The Short Stories of Edward R. Doughty
Tony Mart's was a really great place to meet girls --- especially in the summer. Located in the Southern New Jersey shore area, it was a bar/nightclub mostly for young people. In the summer it was dominated by the college crowd. It featured live rock & roll bands back in the early sixties and some of them were terrific. They even had Bill Haley & the Comets there a couple times. Inside there were four or five bars with stools all around --- but the bar stools were almost always filled, which resulted in a whole lot of people standing up and just milling around. Back then, the beverage of choice was beer --- on tap or in bottles --- it really didn't matter. You were there to dance, drink and meet girls. Unless of course you were a girl --- in which case, you were there to meet guys. Back then no one thought that a guy or gal would be there to meet someone of the same sex. No, that definitely would have been frowned upon back then. Or maybe worse.
Jack was not exactly a "regular" at Mart's, but he had been there often enough that the burly bouncers knew him on sight and never carded him. The legal drinking age was 21 in New Jersey back then. Jack was 21 now and no longer needed fake I.D.s --- but he had been going to Mart's with such fakes since he was 18. Even the lousiest of fake I.D. cards could get you into Mart's in those days.
Meeting nice chicks back then was part skill --- and a lot of luck. Fairly intelligent girls had heard all of the usual pick-up lines. "Hi there, what's your sign?" "Can I buy you a beer?" "Do you think this music is too loud?" No, the truth was the better looking guys usually made out better regardless of their opening line --- and a nerdy guy was doomed from the start. Jack was an average looking guy but rather intelligent with a good sense of humor. Sometimes he would meet a nice girl and sometimes he wouldn't. But that's just the way it was. Since Jack was only 5'8" he was primarily interested in meeting girls 5'4" or shorter. So taller girls were out --- as were plump girls or unattractive girls. This really narrowed the prospective field.
Tonight was Friday night and Jack was accompanied by his good friend, Mike, as they approached the front entrance of Tony Mart's. They had been buddies since 5th grade. "What's happnin', Jack?" asked Biff the Bouncer, as Jack and Mike entered thru the two open doors. "Not much, Biff", replied Jack, "how's the crowd tonight?" "There's some real talent in there tonight, my man!" countered Biff. "That works for me, Biff!" says Jack.
Jack led Mike around the right side of the nearest bar and, as luck would have it, there were two empty bar stools right in front of them. Jack and Mike quickly seated themselves and ordered two Buds. After paying for their first drink of the night each of them began to look over the girls in sight as their eyes adjusted to the dimly lit bar scene. Across the bar Jack noticed two blondes sitting there --- but they were talking to two guys who were bigger than your average NFL linemen. Five seats over there were three girls who looked like they had all just finished dead last in a Polish Beauty Contest " ---(there were no winners --- and two girls got fined!"). Where the hell was all this talent that Biff had referred to? Mike was not exactly falling in love, either. "Man --- the scene looks a little grim tonight!" "But it's early, Mikey, --- just drink your brewski and have some patience."
Jack glanced over at the next bar to his right. Between the two bars there were several girls milling around with glasses of drought beer in their hands. One was a fat girl in Bermudas that were two sizes too small for her. The girl she was talking with must've played basketball for Penn State. A third girl had more freckles than skin and she was wearing a stupid looking derby hat. Jack was almost finished his first beer so he signaled to the bartender for another round. He took his last gulp as the two beers arrived.
"Boy, you must be thirsty!", came a female voice from behind him. Looking around, Jack first saw a girl wearing a big smile standing two feet in back of him. Two seconds later he realized that this smiling girl was probably about 5'2" (if that), brunette and one of the cutest girls that he had seen in some time. Jack stood up and quickly responded with, "There was a small fire down in my stomach somewhere and I was just attempting to put it out!". "Oh, you must be a fireman, then!" "No, but that's what I want to be when I grow up!". "A lofty ambition, indeed!" Geeez --- was she cute!
"Would you guys mind ordering us two beers --- we can't seem to get the bartender's attention?"
She sure had Jack's attention. "Not at all. It would be our pleasure. In fact, why don't you take our seats?"
"No thanks really. We've been sitting almost all day taking our final exams."
"As you wish." Jack signaled the bartender again and ordered two more beers. The beers arrived quickly. But before Jack could get his wallet out of his back pocket, the girl had reached between him and Mike and placed a five dollar bill on the bar.
"Hey! We were going to buy you girls a drink!"
"Thank you very much, kind sir, but we never accept gifts from strangers."
"Stranger? Stranger? My name's 'Jack' --- and I've never been a stranger to anyone. And this is my trusted friend 'Tonto' --- I mean 'Mike'."
"Hi, Jack. My name is Kathy --- and this is Maureen."
"Pleased to meet you, ladies. Are you sure you don't want to sit down?"
"Thanks, Jack, but as I said --- we've been sitting almost all day."
Jack was looking at both of the girls now. Maureen was a blonde and maybe an inch taller than Kathy. She was quite attractive , as well. This fact did not escape Mike, who was already smiling at her and offering her his seat. Maureen politely declined, as well. Both girls had slim figures, were wearing Bermudas and had nicely shaped legs. In short, these girls were "talent".
"So where were you girls taking these final exams?
"Up at Bryn Mawr. We just finished at 4 o'clock, got something to eat and then drove down here. Where do you guys go to school?"
"I'm at Princeton,", said Jack, :and Mike here goes to Penn".
"Well, now we've established that we're all Sister Seven and Ivy League snobs, we can talk about important things like sex."
Jack laughed heartily and Mike did a double-take. "Personally --- I think it's over-rated!"
"I'm only kidding, guys. I guess I'm just getting a little silly after taking those exams all day."
Jack hadn't been paying much attention to the band up to now. But he noticed that they had just started a "slow song" called "I Remember You". With that, Mike asked Maureen to dance and she smilingly accepted. Maureen was cute as hell, too. But I digress.
Kathy took Mike's seat after the other couple departed for the dance floor'
"So what year are you in at Tigertown, Jack?"
"I just finished my junior year, Kath --- how 'bout you?"
"The same. Three down and one to go!"
"Yeah --- one more year and then we all go into the proverbial 'real world'."
"What do you plan to do after graduation, Jack?"
"My dad owns a large real estate company and I'll be going with that company and starting at the bottom once again. What's in store for you, Kath?"
"Well, I'm majoring in marketing, so I guess I'll be sending out resumes this fall and we'll just see what happens. Where do you live, Jack?"
"I live in Margate --- just about three miles away. I'm just a local boy. How about you?"
"Ardmore. So around Bryn Mawr --- I'm just a 'local girl', too".
"I assume you girls are down for the weekend --- so where are you staying?"
"We have a place over in Ocean City that we rented for the weekend. We go back on Sunday." Jack noticed that all four of them had finished their beers except Maureen. But there was only about an inch of beer in her bottle so Jack ordered another round. This time Jack paid for the beers. "I can buy the beers this time because we're no longer strangers --- right?"
"No, I guess were not."
Maureen and Mike returned just as the four new beers arrived. Jack gave Maureen his seat and she took it without breaking her conversation with Mike. The two of them really seemed to be hitting it off.
There were now two completely different conversations going on and neither couple was paying any attention to the other. Jack had noticed that Kathy had some freckles around her nose and that she had dimples when she smiled. And Kathy smiled frequently. When she talked she sounded friendly, intelligent, self-assured and --- well --- cute. Not cute in a ditzy way --- but more like "cute" on some higher level.
For the next 45 minutes or so Jack and Kathy discussed their families --- places they had visited --- the types of music they both liked --- politics --- the Cold War --- plays they were in at high school --- dogs they'd had as kids --- and favorite foods. As dumb as it may sound now --- back then Jack felt closer to Kathy than he had felt with most girls that he had dated ten times.
"Kath, I have an idea and I don't want you to take it the wrong way."
"What's your idea, Jack?"
"Well --- Mike and I and a couple other guys rented a house for the summer that's about 8 miles from here. None of us live there --- but we do most of our partying there. We call it 'the Loft'. It's a cute place back by the bay. I'd really like you girls to see it. It's quieter there --- the beer is cheaper --- and we even have music. Would you care to follow us over there? No hanky-panky, I promise!"
"We'll, Jack, I'll have to talk to Maureen --- but I do have one objection to what you just said."
"Couldn't we have just a little hanky-panky?"
"Geez --- you really know how to tease a guy, don't you?"
Kathy then proceeded to drag Maureen away from her deep conversation with the Penn man. Mike looked at Jack quizzingly. Jack just mouthed the word "Loft". Mike's expression then became one of sheer happiness. Jack just smiled back at his old friend.
"Where are you guys parked?" Yes! The girls would follow them to the Loft!
Fifteen minutes later the two cars pulled into the dirt in front of the Loft. There used to be grass there --- but no more. Jack glanced around and quickly observed that there were no other cars there. Good. If no one else showed up that night, the four of them would be alone. Jack put his key in the door, opened it, turned on the light and held the door open for the girls and a grinning Mike.
As the girls admired the "cuteness" of the Loft, Jack put some quiet music on the record player. Mike and Maureen had gone into the tiny kitchen to fetch four cans of Iron City --- the official beer at the Loft. After a couple swigs of beer Mike and Maureen started to dance into the dining room. The dining room contained very little furniture and was utilized by the "Lofters" primarily as a dance floor and sometimes as a stage for their shows and "skits".
For a couple minutes Jack and Kathy just sat on the couch sipping their beer and watching Mike and Maureen dance. "It just doesn't get any better than this", thought Jack. "A beautiful night, a nice place to party, a cold beer --- and especially a great girl like Kathy sitting next to you." As another Lofter would say, 'I feel like a rich man's front porch'."
Suddenly Jack felt Kathy's hand on top of his. And what she said next was something that would stun him and something that he would remember for the rest of his life.
"Jack, how many kids should we have?"
* * * * *
Jack and Kathy were married 14 months later --- in the June after they both graduated. They had four children, a very loving marriage and a very rewarding life. Some nights it just paid to go to Tony Mart's!
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