The almost-husband and I took a stroll along the riverfront and downtown yesterday. We found a place. Not just a place but a joint. The sign said, T-bone special, nine bucks.
The place was Bob’s. Bob’s Steakhouse and Sports Club and Cocktail Lounge, est. 1952. A classy joint with red velvet wallpaper and paneling and a velvet picture of an Indian; a bar lined with drunks, their troubles and their martinis. In the back, by the velvet Indian, stuffed pheasants faced the wall instead of the tables so diners can forget, if only for a moment, that everything, and everyone, dies in life’s cruel cycle.
My almost-husband found a lovely corner table with white paper placemats. We ordered one nine-dollar steak with an extra plate. He ate the iceberg salad while I crossed into the cocktail lounge.
There stood a man in a suit and two-toned Oxford shoes, a cigar tucked between his fingers. He had dark hair, slick like raven feathers, and a clipped voice.
He said, all the gin joints in this town and you walk into mine. Whatcha drinking, sweetheart?
I said, I was hoping to get a drink without eyes on me. You can’t live down a reputation once you’ve lived it up in this one-horse town.
Listen, doll. That’s three-day old fish and I’m not buyin’ it.
In that case, darling, make it a double gin and tonic, hold the tonic.
Barkeep, you heard the lady. Hurry it up or I’ll bust your chops. Listen, doll, girls who don’t drink are afraid of revealing themselves.
We just met and already you know my secrets. How absolutely marvelous.
You’re a writer. A writer filling up pages with lonely.
You got sharp eyes, Big Daddy.
Like an eagle, sweetheart. And a nose, too. I could smell the ink from across the room.
I don’t use a pen, darling. I write with a quill dipped in venom.
Aren’t you a feisty broad. Buckle your seatbelt, baby. We’re goin’ on a ride.
Are you going to light my cigarette or do I to have to beg?
I’ll light your cigarette, baby. And I’ll buy you a steak served on a sizzle plate. With fried potatoes, a salad and dinner roll.
That’d be grand. I’m a girl who likes a mink coat and expensive gin and a good steak. You see, I cover my pain with things, beautiful things.
Baby, times are so bad they can never be made worse.
Light another cigarette for me, Big Daddy. A girl who lights her own cigarette looks like she’s for hire.
I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That’s the one thing I owe her.
Are you calling me beautiful, stranger?
Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. Now shut yer yap and eat your steak. It’s on a sizzle plate.
I left him at the bar next to the flickering Budweiser sign, a lonely man in two-toned Oxfords with a steak, a cigar and nothing to lose.
Thank you, Bob’s Steakhouse and Sports Club and Cocktail Lounge, est. 1952, for that unforgettable night. And thank you, Internet, for the quick lounge dialogue. My venom quill and I are on a deadline, after all.