Memories Keep Us Alive
by WB Wilson
“The usual, Frank,” Tony called to the man wiping glasses behind the
bar. The barkeeper nodded as Tony pulled out one of the old oak chairs,
took his tape recorder from his briefcase and leaned forward, careful
to avoid an unwiped spill. Sid looks a bit pale, but then he never
was the healthiest kid on the block. The chair creaked as Tony
lowered his hefty body onto the seat. Hands grimy from a lifetime of
working the docks grabbed the arms and bounced his bulk closer to the
“You’re OK with this, right, Sid?” he pointed to the recorder. “I want
to make sure I got everything right. We’ve known each other a long time
now, right?” Tony slid a cassette into on the old-fashioned recorder.
“Some of my memories are a bit fuzzy and I kinda hope you can help jog
my memories.” He sat back when the server set down his pitcher of Bud
Light and a plate of fried mozzarella sticks in front of him.
Tony was a creature of habit, and the “usual” was one of the standards
on the menu. He’d been coming to this bar with his buddy for, oh, he
guessed, decades now. The tables and chairs were the same ones his dad
sat at. Same scratches from rough work shoe heels hooking on the rungs.
Same paint chips from chairs knocked over in scuffles. Bet if I
reached under the chair I might find some of my old chewing gum. Dad
sure took his time. Change and Tony didn’t go so well, so that
suited him fine. Once, he had mixed things up and gotten Buffalo wings
instead. It didn’t end well.
“What I need from you, Sid, is stories: stories about growing up in
this neighborhood.” He pressed the ‘Record’ button and smiled at the
form in the chair opposite him. “You and me, go back a long way, don’t
we? Do ya remember the time the Mets won the World Series?” Tony
chuckled and raised his glass of Bud Lite. “Yeah, that was a good day,
a good day. We ran the streets of Brooklyn cheering. Hadda look out for
the Yankee fans, though. Remember? A’ course ya remember!” He air
punched in the direction of his friend.
Tony pulled on his beer and smacked his lips.
“Nuttin like a cold beer on a hot day, right?”
Tony picked up one of the mozzarella sticks and offered to his friend.
“No?” He shrugged. “Your loss.” and took a bite. “Remember when we used
to take the cheese off of the pizza and whip it around?” He peeled off
a piece of cheese and smiled a smile that would have made his mother
frown. “Ah well, too old for that stuff now, I guess. Good times. Messy
Shadows lengthened as streetlights flickered on. Out on the street,
traffic picked up into a steady stream of tires and horns as
pedestrians tried their luck against rush hour traffic. Frank lowered
the blinds and flipped on the neon light. Tony’s voice faded. It was
later than he thought. He finished his beer and sticks and clicked the
“Thanks for comin’, Sid. Can I meet you here again tomorrow afternoon?”
He fished out his wallet from an inner coat pocket. “Great. Same time,
OK?” Tony left a 20-dollar bill on the table and headed for the door.
Frank came over and removed the pitcher and plate.
Next day, Tony was up early, ordered his “usual,” and sat down at the
empty table to wait for Sid. The bell rang on the door as several
customers came in and found a spot. Tony studied them. They didn’t look
familiar. A frown creased his already lined forehead at the carefully
coifed hair and high end clothes and shoes. Uptown folks come to slum
it with the Brooklyn folks. Frank took their order and went around to
the kitchen. Not much Tony could do but scowl at the surprised faces
turned his way. He turned back, and there was Sid, sitting in the empty
seat across from him.
“Hey! Didn’t see you come in. Got some more stories for me?” Tony’s
scowl disappeared into a smile. “It’s important to me to get it right,
ya know.” Tony put the recorder on the table and pushed Record. “Well,
might as well get started. Do ya remember….”
Several orders of mozzarella sticks later, Tony decided he had enough
to write their story. He let go a hearty belch and glanced at the table
where the uptown folks sat. They were gone, replaced by a group of
locals. “That felt good.” He patted his stomach and reached for a
napkin that had fallen to the floor. “Ha ha, sorry ‘bout that, but you
always…” He looked around at the busy room. Sid wasn’t in sight. Tony
shrugged. Sid always had been the one who slipped away whenever trouble
arose. Damn! Wish he’d stayed. Yeah, I asked him, but couldn’t Sid
pitch in a few bucks? Nothing for it, though. He left another
twenty on the table and left, carrying his recorder with him. Frank
came over, removed the plate and beer mug and carefully replaced the
chair back under the table.
The day dawned. Instead of raining like it should have, it was
remarkably sunny. Tony’s sister Rosa called to him from the kitchen.
“Hey, Tony! You better get going. They aren’t gonna to wait for you for
“All right, all right. Don’t get your panties in a wad. I’m coming.”
One last spiff in the mirror with a tug to make the tie straight before
he grabbed the paper on the dresser. He clomped down the stairs and
into the kitchen. “I’m here.”
“Are you gonna to be OK, Tony?” his sister asked. “You don’t have to do
this, you know. Somebody else can.” Her voice was heavy with worry for
her brother. He’d been through a lot the last week or so.
“Nah! I’m fine, Rosa.” He kissed her forehead and waved the paper. “Got
everything I need right here.”
Somber faces turned to the large doors of the church when Tony and Rosa
went in. Men and women sat quietly in the pews, their suits and dresses
of dismal colors contrasting with the brilliant blazes of red, green,
blue, and purple streaming in through the patterned windows. He
recognized some of them as buddies from long ago. Imagine that!
They came all the way home for this. For me. A dark cassocked
priest rose from the first pew, and the rustling among the congregation
The priest surveyed the sanctuary, frowning as his eyes glimpsed a dim
form buried far in the back. Father Karol turned back to the
congregation. “We gather here for a solemn occasion. Before we begin, I
have had a request from a friend to say a few words.” He stepped aside
and motioned Tony to the front.
Tony set his paper on the podium next to the casket and turned to look
at the people seated in front of him. He hunted the pews until he found
the pale face he was looking for, sitting apart from the others in the
shadows. Glad that things had not changed all that much, he smiled.
Nodding to the figure in gray only a little lighter than the shadows
surrounding it, Tony gently stroked the coffin next to him and began.
“My friend Sid and I have a lot of stories…”
© 2020 WB Wilson
Bio: Retired Librarian living on the Big Island of Hawaii. I
split my time between writing and exploring the beauty of the island.
Currently working on a sequel to one of my novels.
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