For our bar story series, we have invited some of our contributors to share a story, an episode, an experience that took place at a particular bar–a place that they hold in their memory for one reason or another. We hope you will enjoy reading these stories as they appear each Monday.
by Martha Frankel
Later the story would take on a life of its own— “Did’ja hear that Martha punched a state trooper at the Boiceville Inn and knocked him out? Everyone saw it!”
But it wasn’t like that at all. Although I did shove a cop. And he did fall. And there were at least 60 people standing around, watching.
But history first. The Boiceville Inn was next door to where we lived (in the back of my boyfriend’’s furniture store). We were hippies in a town that proudly wore its redneck tan, but we found our place at the B.I., as we called it. It was cavernous and dark, and everyone went there–bikers and conservatives, cops and perps, young and old. Donna Summer would be dimming all the lights, sweet darling, and people would crowd the dance floor, knocking back shots, dancing till they were slick with sweat, making out with their boyfriends and girlfriends, or with complete strangers. It was that magic time between the Pill and AIDS, when anything could go, and at the B.I., everything did.
I remember that it was hot that night, and we had been at a party. It was late, but not too late to stop for one more drink. When Steve stopped to talk to someone outside, I told him I would meet him at the bar. I knew from the amount of cars in the parking lot that the place was jammed, and although I didn’t expect the air-conditioning to freeze me out, I knew that blast of cold air was gonna feel great.
When I walked in, people at the bar turned my way. Everyone seemed to smile. I walked slowly down the 40-foot bar, hugging this one or that, saying hello to friends, shaking hands with people I had never seen. I ordered a shot of Rock & Rye. This was how new I was to drinking; I ordered that liquor because the bartender had told me one night that I should. So I did. I had never drank before and had no idea that you shouldn’’t have to hold your nose and gulp a shot. So I held my nose, threw it back, and immediately someone offered to buy me another.
The buyer was a local guy, whose three brothers were sitting on either side of him. His hair was long and unkempt, his clothes stained with chainsaw oil. I looked from brother to brother, trying to remember if this one was Greg or Hank, Billy or Todd. He handed me the shot, I held my nose, and just like that the music throbbed within me and I started to dance. Greg or Hank or Billy or Todd leaned forward and I kissed him square on the lips. The other brothers started to clap.
That’s when someone grabbed my arm. ”Gimme a kiss,” the guy slurred. I tried to walk around him. “C’mon, kiss me,” he said again, this time pressing his face too close to mine. What the hell was his name? All I could think of was his wife, who I had seen with a big bruise on her chin once, and a handprint on her upper arm at the local pool one day. Was her name Heather? What was his? He stank of sweat and booze. ”Ya kissed Greg, now kiss me,” he demanded.
I heard people saying hi to Steve, so I knew he was right behind me. I wanted to turn but was afraid to take my eyes off the guy, who I suddenly realized was a local cop. I wondered if he really terrorized his wife, and if she needed help. I thought that I would call her the next day, but what to say: ”Your husband’s a jerk, and you can come stay with me”?
I felt a rage boiling up inside me, and when he leaned in the next time, I put both of my forearms up in front of me. He grabbed at my shirt and again begged for a kiss. I leaned in close. ”I could blow every guy in this bar, but still I wouldn’t kiss you,” I hissed. Only somehow the jukebox had stopped and my words reverberated off the walls. Everything was deathly silent, then it exploded with noise.
I heard Steve say, “Omigod.” And then I pushed forward with my forearms at the same moment that the cop stepped forward, and somehow those two opposing elements sent him careening away from me. He staggered back and landed with a loud thunk in front of the huge stone fireplace.
People bought me shots for the rest of the month.
Martha Frankel is the author of Hats and Eyeglasses: A Memoir, the co-author of Brazilian Sexy, and the executive director of the Woodstock Writers Fest. You can read the Drinking Diaries interview with Martha here.