Susan's Superhero

Submitted into Contest #140 in response to: Write a story inspired by a memory of yours.... view prompt



Susan’s Superhero

In September 1964 was bartending at Varney’s Roaring Twenties. The 'roaring twenties' theme captured the ambiance of a prohibition-era speakeasy. Couples danced the Charleston, the Fox Trot, the Texas Tommie, and the Brazilian Samba like our parents did in the 1920s. The long bar in the ballroom had twenty barstools, more than a dozen cocktail tables. The blasting six-piece retro band always had the dance floor energetic and jam-packed.

I worked at the service bar where cocktail waitresses placed their orders. There were only two stools at the out-of-the-way service bar and these usually went unoccupied for my whole shift, but that September evening, they were taken by a guy in a Brione suit and a stunning girl in a white sleeveless dress.

They ordered cognac. I set snifters of Courvoisier in front of them and the guy handed me a five. I rang him up, put his $2.10 change on the bar, and went speedily back to mixing drinks for the cocktail runners.

When I turned toward the back bar I looked into the mirror behind the bottles and gazed at a reflection of loveliness, with deep blue eyes and honey-colored hair in a beehive do. The room was filled with eye-catching women, but the one sitting at my bar, in the white dress made all the others vanish. The waitresses were eager to get their orders filled and tips earned, so I had to stop enjoying the view and do my job.

As I mixed and poured, and handled cash, this dazzling vision spoke to me. Even in the raucous surroundings, her voice sounded soft and warm. Her first-ever words to me were, “You need a good memory and speedy hands for doin’ your job.” 

It was easy to detect out-of-towners by their not-from-here accents and hers was pure South. As I separated egg whites for an order of Gin Fizz cocktails, I asked, “So, where’d that twang come from?”

She answered with an offended expression, and comically exaggerated southern accent,

 “Yer the one who’s talkin’ funny.”

The guy she was with laughed and I laughed, too, because of the mock-serious way she said it. As I filled another cocktail tray with drinks and turned to ring up the tab, I said, “So what are you two doing for a good time in this foggy city?”

“Besides chattin’ with you?”

I answered, “Hey, that’s my good time. I’m asking about your good time.”

“Well, we just saw a songster at the Hungry i. She was amazing.”

An eager waitress interrupted, “Four marties up, one twisted. All down on ten.”

Reaching for the gin I heard my future brother-in-law, “Her name’s Barbra Streisand. Fifty years from now, she’ll be thought of as the best female pop singer of the 20th Century.”

She added, “You’ll have to excuse my brother. He has a hard time ol’ time makin’ up his mind about things. He’s Travis, and I’m Susan, by the way.”

Her brother? Yes! I was captivated. I felt her vibes. I did. I heard myself saying, “I’m Frank.”

When my break relief showed up I came around and continued our conversation from their side of the bar. It was crowd-noisy, and with the music bouncing off the walls, I stood much more closely than I would have in a quieter room. I was glad for the excuse to sniff whiffs of Susan's intoxicating perfume and feel puffs of her laughter against my cheek.

When I said I’d heard that Streisand was the hottest ticket in the city I imagined being in the Hungry i audience with Susan as my date. Dream on.

Travis said they stopped by Varni’s because they liked to dance, but they were on their way to see the Miles Davis Quartet at Basin Street West. I told them how to get there, just a short, but very steep, walk up Montgomery Street to Broadway. We talked about music and other things as she filled my eyes and my imagination. What did she think I was thinking? Or did she even wonder or care? There had to be plenty of men in her life. Yet, her feminine mystique was making me feel sure of myself. It was.

At that instant, the room settled into a lull. The band left the stand leaving only the piano player who noodled five notes.

The background hum stayed the same, but our two lives (and many others) changed forever when the piano man repeated the recognizable right-hand-only phrase. I heard the voice that had captivated me at its first sound. “Oh, he’s going to play Begin the Beguine. Will you dance with me?”

I took her hand and we walked to the dance floor. I heard the left-hand chord progression and the harmony as I folded my arms around her as we rocked along with the rhythm and tune - swaying like the palms in the Cole Porter song.

The break music ended and I drew her close as an accent to the final note. When she hugged me back I felt like Superman must have felt when he flew through the moonlit night over Gotham City with Lois Lane staying aloft by touching his outstretched fingertips.


I heard Susan say, “Andrea, it’s so comforting to have you and Travis here.” Then, I realized it was Dolly, the only one of our three daughters who’d inherited her mother’s voice.

There are thirty-one of us; our girls, their husbands, the grandkids, one great-grand kid, my sister Darla, Susan’s brother, Travis, and their spouses. The rest are dear friends.

Appetizing aromas drift from the kitchen. The fridge and the cabinet doors open and close, and tableware clatters. Familiar feminine voices confer about how to arrange the buffet.

I want to be good company but don’t know what to say, and the others must wonder what they could say to me. I’m flopped down on my TV chair. Susan named it Serta because I spend more time sleeping than I do watching.

My eyes are closed, but I’m not sleeping. I hear the quiet laughter, the assortments of memories, and the hush of sorrows.

The teenage cousins visit on the patio while their parents browse through the albums and chitchat about where they were when some photo was snapped. “Oh, I remember that time…” they say, before filling in the details of some almost forgotten day. When someone mentions how beautiful Susan was, I have to reach for my handkerchief and dab my eyes.

I smile when the new baby fusses. Our eldest granddaughter, Sharon, named her Susan. She’s not even four months old, but it’s a sure bet that sometime in the future she’ll make some lucky guy feel a singular contented buzz whenever she’s near; it’s in the DNA.

Dolly comes by and says, “Dad, we were wondering how you and mom got together. Will you tell us the story at dinner?”

“I’d love to, sweetheart. I remember it like yesterday. That time when I found out what it’s like to be a superhero.

The End

April 01, 2022 17:40

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