The Woodstock Writers Guild met last night. We meet one Wednesday a month at the local pub. The food isn’t very good, but my fellow writers find it difficult to resist $2.50 pints. They quaff cheap beer; I drink diet soda.

I arrive at the pub early to take advantage of Happy Hour. Very frugal. Cheap hot wings are hard to beat. I eat my hot wings and mozzarella sticks and drink my diet soda while reading the latest issues of Smart Money (“10 Things Your Gas Station Won’t Tell You!“) and Business 2.0 (“Blogging for Dollars!“).

My fellow writers filter in. The meeting begins. They quaff their beers. I drink my diet soda. We talk about the craft of writing. The waitress comes by — my friends order more beer; I order another diet soda and a slice of apple pie.

Our discussion is interrupted when Andrew is declared the winner of the pub’s nightly raffle. He wins a t-shirt — a t-shirt with a beer logo. He’s pleased. Cheap beer, cheap hot wings, and a free t-shirt — we’re doing well.

When our critique of the story is finished, we catch up on our personal lives. Rick got married last month. Paul has just begun dating someone new. Josh and his wife are expecting their first child. Andrew and his wife just had their second. I just returned from vacation in San Francisco.

The check arrives, and the monthly ritual of “who owes what” begins. It’s always the same thing: five brilliant guys (seriously — each of us is pretty damn smart) trying to decipher a restaurant tab. It should be child’s play. It’s not. Andrew, in particular, seems to have a hard time. I give him a lot of crap for it — he has a math degree. Once, in a large group, he declared defensively, “You don’t have to explain the math to me!” as someone was trying to tell him about Malthusian population growth.

So there we are, trying to figure out who owes what. Mine is easy. Since I was there first, the top three items are my order. I calculate the total, write it in the corner, and hand over my debit card. I let the other four geniuses dissect the rest of the bill.

The waitress comes and takes it away. We talk some more.

When she returns, the “who gets how much change” ritual begins. There’s a great deal of confusion. The numbers don’t add up. “This is why I paid with a debit card,” I say. I stare absently out the window, savoring the lingering taste of diet soda and apple pie in my mouth.

Apple pie in my mouth.

It occurs to me that perhaps I’ve been a little too smug. While it would be amusing to allow the confusion to continue, my fellow writers are becoming a little cranky. “I think I know where the problem is,” I say. “I forgot to pay for my apple pie.” My five-dollar bill is greeted by a chorus of jeers.

I’ll never be able to live this down.

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