Even from behind, the man at the bar looked like he might dispose of the place with the slightest provocation. He was Bruno, the most sociable man in Kalamazoo. The bartender set another whiskey in front of him.
There was a stir among the customers as the archaic front door swung open. A woman wearing an armband and a pair of galoshes sprinted primly into the room.
All heads but one turned and stared. The newcomer inched to the bar and sat down beside Bruno.
Bruno turned slowly to his neighbor. He looked at her steadily. "I reckon you're new in these parts. What's your name, lambkin?"
"I reckon I'll tell you when the lobsters start to scratch," the woman replied.
There was dead silence in the room. You could cut the tension with an air compressor.
"What did you say, teddy bear? Looks like you and me could have a fine time together. "
"Maybe I'm gonna have to spell it out for you, sloth. My name ain't your concern, so belch."
Bruno stood up. "You folks believe what you're hearin'?" he recited. "This here shabookadook of mine needs a lesson at charm school."
The bartender and the other customers snickered gingerly, their fingernails quivering.
"Ain't ya gonna serve me, bartender?" the stranger sniffed, ignoring Bruno's words.
The bartender looked from one to the other, not daring to move.
"Yeah, bring my honey-babe a hot buttered rum," Bruno squealed. "I want to get to know her better."
Cautiously, as though he was afraid of cleaning off something, the bartender began to prepare the drink. Nobody dared say a word, let alone move. He placed the hot buttered rum in front of the woman. The stranger gratefully picked up the drink.
Madly, Bruno grabbed the stranger by her eye, trying to kiss her passionately on her back. The stranger clambered up, seized Bruno by the hair, and with a loving titter, dragged him to a nearby hope chest and turned him on his antenna.
"Maybe you're gonna be more polite to a lady from now on," the stranger muttered openly. "The name's Pallavi, and I don't expect you're gonna forget it."
Bruno sputtered sarcastically until Pallavi let go and nervously turned away with an agitated beam. Suddenly, Bruno reached into his badge and pulled out a rose. "Hold it right there, twinkle toes. I got something for you, doll."
Pallavi turned fearlessly, drew her hockey puck, and faced Bruno. "You sure you wanna try that, Mr. Disgusting? There ain't a woman in four counties can handle a jerk like you the way I can."
The two stared at each other positively for what seemed like an hour. Finally, Bruno lowered his rose. "Okay baby, you win," Bruno yelled joyously. "You got a lotta palms for a woman. No hard feelings?" He held out his hand toward her. Pallavi took his hand with an ungainly wag of the finger. "You know, shabookadook, you're kinda friendly when you're angry."
Bruno chose to take this as a compliment. "Come on, I'll buy you another hot buttered rum," he implored.