scaramanga and the others knew the drill, but bob went over it anyway in a voice loud enough for them all to hear. scaramanga was to get two dollars for covering the bar until maureen showed up. but he was not to spend it until she arrived and he was not to give free drinks - or food or anything else - to his pals or put anything on their tabs.
the cold morning air felt good on bob's face. he put his hands in his pockets and headed toward broadway.
he passed a skinny well dressed woman with an aggrieved air. not really rich looking, but well off enough to be slumming.
was she headed for the bar?
bob turned after she passed him. she was indeed entering the hallowed portal of bob's venerable bowery bar.
if she was looking for excitement, she was in for some bitter disappointment.
estelle had awakened that morning with the battle of waterloo and the battle of new orleans fighting for space in her skull.
peter had long since left for work.
when estelle finally got into the kitchenette, she found a brief note from peter on the table.
wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. - proverbs 20:1
you don't say.
estelle made herself a cup of coffee.
the conversation of the night before came back to her.
about her great idea for a party.
well, why not? if she could manage to get dressed and down the elevator.
i'll show you wine is a mocker, petey boy. and maybe strong drink a brawler, too.
mrs wagner had just finished her fourth cup of tea of the morning but had not quite finished reading the new york times when she heard estelle's door slam.
the chalmerses - peter and estelle - had not had a really loud party for - what? - almost a month.
nor had anyone else in the building, the building in which mrs wagner was the oldest inhabitant and considered herself the rightful ruling spirit.
although it might have surprised the other tenants, mrs wagner had no illusions about the fact that she enjoyed the parties, and the opportunities it gave her to raise a fuss about them.
a body needed to do something besides drink tea and read the new york times and time and life magazines.
if things didn't pick up, she might have to break down and buy herself a television.
even though she hated anything new.
estelle paused outside mrs wagner's door and stuck her tongue out at it.
disgusting, hypocritical old toad!
i'll show you. going to have a party!
when estelle got to the bowery, she was surprised at how deserted it looked. she had expected to see the sidewalks lined with colorful "bums" and "hoboes".
she decided they must all be inside in their "flophouses". come on, fellows, it's not that cold out.
maybe she should have gone up to broadway instead.
she found herself beside a bar. bob's bowery bar. the sign outside said "be of good cheer."
yeah. good cheer. just what the doctor ordered.
some good cheer. and then i'll go over to broadway and find some colorful characters for my party.
estelle pushed open the door of bob's bowery bar.
what a dump! was it deserted?
now she needed some good cheer more than ever.
there was a seedy looking character behind the bar, not even wearing a bartender's white shirt or apron.
and yes, there were some patrons, a bunch of sad looking personages all huddled together at two adjoining tables and looking like they could sure use some good cheer.
they watched estelle as she approached the bar.
"good morning, madam, what will you have this morning?" scaramanga greeted estelle.
"um - what have you got?" estelle seated herself very carefully on the well-patched bar stool.
"allow me to recommend the house bock."
"sure, why not?" estelle looked around as she took her cigarettes out of her purse. with her eyes accustoming to the gloom, it all looked even crumbier than before.
"would you like something to eat?" scaramanga asked her. "perhaps you would like to try bob's world famous scrambled eggs with hash?"
"i think i'd rather not."
"suit yourself." scaramanga took a few seconds to find the cleanest glass available, and began drawing the bock.
the five characters together at the tables had been gazing at estelle with the sad eyes of fish on ice. feeling her return stare some of them turned away and began mumbling to each other.
estelle lit her cigarette and took a sip of the bock scaramaga had put in front of her.
ahhhh. not bad. not bad at all.
"who are those guys?" she asked scaramanga. "they look kind of down in the dumps."
"why - they are poets , madam. heh, heh. being down in the dumps is their stock in trade, you might say."
"poets! i hate poetry."
"poetry does not enjoy the esteem it did in ages past."
"i hated poetry more than anything in school. except maybe algebra and trigonometry."
estelle took another small sip of her bock, then a bigger one.
she was starting to feel better already. sitting here with a nice cold drink, where nobody knew who she was, without a care in the world.
all by herself.
no petey boy with his bible, no mrs wagner with her complaints to the police, no mr ferguson scaring poor petey to death, none of her so called friends who couldn't take a joke, none of those people who never wanted to have any fun…
the poets didn't look so unhappy now. they were starting to look like … colorful characters.
now the ugliest one of the five, a big ginger-headed fellow with a soft cap on the back of his head, got up and approached the bar.
"top of the morning to you, milady," he addressed estelle.
estelle took a big drag of her cigarette and blew a couple of smoke rings.
"can i ask you something?" she asked the red haired man.
"why, surr-tainly, madam."
"are you a colorful character?"
"why, madam, for sure i can be as colorful as you might want me to be."
"and your friends over there, are they colorful characters too?"
"ha ha! why, i could whip some colorfulness into them, my lady, if you but say the word."
estelle took another big sip of her bock, then drained it.
she put the glass on the bar. "another, please," she told scraramanga.
she spoke up loud enough for the four poets left at the tables to hear her.