There's no sense being dishonest about things. Writers drink. Period. I write. I drink. That's that. And like any writer of caustic satire with a chip on his shoulder, I don't just drink, I also smoke. A lot. A whole lot, as in, I would rather drive than fly to Las Vegas because an hour without a cigarette and I might storm the cockpit with a plastic fork.
So the other night I was sitting in my favorite watering hole. It was getting late, and I was pretty lit. I wasn't three sheets to the wind, but I had two sheets dry and the third was flapping crisply. I got up to smoke and, as is my custom, I left a beer and a shot on the bar, both covered by a coaster, with a pack of cigarettes in front of them, the universal symbol for "Somebody's sitting here."
I remember particularly enjoying that cigarette. Sometimes addicts like me rush through a smoke without appreciating the sharp metallic surge of carcinogens slicing our capillaries and steeling us with the stink and resolve to get back down to beer and whiskey business. This time, however, I appreciated every long, slow drag and every curl of blue exhale that hung wispily in the acetylene light. God damn that was a good cigarette.
It is not uncommon upon my return from such indulgence to spot an interloper on or near my stool. Usually the offender is just making use of a bare spot at the bar to order a drink. That doesn't bother me. But on the night in question, just after that orgasmic cigarette, I returned to my stool to find a stool thief. A stool thief flounces down on one's stool, pushes one's things aside, and upon one's return, ignores one's request to reclaim one's rightful stool. I hate stool thieves.
And this was no common stool thief. This was a beautiful girl stool thief, the rarest of all species, scientific name candybreasticus intrudicus regina. We're not talking about a run-of-the-mill cute chick. We're talking perfect skin, neon smile, piercing eyes, strong cheekbones, huge blonde hair, taut body, long legs and a nice set of sewn-ins. She was fine, all right, but I wasn't about to get swooped by a stool thief, sewn-in tits or no sewn-in tits.
As I walked up behind her, something in my head began to hiss and it must have been audible outside my head because I had no sooner folded my arms and tightened my jaw than my bartender said preemptively, "Tony, do you want your stool back?" I answered, "I sure do."
This rather loud exchange occurred across a gap of not more than five feet amid which sat the stool thief, who kept running her silly mouth to the youngster on her right. I rolled around to her left. The blind-side roll is a menacing maneuver that would have caught the concerned attention of a male stool thief. My quarry paid no heed, confident that her sexiness granted her immunity.
I said, "Honey, you had best jump up out of my stool now. I'm not playing around." At that point I had the attention of every one of the dozen or so men in the place, including the one to whom the stool thief was still gabbing away. Had she not heard me the first time, which I'm convinced she did, she definitely heard me this time. The whole bar heard me. She ignored me.
It's a well-known fact that pretty women often do not play by the rules. It's a well-known fact to anyone who knows me that pretty women not playing by the rules piss me off. In fact, had the stool thief been a homely woman who had to buy her own drinks, I might have acted differently. But a pretty woman drinking on strange men's tabs, stealing my stool and ignoring direct invocation of the rules of decency, well, she's going to get dealt with. So I leaned into her, my mouth perhaps eight inches from her ear, and growled, "Get the fuck out of my fucking stool, now!" Every mouth in the bar fell open. Every eye widened. Every throat tightened.
The stool thief spun slowly around all smugly and asked, in that sing-songy chick tone that everyone hates, "Oh my God! Did you just tell me to get the fuck out of your stool?" I answered, "No, kitten. I told you to get the fuck out of my fucking stool. You might have heard me the first two times if the peroxide hadn't soaked through your skull and ruined your ears."
I don't know where most people come down on bar etiquette, but I'm certain most would ordinarily avoid dropping F-bombs on strange women, even women who pander their prurience to win free alcohol. But I am also certain now, days after the fact, that I don't regret a thing about that night. I'm certain I would do it again and I'm certain she probably would, too. And that's the way the world is. There are those who steal stools and those who punish them. I'm a punisher.
At first I didn't feel very good about being mean to a girl. As she slinked out the door, it took all the conviction I could muster not to chase after her and apologize. But I thought of Shakespeare's Richard III and told myself, "No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none and therefore am no beast." And if the Bard's consolation were not enough, I was rewarded by the cheers and back claps of an enthusiastic crowd of men, three of whom bought me a round for doing the right thing.
In time, my recollection of that night will fade. I won't even remember what the stool thief looked like and I will forget how to tell the story. But I'll tell you one thing for sure-I will never forget that cigarette.
Tony Phillips blogs at www.fifthavenue gazette.com. Write to fifthavenuegazette@ yahoo.com and editor@SDcitybeat.com.