An expression used to describe an activity typically done in secret, in a hidden place. Probably a socially unacceptable thing. Like the kinds of things children do with their friends, beyond the watchful eyes of their parents.

It was late in the morning, and the streets were empty as everyone else was off at work. My girlfriend and I had skipped breakfast in our haste as we set off for a road trip. Our hunger caught up with us along the way, so we stopped at a grocery store to buy some snacks.

After an older man in line requested a pack of cigarettes, his face contorted with shame. He looked at us, embarassed, and expressed his hope that we weren't smokers. He also apologized for setting a bad example for young people such as ourselves.

And then, seemingly out of context, he said, "In my day..." (Yes, just like the grumpy old man from Saturday Night Live.) "In my day, smoking was a behind the barn sort of thing."

It was fairly unremarkable, even for a barn. It bore no rustic art proudly on its face, sheltered no Silver Shadow forgot for an age under a simple drop cloth. It may have been remarkable, in another time, in another place; as it was, one of hundreds dotted around midtown... Its lack of any redeeming characteristic had very little to do with the 37-story school scraping the sky next door.

"Two years of this shit and they are still making improvements. I thought it was a joke at first." He shook off his dainty, yellow umbrella as he stepped into the shelter offered by the back of the barn. For once, the wind was on their side. "This is never going to end is it?" This, too, went uncommented upon by the other two men present, neither entirely sure to whom it was addressed.

Richard Wilson stomped over to the barrel and slammed his briefcase down on top of it. "Oh, sure, it's easy for you. You got to be one of the Masters of the Universe." His disgust with the situation was apparently, entirely unrelieved by the cheery red, foam bulb affixed to his nose. The older man chuckled as he trudged over to the barrel, whether in sympathy or honest amusement was not apparent.

The suspicion that it was indeed amusement only served to further ruffle the young man's feathers. "I'm serious! This is just ridiculous. Those stupid hippies would be living in abject squalor if it weren't for us! We are the ones who keep it all going..." he trailed off, sneaking a furtive glance over his shoulder at the third man, standing unobtrusively several feet away. He merely winked in reply, he'd heard a deal worse on duty back here.

"Aww, cheer up Wilson. Heard what they're doing to 'em in California?"

Wilson was not mollified, the third's indifference seemed to embolden him, "California! What about right here?! You know they are trucking in manure now? As if the hay isn't enough, the attire and the stares one must endure heading to work or to a meeting... Now we have to work next to a pile of shit? It isn't right."

The older man frowned slightly, seeming to focus on straightening his already impeccably placed tie. His, neon green, polka-dotted tie, flared out to more than a foot wide near his thighs before it came to a point near his knees. It was, however, perfectly aligned.

"Oh, but it is - right, I mean. That is what the Mandate means. They won, by a lot. They determine reality now." The older man stared off for a moment, reviewing in his mind the changes that simple phrase had prompted. "At least we got to keep our jobs. We were all very nearly Retrained you know."

"'Retrained,'" Wilson spat. "For all of this," he gestured at himself "I'd still rather be here than anywhere else. Yeah, the economy is 'great,' everyone is doing what they love, blah blah. It might not be what it used to be but it's still the best game for me."

Wilson busied himself with something in his briefcase, occasionally glancing out at passers-by, only to look back down in unintended shame when one returned the glance. "I passed three Pot Carts on the way here, Jacob. Three! in the space of four blocks. It isn't even 10:00 am yet! And all the while people are looking down on me."

Jacob mused, "It isn't all bad. The air is already a sight cleaner, I haven't had an asthma attack in more than a year. Just last week I saw kids swimming in the Hudson!"

"The Hudson!" barked Wilson. "Who cares about the Hudson? They tore up the asphalt and replaced it with grass, all my favorite fast food joints are gone, the best clubs... yeah, okay, there are plusses," Wilson conceded glumly.

Jacob nodded, pleased, as he moved to retrieve his own briefcase. He cleared his throat and continued, "It'll work out for us yet, I imagine. They'll tire of the joke, regulations will be seen to be effective and eventually we'll get to go back to business as usual. Speaking of which, you ready to get this deal done?"

Wilson nodded, ready to move to more comfortable territory, "We are proposing a straight stock swap, eighty twenty if the price doesn't go above $14. Refer to Schedule C if you are interested in the contingencies. Our people worked it out together, however, so it should be sufficient."

Jacob Cohen and Richard Wilson spent the rest of the morning out 'behind the barn' finalizing the details of the merger, signing the contracts on the barrel thoughtfully provided for just that purpose. The Judge stood by, smoking a twist up, available should any common sense be required - you never knew when these business types got together...

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