Issue 3 TOC
Notes from a Cantina


by Larry Friedlander

    Please do not pass judgment up on me, dear reader.  That, I must implore you from the outset of this exercise, for I know that it is easy to gaze down upon me from that ivory tower, and sit quite comfortably in sweet judgment.  But you must realize that I was not always such a wretched soul.  Oh yes, I was once like you, a pillar of the community, and a citizen of the highest order.  And now, this.  But please, before I lose your attention, you must first permit me a brief moment of your valuable time to explain myself.  And then, I will burden you no longer with my sad plight.  And after, if you are so inclined, you may count our blessings that it is I, and not you, who must endure this shame.

    At a time, a time not so far removed from the present, I was employed at a respectable post, and for a most respectable wage.  I had access to many of life’s finer things, including a most agreeable flat in one of the finest sections of town.  My post afforded me with great respect and a full stable of acquaintances, with which I would spend my time.  In addition, I had a most pleasant female companion, whom I regarded as the woman I would quite likely share my life.

    Yes, good citizens, it seemed that life had dealt me a hand that I could not lose.  And then came the fall.

    It is difficult for me to say what precipitated this downfall as I eel I am losing ground as we speak.  And as the downing man does no think about his reason for submersion, but rather his method of escape, I shall not either.  However, business losses coupled with several misinformed real estate dealings, I must confess, played a significant role.  And then there was the loss of my friends.  And then my female companion.  And then, quite sadly, my sanity.  And that is how I wound up here, as Assistant Manager of “Hickey Filbert’s Fillet of Sole Cantina and Family Amusement Center, LLP.”

    Again, I must implore you not to judge me for this grave predicament, as it is a quite difficult post I hold.  Now, if you’d care to, you may follow me closely and bare witness to my misery, so that I may be able to elicit some degree of empathy from you.  Good, I’m glad that you will be joining me, and on this evening which affords me untold amounts of grief - “Football Friday.”

    On this evening, it is another loss for the West Hanford High Fighting Possums, whose students invade “Hickey Filbert’s” like a hive of swarming bumblebees.  And as always, win or lose, they take sublime pleasure in mocking me at every turn.

    My heart aches as I hear the barbs that pierce my supple flesh like a molten hot stiletto through hot butter.  “Nice uniform,” one student would sarcastically exclaim, while another were exhort, “Should’ve gone to college!”  And to that indignity I exclaim, “I did go to college!  And you must know that I studied philosophy and physics with some of the greatest thinkers of our age.  I received advanced degrees and wrote scholarly works that were read by important people, gentlepersons of stature and of prominence.”  But they would choose to ignore my words, instead giving me unflattering monikers like “pussy” and “doucheboy” and “pizza jockey.”  But they can’t know my agony.  And they don’t know the rigors of my positions, without which their pizza and pasta and submarine sandwiches with black olives and extra cheese would be inconceivable.  But enough of this.  Please, let us venture to the amusements.

    Listen you, and follow me to “Hickey Filbert’s Amusement Center” and see what I must endure on a daily basis.  Young men cheating on ski ball, dropping the hard rubber sphere into the target instead of property pitching it down the alley.  Boys and girls allowing their sodas to rest quite recklessly on the video game consoles.  And then there are the public displays of affection, which, quite candidly, bedevil me to no end.

    To all of these indiscretions, I saw, “Forbid it, almighty God, I will not permit any of this on my watch!”  And now, I must repeat this admonition, for I do not deem one time enough.  “Forbid it, almighty God!”  And I must also make this statement: “Everybody must wear shoes at ‘Hickey Filbert’s’.”  And no short shorts or gang attire, as a certain level of decorum must be observed on these premises.  Do you understand me?  And I making myself quite clear?”

    I’m sorry.  I’m so very sorry.  I’ve done it again, haven’t I?  I’ve temporarily taken leave of my senses.  Please forgive me.  I did not mean to scare you.  Please know that you are my guest and I would never do anything to bring you pain or discomfort.  So let us venture on, shall we, and start anew.  And I promise that I will conduct myself with a higher degree of composure.

    Welcome to our kitchen and please watch your step as the insurance premiums are high these days, and industrial strength tomato sauce is a slippery affair.  I want you to meet my staff, whom in my absence, I have been told, refer to me as “Dickcheese.”  If they only knew the sorrow and abject consternation that name causes me as I lie awake in my bed at night, sweat beads cascading down my face as my rotary fan casts ominous shadows across my rent-controlled flat.

    Look over there, my friends, and bare witness to a sad sight indeed.  Bobby Ray Gaskins, my once trusted chief dishwaster, has illegally procured a Super Chicken Parmigana Sub with the works, cleverly hiding it under his shirt.  He will now venture in a clandestine fashion to the men’s lavatory to consume his provisions, while making no attempt at remuneration.  This act of gross insubordination I find most distasteful as it shows a complete disregard for our rules and regulations.  These edicts were set forth far back in the year of our lord nineteen-hundred and eighty-three by the esteemed Hickey Filbert himself.  This blatant act of thievery will not go unpunished.  Oh dear citizens, you mark my word, there will be hell to pay for that fresh-faced young dishwasher.

    Quick, now look over there!  Over there, by the deep fryer.  Look closely, friends, and gaze back to me as you watch my pitiable heart melt like an ice cube on asphalt during a sultry summer day.  Now, you must know the sad truth about me; I am in love.  And quite obviously, the object of my love is this angel from above, sweet Mariana Guttierez.  Now watch me sputter like a crippled engine as I try desperately to communicate with her.  “Of course you can have next week off,” “No, I’ll get someone else to clean out the fryers tonight.”  “You, you may bring home that ‘MeatMeister Combo’ pizza to your family even though the company handbook clearly states that food purchases with the employee discount must be consumed on the property of ‘Hickey Filbert’s Fillet of Sole Cantina and Family Amusement Center LLP’.”

    I am so ashamed of myself as I am clearly playing favorites to the beautiful Mariana.  But I do not care and I’ll gladly take whatever retribution befalls me as I am so helplessly and hopelessly in love with the fair Latina.  But alas, my feelings are just as hopelessly unrequited as it seems that my sweet Mariana has been having a tempestuous relationship with Mick Phoge, who portrays “Sidney the Scrod”, one of Hickey Filbert’s several costumed entertainers.

    Life is a never-ending circle, as it seems that once again, I am bested by a thespian.  I recalled back in my days at university, I was enraptured with a fair young lady who studied the classics.  However, to my dismay, I found that I was in competition for her affections with a drama student who was getting rave notices from his turns as Hamley and Romeo Montague.  It was a futile battle, in which I was eventually the vanquished.  But this student of the Bard was a mere trifle compared to the portrayer of “Sidney the Scrod.” And I cursed Mick Phoge at every turn, wishing with each of my waking moments that I could rid Hickey Filbert’s of this plague upon our house.  But my conscience will not permit such an act of unbridled cowardice as I am already filled with such an incomprehensible sense of self-loathing.  And, my friends, I could not venture forward in this skin I were to dispense with the young Phoge.

    Yes, it is with a somewhat jealous heart that I state that Mick Phoge is quite brilliant as “Sidney the Scrod.”  The way he humorously affects his voice when he delivers the young children their pizzas, and the little scrod dance he performs at kiddy partiers mocks me in no uncertain terms.  And then there’s the way he melts the heart of my fair Mariana.

    But I’ve done it again, haven’t I?  I’ve burdened you with too many details.  I promise I shall not let it happen again.  Let us venture on.

    And as we are now on the subject of entertainers, gaze quickly over yonder and bare witness to two of them: “Sammy the Sole,” played by Lenny Goldberg, and “Tommy Trout,” portrayed quite convincingly by Debbi Mondello.

    As brilliant as they are in their respective roles, I am well aware of the following quite disturbing fact: “Sammy” and “Tommy” have been having a torrid workplace love affair.  I must admit, however, that this, in itself, is not against “Hickey Filbert’s” policy.  But there is one undeniable fact that I must address which relates to this tryst: they “did it” in the busboy closet a few weeks ago!

    I know what you’re saying, dear friends; I must ignore this manifestation of young love for to quash their longing for one another would be to quash the very fabric of life itself.  And to that I say, “Did I mention that they did it in the busboy closet?”  I did?  I’m sorry to repeat myself.  It’s just that some things really stick with you, if you catch my drift.  But I must persevere.  And like a tornado cutting a path of destruction through an innocent hamlet, we must venture on throughout the evening - to our final destination.

    My friends, I must now bare witness to the part of the day which brings me my most delicate sadness.  It is closing time at “Hickey Filbert’s Fillet of Sole Cantina and Family Amusement Center LLP.”  And with that, I know I must bid farewell to my sweet Mariana for what seems like an eternity.

    There she is, my lovely; out in the parking lot with my most reviled nemesis.  What knowledge is it, could he be bestowing upon her?  Is it knowledge that I, with my vast education, am not aware of?  Humbly, I think not.  Is she not conscious that I would enlighten her in ways she cannot even imagine?  I could take her to places that she does not yet know exists.  I can teach her the ways of the world and enrich the texture of her gentle experience.  Perhaps, my lovely, gentle Latina knows these truths, but she is taunting me.

    Ahh, that must be her devilish little game.  She knows that we are destined to be with one another, but she plays this little rouse with the naïve supplicant, Mick Phoge.  Yes, I am finally onto this devious dance deception, and I know now that it is only a matter of time before we are together.  So now I watch them from the rear window of “Hickey’s,” standing on my tippy-toes on an overturned pickle bucket, rejoicing at my fair Mariana’s little game.

    Holy crap, he’s going up her shirt!  Aha, she’s a spirited one.  She knows just how to play the game.  Oh shit, he’s going south of the equator!  That’s not right.  And they’re frenching!  Stop at once!  This charade has gone too far!  Why must you mock me so?

    “Hello, Police… Yes, I’d like to report a couple engaged in lewd and lascivious conduct in the parking lot of “Hickey Filbert’s Fillet of Sole Cantina and Family Amusement Center LLP… Oh, my name?  Let’s just say that I’m a concerned citizen.”

    Please don’t look at me like that, dear citizens.  I said at the outset of this exercise that I was a loathsome character.  And now you have heard the evidence and are free to pass judgment upon me.  Now, you may take your leave and return to your ivory tower.  Go on, make haste!

    As for me, I shall keep a solemn vigil, gazing out the semi-frosted window at the beautiful Mariana as she surrenders her sweet virtue to Mick Phoge on my pre-owned Cutlass Sierra, destroying my brand new wax job.  And after, I shall return to my cramped office and dutifully add up the food and game receipts for the evening.  It was a good night.  A very good night.
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