The Short Stories of Edward R. Doughty

Chuckie's Place

I didn't always drink at Chuckie's Place. When I was a bachelor the first time I hung out at various places. When I was married I really didn't hang out at bars at all. But since Marcia and I got divorced just over a year ago, I got back into the Philly bar scene and tried a number of different places. I still go to different places, but when I really just want to relax, I go to Chuckie's. And tonight I wanted to relax. Chuckie's is off the proverbial beaten path. It's rarely crowded. The bartenders who alternate nights are Sam and Midge and both are interesting to chat with. Sam is a sports nut. He can discuss any sport intelligently. He can even name the entire starting line-up of the 1958 Milwaukee Braves. Meg is cute and witty. She can discuss fashion, home decorating, gardening and relationships. Sometimes Chuckie, himself, is there, and we'll discuss current events, foreign policy --- you name it. Midge is on duty tonight. I am drinking a Remy Martin. Midge has a great little figure and a pageboy haircut. I'd ask her out but I really don't want to louse up a good friendship.

I've met a number of girls in bars the last year and dated a bunch of them. But there wasn't really one that I wanted to take out a third time. Even the ones I had slept with didn't do it for me. They were either unintelligent or too pushy. Hell, maybe they just didn't really turn me on. But I did not come to Chuckie's to meet chicks. No, Chuckie's was a place to just relax. Come to think of it, I don't think I ever even saw a single girl in Chuckie's --- except Mrs. Faloon who usually came in for two peach brandies and left.

Tonight the place was virtually empty except for Harry and Billy sitting at the far end of the very nice mahogany bar. Midge and I were discussing relationships tonight and more particularly, what makes certain people attracted to each other. I know Midge dates a guy named Frank and I've met him a couple times. Midge is saying that she can project what kind of people of the opposite sex find attractive in the other sex. Just then the front door opens and in walks a very attractive girl who hangs her coat on the coat rack, looks around and takes a seat in the second booth. Chuckie's has a long bar on the left side as you enter and on the right side are six booths. The kitchen and bathrooms are in the rear. Midge walks around the bar and asks the girl what she'd like. The girl orders a Manhattan. Midge returns to the bar, mixes one and serves it to the girl. After returning to behind the bar, Midge leans over and says to me, "Why don't you go over and introduce yourself to that girl. She seems very nice." "Nah, she's probably waiting for her boyfriend." I say. "No, she's not --- I asked her if anyone would be joining her and she said 'no". "Well, okay then --- I'm not known for being shy."

"Hi there --- my name is Charlie --- do you mind if I join you on this very pleasant Tuesday night?"

"My name is Gerri --- sure --- sit down."

"This is my favorite bar, but I rarely see any single women in here."

"I understand that the single gals all congregate at four or five of the bars in center city."

"That is true --- I can personally attest to that."

"Then why are you in a place like this, Charlie?"

"Well there are some nights you just want to relax. Some nights you just don't want the hassle of being 'on the make' so to speak."

"I can understand that. Sometimes in Baltimore I'd just like to go out with a couple girlfriends, have some drinks and talk."

"Oh --- you're from Baltimore? Well, what brings you up here?

"I just moved back here a week ago and started a new job yesterday."

"What do you do, Gerri?"

"I am a woman's wear buyer and I'm now the local buyer for Petite Sophisticate."

"That's cool! I'm a local trial attorney."

It was hard to take my eyes off of Gerri. She had a great figure and a terrific smile. Her voice was lower than average for a girl and it was rather sexy. I really enjoyed listening to her voice. I glanced over at Midge and signaled for another round. A minute later the drinks arrived. Midge seemed to be smiling at both of us. For the next two hours and two more rounds Gerri and I discussed our life histories, the places we'd been to, where we went to school and everything else. She was unbelievably easy to talk to. "How would you like to go out to dinner with me this Friday night? I know a great Italian Restaurant about twenty minutes from here."

"I'd like that Charlie. I'd really like that."

"So would I. But I'd also like to take you home with me tonight."

"What --- to meet your parents or to see your etchings?"

"No --- to make love to you."

"You sure are direct, Charlie! But the answer is 'yes'.

Gerri followed me to my apartment in her car about ten minutes away. After one last nightcap we kissed --- and it was electric! We went to bed and made passionate love --- and then fell asleep. The next morning I awoke knowing something. I was going to fall in love with this woman and we would be married, have kids and stay married until one of us died. I just knew it. Don't ask me how.

As we were dressing I asked, "Why did you move back to Philly, Gerri?"

"My father is dying of cancer and I wanted to be with him during the time he has left."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Gerri --- I really am. But that's a coincidence, --- remember that bartender who served us last night? Well her father is dying of cancer, too."

"I know that, Charlie, because Midge is my sister."

"Midge is your sister? You mean this was all a set-up?"

"It sure was, Charlie. Midge has been telling me about you for the last six months. She set it all up."

"Well I'll be damned! Midge wasn't kidding when she said she knew what attracted certain people to each other. You have quite a sister!"

"Yes, I do. I gotta get to work now, Charlie, after I swing by my place and shower and change. But I'm looking forward to that Italian dinner on Friday night. Midge really described you well!"

"I wish she had described you to me. I would've driven down to Baltimore and brought you back myself! "Call me nuts, Gerri --- but I think I'm starting to fall in love with you!"

"You're not alone, Charlie --- you're not alone. You see I started falling in love with you after Midge started describing you to me. I'll see you Friday night!"

We kissed goodbye and I thought, "That Midge is quite a girl --- and she'll make a great sister-in-law!"

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