10 – What happened to Peggy’s Paddington Bear?
Peggy was in a foul mood when I got to the bar the next night, and she eyed me and my notebook from the stage as if I carried a disease.
Mary hurried over as I sat on the same stool at the previous night.
“Don’t do anything foolish,” Mary warned. “Peggy’ll tear your head off.”
“Is it something I did?”
“Not unless you swiped the Paddington Bear off her car last night.”
“A thing she had on her car – a bear in a NY Giants uniform. She’s a real sucker for NY Giants stuff like that.”
“And she suspects me of taking it?”
“She suspects everybody. So just lay low and don’t cause trouble.”
I didn’t have a lot of money, so I figured I wouldn’t be around long enough to cause much trouble anyway.
Just the same, I slid my notebook to the floor at my feet, just on the off chance Peggy had changed her mind over night. I didn’t want to start a fight over something silly.
Bad mood or not, Peggy made her way to where I sat when her set ended, popping up on the stool next to mine.
“Buy me a drink,” she said, lighting a cigarette.
I waved to Mary.
“Boy, am I pissed,” Peggy said.
“I hear about the bear.”
This drew a suspicious glance.
“How?” Peggy asked. “You just got here.”
“From Mary,” I said as Mary arrived. “Isn’t that so, Mary?”
Mary nodded as she slipped the drink in front of Peggy, then a bottle of beer in front of me.
“How cheap can someone get?” Peggy growled. “Charlie looks crappy enough without someone ripping off my bear.”
“It’s the name of my car. I named it after the guy who gave it to me.”
“I never said that – just a nice man I know, although he would have a fit if he knew I never got it inspected or registered.”
“You’re driving in an unregistered car?”
“They don’t let you register unless you have insurance, and they won’t inspect the car unless it’s registered.”
“Let me get this straight. You’re driving an unregistered, uninsured and un-inspected car around town?”
“How do you get away with driving the car without an inspection sticker?”
“I got one of those pink cards you get when you register a car.”
“I thought you said it wasn’t registered.”
“It’s not. The card belongs to a friend of mine. It’s from his Pinto.’
“What happens if you get stopped? Aren’t you afraid you’ll lose your license?”
“Oh that? I lost that a long time ago on account of all the tickets I got and never paid.”
“That means if you get stopped, they’ll take you to jail.”
“They haven’t yet.”
Peggy batted her eyelashes coyly.
“A girl has her ways,” she said. “Buy me another drink. This one’s empty.”
“You drink too much.”
“Oh don’t you start, too. I’m not in the mood.”
“Well, you do.”
“Please, I’m in pain, I need it.”
“What kind of pain?”
“You name it, I get it, but if you must know it’s that time of month.”
“You mean it’s a full moon already?”
“Damn you, you know what I’m talking about.”
“I know. I was just kidding.”
“Don’t kid. It’s not nice.”
“But you kid with me all the time.”
“Girls are allowed to kid; boys aren’t.”
“That doesn’t exactly seem fair.”
“Fair?” Peggy snarled. “You mean fair like that fat fuck across from us was when he said he could cure my pain by fucking me?”
“Maybe he can”
“Would you want me to find out?” Peggy asked, one painted eyebrow rising.
“I wasn’t suggesting anything,” I said, suddenly uncomfortable.
“No,” Peggy mumbled. “I suppose not.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” Peggy said with a shrug. “Here I thought you wanted to fuck me, too.”
“I never said that.”
“You mean you don’t want to fuck me?”
“I didn’t say that either.”
“I wish you would make up your mind. Do you want to fuck me or not?”
“I’m getting confused,” I said.
“It sounds like you need another drink, too. Are you going to order some or do I have to go over to the fat fuck to get one from him?”
I waved for Mary. She brought drinks for both us. I drained my first bottle and took a hefty swig on the second.
Then, I tried changing subjects and asked about sports. Did Peggy have any favorite college football teams? Did she follow football when she was in high school?
“I only follow professional sports,” she said. “As for high school, I spent as little time there as possible.”
“But you did graduate?”
“Barely,” she said, stubbing out one cigarette to immediately light around. “I’ve more or less been on my own since 16 years old. I got through high school, but it wasn’t easy.”
“What about a boyfriend?” I asked. “Are you going out with anybody?”
“What is this?” Peggy asked, staring hard at me, “What’s My Line?”
“I’m just interested.”
“I was thinking about asking you out on a date.”
“Maybe you should, I might way yes.”
“Down boy, I said maybe. I have had my fill of pushy guys. This place is filled with them, always trying to get my phone number so they can get in my paints.”
“You didn’t answer me about whether you have a boyfriend or not.”
“I know I didn’t.”
“So you’re not going to tell me?”
“I had a boyfriend once,” Peggy said suddenly sounding sad. “He was a guy I was really nuts for.”
“It didn’t work out the way I’d planned,” she said and shook herself, and gave me a sharp look again. “Now quit stalling and pop the question so I can go back up and dance.”
“The fucking question you said you might ask, jerk,” she said. “You keep this up, stupid, and I might just change my mind and tell you no.”
“All right,” I said. “Would you like to go out on a date with me?”
“What does that mean?”
“Maybe is maybe, Alfred. Or am I not talking loud enough for you to hear me.”
“Too loud,” the dancer on the stage growled. “Will the two of you pipe down. Some of us are trying to earn a living up here.”
“Fuck you, bitch,” Peggy said, but laughed. The dancer laughed to.
“I don’t understand,” I said, and I didn’t, my head spinning with confused thoughts.
“Here,” Peggy said, sliding a bar napkin at me. “Use your pen for a good purpose and write down your phone number. I’ll give you a call when I’ve made up my mind.”
I wrote down my number and slid the napkin back at her. She picked up it, folded it, and slid it into the top of her dancing outfit.
“There,” she said. “Now give me a hug.”
“A hug, stupid. You know what a hug is, don’t you?”
“Then hug me.”
So I hugged her. She patted my back as she pulled away.
“Such a silly boy,” she said.
“So when will I find out?” I asked.
“When I call you.”
“Am I supposed to sit by the phone and wait?”
“ I would if I were you,” Peggy said as Wolfman grumbled and Mary came over with Peggy’s quarters. “I wouldn’t want you to miss out on your chance to get lucky.”
“Am I going to get lucky?”
“Well,” Peggy said with an odd smile. “You’d help your chances if you did something nice for me.”