Two in the afternoon is a sleepy time in my Greenwich Village bar. The pudgy man came in, sat down, ordered a Budweiser.
“I gotta get me a new woman,” he says, shaking his head.
“Oh?” I ask, bored. “What happened to the last one?”
“It’s just not working. You know when it’s just not working?”
“Sure,” I say.
He takes a deep sip, alcoholic style. Clears his throat, wipes the foam from his lip. “She’s crazy. We got a son. You wanna see a picture?”
He produces a wrinkled little picture of a wrinkled little human which I pronounce gorgeous.
“I got a car with his name on it,” he says proudly. “Thunderbird. Cost me a lot. Got a big eagle painted on top of it. With a scroll that says ‘Ian.’ Ian’s my little eagle. He used to make sounds like eek eek eek like a baby eagle. So I got that eagle painted for him. I love that kid. But his mother. Jesus. You know she almost killed him?”
I freeze, the towel stopping for a moment on the glassy wooden bar. “Really?”
“She almost had an abortion. I went along with her, thinking she would come to her senses. And when we got there the doctor, he had pictures of all his kids on his desk. And I didn’t think that was fair, you know, that he had all these kids, but he was going to kill my kid. So I told Michelle, Listen, I can’t be here. I’m going outside. And I kept waiting, waiting for her to come out. But she didn’t come out. So I went back in there and this big security guard, he wouldn’t let me through.”
“So I picked up a chair and shook it at him. I was banging on the door, screaming, Michelle, don’t do it! Don’t kill my son! and there were other women there, you know, in the waiting room. They were yelling at me, screaming, She has her right, she has her right. I said, Shut up, you sluts, you trashy bitches, and the security guard was going to shoot me. And I could hear the sirens. But I had the chair. And I said to the security guard, This is going to be the fight of your life, buddy!
I refill his glass. He takes a sip. “Thanks.”
“Well, Michelle came out. She came out and I could see she hadn’t gone through with it. And she went with me to jail. Ninety days I spent in jail. The clinic didn’t want to press charges, didn’t want the publicity. And when I got out, the pro-life groups wanted me to do things for them, but I’m not very smart, you know. I’m a working-class guy. I see something I can’t just hold a sign, do interviews. I gotta start bustin’ heads. Then I’m going to be in jail. and I can’t raise my own son then. That’s why I told them I’m not prof-life. I’m pro-Ian.”
He smiles. I smile. “Well, I gotta get back to work,” he says. “Thanks for the beer.”
The only other guy in the bar looks up from his trashy paper. “How can you listen to a nut like that, being a woman?” he says. “How can you serve a nut like that?”
I smile at the paper-reading man, put the nut’s dollar safely in my tip jar. “Oh, you know,” I say. “I’ve heard worse.”