Sunday January 21st 2018

Go Ask Mary …

clipper

Go Ask Mary …
(A Short Story by Andy Bang)

 

It’s crazy hot, my AC is busted and I’m already late for a gig across town. I’m headin’ out to review a punk show at a club I’ve never been to before. I’d say its around 90 degrees and I’m sweatin’ like a pig. It’s one of those days where folks are already uncomfortable and it doesn’t take a whole lot to loose your cool. The roads in downtown Boston really suck and are frustrating with all the one way streets. So naturally I manage to get lost in a maze of side roads. It’s always a bit disconcerting when you start seeing the same scenery over and over again. Finally I realize I’m going around in circles. Sweat is pouring down my face and I have no clue where I am.

I figure it might be best to stop and regroup. There’s a bar at the corner of the street ahead. Hopefully I can either make a phone call or get directions. So I double park in front the bar and head on inside. The bar is called, “The Clipper”, and is medium sized with a few windows. There’s a pool table to one side with a couple of guys playing. A bar is on the other side with a big burly bartender serving a woman and two guys.

I walk over to the guys playing pool and ask them if they’ve heard of the club I’m trying to get to. They both look at each other and shake their heads saying no, but motion towards the bar saying, “you should go ask Mary”. I say thanks and head over to the bar.

When I get there, the bartender has his back to me cleaning a glass. At the right side of the bar is a woman exchanging words with a guy sitting next to her. There’s another guy at the left side of the bar reading a newspaper.

I notice the woman is visibly upset and arguing with the guy.

I over hear her say, “… You just don’t give a shit about no one do you, you selfish, insensitive bastard. How can you be so insensitive?”

The guy responds, saying,“Come on, it was an accident.”

The woman, now shouting, says, “You ruined the party and seriously injured Agnes, who may not only loose her eye but her job as well, you jerk.”

The guy responds saying, “Look, I said I was sorry …”

The woman gets up quickly and storms off in the direction of the restrooms retorting, “… Tell your sorries to the poor children of Zimbabwe, I really don’t want to hear it ….”

I look down at my watch and notice it’s really late and think to myself, (“… shit, I need directions real fast and this Mary character has stormed off into the ladies room.”)

I turn to the bartender and ask him if there’s a phone in the bar. He says no its broken and walks off. The guy to the right has his head in his hands and is very upset, so I decide to try my luck with the guy reading the newspaper. I ask him if he’s heard of the club I’m trying to get to. He looks up for a brief moment and says no, but that I should “go ask Mary”.

I turn my head to the guy at the right and say, “… ah…., and I suppose you don’t know either huh”.

The guy picks up his head briefly and says, ” … no, but Mary would know.”

I’m thinking to myself, (“OK, I guess I better wait for Mary then.”)

I figure I might as well sit down and have a drink while I wait for Mary. The bartender returns and I order a beer. I sit at the bar and notice the guy at the right is still visibly upset. He orders a double shot of whiskey and downs it as soon as he gets it. The guy’s really broken up about something and so I look over and say, “Hey buddy are you alright?”

The guy picks up his head and angrily says, “Do I look alright?”

I hesitate for a moment and say, “No I guess not … sorry I asked.”

The guy then says,“Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you, it’s not your fault.”

I say, “That’s OK, … maybe it might help to talk about it … I’m a real good listener.”

The guy sighs and takes a deep breath. He waits a few minutes and then starts into his story saying, “Well, I was married for 2 years, when I met somebody that turned my world upside down.”

I say, “Don’t tell me, … Mary … right?”

The guy says, “Ya, right, … how did you know?”

I say, “Just a lucky guess.”

He continues his story saying, “Mary is the most wonderful person I ever met. I don’t know how it happened, but Mary awoke something hidden in me I never knew existed. At first we started to meet once in a while at the bar, but soon it turned into a torrid affair.”

“After a few months, I knew I couldn’t live without Mary and decided I needed to tell my wife and family. So last night was Mary’s birthday and we wanted to celebrate it at the bar. I decided to invite my wife and her family to the party so they could meet Mary and see this wonderful person in the flesh. I figured, once they’d all met, they couldn’t help but understand how easy it is to fall in love with Mary, and so, understand my feelings as well.”

“So last night, we’re all at the bar having a great time, you know, celebrating Mary’s birthday. My wife’s sister, Agnes, flew up from New York to hang out with us. I introduce everyone to each other and my wife and her family are immediately taken in by Mary’s warmth and charm.”

The guy pauses briefly and says, “That is, until something awful happened.” He now has an anguished look on his face.

Curiosity has now taken over and  I say, “So what happened?”

The guy continues, “Well you know how hot it’s been lately?”

I shake my head affirmatively.

He continues, “Well I decided to wear a pair of shorts and sandals for the first time in a long time. And during the party, I look down at my toes poking through the sandals noticing that my toenails haven’t been cut, probably since last summer. So I’m totally disgusted and embarrassed by the sight and don’t want anyone to see them. I whisper over to Mary for a nail clipper. Mary produces a fingernail clipper and hands it to me. I figure it’s kind of small but will have to do. So I go sit over at the end of the bar, away from everyone, and prop up my foot on a vacant stool. I start to clip my toenails when all hell breaks loose.”

The guy stops, staring into space with a horrified look on his face as he vividly remembers what happened.

He looks at me and says, “Who knew that toenail shrapnel could be ejected with such force … I mean …, how could I know. I watched in amazement as the nail from my right big toe, flew across the room and deposited itself into my mother-in-law’s drink. Luckily, no one saw it. So I’m thinking, wow, I’d better be more careful. But the next nail ricochets off the bar and hits me in the forehead. Look I still have the mark…”

The guy gestures to a red mark on his face.

I’m now listening to the story in total amazement not realizing that my jaw is visibly dangling.

He continues, “Finally I felt like I was getting the hang of it as I was able to deflect the rest of the nails towards the floor”. The guy suddenly gets a bit choked up. And with a tear forming in his eyes he says, “…. that is, until I cut the last nail.”

“The last nail was on my left big toe and was very difficult to remove. When I finally got it loose, the nail flew up into the air like a rocket, sailed across the bar and managed to hit my wife’s sister, Agnes, squarely in the eye as she was walking across the room. Well …, she went down like a ton of bricks…, falling to the floor in serious pain. Apparently the nail had embedded itself in her eye. We called 911 immediately and she was rushed to the emergency room where they operated on her eye for 5 hours. They did all they could, but the prognosis is not very good. Obviously the party was ruined and everyone was very upset.”

The guy stops talking and takes a sip of his beer. My jaw is still agape as I try to register what I just heard. I’m just staring at the guy in total disbelief and could have sworn I saw a slight smile glaze over his lips. After a brief pause, without thinking too much, I say,

“You have got to be shitting me!!! No fuckin’ way that happened. Is this candid frikin’ camera or something. This has got to be a goof on, right?!!”

“So let me get this straight. You expect me to believe that you took out your sister-in-law from like 15 feet away with toenail shrapnel while she was walking across the room?!! No frikin’ way!!! Come on, where’s the hidden camera? …”

And then I start to chuckle a little, but the guy’s not smiling.

All of a sudden, with a menacing look on his face, the guy gets up from his stool and starts to charge at me with a clenched fist, saying “ … what kind of an insensitive asshole are you …?”

He puts me in a head lock and we tumble to the floor, wrestling.

The bartender quickly leaps over the bar and breaks us up, saying, “Stop Bob, he’s not worth it.”

I look over at the guy (Bob) and see that he is very upset and broken up. I say, “Hey, I’m really sorry, but a story like that is kinda hard to believe, I mean, isn’t it?”

I look over at the bartender for some response as Bob sits back down without talking. The bartender looks at me and says. “I think you should leave now …”

I look at Bob and the bartender and say, “Hey I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive … its just the weirdest story I’ve ever heard.”

The atmosphere in the bar is tense for a while, but eventually settles back down with no one saying a word. The bartender is back behind his bar attending to chores. I decide to try and break the silence and look over at Bob, saying, “So I over heard you talking earlier that Agnes might loose her job, what does she do for a living?”

Bob picks his head up and says, “I can’t begin to tell you what a wonderful person Agnes is. We’re all very proud of her. She’s won several prestigious awards over the years for her humanitarian endeavors.”

“Agnes is a “cheese doodle” sales person…. Over the years, Agnes has managed to bring “cheese doodles” to remote parts of the world others could only dream of. She was the first to bring those wonderfully cheesy treats to the impoverished children of Zimbabwe.”

“Maybe you’ve heard of her? She’s known as…, Aggee-doodle-all-day!!!”

Dead silence takes over the bar and my brain. My mouth has fallen open once again. I pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I finally can’t take it anymore. I start chuckling uncontrollably. Tears start running down my face. I’m laughing so hard, I fall off my bar stool and onto the ground. Everyone in the bar is just staring at me. I’m now convulsing in laughter on the floor muttering, “ … toenail shrapnel … cheese doodles … Aggee-doodle-all-day … you’ve got to be shittin’ me …”

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I manage to compose myself. Everyone is still staring at me. I look over at Bob and say, “… no Bob, I haven’t heard of her.”

I sit back down on the bar stool and finish the rest of my beer. After a brief pause I say, “Look, I only came in here to get some directions because I’m lost. And as soon as Mary comes back from the restroom I can ask her and get the heck out of here.”

The bartender looks over at me a bit quizzically and says, “What are you talking about, the woman in the restroom is Bob’s wife, Rhoda.”

So I look at the bartender and ask, “Well who the hell is Mary then?”

The bartender smiles at me and says, “Oh, I’m Mary, … named after the beautiful state of Maryland …”

At that point, I thought it best to stop talking altogether and leave. I threw a few bucks on the bar and left. I never made it to the gig that night … and never went back to “The Clipper” again.

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