Pudge is what they called him, short and stout full of bluster and anger. No one dared to get on his bad side. He pushed and shoved until he found reason to humiliate and pummel a man. He had no friends yet everyone was his friend. How little he knew of the contempt other felt toward him.
He could clear a barroom with his fists or his presence as everyone suddenly had errands to run, lawns to tend, or sudden headaches when he showed up.
Yet on the weekends few left at his presence, there was too much going on for him to effect the evening. Although on several occasions he found ample reason to display his pugilistic prowess. His blows were sharp, quick, and powerful. His arms were short and his fists round and large like two clothing irons.
It was Mickey’s first night behind the bar. He was two hours into his shift and feeling comfortable. Mickey worked for a year at Flaherty’s on the other side of the river for a year so he knew his P’s and Q’s and could tap a keg and draw larger with the best of them. A slight man in build with a friendly disposition. Always smiled and had a light-hearted comment for everyone.
Pudge hated those dispositions. It was likely it signaled to him the world wasn’t such a bad place after all.
After a half hour of sitting at the bar Pudge said to Mickey, “Can you tone it down a notch or two, the is a bar not a circus.”
“I’m sorry sir,” Mickey said. “In most cases the customer is right, but in this particular one he is wrong dead wrong.”
There was a scowl on Pudge’s face that could have stopped a grizzly.
Mickey smiled and drew a beer. “Now there ya go, mate, one on the house to chase the gloom away.”
“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” Pudge said.
“Of course I do,” Mickey said. “It’s the famous Pudge. We heard about you on the other side of the river. Everyone’s afraid of you.”
“Than that ought to tell you to knock off the good-time-Charley routine and just tend the bar.”
“I’m sorry not to find you in a better frame of mind,” Mickey said. “Perhaps you should leave and allow decent people to have a good time. With that in mind I’ll remove the beer from in front of you and find someone more appreciative.”
Mickey was about to remove the beer. Pudge grabbed him quicker than a cat’s paw and pulled him inches from his face. Mickey head butted Pudge on the bridge of his nose. Pudge released his grip and fell backwards stumbling to the floor. Mickey swung over the bar and straddled Pudge’s chest before another breath could be drawn.
Mickey’s fist was tight and poised to launch like a blackjack. He knew exactly where to land his blow, the jaw. A broken jaw diminishes a man immediately. The pain is excruciating.
Mickey looked at Pudges face. It was a look he did not expect. He saw fear. “This man lives in fear,” Mickey thought.
Mickey’s fist relaxed. Blood trickled from Pudge’s nose. Mickey pulled a bar towel from his back pocket and placed it over Pudge’s nose.
Mickey sprung to his feet and offered a hand to Pudge. “Got a lucky one in that time. Next time might not be so lucky.”
Pudge grabbed hold of Mickey’s hand and Mickey pulled him to his feet.
“It’s probably broken, ya know,” Mickey said. “Not a word of this to the owner,” he said under his breath, “it could get me fired.”
Pudge smiled from beneath the bar towel held to his nose. “Your head okay?”
That was 40 years ago. During that time Mickey and Pudge were regulars all those years.
Mickey now laid in a casket. Pudge’s grief was unbearable. He leaned over and kissed Mickey’s forehead. He raised and said, “Thank you, Mickey, for understanding my fear.”