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Witch's Brew

 Clark Zlotchew 

Clark Zlotchew has had a widely varied career.  He’s a professor of Spanish and Spanish American literature, and lives with his wife in rural Western New York State. He joined the U.S. Naval Reserves at age 17 and reached Chief Petty Officer before receiving his honorable discharge at age 36.  He’s worked in the export department of a large liquor company in NYC and has given operating instructions, safety and English to Hispanic migrant workers.  He has taught Spanish in high schools and universities.  Seventeen of his books have been published, both fiction and non-fiction.  Zlotchew’s collection of short stories, Once Upon a Decade: Tales of the Fifties, was one of three Finalists in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, 2011.  The story, “Witch’s Brew,” is one of the narratives in that collection.

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            We'd been back home on liberty for a few days and were in Tedesco's in Union City when this incredible thing happens.  There we were, me and Rhino Mahoney and Danny Andreotti, just trying to have a bite to eat and a good talk.  We were minding our own business, sitting around one of those tables in a booth, guzzling our beers, and waiting for the waitress to bring the chow.  But what she brought wasn't just food.   

            You see, we all got what we ordered, except for Andreotti.    He'd ordered a turkey sandwich on white with lettuce, tomato and mayo.  But the waitress got it wrong.  She brought him the hot open-faced sandwich with gravy and French fries.  So Andreotti told her, nice and polite, you understand, he told her he ordered the cold sandwich.  But the waitress said, "No, you didn't.  You ordered the hot sandwich."

            "No, it was the cold sandwich," he tells her.

            Then she slams her fist down on the table, making the beer bottles dance, and yells, "Hey, give me a break!  If I go back and get the cold turkey, and bring them back the hot one, they'll take the hot one out of my pay."

            Andreotti raised one eyebrow, like he does, and says, real slow, "Gee, I'm sorry, but I didn't order the hot one, and I don't want it.  And I sure as hell don't want to pay for it."

            And she said, "Look, you think that just because you're a good-looking guy you can do whatever you want?"

            We were all watching and listening, and we couldn't believe this conversation.  I guess Andreotti thought she was getting too personal.  He said, "C'mon, I'm not doing whatever I want.  I just want the sandwich I ordered."

            So --now get this-- she lays the plate down, leans over him real close, her face no more than six inches from his, and says, real calm-like...  Well, she seemed calm on the surface, if you know what I mean, but like she was kind of controlling herself, trying hard to control herself...  She says, "Look.  Either you take the hot turkey sandwich like a good boy, or I'll put a curse on you."

            So help me, she said she was going to put a curse on him!  Then she kind of thought about it for a minute, looked from one to the other of us, and said, "Better yet, I'll put a curse on the three of you."  No kidding!

            Well, the three of us, we just looked at each other.  We didn't know whether to laugh or get mad.  I mean, who ever heard of putting a curse on someone in Union City, New Jersey, in this day and age?  It's crazy!

            I took a good look at her.  She was about forty or so, dark-haired, hawk nosed, piercing eyes...  Not bad looking, in a worn-out sort of way.  But her eyes had purplish shadows under them, at least that's the way they looked in the restaurant.  Maybe it was the lighting.

            And it's funny, she reminded me of Andreotti's mother.  I mean how she looked not long before she died when we were eight years old.  And his mom was always yelling at him to eat more, because he was a skinny kid.  She'd always be after him to finish everything on his plate, which he never did, of course.  And she used to say how he was driving her to her grave 'cause he wouldn't finish his food.  And he used to crack, "Well, you don't want to walk there, do you, Mom?"  You know, drive her to the grave...?  Walk there...?  Maybe this was part of the problem.  Well, you’ll see what I mean when I get to it.

            Anyhow, the waitress looked at Andreotti and said, "So, what's it gonna be:  hot turkey with gravy or cold turkey with the malook?"  And she just stood there looking at him, as if she'd said something ordinary...  As if she'd asked Andreotti a reasonable, every-day kind of question, like 'what kind of dressing do you want on your salad?' and was calmly waiting for an answer.  Can you picture it?

            "Look," he said, "just get me my cold turkey, okay?"  He sounded annoyed.  Hell, he was annoyed, naturally.

            Then she straightened up and shot back, "You want cold turkey, you're gonna get cold turkey, buster.  Plus the malook!"  And she went back to the kitchen after staring a hole through his face.

            "What the hell's a malook?" says Rhino.

            "You know," Andreotti says," mal’occhio, the evil eye.  It's Italian."

            Then she came back, dumped the plate with the cold turkey sandwich on the table and says, "From now on you guys are going to suffer.  You," she said, looking right at Andreotti, "you're going to be losing your temper all the time.  You won't be able to control it.  And it's going to cost you.  Believe me, it's going to cost you.  It's going to mess you up real good.  It's going to drag you down to the bottom of hell."

            Then she looked around the table at the rest of us and said, "And you're such good friends of his, eh?  Well, he'll drag you down along with him."  She smiled and nodded her head a couple of times as if she were saying "Just you wait and see."  Then she said, "Lots of luck, guys," real sarcastic-like --you know?-- still with this phony smile, and she tells us, "Enjoy your dinner." 

            Now, by this time we weren't feeling too hungry any more.  I know I wasn't.  And the other guys looked like I felt.  Well, we got through the meal, but we didn't really enjoy it.  The conversation wasn't what you'd you call too great, either, as you could guess.  I mean, she really put a damper on the whole evening.  Now, that's not to say that any of us believed in curses, not in this day and age.  We're not superstitious.  But at the same time, who knows?  Anyhow, it's not exactly relaxing to have your meal served by someone who thinks she's putting a curse on you, or, when you come right down to it, who even wants to do that to you.  Well, we got the hell out of there as soon as we finished eating, instead of hanging around and chewing the fat some more, like we always used to.

            But there was a problem to take care of before we got out of there:  the tip.  Now, you don't tip someone for giving you rotten service plus a malook for dessert, right?  Right.  But...  The thing is, just on the outside chance she actually could give you the evil eye, you wouldn't want to chance not giving her anything at all, either, you know?  Because then she might make it even worse...  That is, if she really could do anything at all, of course. 

            Now, nobody wanted to act as if they believed she was serious, yet nobody wanted to push her any further.  Know what I mean?  So, after a lot of arguing back and forth about the tip, we left her exactly ten percent of the bill, before tax.  I thought maybe we ought to go and talk to old man Tedesco himself, if he was there, or whoever was running the place, but Rhino said we should drop it and just leave.  When I thought about it, I agreed with Rhino.  I figured Andreotti gave her enough grief already, even though it really wasn't his fault.  Besides, she probably wasn't playing with a full deck. 

            "This is weird," I said.  "Here we are, in a nice neighborhood restaurant on Bergenline Avenue in the middle of the Twentieth Century...  You can see the lights of New York City right there across the Hudson, plain as day.  Big City, U.S.A., Capital of the modern world...  And look at us," I said, "we're worrying about some crazy curse."

             Andreotti raised an eyebrow, like he does, and said, "Who's worrying?  Nobody's worrying."

            So then I said, "Then what's the hurry?"



              Well, Andreotti and I were down in Savannah about a month later.  Before we went ashore on liberty, Chief Barker gave us a speech about getting into fights with the locals.  Or rather, about not getting into fights.  First he looked around to see if everyone was paying attention, and then began to talk.

            "You boys are about to go on liberty, and I'm sure a lot of you are going to want some liquid refreshment."  Then he looked around to see if we knew what he meant.  I guess he saw some blank faces, so he added, "that means you're probably going to find yourselves in some bar having a drink.  Of the alcoholic persuasion, that is.  Who knows, maybe even two drinks..."  He paused for a minute, got the polite laughs he was looking for, and went on.

            "Well," he said, "sometimes drinks don't mix too well with strangers, especially if you're a Northerner and the strangers are Southerners.  I mean, there's a tendency to get into fights under those circumstances."  He paused, put on this kind of angelic face, and added, "At least that's what they tell me." Everybody laughed, because you got the feeling he was talking from sad experience, but was trying to sound innocent.  Then he put on a real serious face, and said, "Now, men, I want to give you some good advice."  Then he stopped again and looked around at everyone to make sure we were listening.  I guess he thought the suspense would make us pay more attention.  Then he said, pronouncing each word separately,  "Do not, I repeat, do not, get into any fights.  You got that?  Just don’t.  Do everything you can to stay out of trouble. 

            "You may be a pretty strong guy, you might know how to take care of yourself in a scrap, but, remember, no matter how strong a man may be, no matter how good a scrapper, there's always someone who's just a little stronger, someone who knows how to fight just a little better.  Besides," he told us, "that's not the point.  The thing of it is:  you boys are the strangers, the outsiders, here in Savannah.  You don't belong here.  I don't belong here.  The local boys live here.  It's their town.  And you can't fight a whole town.  Nobody can, no matter how much of a man you think you are.  Or at least you can't fight a whole town and win, or even get away in one piece.  Besides, the local police are not exactly going to take your side over the local boys'."

            Then he stopped talking for a minute and looked around the compartment to see if we were paying attention, I guess, to see if he was making an impression on us.  Then he went on.

            "Some guy makes a crack in a bar," he said, "about you, about the Navy, about Northerners, whatever...  Forget it.  Ignore him.  Don't even answer him.  I know it's hard, but remember, you're never gonna see that guy again.  You don't live here.  But he does.  So what happens here is more important to him than to you, because all his buddies, his neighbors, will remember what happened.

            "And if the local boy gets into a fight, he knows he better look good.  But besides that, you get into a scrap with him, his buddies are gonna be there, and they're gonna be all over you.  And they're gonna win.  Believe me.  It's their town and there's more of them than there are of you and your buddies.  So just take it easy and turn the other cheek, like it says in the Good Book."

            And when he said this, the Chief put on a look kind of like he was holy or something.  Like a saint.  You'd have thought he had a halo.  And it seemed really strange on him, with his big beerbelly sticking out, the mug of coffee in his hand, scratching his balls, always going around cursing and using foul language.  But it only lasted a couple of seconds.  The look of holiness, I mean.

            Well, right then I should've realized that I was going to have problems.  I was going ashore with good old Andreotti, who's a pretty nice guy, kind of quiet, minds his own business and all, but who's got a stubborn streak, and gets a little crazy sometimes.  And one thing about Andreotti:  he's got a terrific imagination.  I mean, he can dream up all kinds of schemes for having fun.  Now, there's a down-side to having too much imagination too.  I mean like back in high school, in Health class, every time we'd be talking about some disease --tuberculosis, meningitis, even syphilis, for Chrissake, even though he'd never been with a woman back then-- he would think he had the symptoms and would break into a cold sweat about it for a while and couldn't concentrate.  But that's neither here nor there.

            Now Andreotti's not a very big guy.  He's about five-foot eight and weighs about a hundred fifty pounds.  Compact, you know?  And he's like a volcano.  I mean he's quiet and easy-going most of the time, but when the pressure really builds up, look out.  And, the thing is, ever since the time that waitress put a curse on him --on us-- back in New Jersey, Andreotti had been acting peculiar.  I mean he was getting to be more stubborn than usual, even a little crazier than usual.  Just a little more each time, so you could hardly notice it, but he definitely was changing for the worse.  It was taking less and less pressure to set him off.  His volcano was erupting more and more often.  It worried me. 

            And now, while the Chief was giving this speech, Andreotti would make these little comments under his breath.  Like when the Chief said, "Now, men, I want to give you some good advice," Andreotti whispered, "It's about time."  Or when the Chief said "there's always someone who knows how to fight just a little better," Andreotti muttered, "No shit.  That's what it's all about, ain't it?"  Then when the Chief was talking about how the local man's friends and neighbors would remember what happened, so that the local had to look good, Andreotti raised one eyebrow, like he does, and grumbled, "What about our feelings?  Don't we have to look in the mirror when we shave?"  And when the Chief mentioned turning the other cheek, Andreotti gave a nasty little laugh and under his breath said, "He means kiss the other cheek."

            The Chief must've heard something, because he asked, "What's that you said, Andreotti?"

            Andreotti put on this sincere look and told him, "I said I gotta take a leak, Chief."

            This definitely was not like Andreotti, not like the Andreotti I used to know.  One thing, he had always been level-headed, and would take good advice seriously, not make fun of it.  So I should've known how things were going to be on liberty.  Hell, I guess I did know, but what could I do?  He was my buddy.



            We had been just walking around, seeing the sights, ogling the girls, trying to pick up a couple of them, when we got thirsty.  We were standing at the bar, Andreotti and me.  There wasn't any air-conditioning, but the drinks were cheap.  Four local guys were playing pool.  They were in their late teens and early twenties, wearing jeans and tee-shirts, the sleeves rolled up to their shoulders.  Some of them had tattoos on their arms.  You know the kind.  Once in a while they'd look over at us.  They looked like they were making some cracks about us, but we couldn't hear what they were saying. 

            Further down the bar were a couple of old geezers in carpenter's overalls, and some guy in his late twenties who looked like a body builder.  He had a real close crew cut, so close you couldn't tell if his hair was blond or brown.  He kept looking from us to the guys playing pool to the tattoo of the Confederate flag on his right biceps, which he flexed every time he looked at it.

            The overhead fans were slowly wafting the cigarette smoke around the room.  The place was full of flies buzzing through the air or walking along the bar, eating crumbs of hardboiled egg or saltine crackers.  There were coils of fly paper hanging from the ceiling, dead flies stuck to them like raisins on a fruit cake.  Damn place smelled like a locker room.

            The body builder turned to face the pool players, his elbows propping him up against the bar behind him.  He called out, slow and sarcastic-like, "Looks like we got us some company, boys, now don't it?"

            One of the pool players spat on the floor.  The others gave us a blank stare.  Andreotti pushed back his black hair, and muttered into his beer, kind of disgusted-like, "Shit!"

            The body builder flexed his right biceps, inspected it carefully and felt it with his left hand.  Still looking at his muscle, he said, nice and easy, "What's that you said, boy?"

            Andreotti looked over at the muscle man, kind of wondering if he really was talking to him.  The weight lifter finally looked at Andreotti and said, "Yeah, you, little man.  What was that you said?"

            "He didn't say anything," I said, "he was just swishing his beer around in his mouth is all."

            "I wasn't talking to you," the gorilla said, "I was talking to the little fellow next to you.  And I could swear I heard a nasty word."  He looked directly at Andreotti and said, "Didn't you say shit, boy?  Hey, I'm talking to you!"

            I just knew Andreotti wasn't going to be able to say no just to calm things down.  And sure as hell, he said, "Yeah, I said shit."

            "Well, you said a mouthful, boy!"  

            The retards at the pool table stood there, blank faced, just watching the whole thing.  But when the gorilla started to laugh at his own joke, they all started to laugh too.  I got the feeling they didn't know what the hell they were laughing about.

            The body builder suddenly stopped laughing, and so did the pool players, except for one, who got an elbow in the ribs from one of his buddies as a signal to get serious.  Then King Kong looked over at us, and said, "But seriously, boys, don't y'all know it's not nice to talk like that in a respectable place like this here?"

            Seeing that we just kept sipping our beers, he said, "Don't they teach you boys any manners up North?"  Then he called over to the pool players, "I wonder who asked these boys in.  Hey, which one of y'all invited our guests?  Was it you, Billy Joe?"

            "Shit, no, Arjay!  You kidding?"  Billy Joe sounded pissed off, but like it was because Arjay expected him to be.  Arjay turned to look at us for about ten full seconds like we were a pile of manure rotting in the sun, giving off a real strong smell.  Then he turned back to Billy Joe.  "I didn't think so."

            Then Arjay looked back at us and said, "Hey, y'all...  You boys with the pretty white suits and the fancy blue scarves...  What the hell you doin’ here anyhow?"

            No one answered him.  We were ignoring him, but it was getting harder to do that.  It was hard enough to keep up our own conversation.

            I was remembering the Chief's lecture about not getting into fights with the locals.  I guess we both were.  I was thinking maybe we should just get the hell out of this bar.  But I didn't want to be the one to say so.  And Andreotti didn't want to be the one to say so either, I guess.

            "Hey, y'all..." Arjay yells to us, "I'm talking to you boys."

            The pool players were still standing around holding their cues, watching the show.

            "Well, now," Arjay drawled," I guess they just don't want to talk to me.  That's not very friendly-like, now is it?"

            Arjay folded his arms across his chest, leaned his back against the bar, and looked at us and at the pool players at the same time.  "Hey, y'all...  Is it true what they say about Damyankees... Especially if they're Navy boys...?"  He winked over at Billy Joe and the others.

            I noticed the pool players moving closer.  The bartender seemed like he'd been enjoying the show, but was starting to look a little worried.  I was thinking he was probably worried about having his property trashed.  And that made me worry about having my property trashed.  My most important property:  my body. 

            "Hey," Arjay said, "it's not sociable when you don't want to talk to people, you know?  Now, I asked y'all a question.  Is it true what they say about Damyankees, especially sailors?"  He put on this big, toothy smile, looked around the room and then back to us.  "You know:  that they're all queer?"

            We had just finished our beers and were about to shove off, but that last remark was just too much for Andreotti, damn his ass.  The son-of-a-bitch goes and grabs himself by the crotch and says, "Bite this, asshole."

            Shit!  We were almost out of there when the crazy bastard had to go and shoot his mouth off.  He just had to go and do it! The bartender's eyes widened and he looked from Andreotti to Arjay.  I looked at Arjay and at the four stooges who were starting to move in.  Arjay could have taken the both of us apart without even working up a sweat, and without the help of his pool-playing buddies and their cue sticks.  Hell, he could have massacred the pool players and the two of us easily.  I wondered if they had laws down there against killing outsiders, unarmed members of the Armed Forces.  I wondered if a local jury would ever convict Arjay...  I wasn't feeling too comfortable.

            Arjay broke into a smile, showing lots of teeth.  "Well, now, they know how to talk.  Would y'all look at that...  Now, what did you just say to me, Missy?"

            The bartender whined, "Hey, Arjay...  Take it outside, will you?"

            The pool players were moving in closer, holding their cues, squinting through the cigarette smoke at us.

            "Nothing," I said.  "He didn't say anything.  We were just leaving."

            The pool players were now blocking the door. 

            "No, no...  Now, he said something," Arjay said, ambling toward us.  "He surely did say something, didn't you, little girl?"

             Andreotti's eyes were blazing.  His face turned white, then red.

            "Forget it, Andreotti," I heard myself saying.  "Let's get the hell out of this dump."

            The body builder grabbed Andreotti by the arm.  "Hey, little girl, how's about a kiss?  Or maybe it's you that wants to do a little biting?"

            Andreotti picked up his beer bottle by the neck, smashed it against the bar and lunged for Arjay's face with the jagged bottle in one motion before anyone else could react.  The blow peeled back a flap of flesh, opening a kind of trench.  I thought I saw cheekbone before the red began to flow in.

            Arjay must have been stunned, because he was still smiling when the blood rose to the surface of the wide gash between his nose and his ear.  Then, realizing what had happened, his eyes widened in pain and his face went pale.  He swung his fist wildly at Andreotti's head, but Andreotti ducked and put his own fist into Arjay's midsection, hard.  When Arjay doubled over, Andreotti chopped at his neck, and Arjay hit the deck.

            Billy Joe and the others blocking the door were frozen with shock for a couple of seconds.  I figured I had to do something to clear the way for an escape, so I booted Billy Joe in the groin as hard as I could, the way you'd kick a football.  He folded up and went down, doubled up and gasping.  I grabbed his cue stick, cracked one of the others in the skull with it, sending him to the floor, and started swinging it to keep the other two at bay.  They backed away from the door.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw that the bartender had a club in his hand.  He looked as though he was deciding whether to use it or not.

            "Let's get the hell out of here, Andreotti!" I yelled.

            But the son-of-a-bitch had tasted blood and wouldn't stop.    Arjay's face was already a bloody mess, but Andreotti kicked him right in the mouth.  I saw teeth and blood splatter onto the floor.  The bartender was raising his club and leaning over the bar to bash Andreotti's skull.  I couldn't blame him, but I couldn't let it happen either, so I came down on the bartender's wrist with the pool cue as if I was chopping wood.  He howled and dropped the club.

              The bartender ran into the back room, holding his right wrist with his left hand, I don't know if to call the police or to get a shotgun or what.  "Come on, damn you to hell, let's go!" I yelled to Andreotti.  He looked away from the mess that was Arjay.  It was as though Andreotti was snapping out of a dream or a spell and was coming back to the real world.  I mean he finally realized we had to get out of there, fast. 

            One of the two pool players still standing made as though he was going to charge us with the pool cue held like a baseball bat, but I jabbed him in the gut first with mine, and we got the hell out of there.  We ran down the street, and as we turned the corner, we heard the bartender yelling for the police and the Shore Patrol.

            We made it back to the main drag where we blended into the crowd with all those other Navy men, walking slowly, gawking in store windows, checking out the women, trying to look natural.  Andreotti actually managed to look natural, except he had this tight little smile on him.  It was only half a smile, really, just on the left side of his face.  Like he wasn't giving himself permission for a full smile until we were out of danger.  But I don't know how I looked; I just know I felt real shook up.

            We started to see more Shore Patrol than usual, and they, and the police, seemed to be looking at every sailor on the street. 

            "Should we head back to the ship?"  I asked.

            "Hell, no.  They'll be expecting that.  We'll go back, tonight at the last minute.  It looks more innocent."

            The way it worked out, we didn't have a mark on us, so they couldn't tell anything from that.  But they probably described us as a tall, thin, light haired man and a short, medium-built, dark-haired man.  Andreotti thought of this, and said we'd better join up with some of our shipmates so we wouldn't stand out.  He sure had a cool head.  Well, it was cool now, anyway. 

            We got together with these four other guys from our ship and we all headed for a good steak house we'd heard about on a palm-lined road called Victory Drive.  We had to hoof it a few miles out from downtown to get there.  Our waitress was a real cute blonde about nineteen or twenty, I'd say, who talked real sweet, like they all did down there.  I mean she'd take your order by cooing something like, "What y'all goin' have, honey?"  And we were all kidding around with her, kind of flirting, you know, and she would smile or laugh and say things like "Oh, you are a caution, darlin'" or "Oh, now, behave yourself, y'all."  But with a great smile.

            Well, nothing special happened to the rest of us, but it was real weird what happened to Andreotti.  It was bad, really bad.  But I'm coming to that.  He had ordered a steak, with French fries, black-eyed peas, and coleslaw.  And when she'd asked him how he wanted his steak, he smiled and said, "Very rare.  I want to see it jump when I put a fork in it."

            When she brought him the steak, it was so well done that even I noticed it.  The outside was practically black, and when he cut into it, there was no pink.  It was all dark brown.  The guys even commented on it.  One of them even said, "Hell, he wants to see it jump...?  It looks like it ought to be buried at sea."  Someone else said it looked like you could resole your shoes with it.  And everyone was laughing.  But Andreotti just stared at it for the longest time without moving a muscle, as though he was lost in thought, or hypnotized or something.  And he was holding his knife and fork on the steak where he had cut into it, and I could see his hands trembling.

            The waitress came over and asked us if everything was all right, and everyone looked over at Andreotti, as though they were waiting for him to say something.  So the cute little waitress looked over at him too.  But he just kept staring at his plate.  This was not like Andreotti.  I mean he'd usually take every opportunity he could to kid around with a good-looking girl.  Something was wrong, really wrong. 

            The waitress looked worried, and went over to Andreotti now.  She said, "Isn't your steak the way you wanted it, darlin'?"  And she said it in the sweetest way.  But he didn't answer.  Some of the other guys told her he had really wanted it very rare.  "Remember?" one of them said, "he wanted to see it jump."

            The waitress turned red, bit her lip, and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry, sir.  Y'all must think I'm real dumb.  Here, let me take it back for you, honey."

            She tried to take the plate, but Andreotti grabbed it with both hands and wouldn't let her pick it up.  "No," he said.  "It's okay.  Just leave it."

            "But sir, it's no trouble..."

            "Just leave it!"  He was practically screaming.

            The waitress took her hand off the plate as though it were white hot.  She looked scared.  We were all staring at Andreotti, but nobody said anything.  He looked up at us, and saw us gaping at him.  He looked at the waitress and saw she was frightened. He took her hand gently and, I swear to God, there were tears in his eyes.  When he spoke, his voice was kind of shaky.

            "It's okay, sweety.  It's okay, really.  I like my steak this way.  You just watch: I'm going to finish it.  You'll see.  I'm going to eat every last bit of it.  There won't be anything to throw away.  You'll be proud of me."  And, so help me, I thought I heard him say Mom, after he said she'd be proud of him. That was weird:  Mom…  Now I'm not one hundred percent sure, but I think that's what I heard.

            And then he slid off his chair and got down on his knees --on his goddamn knees, for Chrissake! -- and pressed his teary face against the waitress' apron and said, "Don't be mad at me, don't be mad, please."  And he was sort of sobbing.  I tell you, it scared the hell out of me.  I didn't know what to think.  And the waitress just froze at first.  Then she patted him on the head, kind of smoothing his hair.  And the whole damn restaurant was staring.

            And, you know, I go to visit him at the Veteran's Hospital on Long Island whenever I'm in port.  But he doesn't talk to me. He just sits there and listens.  Or maybe not even that, I don't know.  He's been there about fourteen months, and they tell me he's getting better.  He'll be all right pretty soon.  That's what they say.

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