The Book and Candle Pub

Of all the paths in all the cities of this entire planet, hers had to cross mine.  I felt as if a Louisville slugger had connected with the back of my skull.  I couldn't let her just walk out of my life.  Five foot two, eyes of blue, and a body that just wouldn't quit...she was a vision in denim. I spun on my heel and watched her recede into the distance, then made my decision.  I had to catch up to her, talk to her. Oh, I knew it was a long shot.  What would a dame like her see in a lug like me?  But I had to give it a try.  I made tracks, fast, in the same direction as my dreamgirl. She was quite a distance in front of me, so I picked up my pace and started to close.  She was less than a block in front of me, and I saw the brass ring.  Just as I prepared to grab for it, she disappeared! Oh, she didn't just vanish into thin air.  She turned to her right and entered the building there.  I didn't know what it was, but the neighborhood suggested that it might be a trendy little shop or restaurant, or perhaps an entryway to a flat overlooking the boulevard.  I hurried ahead, and reached the portal.  A shingle hung over it, into which was carved THE BOOK AND CANDLE PUB, in flowing calligraphy.  I thought I knew every dive on this strip, but I had never been in this one before.  I admired the ornate design of the stained glass, then pushed open the heavy oak door. The place smelled like pipe tobacco and hops and barley.  I scanned the interior, but I didn't see her.  So I went in, looking over the homey interior.  A lot of oak trees had given their lives to make this place.  The polished wood of the long bar glistened and I looked into the mirrored background behind the bar.  A slightly disheveled character peered back at me from between the fifths of Old Granddad and Yukon Jack. I looked away, and scanned the room again.  A couple of the denizens of this Pub looked at me, vaguely interested, but most remained engrossed in their conversations or in the books and magazines they read.  The tables were spread at a comfortable interval around the room, and booths lined the wall opposite the bar, each appearing as a dark haven from life itself.  About half were occupied, but nowhere did I see the girl of my dreams. "Get you something?"  I spun around to face the guy who addressed me.  It was the bartender, a jovial guy who looked to be about 40 or so.  "Sorry, I was in the back room.  Some intense discussions going on there," he said by way of apology and explanation.  I waved it off. "Bourbon on the rocks.  Straight up."  He nodded, bowed, and went to work.  I laid some bills on the counter.  He pushed them back to me. "First time here, right?"  I nodded, and he continued. "First drink is always on the house.  Enjoy."  I was going to like this place, I thought. "Hey, you see a beautiful dame come in dressed in jeans and a denim jacket?" I asked him.  He hesitated, obviously thinking about the description. "No, can't say that I have, at least not in the last few minutes.  Course, there are a lot of beautiful women who frequent this establishment," he said.  "Feel free to look around, though." I nodded and slipped him a couple singles, which he gracefully accepted, and placed in a large brandy snifter near the register.  I turned away, sipping my bourbon, and looked at the patrons.  I was surprised by the number of people sitting there reading. Now, I read as much as the next guy.  In my case, though, the next guy doesn't read too much.  There just doesn't seem to be enough time to get to most of the stuff I want to read, so like a lot of folks, I just don't do it.  But the idea of a place like this fascinated me.  It reminded me of a coffee house, only it was a tavern. Near the back of the bar, in one corner, there was a small stage.  A stool sat in the center of it, and a microphone perched on a stand just to the right of the stool.  Directly in front of it, two gentlemen were engaged in a rather animated discussion with an attractive woman.  Near the doorway, a couple other women sat across from each other; one pointed at the book she held, and the other nodded.  At the bar, a young fellow sipped a beer and perused a newspaper.  A bicycle was propped near the front door, looking a bit lonely, abandoned for the moment by its rider. None of them was my dream girl.  I headed toward the back room, figuring that she must be in there.  The sign, in block letters, said PUB,TOO. But she wasn't in there.  I sauntered into the room, not really joining in with the crowd, but getting close enough to listen to the discussions.  I heard one young lady discussing a high profile trial of a celebrity.  I gathered that the most heated discussion of the afternoon, though, centered on sports. Several folks participated in that discussion. A guy, who I at first swore was Kenny Rogers, looked up, and motioned over to me, inviting me to join in.  I was tempted, but I was still on a mission, so I waved back, and told him I'd be back in a minute.  I walked back into the main room, and made my way to the bar, where I pulled up a stool.  The bartender was there almost immediately. "Still looking, hmm?" he asked.  I nodded. "I think I'll just sit here and relax for a few minutes, if that's okay with you." "Okay?  We love newbies!"  I smiled, wondering what he meant by newbie. He leaned over conspiratorially.  "Have you heard the one about the farmer who had the meteor fall on his property?"  I leaned forward, not having heard this one.  He told me the joke, and I almost fell off my stool, laughing. As I gained control of myself, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning around, that Louisville Slugger connected again.  It was her. "You're new here, aren't you?" she said in a voice as sweet as her appearance.  "Care to join me at a booth?  It's always nice to find someone new to talk with." I tried to wipe the stupid grin off my face, while accepting the invitation.  Rising from my stool, I followed her toward one of the dark booths.  I looked back over my shoulder at the barkeep, and gave him a thumbs up. "Welcome to the Book and Candle Pub," he said, and smiled. I was home!