story was told to me by a close acquaintance I shall call Mike.
It was the Winter of 1973 and Mike was drinking a $1 pitcher of
beer in a pizza place on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Yes, you heard me right – the plastic pitcher of beer cost but a
single dollar. And they even gave you a clean glass so you needn’t
embarrass yourself. A single draft was .25 and if squeezed carefully,
a pitcher could render five glasses of “liquid bread.”
There was some sort of promotion going on at the pizzeria, announced
by a huge poster. If you (a single person) could eat one of their
large pizzas at one sitting (and keep it down long enough for the
feat to be documented), they would then give you another (small)
pizza to take home for your dog and roommate to fight over.
Since Mike was sitting alone, he had time to observe a young (petite)
woman who was sitting at another table behind one of the aforementioned
large pizzas. The restaurant was a mere three blocks from the UA
campus and just across the railroad tracks from the Rock Bottom
bookstore. The woman, who was obviously a student, was reading a
book. Please keep in mind this was 1972 and people were often seen
committing the crime (misdemeanor) of reading in public. Police
usually just shook their heads and looked the other way.
Mike had lied to the waiter, telling him that he was the advance
guard for a group of friends that would arrive “soon.” The waiter
had believed him and there were three other glasses on Mike’s table.
Alas, there was no promotion for drinking a pitcher of beer by oneself.
As Mike waited for his imaginary friends that he knew would never
arrive, his increasingly glazed gaze was noticing the girl’s pizza
disappearing at a rate of one slice for every two pages read. Based
on that ratio, Mike decided that the book was required reading and
not a novel.
She got down to the last slice just as the waiter came to check
on her and said, “Oh, I see you’re just about there!”
“Just about where? she asked, innocently. He pointed to the sign
and the young woman blushed one shade darker than the tomato sauce
on her pile of crusts. Now that she might be accused of gluttony,
she refused to eat the last slice. Instead, she asked the waiter
for a box. Her vanity had plucked defeat from her would-be jaws
Mike, who was hungry and knew he only had enough for the beer and
tip, was considering asking the woman to please eat the last piece
and give him the bonus pizza if she didn’t want it. He was just
forming his plea when she paid her bill and left.
The waiter looked at Mike, knowing he had witnessed the entire scene.
He didn’t say a word. He just raised his eyebrows and blinked in
a Stan Laurel look of surprise.
Mike’s friends never did show up and he half-heartedly muttered
at their lack of consideration as he paid his bill. He left the
shop hungry; but surprisingly warm.
September 7, 2014 Column
© John Troesser
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