Lucky, Lulu, and a Cat Named Bo (Cold Turkey)

Thanksgiving, 3:00 PM
Sixth floor walk-up in an old tenement building
next to the Ukie funeral parlor on 7th Street.
Black and white TV on,
rabbit ears up, sound off.

Thanksgiving Day Parade is over.
Santa’s been safely delivered to Macys
to the delight of children everywhere.
Nothin’ on but football
for the rest of the day.

Lulu’s passed-out drunk and naked
in the old clawfoot bathtub.
Bo’s curled up on her belly,
purring and kneading her chest with his paws,
as if trying to revive her with the power of love.
She’s holdin’ an empty pint of Svedka.
Looks like their planned Thanksgiving dinner
ain’t gonna happen.

He turns off the bathroom light,
Puts on his peacoat and Mets cap,
and splits,
leaping down the narrow spiral staircase
two steps at a time,
still tryin’ to trick his body
into thinkin’ it’s three floors instead of six.

He hits the sidewalk and heads toward 2nd Avenue,
turning up his peacoat collar and tipping his head down
to block the damp wind.
He stops at Big Bar
but it’s closed for the holiday.
Circles back toward 1st to Blue & Gold,
It’s closed, too.
Walks up to Tile Bar on the corner,
Damn…. closed.
He crosses 1st, picks up a pack of rolling papers
at the bodega,
then checks International Bar next door.
CLOSED sign in the window.

It’s grey, windy, and desolate.
No traffic; no people.
Cold and frustrated,
headin’ South on 1st Ave,
he’s thinkin’ he’ll probably end up
at McDonald’s with a freakin’ “Happy Meal”
and nothin’ to drink.
Just about to go into Mickey D’s,
he notices lights on
in the window of Coal Yard Bar next door.
“Fuck yeah! It’s open.”

He steps in to find the joint full of locals
who, like him,
are lookin’ for some solace and sanctuary
on a lonely holiday.
He grabs the only remaining seat
on the far curve of the horseshoe-shaped bar,
hangs his coat on the back of the stool,
and settles in for a look around;
spottin’ Blondie and Boho,
Gator Gal, Roadrunner, Snake,
and the usual Coyotes
from the local bars.

Opposite the bar, a wall is lined with tables
filled with foil trays of turkey, mashed potatoes,
stuffing, string beans, and cranberry sauce.
There are stacks of paper plates, napkins, and plastic utensils.
Folks are helping themselves to this holiday feast
offered free to anyone who wanders in.

They’re breakin’ bread with family today,
defined by circumstance or misfortune,
but family it is –
all the social misfits and outcasts
who’ve chosen a dive bar as their comfort zone today.
From across the bar,
his writer friend Blondie waves and smiles a big hello
as he’s makin’ his way to the food tables.
He offers only a mechanical nod and his best fake smile.
He fills a plate high with stuffing, douses it with gravy,
and returns to his stool,
to wash it down with a C.C. and soda.

An attractive young lady sashays up
and asks in a thick Liverpool accent
if he’d mind “chatting” with her for a bit.
He’s feelin’ pretty low
and don’t even wanna’ talk to his bar buds.
He don’t sense any kind of “hittin’ on him” vibe,
so he asks, “What’s up with you?”
She says she’s from Ibiza,
freelances for Vogue Europe magazine
doing lifestyle stories,
and is doin’ a story on dive bars.
(What the fuck? Is she for real?)

Tells him his tats are cool,
thinks he’s been around a lot
and might be interesting to interview.
He reluctantly agrees,
but only if she’ll spring for a drink.
She does.
He orders a double Maker’s
instead of his usual cheap shit.

She asks a bunch of rudely-inquisitive,
insulting, and demeaning questions
about him and the type of people who hang in dive bars.
He’s embarrassed and pissed-off
so he replies with subtly sarcastic answers
that go right over her empty head.
He thinks they’ll probably satisfy the preconceived notions
of her faux-aristocrat, Euro-trash readers.
It’s total bullshit and she eats it up,
’cause it’s what she wants to hear.
He’s done, and she moves on,
after he hits her up for another double Maker’s.
Brenda the bartender asks what’s up with the chick.
When he tells her the answers he gave to her asshole questions,
she laughs and says, “Just another Euro-trash vampire
lookin’ to get a taste of some Coyote blood.”
She high-fives him and pours another double Maker’s,
on the house.

He finishes off his stuffing,
tops it with a C.C. and soda for the road,
and fills up a big take-home plate
of cold turkey scraps and spuds,
sloshed with lots of thick cold gravy.
He knows Lulu’s gonna be hungry
when she wakes up.
He leaves with a quick nod toward his friends.

Blondie follows him out.
“Hey Lucky. You’re actin’ like a real shit.
What the fuck’s goin’ on?”
“Yeah, sorry. I’m just in a dark holiday hole right now.
You know. I’ll be alright. See ya!”

“Lulu off her meds again?”

He shakes his head, “Yeah.”

“Wow, sorry!” kisses him on the cheek,
and she’s gone.

Feelin’ a little dizzy.
Just go through the motions and get outta here:
Lift collar,
pull down brim,
hands in pockets,
slow easy steps,
and he’s gone with the wind.

Lulu’s up and in the bathroom brushin’ her teeth
when he finally gets back.
He leans in and notices a mean lookin’ purple bruise on her hip,
from fallin’ in the bathtub, he’s guessin’.
Doesn’t see any blood or open wounds
so he thinks it’s all good.
Bo’s sittin’ up on the toilet tank
watchin’ Lulu brush.

Lucky rolls a doobie and they smoke at the kitchen table,
laughing as she wolfs down the cold take-home
and tosses turkey scraps down to Bo,
who pounces on them with delight.
Nodding her head repeatedly in satisfaction,
she looks up at him and smiles.

Buzzed from the bar and pretty stoned,
he’s mesmerized by her naked body.
She looks beautiful,
even under the stark bare kitchen bulb.
Thinkin’ he might just get lucky tonight
if she don’t start drinkin’ again too soon.

They know they don’t look like your Norman Rockwell
Thanksgiving Family portrait,
but they’re all they’ve got, and it’ll have to do.

–Phillip Giambri


Poetry

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Poetry

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