donkey face?

Brian got in a punch this time.




The men picked up a frantic pace until the bartender slammed his fist on the bar.

I got it, he said.

The guys waited.

Dead end, he said.