One Night in the Town Pub
By Anthony Buccino
My eyes roved the room and settled at a W.C. Fields statuette. ... “Ever wonder why they nail down all the artifacts here? Look, W.C. has big screws through his feet. He ain’t going nowhere.”
TOWN PUB, BLOOMFIELD NJ -- The waiter took three hot, steaming trays from the flat top of the Dutch door and maneuvered his way to the bar. “He’s new here?” I asked.
“No,” my fiancée said, he wasn’t new, that she remembered him. We had been here at the Town Pub about a hundred times before we got engaged outside in the parking lot – and a hundred times since.
The young man had dark hair, a thick neck and his muscles bulged like Harvey Lembeck’s cronies. I wondered aloud if he was a weightlifter, or a football player.
I’ve always found it easier remembering the waitresses than the waiters. My fiancée remembered men, especially well-built college athlete types. Just what she, the English major who wanted to work with brats, saw in me, an out of shape, struggling writer, I still hadn’t figured.
We liked the people who gathered here and even though we didn’t know many names, we still felt as we belonged. The ambiance was always cordial. We didn’t have to be dressed up to come here, but we could be. That was all right. Some people brought their kids. That was okay, too. Besides, the Town Pub was a reliable, inexpensive date.
We sat at our table waiting for our extra cheese pepperoni pizza. We both watched the waiter flex his muscles as he removed the glasses four at a time from the tray.
“So much mass and still so gentle,” she mused. I stirred my drink and then chewed on the swizzle stick. She glared at me. “I wish you would learn not to chew those sticks. You could choke to death,” she said. “Then, who would I marry?”
“I’m being good tonight. Very good.” My eyes roved the room spying the booty and settled at a W.C. Fields statuette. “I’m waiting for our pepperoni pie,” I said. “Ever wonder why they nail down all the artifacts here? Look, W.C. has big screws through his feet. He ain’t going nowhere.”
She faced the statue, then said dryly, “Artifact - good word. Other people at a nearby table cheered a grand slam for the Damn Yankees. “They’d probably walk off if they weren’t nailed down.”
I nodded to agree. Just enough ice, a sip of my drink revealed. I could see W.C. standing on our fireplace saying, ‘Go away, kid, matches bother me.’
She looked at me strangely. “You could always build a fake fireplace like Rich did,” she suggested. “Then all we’d have to do is plug it in and watch the red foil turn in front of the light bulb.”
“Nah. Half the fun of a fireplace is trying to get the fire started. The other half is lugging the logs.” I thought for a second, then added, “I think I feel a poem coming on.”
I took another sip, “What are they doing with our pizza? Making it?”
“C’mon. Ant, we’ve seen the menu hundreds of times. You know it says something about 15 or 20 minutes for a pie. Anyway, how many ovens do you think they have here?”
Her brown hair was long and straight, just a little shorter than mine. “I don’t know anything about their ovens, but I do know that all the clocks in this room tell different times. Look, that one says 7:30, that one says ten o’clock, and I can’t even make out what that one behind the bar says. I guess that’s what they mean by bar time.”
“If you’d just spend $17 to fix your pocket watch, you wouldn’t have to wonder what time it is.”
“I’m saving my money, remember? The white house with the white picket fence, remember? Besides, you never remind me to bring it when we go to the mall.” I glanced again at the Dutch doors for the pizza. “At least my pocket watch is right twice a day. Think about that, Major English.”
“English major, Goofy. Or are you Pluto today? I suppose you picked up that line about the watch in Ann Landers?”
“I think so. You know, good writers borrow, great writers steal.”
“You better steal from somewhere else, Sweetie.” Her face lit up. “Here comes our pizza, move your glass,” she said as I moved my glass. The muscle-bound waiter set down the steaming goo, then walked away.
“He didn’t leave any plates,” she moaned, then tapped the crust with her clear short fingernails. “We could sure use a knife to cut it.” My drooling gave away my hunger. “Just wait a minute, Hon, you know it’s too hot to touch. Get the waiter to give us paper plates, we’ll eat like hicks.”
“He’s too big,” I said. “You tell him.”
“You’ve got to assert yourself,” she ordered.
The waiter was a few tables away. I looked him over. “As soon as I put on fifty pounds of muscle, then I’ll argue with him.” “You can just ask, you don’t have to argue.”
“All right, the next time he comes by, I’ll ask, but only if he’s smiling.”
We slid the hot, hot slices onto our paper plates a few minutes later. “You know,” she said, “you should write a poem about the Town Pub.”
Uh-huh, I nodded. The flesh on my fingertips melted as I tried to fold my slice onto the plate. “You mean, instead of writing creative stuff about the glories of chocolate flavored toothpaste, I could write about how flattered you feel when they proof you on their busy nights? You want me to write a poem about that?”
“No, write about the atmosphere, and their famous roast beef sandwiches.”
“Hmmmm, not a bad idea. I could stand in the parking lot and sell copies to people coming out. Then I could spend all the money on roast beef sandwiches with mayo on those soft, long, Italian rolls - just the way I like ‘em.”
Dollar signs and Town Pub delights paraded as in a vision. “I’ll even sign the books at no extra charge. What do you think about that?”
“Just marvelous, like you. Eat your pizza and shut up.”
“Shut up and eat? That’s impossible.” I took a bite and lost the feeling in the roof of my mouth.
impossible.” She agreed.
First published in The Independent Press of Bloomfield on September 16, 1976.
Reprinted in A Father's Place, an eclectic collection by Anthony Buccino
© 1976, 2023 Anthony Buccino
Essays, photography, military history, more
New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.
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