An hour later, Johnny Hazzard has drunk two pints of beer and nobody has uttered the dreaded two letters – I and D. In fact, the barman came to the table, collected the empty glasses, and Johnny smiled, making eye contact for what felt like eternity but was probably more like half a second. Without ever delving into deep and emotional territory, he and Lydia talk about matters familial. As ever, the beer gives Johnny a woozy feeling in the head and a leaky feeling in the bladder. On his third visit to the toilet this evening, he is engaged in conversation by the man standing next to him at the urinal. Johnny Hazzard isn’t so good at peeing when somebody is standing right next to him, not since seventh grade, in fact. But it’s even harder when that somebody begins idle chit-chat.

“Bloody jukebox ate my money!” exclaims the peeing man.

Johnny smiles, hands still on dick, pee still in bladder.

“What song did you want?”

“I have absolutely no idea.”

Johnny now laughs politely. Pee chat sucks, he thinks.

The peeing man finishes his business and goes to wash his hands.

“Be warned. That jukebox sucks eggs.”

And he’s off. Johnny Hazzard closes his eyes briefly, thankful no one is around, ready to pee. Head woozy, shoulders relaxed, pee on way from bladder to urinal, so of course Sod’s Law dictates that a burly man walks in and stands right next to him. Giving up hope, Johnny dives into the cubicle. The light does not work, and there is toilet paper all over the floor. Johnny cannot see where he is peeing, but the noise does not bode well. He flushes, washes his hands, checks his clothes and face (fine, just fine) and returns to the bar. Lydia is engaged in conversation.

“No way, that’s not describing me at all,” she is saying. A small crowd has gathered around the older sister. Two guys and two girls, obviously students, appear animated and happy-faced. Johnny is feeling gently merry. He doesn’t want any more beer, which is just as well, as it would probably mean asking at the bar. That’s a step into a great unknown, and Johnny isn’t ready to make it a known unknown just yet.

“Ask my brother,” she says.

“Ask me what?” he says, returning to the woeful stool.

“Gung-ho,” says one of the student girls, lanky and with jet black hair.

“She said gung-ho would be the best way of describing Texans,” explains Lydia.

“That’s kinda true.”

The students cheer, smiling at Lydia, who can’t believe her brother has been quite so disloyal.

“No, I mean listen,” starts Johnny, getting into his stride. “Some Texans are assholes, but we don’t all go round with guns, you know. Like, we’re not Republicans. And we’re not cowboys, before you ask.”

Lydia feels slightly prouder.

“Most of them are though, right?” says one of the student boys (awkward posture, green T-shirt, chewing gum).

“Yeah, but it’s like he says. Not everyone’s an asshole. Least not in Austin,” says Lydia.

“Back home, some people call our family commies,” says Johnny.

“How very tolerant,” says the lanky one with jet black hair.

Lanky jet-black’s friend, equally lanky but with a short blond bob, joins in:

“Well, I’m not dissing you, but Texas has the highest death penalty rate in the States, right? That’s a big deal. And racism….” She’s slurring slightly.

“Yeah, but what’s that got to do with us?”

“Well, you’re Texans,” says equally lanky with a short blonde bob.

“Yeah, we’re Texans. Y’all are English, should we blame you for the shitty weather?” asks Johnny, geared up for a fun-fight.

“That’s totally different. How old are you anyway?” asks lanky jet-black.

“I hate the death penalty, by the way. And what about the British in America? It was hardly a happy time,” says Johnny.

The silent-one-until-now speaks up:

“The man is right.”

Johnny Hazzard likes him. He is very, very rarely a “man” to anybody. The silent one continues :

“He’s hardly responsible for all the problems in Texas…”

“I wasn’t blaming you guys, I was just saying, America needs to take a look at itself. D’you know what I mean?” says the equally lanky with short blonde bob.

“I think so too. I’m telling y’all, we agree on this,” says Lydia.

Johnny is relishing the interaction with people outside of his family. He has never spoken to non-Americans about their views on America. Even if this is not precisely the sort of conversation he is used to having in Austin, he’s enjoying being on the other side of the fence for once.

“So how long you guys known each other?” Johnny Hazzard asks his sister.

“I just met them,” she replies.

“Oh. Well, I guess us Texans are kinda friendly, don’t you think?”

Nobody has an answer to that.

“Can I get you guys a drink?” asks the ill-at-ease guy.

“No, I’m alright, thanks,” says Johnny. Lydia asks for a cola.

The student group back off slightly. Lydia turns to her brother.

“This same shit happened last year. It gets so boring.”

“They were okay,” says Johnny, actually very excited at having met some new faces.

“Yeah, they were okay but…I dunno. People say things. Things they shouldn’t say.”

“Like what?”

“What do you think? They got a problem with us.”