Old Style suds dripped down Torpe’s crippled hand as he poured another draft for Norm.  The grizzled war veteran limped around the bar to the front door, locking it.  Then he turned off the “Mickey’s Tavern” neon sign.

“I’m not kicking you guys out,  I just don’t want any other ding-a-lings walking in,”  he said.  It was late.  I’d been here for four hours, ever since coming home from school and finding a note from my landlord reminding me that I had to be out of the apartment in three days.  The apartment in the four-flat that was being turned into a condominium – like so many others in my Bucktown neighborhood.  So here I sat in my favorite dive bar with Torpe the bartender and the only other customer, Norm, who sells caulk for a business near O’Hare Airport.  Norm is the kind of asshole who thinks stocking my fridge with 12-packs of Meister Brau is a good thing.

I met Norm on my first night at Mickey’s when I moved into the neighborhood three years ago.  I remember him showing off a vintage record player he bought and buying me a beer almost immediately after I stepped in the door. Norm looked like a monk, but the kind who fished in Wisconsin, drank in Chicago, and bowled everywhere in between. Norm and I, like many in the neighborhood, shared an affinity for Mickey’s.  I was one of the younger souls who inhabited the bar. It wasn’t exactly a destination for my generation or pretty much anyone who lived more than four blocks away. I lived just down the block and found it a comfortable refuge from the other bars or clubs. It had a lot of characters, including my favorite, Elmer, who, when not bartending, was a frequent Mickey’s barfly himself. Elmer was in his 70s, short and stubby with a wild flock of white hair. His saying, whenever I or select others walked through the door, was “Uh-oh – trouble at the pass.” Sometimes I helped Elmer stock the bar and often poured myself a few pints when he was in the bathroom or playing video poker. I also helped stock the bar’s raffle shelf with items donated by the owner, Mickey, that included things like flashlights, portable TVs, weather radios, a bottle of vodka, a car detailing kit, and something for a fishing boat.  The jukebox didn’t play often but when it did you’d hear a mix of  Hank Williams Jr., Bobby Darin, The Scorpions, and Erasure. Two televisions – big, tube styles hung in each corner. One was black-and-white.

My friend Brad liked to call Mickey’s “the bar that time forgot.”

I told Norm what transpired earlier that day while Torpe wiped off his hand and one of the two taps at the bar. I told him about my three losses – apartment, girlfriend, and job. I told him one of my options was moving in with my friend, Mosquito, in Indiana, where in exchange for free rent I’d help him build an addition to his garage and also get paid to help him build a different garage for someone else.

“Well, good luck with that,” he said.

A girl walked in. She had an Irish accent. I recognized her as the one who lived across the street from the bar. She stopped in to ask Torpe if Mickey’s was hiring because she wanted something to supplement her other bartending job. She wore a black dress with black tights and black boots and her hair was the color of a good Irish stout. She was pale, but not as pale as some Irish girls I knew. Torpe told her to come back tomorrow and talk to the Mickey. Then she ordered a beer and joined Norm and me at our side of the bar. She said her name was Darcy and that she wanted to dance, which was weird because that really didn’t happen at Mickey’s. She picked an old folk song I didn’t recall being on the jukebox. Then, instead of dancing, she sat back down next to me and asked what my deal was. By this time Torpe said he was getting ready to close. Darcy wanted to go to another bar. Then she said she didn’t. Norm said goodbye and went home, but not before watching Darcy kiss me on the lips. By the time we walked outside she knew my story about the job, the apartment, and possibly moving to Indiana. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. Sympathy? Someone else to vent to? I wanted her to kiss me again, but I probably blew it with my sob story. We stood outside under the darkened Stroh’s sign. Her apartment was across the street. It didn’t appear she would invite me in. My apartment was down the street. I asked her if she’d like to come back to my place. I moved in to kiss her and she complied, but barely.

“Maybe next time,” she said. “So why don’t you just go home and masturbate. And have fun in feckin’ Indiana.”


Some or parts of the passages may appear  in one of the essays on “The Dodgy.”