Stan the bartender would have been injured more severely if it weren’t for the baseball bat.
Stan kept the bat under the bar at the Four Clover Tavern, where he has held forth for decades in Nero, a declining upstate mill town that many people regard as a figment of my imagination.
Stan was closing up one night when a big guy came in to steal cash and booze. Stan grabbed the bat and cracked the guy on the arm but then slipped and fell behind the bar. The guy ran and Nero police have yet to locate the perp.
Disease Cotter and Marty the Bull have been running the Four Clover while Stan undergoes rehab at Nero Medical Center, which is glad for his business. Upstate health facilities need all the insurance cards they can get and Stan has two: one from the government — because of his age — and a private one.
“It’s an outrage,” bellowed WNRO radio talk host Mike Van Wilson as Mike’s on and off girlfriend and left-leaning political operative Wanda Tamburino sat at Stan’s bedside listening to Mike’s program, “The Never Ending Argument.”
Mike continued, “I’ll take this case to my friends in the Tea Party. A decent, hardworking man like Stan set upon by a low-life from who knows where. Oh, that we had a president who understood the plight of the common man. We’ve got to seal our borders. Stop relying on the government for handouts and stand up to the Russians.”
“I think he’s angling for me to forgive his tab,” Stan remarked.
“You’ve got to realize,” Wanda replied. “It’s not that Mike doesn’t believe what he’s saying, but he’s has gotten so deep into this hate-the-government clique that he really isn’t responsible for what comes out of his mouth.”
“I hurt, Wanda,” Stan said. “Maybe it’s time to give it up. I don’t understand what’s going on in Nero anymore.”
“That makes two of us,” Wanda said as she squeezed her old friend’s hand.
Back at the Four Clover, Disease and Marty were getting ready for Mike’s arrival after the end of his show. The lounge singer had been asked not to come in because of the situation with Stan, and the bar was empty.
“I guess I told them,” Mike said when he came down the stairs and grabbed a stool.
“Told them what?” asked Marty. “That some low-life attacked Stan and you’re going to bellow and screech about it? All of us feel bad about what happened to Stan. He’s the smartest of our bunch. Some of us have more money. Some of us have nicer houses. But he’s always right there. He knows what he’s doing. And he knows what you’re doing when you’re in his bar, you can count on that.” Disease pushed a beer Mike’s way. “It’s on me, Mike,” Disease said.
“Thanks, old-timer,” Mike replied. Disease raised an eyebrow.
“What’s that over the bar?” Mike asked.
“It’s a camera,” Marty said. “I got it installed for Stan. It’s the least I could do. There’s one outside too. The cops can watch them. So can Stan. We saw you walking up here. Do you always comb your hair before you walk into a place? I must say when you don’t comb your hair you look like Clarabelle the clown.”
“So we’ve got cameras at the Four Clover,” Mike replied. “Next thing you know we’ll have full body scans at the door and maybe a metal detector. Our country is going to hell!”
“For once, could you shut up?” Disease asked, flashing a menacing smile.
Bob Cudmore lives in Scotia and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.
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