CT: And now the latest episode of 'Staff Critic - Mr. Bertrand Falstaff Hein'.

TR: It's HeinEY.


SFX: (scanning items at checkout) Beep, beep-beep... beep.

SB (CLERK): Hi there. Did you find what you were looking for?

TR: Sadly, no. I've been hunting the legendary 2012 Pere Martine Sauvignon Blanc Douro Valley, but I suppose it's a lost cause. It's a deliciously thorny vintage. I believe heat unlocks its secrets. At room temperature, the wine is pleasant enough, redolent of night blooms and Portuguese cinnamon. But cradle the glass in a warm palm and ohhh, the mood darkens! The first light of dawn falls on a pinata filled with serpents. The illuminating warmth loosens the cold knots, heralding the first stirrings of that sinister reptilian macrame, casting long shadows on the birthday ahead.

SB: Right. Okay.

SFX: (more beeping)

SB: Your total is $42.30.

TR: [embarrassed] I have this gift card, my dear. That should cover it.

CT (JAMES): [younger, affable, confident] [low voice as he sidles past on his way to Bertrand] Excuse me for a moment. Excuse me, please... [louder] Bertrand? Bertrand Falstaff Heine?

TR: [withering, dramatic scorn:] James.

CT: I thought that was you, Bertrand! What a wonderful surprise!

SB: You guys know each other?

CT: Oh yes, we go way back. I interned for Bertrand's radio show!

TR: [to the clerk] "Fruits of the Vine." A shimmering moment in the history of AM radio wine review. Snuffed out the day I learned that the show I'd conceived, birthed, cradled and nursed to maturity at my hirsute breast had been torn from my arms and carried away like a flat screen TV at a Black Friday frenzy. This scheming, musky little ferret--


CT: Ahhh, there's that gift for language! Good old Bertrand, ready as ever with a tortured turn of phrase! "Quantity's last stand," eh, Bertie?

TR: It wasn't enough to ruin my show. You renamed it. "Verse of the Vineyard." Slander me if you must, but you have disrespected wine.

CT: Poetry and wine have always been lovers, Bertrand. I simply offered them my couch. [slightly lower voice, changing the subject] Speaking of romance, I see you've picked up the 2014 Chateau Berge de Riviere.

TR: [momentarily thrown off, reflexively shifts into review mode] Yes, it's... a recent discovery, radiant in its own right, unfairly eclipsed by the brighter stars --

CT: (Cutting him off, excitedly) I reviewed that bottle on last week's show. Would you like to hear it?

TR: Noooo, no. No need. I'm sure that--


CT: [launching in, thoughtful, as if all this is just coming to him for the first time]

You remind me
of a wine
your fire
your depth
I can taste
the soil
where you were grown
what's left
on the rim
of my glass
on the tip
of my tongue
you're affordable.

SB: Oh my. That was...beautiful.


CT: You see, Bertrand? Poetry fills the sails of the human heart.

SB: [swooning sigh]

TR: [coldly] Bravo, James. Wind, the perfect metaphor.
In my darkest moments, James, I've imagined you on par with the disastrous 1988 Miralo de Secco Petit Syrah: thick as molasses with telltale signs of early oxidation. But here, now, enduring your rhyme-free noodling, you are an ambulatory wine cooler, cynical and saccharine, carbonated by gasps of your own inadequacy, a beacon to the inexperienced and insecure. I weep for you.

FN (GUY BEHIND THEM): Hey. Maybe you guys wanna take this outside? I'd like to pay for my stuff and get home. Some of us have families.

CT: Of course. I apologize for both of us.

SB: You know, James, was it? Your poem really touched me. I think I'll pick up a bottle when my shift is over. At nine.

CT: [suave, elegant] Only half an hour from now. I'll wait in the parking lot. Au revoir. [louder, to TR:] Goodnight, Bertie!

TR: Stuff it, James. Pardon me.

[SFX: Crinkle of thick paper as Bertrand clutches grocery bag, footsteps as Bertrand departs]


CT: That was 'Staff Critic - Mr. Bertrand Falstaff Hein'.

TR: It's HeinEY