The Visible Filth
Nathan Ballingrud
Contributed by Shemika Thormahlen
Chapter 1
Summary

It is a Tuesday night, and Will is the bartender at Rosie’s bar, working the 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift. He is transfixed on some roaches caught in love and sexual urgency. Their presence here in Louisiana seems like normality although the state of the bar seems to indicate a level of infestation. Alicia and her current boyfriend, Jeffrey, are the only customers in the bar. She is twenty-eight years old, a long-time regular of the establishment, and Will’s best friend. The two lovebirds start complaining about the roaches before they start getting passionate, kissing one another, and with Jeffrey sliding his hand up her leg.

The three are doing shots when some college kids, three girls and two boys, come in and finds a table away from the bar. One of the kids approaches Will with an order for the table, and he enquires about their age. The kid produces an ID confirming that they are twenty-one and above; and although Will doubts him, he serves them anyway. Next, Eric and his buddies come in and spoils the prevailing calm mood; they are drunk and still have beers in their hands. Alicia asks Will about his girlfriend, Carrie, who he says is busy with school work. Jeffrey joins in the conversation and suggests a double date, although Will is not sure if Carrie will manage.

Suddenly a bottle shutters by the pool table and Eric starts fighting one of his friends. He beats up his same person who injures him with the bottle. There is blood everywhere, and one of the college kids asks whether Will has called the police. Not long after, the fighting ends, and Eric — along with his other buddies — walk out. The beaten-up guy also makes a move and disappears into the darkness. The college kids have left too. The police never show up, and Will and the couple try to wipe-up the blood and rearrange the bar after the brawl. During this time, Will finds a yellow phone against the back wall, and puts it in his pocket.  After a job well done, the three drink some shots and raise their glasses in ‘praise’ of New Orleans.

Analysis

Ballingrud begins by talking about the roaches’ love-making and Will’s calmness amid the scene as a way of enforcing the title “The Visible Filth”. The events are simply disgusting and messy. Being a weekday, it is understandable that the number of customers is low, but seemingly too low for a bar. The presence of Alicia and Jeffrey is typical for such establishments as it is common for lovebirds to go for drinks.

The college kids paint the essence of an urban setting where even underage children feel free to engage in different behavior — such as drinking. The discussion about Carrie, Will’s girlfriend, enforces the idea that he and Alicia are best friends, especially when the suggestion for a double date was brought up. Eric and his buddies introduce the issue of bar violence and the impacts of alcoholism; they fight among themselves since excessive drinking often leads to impaired judgment.

Despite having called the police, they fail to show up, which could serve to depict their laziness or the need to attend to other cases of violence throughout the city. Nonetheless, Will, Alicia and Jeffrey stay back, clean-up, and take some alcoholic shots. Not only are they accustomed to such a culture and way of life, they are also comfortable regardless of the violence.

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