Corey’s bar was the fulfillment of a dream. The day his sign – Corey’s Pub– went up, he shed a tear or two. He fussed over every detail, from the coasters to the bartender’s bow tie, wanting it all to be perfect. The one thing he couldn’t control, however, was his neighbor. The headquarters of the Church of Synchronicity was right next door.
“Those people don’t drink, you know,” he said darkly. “That might be a problem.”
But he’d gotten a steal on the rent so he went ahead despite his misgivings. Characteristically, he initiated the hostilities once he was settled.
“That so-called church is nothing but a cult,” he’d say to anyone who’d listen. “Just because they’ve got money and powerful members, they think they can rule the world. Well, they are not going to rule me!”
“What have they ever done to you?” I asked.
“It’s their power and the way everything they do has to be such a big secret. The members are like prisoners. Some of ‘em look like zombies. You should see the poor slobs that have to clean the kennels. I think they’re being punished for something.”
The kennels were an especially touchy point with Corey. The captive hounds were situated right behind his building and the baying drove him mad. He’d scream out the back door, “Shut up, shut up!” causing even more chaos. “Why does a church need tracking dogs?” he’d ask, a rhetorical question which he’d immediately answer himself.
His customers shuffled uneasily when Corey got going. “You’re driving business away,” I warned him. “People come in here to relax, not listen to you rant.”
He did try to talk less about the Cult Next Door, as he called them, but he started doing stupid things like posting derogatory comments on Facebook and Twitter.
“Don’t poke the bear,” I kept telling him. “Live and let live.” But he couldn’t hear me.
Rumor had it that a certain Very Important Movie Star was building an apartment on the top two floors of the church’s building. Work trucks filled the street, often blocking traffic. Corey was beside himself because his customers couldn’t get through. He looked for an opportunity for revenge. When one of the contractors stopped by one day, Corey made sure the drinks were strong and plentiful. Before long the guy was spilling all kinds of inside information, and Corey was egging him on.
“It’s got six bedrooms and each of ‘em has its own marble bathroom. There are servants’ quarters for the live-in help. The kitchen – you wouldn’t believe the finishes in that kitchen, and the cook will be the only one who sees it.”
“I’ll bet it isn’t near as fancy as you say,” Corey said, goading the guy.
“Yeah? You don’t believe me? C’mon, I’ve got the key, I’ll show you.”
Corey not only went on the sight-seeing tour, he snapped a lot of pictures with his cell phone. His guide was too plastered to notice, but everybody noticed when those pictures went viral on social media.
“What are you thinking?” I asked him. “You cost that man his job and invaded the privacy of a celebrity who has all the money in the world. You think you’re going to get away with it?”
“What can they do?” he laughed. “I just gave them some free publicity, that’s all.”
“They’ll run you off. They’ve got the cash to do it.”
“I’d never sell to them, no matter how much they offered.” Corey slammed his fist on the bar for emphasis. “They can’t make me move.”
But, of course, they could. The entire building in which his bar was located was sold – yep, to the Cult Next Door. In record time, he got an eviction notice. He had thirty days to get out.
“I’m ruined,” he moaned, head in hands. “I’ll never find another place I can afford. They’ve finished me off.”
Corey was so miserable I have to admit I avoided him for a while. I’d heard stories that he’d lost his house and was couch-surfing with friends, so I was pleasantly surprised by his appearance when I ran into him on the street a couple months later. I’d never seen him look as well-groomed – dark slacks, pristine white shirt and polished shoes. He’d gotten a haircut and the beard was gone.
“You’re looking good,” I said. “Has your situation improved?”
“Oh, yeah. Never felt better in my life.”
“Did you find a place to relocate the bar?”
“The bar? That was yesterday; I wouldn’t peddle that poison today. I’ve got a lifetime of brand-new tomorrows now.”
That didn’t sound like Corey at all. “What gives?” I asked in alarm.
He beamed at me radiantly. “I was completely, totally wrong about the Church of Synchronicity.”
I waited to hear more, but his phone beeped a reminder. “Oops, gotta run. I’ve got a mind-melding class, and then it’s my turn to clean the kennels.”