- Dad’s nemesis looked like actor Lee Van Cleef; mysterious, evil, and quiet.
At the Avenue Café was a man who did not like my Dad. His name was Vic. He was a little less than six feet tall and well built. He had a Lee Van Cleef evil-like appearance. His hair was a thick shiny black and combed back. His face was pitted. He always dressed well and wore heavy cologne. He was quiet and had a certain arrogance about him. He was popular, but I suspect it was out of fear.
My Dad was loud and bragged a lot. That’s what bars are for, especially the Avenue Café. There was another bar a block away called Arnold’s Place. It was quieter there. If you wanted quiet, that was the place to go.
The man tried to quiet Dad with sharp remarks meant to embarrass him. Dad never backed down.
Regulars at the Avenue played pranks on one another. Sometimes somebody would come behind my Dad and jab him with their fingers in his ribs. Dad’s arms flew in the air and he would yell out. Everybody laughed.
One night I came to the bar to get Dad so we could walk home together.
As soon as you walked into the Avenue the bar was immediately to the right. It was laid out like the letter L.
Dad sat in the first stool at the bottom of the L where it meats with the vertical part. His stool was also directly in front of the door. The building sat close to the street. From the building there was two steps down to the side walk and next to the sidewalk was Bellefontaine Avenue.
I sat next to Dad. Vic walked in with a date. Dad was quiet. He started to taunt Dad with some remarks from a few stools away. I watched him nudge his date and hurl a few more insults at Dad. Dad was uncommonly non combative and relatively quiet. In my mind I thought Dad was not going to allow himself to be goaded into anything, because Vic was obviously trying to get under Dad’s skin to show-off in front of the woman.
“Let’s go home Dad,” I said.
“I’m going to have one more,” Dad said.
“I don’t like that guy,” I whispered.
Dad ordered another beer. The verbal assault continued.
The man whispered to the woman and eased slowly from his stool. He sauntered to the cigarette machine and bought a pack of cigarettes. He moved slowly toward Dad.
Dad was looking forward, but I could tell Dad’s attention was on the man moving in behind him.
“Dad,” I leaned toward him and whispered. “He’s coming closer.”
“Shhh,” Dad said quietly.
The man jabbed Dad in the ribs. Dad turned quickly. It was a blur. Dad hit Vic with all his might in the face.
Let me regress for a moment. Dad was powerful. He was 6’ 2” but his reach was 80 inches. His hands were large and his fists were big. Dad was very fast with his hands. He always told me he was never fast enough to run from a fight so he had to learn to fight.
The punch that Dad landed sounded like a solid line drive from the crack of a bat. I’ve never heard anything like it since. I had no idea a punch could sound that loud.
Vic flew backward out the door, down the steps, and landed on his back in Bellefontaine Avenue. The bar went absolutely quiet. Dad looked out the door to see if Vic was in any kind of shape to continue. He crawled to the curb, got his feet, and stumbled toward the parking lot.
Dad sat down at the bar and took a swig from his beer.
I was shaking.
Dad looked over at the woman and said calmly, “I think he’s ready to go now.”