Bills' Bar [below] was Mom's 1964 inheritance after
hubby died a la Jayne Mansfield, at midnight,
driving to Levittown home he'd bought for
him and us after their wedding, of which
I didn't approve 'cause nuns taught that
divorce is sinful and remarriage worse

Horseshoe bar, in a hardscrabble area of
downtown Trenton, was stools-only [right] and
no tables 'cause a sandy shuffleboard and
a slot for pitching darts allowed no space,
save for a hellhole lavatory at one end of
horseshoe used by patrons of both genders

I was too young to work within the horseshoe
so Mom tended bar; my duty was to keep
cooler stocked with Rolling Rock bottles and
bartop jar filled with vinegar-soaked sausage
and another with spicy Slim Jims that kept
whistles wet and clients thirsty for more

Our patrons were working stiffs: some stopped by
after their shifts at a nearby steel mill, others were
construction types; many were immigrants from
Hungary or offspring of same, as was Bill, and
others were DPs — displaced persons driven
from elsewhere via war or internal upheaval

Mom and I coined bar code via which she'd
warn me or I her that some clients bear watching:
"Dollys" were two women who visited only on
Friday or Saturday nights, bedecked in pearls with
pillbox hats pinned to teased hairdos and ample
bazooms cradled by fox-fur lapels, heads included

"Joe Dice" was our code for harmless drunks
who got wild eyes and happy feet when booze
engorged Joe's yen for fox-furred bazooms.
"McQueen" was our code for hustlers who'd
pitch darts astray in hopes of suckering drunks
to play them for drinks or better-yet money

"BD" or "Bed" was code we dreaded saying 'cause
it identified a Belligerent Drunk; almost-always male,
BD brought his hatreds to Bill's Bar to vent when
booze released him sufficiently from inhibitions
that had to be obeyed during sobriety; of course,
BD drank daily and was never more than half-sober

From my stool at hellhole-lav end of horseshoe,
I'd watch BD arrive smiling as he stepped in from
winter's chill, happy to get away from whatever,
whomever, or wherever it was that made him
upend whiskey shots chased by Rolling Rocks
as rummy eyes reddened and hatreds surfaced

Booze freed stores of bile that had compounded
within like mortgage interest during whatever
it was he did outside Bill's Bar that caused him to
bring his dissatisfaction, or perhaps it was distress,
to our horseshoe at Furman and Lamberton Streets
in a tough neighborhood of historic Trenton

*     *     *
Bar Code