The Short Stories of Edward R. Doughty

Patty's Place

It's Friday night and the four of us are sitting in a booth at Patty's Place drinking beer. Charlie, Bill, Sam and I have been there for about a half hour now. Midge is the bartender tonight and Patty is back in the kitchen making food. We often meet here on Friday nights to sorta celebrate finishing another workweek.

"Well I'm glad this week is over", I say. "It was a long one."

"You got that right", says Sam.

"I spent the first three days in depositions and then on Thursday I had a municipal court freebie. You know New Jersey is the only state that makes pro bono mandatory?" I say. "But you know what? I won that municipal court case and this morning the gal I represented sent me a letter opener in the shape of a sword sticking out of a stone with the inscription "Whoever doth pulleth this sword from this stone shall be rightly King".

"That's cool", said Charlie.

"Yeah, a nice show of appreciation", said Bill.

Charlie is a pediatrician. He says, "I must've seen 70 kids this week and over half of them had the flu!"

Sam the Stockbroker says, "With the Nasdaq dropping 200 points this week I can't even give stocks away!"

"I was on trial all week", says Bill, "And I'm sure glad this week is over." Bill is another lawyer.

Midge stops over at our table and we order another round. Sam wants a bacon cheeseburger so we all decide to order one. Midge is cute but none of us have ever taken a shot at her because she has been a good friend to each of us.

"Who are you guys bringing to the party tomorrow night?" I ask

Sam says, "I'm bringing Brenda."

Charlie says, "I'll be there with Liz."

Bill says, "It'll be Carole for me. How about you, Dave?"

I say, "I'll be there with Kathy."

"It should be a good party. I always like the Pirate parties!" says Sam.

I've been dating Kathy for nine months now. She's always fun and I really enjoy her company. Sam and Brenda are practically engaged. Bill's been dating Carole for about 5 months and Charlie just met Liz at a party about three weeks ago. These guys are my best friends and we all go back to at least high school together. The party is at Slats' house and we're all supposed to dress as Pirates. We did this theme at a party about two years ago and the costumes were great. Midge comes back with our beers and a couple minutes later she arrives with a tray of bacon cheeseburgers and four plates of fries. Everyone starts to eat.

Then Patty comes out of the kitchen and over to our table to inquire as to our health. We assure Patty that we are all doing well. Charlie then announces that he has just become board certified. We offer congratulations all around. Somehow the four of us have all remained single into our thirties. Sam almost got married one time --- but then the girl had her period.

Bill says, "You know, if one of you guys got married we'd probably never see you again. Your wife just wouldn't want you hanging around with skirt-chasers and party boys like us!"

"I disagree, Bill, I say, "Eventually all of us will be married and we'll still be partying together. The only difference will be that we will have the same date every time".

"Oh geez", says Sam, "how many times do I have to see Liz in a pirate costume?"

"No, no", I say. "Look, we all date pretty swinging chicks. So when we're all married they won't have any objections to going to a bunch of parties."

"Time will tell", says Bill. "Time will tell, gentlemen."

Charlie says, "Well maybe our wives will be up for partying the first couple of years. But how 'bout when the kids start coming along?"

I say, "Babysitters! When you get married your most important people are your babysitters. They take care of the kids while we and our wives party. At least we can all afford babysitters now."

Midge is back at the booth now inquiring as to whether we would like another round. We tell her that we do and then Sam asks, "Midge, how come you never got married? Hell, any one of us would've married you but it would've spoiled a great friendship."

Midge replies, "In due time, gentleman! I just haven't met 'Mr. Right' yet. Hell, I haven't even met Mr. Good Enough!" We all laugh and Midge returns to the bar to get our beers.

Sam says, "You know what we ought to do? We should throw a high-class party where we all wear tuxes and we rent a whole little banquet room for say forty people. We invite all our good friends and we hire a band. We give speeches and the whole bit!"

Bill says, "I'd go for that!" Charlie says, "Count me in!" I agree that that is a fine idea. We then discuss the Pirate Party scheduled for tomorrow night. We warn Sam that this time he should refrain from poking girls in the butt with his sword. Sam agrees to refrain from such acts this time around. Charlie says he will bring his pirate flags. Midge brings us our third round and removes the plates from our table.

It would be another two years before one of us got married. Sam and Brenda were the first to tie the proverbial knot and we all enjoyed ourselves at the reception. Sam asked me to be his Best Man and I was quite honored. The other guys were ushers of course.

But there would be no other marriages and no children for a while. Two months after Sam's wedding, China hit Taiwan with missiles in a surprise attack. The United States then declared war on China and we all joined the armed forces instead of waiting to be drafted. The war lasted nine months and resulted in Taiwan becoming a separate country and it left most of China's large cities in shambles. Sam was killed when his plane was shot down over China. Charlie married a nurse after the war and I eventually married Kathy. Charlie relocated to Boston and a prestigious hospital up there. Bill died of cancer. I returned to the old hometown and continued to practice law.

In short, the war and the things that happened afterwards really broke up the crowd. A couple times a year Kathy and I visit Patty's Place and have some drinks or something to eat. Patty died during the war and Midge and her husband now own the place.

Tonight Kathy and I are having drinks in a booth. We no longer drink beer these days. Kathy is having a glass of Pinot Grigio and I'm having a Manhattan. Midge comes over to our booth and sits next to me. We're in our forties now and so much has happened in the last ten years. Midge says, "You know I can remember you and Charlie and Bill and Sam all sitting at this very booth talking about girls and planning parties. I can remember it like it was yesterday. And boy could you guys put away the beer!" Kathy laughs and says, "Well I guess I've tamed him somewhat."

As I take another sip of my Manhattan I think, "Yes, they were great days. But you just never know what the future holds --- and maybe it's just as well." Then I notice four young guys sitting at the bar. They are obviously close friends and they are drinking beer and joshing each other around. Sure, they look like we did ten years ago. They are talking like it will always be as it is now. But it never works out that way. As they say --- life is what happens when you're planning something else.

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