Friends to the End

Chapter 1

Zeke Pratti sat on a swivel stool at Lombardi’s Bar and Pizzeria staring into his mug of beer. He was separated by a stool from Mickey, the nose, Palitroni who was lifting his mug of beer over his head and coaxing the last drops from the mug to drop into his mouth. Gus Polati, the bartender, was at the end of the bar. He was washing beer mugs. Lombardi’s opened at ten in the morning. Zeke and Mickey were on their stools by five after ten. They consumed their first beer by ten fifteen. It was now eleven. Mickey was finishing his third beer. Zeke was contemplating life as he gazed into his third beer.

“I’m one up on you, Zeke. Want to try for six by lunch?” asked Mickey.

“Not today, Mickey. I’m going through an existential funk,” said Zeke.

“Huh? I heard of funk. I never heard of the other word. Did you watch PBS last night? What I tell you about that channel. It’s run by commies, pinkos, and vegetables.”

“You mean vegetarians?” ask Zeke.

“You talking about the people who do the birth control thing on dogs and cats, which I do not approve. Why don’t they teach dogs and cats to use condoms? Nobody wants to answer that question. These are same people who give dogs and cats rabbit shots. Am I right?” asked Mickey.

Gus looked down the bar toward Mickey and wondered if he should cut him off before he became a danger to society.

“I used to date one of them,” said Zeke.

“A vegetable, or a vegetarian?” asked Mickey.

“The one who works on dogs and cats,” said Zeke.

“What happened?” asked Mickey signaling Gus for another beer.

Zeke quit gazing into his beer, lifted the mug to his lips, took a look swig, put the mug down on the bar, and wiped his mouth on his hairy forearm. He said, “The local beers have been the best invention since they invented toilet paper.”

“I’ll give you that one,” said Mickey. Then he said, “What about the vegetarian?”

“It was going great. I mean we got along like cheese and pizza, like meatballs and spaghetti, you know what I mean?” asked Zeke.

“Yah,” said Mickey as he stuck his left hand out to the middle of the bar to catch the sliding mug of beer from Gus.

“Man, she had it all in all the right places. Everything was good until she decides to ask me the one question that scares the daylights out of me,” said Zeke.

Gus is interested. He moved down the bar so he could pick up the conversation.

Mickey took a sip of his fourth beer and said, “She wanted to get married? That’s what all the dame’s want.”

“No. I coulda handled the proposal. Just because you agree you want to get married, doesn’t mean you have to get married, see what I’m saying?” asked Zeke.

“Yah, I see it. But you got my interest picked,” said Mickey.

Gus wondered if Mickey meant piqued.

“She dropped the bomb on me. She says to me before I have my first beer of the day, which I usually have with breakfast, ‘When are you going to get a job and get of unemployment?’”

Mickey made the sign of the cross, “This is like the worst thing a broad can ask. She wanted to take you off the gravy train after all you did for her?” asked Mickey.

“To be honest, I didn’t do nothing for her except let her enjoy my entire personality if you know what I mean. I’m in my prime. I can go forever.”

“Maybe it was her time of the month, you know how that goes. I remember when I was with Isabel, I thought I was under a terrorist attack,” said Mickey before he took a long drink from his mug.

“That’s just it, she’s got common sense. She’s always even keel. I knew when she said it, the honeymoon was over. How long we been best friends, all our life, right, don’t answer, I know I’m right. But let me ask you, I had ten weeks left on unemployment. It’s a free vacation from the government. Do you agree you got to be stupid to go to work when you are getting paid for not going to work.” said Zeke.

“It does not take a genius to figure that one out. Did you explain this to her?  asked Mickey.

Gus was also interested, although he had an inclination as to what happened.

“I told her what I told you. She must have been expecting that because she had a plastic bag filled with my dirty clothes and tossed them at me and said, “Get out and don’t call me, ever.”

“That was both tough and unfair. In the pros the refs ususaly give you a warning. I think that should go in relationships,” said Mickey.

“That’s genius, Mickey. I was getting tired of her. I was starting to look around while she was working. But the only women I could find were all married or with somebody. I got ethics. I won’t do that, especially if the guy is bigger than me,” laughed Zeke.

Mickey high fived Zeke. Gus wondered why they’re walking around loose.

Zeke continued, “The tough part is I only got one week left on unemployment and no prospects. How about you.”

“I run out this week, and I got no prospects,” said Mickey.

At that moment, fortune and fate decided to turn its light on the best friends. The door to Lombardi’s Bar and Pizzeria opened and Tony Gallino walked in.

Come by tomorrow to discover how fortune and fate smiled on Zeke and Mickey.

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