Arnold's afternoon at the bar

 Arnold's Afternoon at the Bar

The Village Pump in Lithopolis, Ohio in 1982


            It was 2 PM on a Saturday when I walked into the bar.  Outside it was a beautiful sunny summer afternoon.  Whether I drew the ‘short straw,’ or was just being nice and covering for someone else’s shift, really did not matter to me at the moment. I was less than pleased with the prospect of being indoors all day and all night, as the result of pulling a double shift bartending.  This meant I would not get out of there until sometime after our 2:30 AM closing time.  I checked in the kitchen with Ray, our skinny cook, to let him know I was there.  Ray had an effeminate air about him due to his gestures and excitability, plus his normal attire of tight polyester pants coupled with loud polyester long sleeve shirts which made him appear to be more ready to hit the dancefloor than make a pizza or a sandwich.  His countenance was made even more jarring due to his thin stringy shoulder length blonde hair and heartbreakingly crooked teeth.  Otherwise, not another soul was in the place because anyone with any sense was out enjoying a nice weekend afternoon.  

        To take a bit of the sting out of my woeful situation, I filled a small glass from each tap that lined the back wall of the bar and downed them.  As a conscientious employee, I wanted to make sure all the beer lines were running and there were no empty kegs needing to be switched out.  But the truth of the matter was I felt there would be nothing better at the moment than a bit of a beer buzz to set things right.  Besides, for making such a sacrifice of a fine day, I deserved it!

Something else was required to lighten my sour mood – music!  This bar in a small rural village sported a fine jukebox loaded with a well curated selection of rock, country, plus a little dab of soul to keep things interesting.  Some quarters out of the cash register took care of the cost.  A small expense like this was just good marketing.  In spite of the lack of customers at the moment, if anyone wandered in it would appear that the joint was jumping, and maybe they would stay a while and part with some of the contents of their wallets – and that is just what happened.


            Two guys walked in, noticed the upbeat vibe, nodded to each other, and sat down at the bar.  These two were strangers to me, and admitted as much when one of them remarked, “This is a nice place!  I can’t believe we have never been in here before!”  Apparently, their standards for bars were not too high, for this dark place occupying a century old single story brick building, was paneled with cheesy fake wood, and illuminated solely by beer advertising signs plus some light coming through the front door window. The fact one could not detect foul aromas emanating from the restrooms, plus the bar-top and floor were clean, may have been the deciding factors in their rating scale.  Then again, it could have been the thumping jukebox.   In tandem, they took off their sunglasses and stuffed them in the breast pockets of their loud Hawaiian shirts.  They were also sporting nice tans, straw fedoras, decent Bermuda shorts, and leather sandals.  While not dressed identically, they had the vibe of laidback surfers, which was quite a contrast to the tee-shirt, cutoff jeans, and tennis shoes normally sported by the summer clientele in this smalltown shit-kicker tavern.  The duo ordered draft beers, and approved of the icy frosted mugs the brew was served in.


             We exchanged pleasantries, but mostly the pair talked quietly between themselves as I busied myself around the horseshoe shaped bar cleaning things.  But as their beer mugs approached empty, they became more animated.  “Arnold would love this place!” one loudly remarked. 

“Yeah, he would,” the other replied in agreement.

“Too bad he is passed out in the car!”

“That was quite a party!  Probably best that he sleeps it off.”


            I refilled their beer mugs, but my curiosity had been piqued.  “So,” I said, “you guys have a friend sleeping in the car?  I hope the windows are open because with this sun today, that car will turn into an oven!”

            One of the duo looked pensive and nodded.  “Good point!  We will check on him in a couple of minutes, but first give us a couple bags of potato chips!”

            They lit into the chips and beer with gusto.  Their chatter and laughter, plus the good tunes coming out of the jukebox, lightened my previously disgruntled mood.  The one guy repeated his earlier assessment, “Arnold would love this place!”

            “Yeah, he would,” his partner replied again, and then added, “I think I’ll go outside to see if he has woken up.  He will have no idea where he is or where we are at!”

            “That is true!  I’ll go with ya!” the other responded, and then looked at me and said, “Keep an eye on our stuff!  We’ll be back!” while gesturing toward their beer, chips, and cigarette packs.  With that, they headed out the door.


            A couple of moments later they reentered the dark barroom laughing.  “Arnold did not like us trying to wake him up,” one of them said to me with obvious bemusement, “but you were right about the heat, so we rolled the windows all the way down!”

            They ordered more beer and a couple more bags of chips.  As I set new frosted mugs before them, one motioned me closer with a conspiratorial wave and a look of concern.  “Hey, buddy, would it be okay if we brought Arnold in here and just put him in a booth while he sleeps it off?  He won’t bother anyone, and it really is turning into a scorcher out there!”


            I pondered the request, while maintaining an air of seriousness and concern, then replied.  “State law prohibits anyone from sleeping in a bar, so technically I cannot allow it.  You guys seem alright, and the place is empty right now, but if anyone comes in you will have to wake him up – and if he gets rowdy and stuff, you all will have to leave.  Does that sound fair?”

            “Yeah, that is fair,” they replied while nodding in agreement.

            “One other question, though, is he a mess?  I mean, like has he barfed or pissed himself?”

            “No! No!” they replied with exuberant sincerity.  “He’s clean!  He just partied too much last night!”

            “Were all you guys at the same party, because you two seem to be okay?”
            “What can I say?  When Arnold parties, he goes full tilt until he drops!”

            “Okay!  But like I said, if anyone else, or the owner comes in, you got to wake him up and keep him woke up or else you’ll have to leave.”

            “He just needs to rest some more and get out of that hot car!  He won’t be a bother!  Thanks!”


            A couple of minutes later the front door swung open and a brilliant blast of afternoon sunlight silhouetted the familiar jovial gents.  I only detected two forms entering the bar, and once the door closed, and my eyes readjusted, I understood why.  One of them was cradling a white pig in his arms, and the pig was sporting a blue bandana around his neck, Blues Brothers style sunglasses, topped off with a colorful and glittery conical party hat on his head.

            “Whoa!  Wait a minute!  You cannot bring livestock into an eating or drinking establishment!” I exclaimed. 

            “Ah, come on man, you said we could bring our friend Arnold inside where it was cooler.  Besides, he is well behaved!”

            It appeared that Arnold was slowly looking around and taking measure of his new surroundings, but I could not see his eyes behind the shades.  Anyway, I was laughing too hard.

            “Put him over here in this booth,” I instructed as I walked over to an out-of-the-way banquet along the side wall just past the jukebox.

            They gently laid Arnold on the Naugahyde cushion.  He squirmed around a bit to get comfortable, then let out a snort and laid his head down.  Arnold once again was out like a light.


            The two young men ordered more beer, and one dropped a few quarters into the jukebox.  At ease regarding Arnold’s welfare, it appeared they were planning to stay awhile for they also inquired as to whether we had any other kind of food besides bagged snacks.  I informed them there was a kitchen in the back and the oven should be at full operating temperature by now so they could order a pizza or subs, then handed a menu to them.  Selections were made and I took their order.

            The quiet conversation and laughter resumed, and I gave the two customers some space.  The beer taps were along the back wall at the opening of the U-shaped bar, and a staff walkway passed by them to provide access to either side of the bar room.  I took my usual station at the bar stool closet to the taps and the kitchen doorway.  This location was convenient to receive food as it came out of the kitchen and offered a full view of the room plus the front and back doors.   They had made some fine choices of music, as well as being friendly and entertaining, so I was feeling much better about my current work predicament.  Besides, there was an illegal pig sleeping in a booth, and that alone was sufficient to raise anyone’s spirits.


Some sort of audible commotion from the other side of the bar caught my attention, so I got up and went over to investigate.  Suddenly there was a white pig with sunglasses, bandana, and a party hat standing at my feet looking up at me, and he was definitely smiling!  With a wave of my hand to attract the tropical duo’s attention, I said, “Hey!  Arnold is awake!”

Hearing his name, Arnold decided to take off!  His little hooves did not gain much traction on the smooth tile floor, so for a few seconds he was running furiously and going nowhere.  Little party boy was giving it all his worth!  Then he gained a foothold and took off around the outside of the bar.  By this time his companions were on their feet, but Arnold shot past them, rounded another corner in a running slide, and then raced toward the kitchen.  A hallway separated the kitchen from the coolers and the backdoor, and the kitchen was up one step.  Arnold did not make the step – he slid into it, turned around and zoomed back into the bar.  We had been chasing him but were laughing too hard to make much of a difference in his trajectory.  By the time we made it back into the bar Arnold was in his booth, stretched out on the floor under the table.

“Well, that was interesting!” I observed, and then queried the two men as to whether I should get some water for him.

“Yeah, he could probably use some water, and how about a bag of chips or something.  He really likes pretzels, but will make a big mess out of them,” one responded.


I went back to the kitchen to get a bowl to use for Arnold’s water.  Ray greeted me with a look of concern.  “What was all that racket about?  The last time I checked there were only two customers in the bar!”

“When you bring the subs out, I will tell you about it.  Right now, I need a couple of bowls for snacks a water.” 

Ray gave me a quizzical look, then shrugged.


Arnold sucked down some water and then knocked the bowl over before heading over to the potato chips.  “Sorry about that!” one of the men exclaimed.

“He is a pig!  I should have expected no less,” I shrugged.  Ray gave me another strange look when he spotted me heading back into the bar with a mop.

“Give him beer!  He usually does not spill his beer!” one guy suggested, and before I could protest the other one poured some of his beer into the bowl.  Arnold quickly diverted his attention from the chips to the beer and lapped it up like a pig.  While I mopped up the water he did not spill a drop of beer, just as promised.


When Ray entered with the subs, all appeared normal in the bar.  The two guys were at the end of the bar, on their stools laughing mischievously.  The music was playing, and Arnold was nowhere to be seen.  I took the subs down to my customers, while Ray took up my former position on the end stool by the wall, so he could have a smoke.

Suddenly the record skipped, then the needle slid across the record with a loud shriek and the whole jukebox started shaking.  “What the hell?” Ray exclaimed.

I peered over the other side of the bar and saw Arnold vigorously scratching his back on the front of the record machine. The noise and shaking continued.  “Hey!” I yelled, “Stop that!”

There was no reaction from Arnold, and he continued rubbing away with obvious pleasure. One of the young men leapt from his stool and ran around the bar to the quaking jukebox as Ray sprinted through the shortcut by the beer taps to save the priceless machine.

“Jesus Christ!  That’s a pig!” Ray shrieked in disbelief.


The man picked Arnold up, told him he should not do that, and set him back in the booth on the cushion.  Arnold was wide awake now and did not want to be in the booth, so he jumped off the seat and made a mad dash around the bar, just like before.  Somehow, he lost his sunglasses in the process, and his party hat was now hanging sideways off his head, still secured by the thin rubber strap.  In spite of the speed he had picked up, Arnold expertly executed a running-sliding-U-turn and dashed behind the bar to where I was standing.  I grabbed him for a second, but he escaped my grasp and headed back out from behind the bar and raced through the doorway leading to the kitchen.  Ray had regained enough of his composure to dash after the speeding pig while yelling, “You can’t go into the kitchen!” followed by “We can’t have pigs in the bar!”

Arnold vaulted the step and slid into the kitchen.  There were too many great aromas in there, so he trotted around sniffing and nudging everything – while staying out of reach of us all.  He was having a grand time, but Ray was about to have a stroke.  Our skinny cook babbled, yelled, cursed, and threatened the prancing swine as he scampered about.  “Get the hell out of here!  We will lose our license!  What if Mike comes in?  It cannot be in here!  I’m going to kill it!”

“Whoa! Whoa! Calm down, Ray!” I said as I tried to restore some semblance of control over the situation.  “Chasing him will not make this any better, in fact it only makes him go faster.  Right now, he is kind of behaving himself.  So, let’s try to steer him back out of the kitchen with these towels and those guys can get him.”

The party guys were standing in the doorway, grinning broadly and obviously enjoying the show.  As I herded the errant piglet in the direction of the doorway, one of the men scooped up the wiggling armful and went back out to the bar.


“We can’t have this!” Ray hissed at me, with fury in his eyes.

“I get it, Ray, but he has been in here for over an hour and this is the first trouble he has caused.  I made a deal with them – if their friend made any trouble, they would all have to go.  And once I found out their friend was a pig, I told them the same thing applied if anybody else came in.”

Ray’s level of excitement diminished to frustrated resignation, and I headed back out to the bar.


The two men were happily eating their subs when I walked back in and gave a ‘thumbs up’ on the fine fare and the handling of the situation in the kitchen.  “So, where’s Arnold?” I asked.

“He drank some more beer, and then we put him back in the booth,” they replied.  “I think he went back to sleep.  That was pretty exciting!   Arnold has had a pretty good day today!”

“Glad I could make his day better, and don’t forget our agreement!”

“No problem!  We are probably going to have to leave here soon anyway.  Places to go, people to see, and Arnold has another party where he needs to be, but first bring us another round of beers!”

The jukebox apparently had suffered no permanent damage during Arnold’s assault and continued to crank out tunes.  I tidied things up a bit and then set about filling the coolers with bottled beer so as to be prepared for the Saturday night business.


Brightness filled the room as the front door opened and in walked Miriam and Norm, weekend regulars about to commence their night out.  Either they were early, or it was now later in the day than I thought.  This pair proceeded to their preferred bar stools at the far side of the room across from the jukebox, took their places and ordered their usual – a Screwdriver for her and a bottle of Budweiser for him.  Their typical ritual was to start the evening here, get loosened up with a few drinks, then go somewhere else although that rarely involved leaving the village.  Our competition, the Lithopolis Grill, was right across the street and offered good home style cooking along with an older and less boisterous crowd.   Or they could go to the American Legion Post a couple blocks away for a decent meal, but limited in choices, but could dance to a live local country band.  Then again, they might opt to remain glued to their stools and order from our kitchen.  There was no point trying to predict what alcohol-fueled whim might guide them.  Whatever exciting option they chose, it usually included a return to the Pump at the end of the evening for some vicarious excitement and a nightcap before heading home.  It was hard to tell if this wiry pair, probably in their late fifties, even liked each other for bickering and sour looks were part of the package, and either of which was apt to escalate as the evening progressed.  Both were short in stature and lean in build, like old sinewy chickens.  Weeknights Norm wore a cloth ballcap of some sort, but on weekend date night the cap was gone, and his black hair was slicked down, but he always maintained a severe angry look.  Miriam had thin pursed lips which probably had not cracked a smile in the past decade and had so much hairspray on her tight bob that it could also serve as a helmet or a weapon.  They set at their grim routine with determination.  The focus was on the task at hand, and they never noticed that there was a white pig, wearing sunglasses, bandana, and a party hat, crashed out on the seat of the booth behind them.

A little while later another regular couple entered the bar on an identical mission to that of Miriam and Norm, only this pair was larger in physical stature.  Shirley was loud and sported a platinum blonde coiffeur of heavily ratted and lacquered hair piled high on her head.  Hank’s ample gut hung over his too tight jeans and his longish oiled haircut mimicked that of Norm.  They took their places at the end of the U-shaped bar where they could command a view of who was seated at the bar as well as the comings and goings through either the front or back door.  Their accustomed beverages were ordered and served.  Shirley loudly provided a running commentary on the state of affairs in this part of the township, plus her latest news bulletins to anyone within earshot.  Miriam struggled to interject her own answers or opinions.  Norm and Hank gave each other a nod of recognition and proceeded to stare off into their own personal spaces.

The original two afternoon customers watched this slice of local life with bemusement and made unintelligible comments to themselves, followed by smirks and chuckles.  Ray materialized out of the kitchen and was suddenly by my side.  “Is that pig still in here?” he hissed in a low voice.

“Yeah, he is over in the booth.  No one has seen him yet!” I whispered back with a slight smile.  “Those guys said they would be leaving soon, so I am just biding my time.  Right now, Arnold is quiet, which is how I hope he stays.”


That was too much to expect, for I detected a familiar ‘thud’ over in the vicinity of the jukebox, followed by the rhythmic clatter of little hooves on the tile floor.  Arnold scampered around the back pass-through of the bar and headed to where Ray and I were standing.  Ray looked at me nervously and said in a low voice, “I’m getting the heck out of here!  Don’t let him get back in the kitchen!”

Arnold stopped, looked at me and then down toward his festively attired handlers, and then back at me again.  The message was clear – he was bored, and it was time to go.  The human contingent of the Party Trio received the message, settled their account, and thanked me for a great afternoon.  One scooped Arnold up in his arms and they headed for the door.  Shirley spotted Arnold.  “Oh, my Gawd!  It’s a pig!  Look how cute he is in his little party hat!”  She made a shaky dismount off the bar stool and lunged forward.  “Can I hold it?”

Hank voiced his reaction, “Dammit, Shirley, leave that pig alone!”  Arnold had his own reaction and squirmed in the man’s arms to avoid the incoming Shirley.  His partner opened the door and they all three made it out to the sidewalk unscathed.  Shirley reluctantly wobbled back to her barstool, then pouted to Hank, “You’re no fun!”


I did a quick wipe-down of the bar, and then went back to the kitchen to report to Ray that Arnold had left the building, and his cause for concern was no longer warranted.  Ray decided to accompany me back into the bar just to make sure.  Miriam motioned to Ray and me to come over to where she and Norm were planted.  “Did I see a pig in here?” she asked in a conspiratorial tone.

Before I could respond, Norm gave Miriam an angry look, and loudly growled, “You are crazier than hell, Miriam!  I didn’t see no damned pig!  How many drinks did you have before we got here?”

Ray and I looked at each other with shock and amusement, but he could not contain himself and ran back to the kitchen before he burst out laughing.  Norm glared at me.  I shrugged my shoulders and declared that “State Law says we cannot have livestock in the bar!  Now, if you will excuse me, Ray needs some help in the kitchen!”

I found Ray bent over the prep table laughing so hard he was in tears, and then I cracked up as well.  He asked what I said to Norm, and when I told him, Ray laughed even harder.  I also told Ray how pissed I had been when I first arrived, because I did not want to spend a nice summer day being bored to tears in an empty bar, but it had turned out to be a rather memorable afternoon.  Then I asked him, “Does this kinda thing happen very often?"

“Oh, god, no!” he replied. “I work doubles on Saturdays for the money, and because it is usually really quiet, and I can get stuff done back here without interruption.  Then you and that pig showed up today!”


Mike, the bar owner materialized in the kitchen and asked what we were up to, and why there was no one out behind the bar serving customers.  In protest I informed him that I stepped into the kitchen to help Ray for a couple of minutes, and that the only customers were Norm and Miriam along with Hank and Shirley.

“Actually,” he said.  “there are more than that!  When I arrived, there was a bunch of people standing around a car parked out in front and they were all looking at a pig sitting in the back seat. It was wearing sunglasses and had one of those pointy party hats on!  It was funny as hell! ”

Ray and I looked at each other rather sheepishly.

“Those guys said they had been in here all afternoon, and the pig had been drinking beer here!”

“Hey,” I replied with a grin, “I checked his ID first!”

Ray busted out laughing.  Then the whole story came out, including Miriam and Norm’s argument as to whether or not a pig had been in the bar, when in fact it had been sleeping behind them the whole time.  Mike had a good laugh, and said, “The next time something like that happens, I want you to call me!  I don’t want to miss it!”


Arnold had a fine afternoon, and so did I!


*          *          *

post script 

This was not the only episode involving large farm animals while I worked at The Village Pump.


One New Year’s Eve, for no particular reason other than it seemed like a fine idea at the time, Dick Detty rode his white horse through the backdoor and suddenly appeared in the bar room to everyone’s astonishment.  The big white horse got a little skittish with the crush of people, loud music, and thick haze of cigarette smoke.  Or maybe it was because the old building was not designed for a horse which made for a tight fit through the doors, with or without a rider.  Bedlam ensued, and Trigger wanted no part of proceeding through the chaos-filled room and out the front door. It required all the equestrian skill Dick could muster to get the horse turned around and exit from where he entered.


Another evening arriving patrons reported a problem out on the street in front of the bar.  I replied that, “if it was out front, and not in the bar, I did not care.”  Nevertheless, others insisted, so out I went.  A large dark brown cow was lying in the street, literally dead to the world.  “Well, you do not see that every day!” I remarked and returned to the bar. 

Tiny Young came through the back entrance and quietly motioned for me to come over by the beer taps.  “Hey, Shred!” he rasped in my ear, and for some reason only known to him, he always called me that, “There’s something ain’t right out front!”

“Yeah! I know!  There’s a dead cow lying out there!  I think he was dying for a drink!”  Tiny responded with an amused grin.  So I pressed a bit further, “you wouldn’t know anything about that, would ya, Tiny?”

“Now, what would make you say a thing like that?” He growled back, with a gesture of feigned shock and dismay.




Popular Posts