Sal Buttaci offers a shot-glass of humility with his entry into our contest. Auto-biographical? We can’t ever know. Good fiction blurs the distinction between was is factual and what is invented. But I do like what Chief Broom says in his opening gambit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, when he is staggered to think people won’t believe all the crazy stuff he is about to tell his readers: “That’s the truth, even if it didn’t happen.”
BECAUSE LOVE WAS NEW
by Sal Buttaci
Sometimes unsolicited visions come to mind. A guy soused on bum wine sits in the phone booth of Werger’s Bar & Grill. It’s almost 3 a.m. closing time and he’s slurring to his girlfriend Diane how much he loves her. With seeming conviction, he rattles off platitudes that speak of undying love, which he memorized one rainy afternoon to serve in his defense.
Who am I kidding. The drunk was me. And to say the above happened only once and therefore, excusable, would be a bald-faced lie. I told Diane a lot of lies because love was new, I liked the feel of it, and I was not about to let it slip through my fingers.
“Ish me, Di.”
“Are you serious? It’s the middle of the night!”
I glance at my blurred wrist and tell myself a lie about being able to see the time’s two hands. “So, you’re up, ain‘t you?”
“The phone rang. I answered it and if you were here I’d beat you to death with it.”
I listen to my heart pound against the silence. What can I say.
“No, you die! Stop bothering me. Just get out of my life.”
Diane is flame-throwing hell into my right ear. The bartender fills my other ear with “We’re closing in five.” I grasp for something to say. Something that will prevent Diane from slamming the phone down on our love. I break into song. A Hank Williams hit I sing many a loveless night.
“Hear that lonesome whippoorwill. He sounds too blue to fly. The midnight train is whining low. I’m so lonesome I could cry.”
“Two minutes to closing,” Chuck announces through the haze of cigarette smoke and the stale smell of beer. “Two minutes.”
Instead of hanging up, Diane decides this is the right time to fry me under the lights, club my woozy skull with a barrage of my thoughtless, deceitful, self-centered infidelities. After naming the three women I am dating while supposedly committed to her and not so unfairly judging them as immoral, I can see love flicker its wings, then fly through the glass phone booth door.
The phone goes dead. “Di, Di? You shtill there?” I say in my lazy Pabst Blue Ribbon saloon voice. “Wanna see a movie tomorra?” I finally hook the phone back, exit the booth and stagger toward the bar to drop a buck tip. Chuck wants to know if love is still in the air and then, “You okay to drive?” How many times did I tell him I lived two blocks away? That my Volkswagon dropped a transmission? And if love was in the air, it was somewhere far away in somebody else’s spring garden. Diane was gone.
Looking back on all these years, I can hardly recall what she looked like, though her screaming phone voice I will probably never shake. That boozy night was the last time we spoke. We went our separate ways.
Bye bye, Di.