Monday, December 23, 2019

“The Bob’s Bowery Bar Christmas Miracle”

“Gee, them girls was sumpin,” said Little Joe, the littlest of the five or six guys named Joe who frequented Bob’s Bowery Bar. “They was really sumpin. I ain’t never seen girls like them in here before.”

“And you never will again,” said Seamas McSeamas, the Irish poet. “’Twas an aberration, lad. An errant shifting of the stars and planets.”

“They said they was gonna come back in on Christmas Eve for Bob’s annual Christmas party,” said the guy they called Wine, because all he drank was white port wine and lemon juice.

“Them girls was in their cups when they said that,” leaned in fat Angie, the retired whore who now sold artificial flowers on the street. “They won’t come back in this joint. Them girls was class, my friend – high class.”

“High class they was, Angie,” said Seamas. “Terpsichoreans by profession.”

“You watch your mouth, you drunken Mick,” said Angie. “They was ladies and I ain’t gonna sit here listenin’ to you impugn ‘em.”

“I was not impugning them, dear Angie,” said Seamas. “A terpsichorean you see is a dancer.”

“Then whyn’tcha say that instead of showin’ off with your big words, ya pretentious Paddy bastard ya.”

Seamas could see Bob looking at them from down the bar, so he let it go. No one ever won an argument with Angie, retired whore or not.

“Gee they was swell babes,” said Little Joe. “I sure would like to see ‘em again.”

“Me too,” said Wine. “I wouldn’t try to talk to them or nothing. I just would like to look at them.”

“Me too,” said Little Joe. “I wouldn’t know what to talk to them about anyways.”

“Ladies like that don’t talk to bums like youse guys,” said Angie.

“I realize that, Angie,” said Little Joe. “I’m just sayin’ is all.”

“The Brain talked to them,” said Wine. “I seen ‘em. They was just chatterin’ away with the Brain.”

“The Brain is an educated man,” said Seamas. “A philosopher.”

“He’s a bum,” said Angie.

“That may be true,” said Seamas, “but he is an educated bum if you will, and a philosophical one.”

“A bum,” said Angie.

“He went home with ‘em,” said Wine. “I seen ‘em. Went out the door together.”

“That is because they live in the same building round the corner,” said Seamas.

“They live around here?” said Little Joe.

“Right around the corner,” said Seamas.

“Maybe they will come in then,” said Little Joe. “For the party I mean.”

“Don’t bank on it, baby,” said Angie.

“I’ll tell ya one thing,” said Wine. “I ain’t leavin’ here all night, just in case they do come in.”

“You better take it easy on that white port wine and lemon juice then,” said Angie.

It was only five in the afternoon on Christmas Eve and so the annual Bob’s Bowery Bar Christmas Eve party was hardly in full swing yet, but not only Wine, but Little Joe, and Seamas, and even Angie, they were all determined to stay here all night just in case the two beautiful girls did show up. Of course, they all no doubt would have stayed all night anyway, or for as long as their funds lasted, but now they had a real reason not to go anywhere else, a reason even more important than the desire for drunken oblivion and loud meaningless roistering.

The time passed, and more of the usual crowd rolled in out of the snow falling outside, and at seven Bob and his mom and Janet the waitress laid out the annual free Christmas buffet: pretzels and chips, hard-boiled eggs, hot cross buns, pigs-in-blankets, and three big hotel pans filled with hot roast beef in gravy, hot turkey in gravy, and hot ham in red-eye gravy, with a mountain of kaiser rolls to make sandwiches with. Many of the regulars hadn’t eaten all day in anticipation of the free once-a-year feast, and Bob prevented no one from coming back for more, even Seamas, who ate at least seven sandwiches and no one knew how many hardboiled eggs and pigs-in-a-blanket.

The one regular customer notably missing all night was Gerry “the Brain” Goldsmith, but it was known that Gerry came from a wealthy family, so maybe he was scrounging off them this Christmas Eve; it was possible, if only faintly so.

The hours tumbled loudly by, the bar was packed, but still the two beautiful young ladies had not appeared.

Little Joe actually began to cry into his bock beer.

“They ain’t comin’,” he said. “They ain’t comin’. They ain’t comin’ tonight nor never.”

“Brace up, lad,” said Seamas. “At least you saw them that one night. Try to remember that, and hold tight to the memory in your heart.”

“Just one more time I wanted to see ‘em,” said Wine. “Just once. I wouldna tried to talk to them or nothin’. Honest. I wouldna scared ‘em away. I only just woulda looked.”

“I toldjez they wouldn’t come,” said Angie. “Ladies they was. Real ladies. Sumpin you clowns wouldn’t know about.”

More time roared by in drunkenness and shouted carols, and if anything the bar got even more packed, but then, just as the old Ball railroad clock above the bar clicked midnight, the front door opened, letting in a blast of snow and icy air. As if on command everyone in the bar fell quiet and turned to look. The only sound was Bing Crosby on the juke box, singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”.

At first the swirling snow obscured the man holding the door open, but then everyone could see it was no other than Gerry Goldsmith, known as the Brain, in his same old ancient chesterfield coat and battered grey fedora. Looking outside, he made a gallant waving motion with one arm, and who should walk in like two goddesses out of the Christmas falling snow but the two beautiful young ladies, the blonde called Pat and the brunette named Carlotta. Pat wore a leopard-spotted pillbox hat and Carlotta a snow-dappled red beret. Laughing they entered, and the smiling Brain pushed the door shut against the snowstorm.

“It’s a miracle,” whispered Little Joe.

“A Christmas miracle,” said Seamas.

“Now I know there is a God,” said Wine.

“Ladies,” said Angie. “Real ladies. Smiling at Christmas on the likes of us, and God bless ‘em.”

Well, I’ll be damned, thought Bob, and he decided right then he wasn’t going to charge those girls for a single drink, and, what the hell, the Brain too. 

Because it was a miracle.

A goddam Christmas miracle.

{Kindly click here for the “adult comic book” version in A Flophouse Is not a Home, with art by the fantastic rhoda penmarq.}

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