Sal Buttaci closes the bar, as he raises it


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.”


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.



19 thoughts on “Sal Buttaci closes the bar, as he raises it

  1. Monica Brinkman says:

    Sal, Sal, Sal – you captured inebriation to perfection, and also the essence of a young man still finding his way, or should I say, playing the field as we said in our day.

    Love it, as always. Ah,, yes the bar is high.

  2. Michael Stang says:

    “I listen to my heart pound against the silence.” Oh wow, Sal, you are so writing about me (at least you left out the peeping tom act–whole other story).
    Here is a delightful and sobering look at the male of the species trying to learn the ropes with one hand tide behind his back.
    Audio hallucinations in the background yelling “Stella”; one more block to the empty apartment.

  3. Miryam says:

    “flame throwing hell…..” What a great line!! I can almost hear Di’s voice.
    This scene touches me with an earthy sadness. The blurry darkness, not only of the saloon, but of the heart.
    Thank you for such a masterful piece.

  4. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    Thank you for your kind words. It was fun writing this story. Delving back into the past is always enjoyable, whether to extract plots from the truth box or the fiction bag or a combo of both. And getting those tidbits onto paper or monitor is the surest way to race the heart!

  5. Diane Cresswell says:

    But Sal you never called me when you were sober!!! I’m sorry I didn’t realize under that alcohol breath beat a heart of lushness! Love the story Sal. So well spoken and revealed – master craftsmanship. As usual!!!

  6. Micki Peluso says:

    Sal, brilliant piece of writing, expressing so many different emotions in different ways: saying so much in so few words, words that can only rise to the surface when enebriated. Loved the quote. Had I remembered that it would have gone in my book.

  7. Mike Casper says:

    I’ve been in that bar before, I’ve watched men lurch towards the door and bang into the frame. Oh, that was me. See? I’ve still got a scar on my forehead.
    When I read a story and I can smell the stale beer and ciggies, it’s a GREAT story. Thanks, Sal.

  8. Jon Tobias says:

    I think it is great that she is a lost love and yet the main character cannot remember what she looks like. All he remembers is the sound of her voice when yelling at him. Somehow what he remembers, if he even remembers it correctly, constitutes as a lost love. We get little of their actual relationship as much as we get his indiscretions and trust that he loves her simply because he remembers being in love with her. That is one very interesting character you have created. Very deep. Love this one.

  9. Thornton Sully says:

    All of you folks visiting our site: Here is a reminder that our contest closes the 15th of March. If you have not yet entered the contest, here is the link to do so:
    Please help this community of writers grow by posting this on your website or FB, invite your friends to enter the contest and leave comments for all the entrants. You can enter up to three times: great news for the promiscuous among us who have more than one “first loves!” And you could win a mystery trophy and Nook or Kindle device… just sayin’.

  10. Tiffany says:

    And just like that, we are happy to have a Sal Buttaci in the world. I loved the actually scene you wrote. It was descriptive, moved the story, and gave weight to the backstory. Sal, you have a great way of writing in a way that answers the questions that need answering (right as the reader wonders them), while giving room for speculation of non-essential details.

  11. Kyle Katz says:

    “fry me under the lights, club my woozy skull…” I have to admit, I’ve, returned to this page numerous times savoring not only the fine crafting of Sal’s writing, but how the storytelling immediately becomes enmeshed in all of the readers senses without you knowing it. I actually felt drunk. A master of ‘how to say it differently.’ “Volkswagon dropped a transmission.” “Flame throwing hell into my right ear.” This style of writing is music to my ears. How cliche is that? Thanks Sal, your writing truly is a teaching moment. Moving this one to my personal files.

  12. Amanda Byzak says:

    There were some great lines in here. And Sal did such a great job showing me this character that I think I could actually smell him.

  13. Mac Eagan says:

    I felt sorry for the main character (you) but wanted to find Di, pat her on the back and say, “Good for you.”

    And as always when you write, Sal – good for you. A great story.

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