Hattie: Well, well. How ya’, Artie, what’s your pleasure?
Art: Hey, Hattie. Hattie Venta, at this time of day? I thought you only worked the graveyard shift. The regular gal, Bea, isn’t sick or something, is she?
Hattie: Oh no, Artie. She wanted the day off so she could take her little nephew to the Zoo where they’re having a food festival with music. Whatever will they think of next—a festival with music and food outdoors. Isn’t that nice?
Art: You bet, Hattie. That’s nice. I myself stopped eating food at the Zoo years ago, ever since I noticed what seemed to be a statistical anomaly that involved the number of pepperoni pizza slices sold and the population of Monkey Island.
Hattie: You don’t say so, Artie. Now let’s cut the chit-chat and get down to business. Are you going to order something, or do I need to call the police on you for loitering?
Art: Jeez louise, Hattie, what’s the hurry? I’m the only customer here.
Hattie: That’s right, Artie. And you know I get flustered when there’s a rush. So what’s it going to be—my way, or the highway?
Art: Calm down now Hattie. I’ll just have a nice cup of the blackest, thickest and cheapest of whatever it is you’re calling plain-old American coffee today, thank you very kindly.
Hattie: Now was that so hard, Artie? I like a customer who knows how to play ball. But aren’t you forgetting something?
Art: I don’t think so, Hattie. I’m fine with just the coffee.
Hattie: The tip! Don’t play games with me, Artie. I need the tip up front just so there’s no shenanigans.
Art: No problem, Hattie. There you go.
Hattie: That’s a nice boy, Artie. But Georgie Porgie Washington needs his twin if you want that cup of coffee, mister.
Art: All right already, Hattie. There. Go get yourself something nice.
Hattie: And here’s your coffee, just like I promised. So what do you hear, what do you know, my little Artie.
Art: I hear we got the Irish Fest this weekend down by the lakefront. You ever go to that fest, Hattie?
Hattie: Not me, Artie. But my father was Irish, he would’ve loved to go. They called him a lay-about because he never worked a day in his life; so I’m sure he would have had the time to go there. Did you know, Artie, that on his tombstone it says, “Curse is the work of the drinking man.” Isn’t that nice?
Art: Sounds familiar, something like Oscar Wilde once sort of said, that “Work is the curse of the drinking man.”
Hattie: Don’t you smart-mouth me, Artie. He passed away when I was just young girl. He had a bad accident when he tried to replace a light bulb all by himself. But I’ll never forget a little story he used to tell his friends when they came back to the house after the taverns closed: So listen, this Englishman, a Frenchman and an Irishman were at the pub discussing families. The talk turned to children and surprised they are to learn they each have a 15-year-old daughter they struggle to understand. The Englishman’s problem is that he found cigarette butts under his daughter’s bed. “I didn’t know she smoked,” was his complaint. The Frenchman then says that he’d found cognac bottles under his daughter’s bed. “I was not aware that she drank,” he confessed. And the Irishman says his situation is the toughest—he’d found condoms under his daughter’s bed. “Ah lads, what kind of father am I that I did not know my daughter even had a dick?”
Art: Yeah. That’s a nice story, Hattie.
Hattie: I knew you’d like it, Artie. You’re such a good boy.
Art: As always, it’s been a treat, Hattie. I’m thinking I ought to go before you get too busy. So thanks for the coffee—and for bending my ear there, Hattie-licious. See you next time.
Hattie: Oh Artie, you’re a little devil, aren’t you. Take care.
(OK, it’s off to the Uptowner. If you see me there, then you buy me one ’cause I’m Art Kumbalek and I told you so.)