Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Last Sunday at noon I resolved to eat fried food. I tugged a baseball cap over my unruly mop and jammed some stinky dock slippers on my feet and meandered down to the Deerhead. This bar is a wide hallway with few customers and scant taxidermy.
The door was barred open and the only light was natural from the doorway or blue from the dual television screens that hung above either end of the bar, both set to the Sci-fi channel. Two grizzled old men with faded tattoos and wives at church sat nibbling pretzels and muttering quietly to one another. The bartender was a middle aged woman with pretty eyes and a suspicious gaze.
I strolled in and leaned against the bar, declining a stool. The woman strode up to me and asked "Helpya?"
"Yes please. I would like to order two pizza puffs, to go please."
She stared at me, expressionless. Maybe perplexed. I continued.
"I realize you're not a fast food joint, but I've got a taste for them and I know you've got them."
I glanced down the bar to the makeshift kitchen station tucked underneath the cigarette rack. The fryer was clean, the baskets were up, and I decided the oil was cold.
"Nevermind. I'll try somewhere else."
As I walked out she stopped me and commanded I sit. I did. She doublechecked my ID. I had shaved that morning and she thought I was a high school student or somesuch, wearing a tattered shirt and puffy undereyes. Satisfied, she handed back the card and bade me to wait.
Instead of turning on the big fryer she cranked up the portable frydaddy that rest on an adjacent counter. She sheepishly grinned and whispered a conspiratorial offer.
"Wouldja like a drink hon?
I grinned back and leaned in. I even glanced to and fro. For effect. You know, to see if any perked ears would try to hear our secret words.
"Yes please. A Diet Coke would be just the thing."
She seemed pleased that I chose not to drink booze so early in the day. When she returned with it she pointed straight behind me.
"While you're waiting, hon, try my ham. There's some bread and potato salad too if you like that."
Holy shit. Free food. Again. I hadn't been to this joint in two years. The last time I visited the Cubs were in the playoffs and they were serving free dogs and chips. I told her of this and asked if there was always food for any soul who fell off the sidewalk. No. She told me I was just lucky.
"I sure am."
She went to check the fryer. She came back and leaned against the vodka shelf.
"Not quite yet."
My turn again. "This place hasn't changed during the two years since my last visit. How long has this place been around?"
She hollered down to one of the stroke candidates. A hoarse "1941!" shot back. I nodded in apparent appreciation of the fact. I was actually trying to figure out why I'd been curious. Before I got a chance, my bartender chirped again.
"So why pizza puffs? I've never had one and nobody eats them here. I always thought they're kids food."
"They are. When I was a kid both of my sisters and my brother were figure skaters. I always got abandoned in the arcade at the rink. I'd beg quarters for video games and dollars for pizza puffs. I've hated ice skating and loved pizza puffs ever since."
She nodded as if she'd expected my remarks. I was nearly full from her ham when the first pizza puff landed on my plate. As I finished it I stifled a belch and declined a second.
I paid double. When I waved goodbye I looked her in her pretty eyes and smiled. She seemed sad that I was leaving her to the liverspot crowd. I had never asked her name. 7:18 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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