The night I met Frankie, my friend and I were trying to have a quiet drink at a local bar when a weird old Russian dude began trying very aggressively to join our table. He wasn't so much threatening as deeply annoying - presumptuous, and with the obvious delusion that he was threatening. About 50-55, short, stocky. Very possibly a former minor Soviet bureaucrat or enforcer, still not completely caught up on the fact that, short of pulling a weapon, there was very little he could do in a decently populated bar to two Amazon-ish women who were half his age.

Anyway, so, just as my friend was about to get pissy (my friend, I should add, has been known to kick ass in bars), the bartender came over and tried to use obligatory ejectory-politeness on the dude. Dude did not respond positively. I was beginning to look forward to seeing the bartender - about 6'4", maybe 250 lbs - deal with this problem.

And then, over comes this incredibly small, slight, bespectacled man. I'm talking, maybe 5'8", maybe 140 lbs. One of those people who look like they are perpetually in need of a warmer jacket. He comes over, puts his hand on the annoying guy's arm and says, "Hey, buddy. Let's talk. Let's go outside."

The two of them went out. The bartender did nothing to stop them; neither did any of the patrons. My friend and I exchanged shocked glances; we were about to go after the two of them, because we had no desire for that little man to get hurt for our sakes, especially when we could certainly take care of ourselves.

"Wh - who was that man?" I asked the bartender.

"Oh, that's Frankie."

"Well, should we maybe go out there too, I mean - "

"Nah, Frankie will be fine."

A guy at the bar laughed shortly. "Yeah, and if he touches Frankie, that guy is gonna be real sorry."

A few minutes later, Frankie came back into the bar. Small, unpreposessing, completely unassuming. Not at all like he'd just faced down an asshole for two women he didn't even know. Shuffled over to the bar, nodded to the bartender.

My friend and I went over to buy him a drink. We got to talking - by this time, I should add, we were on pretty good terms with everyone in that bar (a good taste in jukebox selections is a great social lubricant, it seems) - and it was pretty much a party in there. Smoking indoors, free drinks, the works. Somehow, my friend started talking to someone else, and I got to talk to Frankie on my own.

Turns out, he'd seen me around before. Saw me going to work every morning. "We're a close community here," he told me, "and just because you don't know it, don't think you're not protected. If anyone sees someone trying to hurt you, you'll be taken care of."

I didn't know what to make of THAT, but I did ask him what he had said to the aggressive guy. Frankie shrugged, wiped his nose with a tissue. "I just told him to back off. Ya gotta know something, most bullies, they are all talk. If you stand up to them, if they know ya mean business, they'll usually back down. And if they don't, well . . . that's when you need friends. And I got friends."

We started talking about lives, families. "I got a wife," he said. "I been married more than thirty years. And there've been girls, you know . . . but I never cheated on her. Our kids are grown up. We got our house. I'm a lucky man, you know? I'm the luckiest man in the world, because, every morning, I wake up, and my kids are fine, and I have a great family, and a community, and this bar where I can come in and see my friends. And I know I am respected, and I know I am a good man. And what else do I need? Nothing. You don't need anything when you have people that respect you. That's all. Just be a good person, and the rest is bullshit."

He looked closely at me. His eyes were incredibly kind, incredibly clear. No neuroses, nothing on his conscience, no doubts whatsoever about whatever choices had gotten him to that precise instant in time. "Be a good person," he said gently, "and choose good people to surround yourself with. Don't give yourself away to takers. Don't give your love to people who aren't good. It's never worth it. Find good friends, make a family, and don't question too much. Life isn't that hard - just be a good person, be the kind of person people will respect, and you will never have reason to doubt yourself."

I've walked this neighborhood a long time since that night. I've never seen Frankie since. If I did, I am not sure how I'd react - these kinds of exchanges are always easier after a few drinks, in a dim bar. But I remember almost every word he said that night. I've never found better ones.


  1. Hi, I randomly came across your blog, and I really enjoyed your story about Frankie. Not only the character descriptions, but more importantly the sub-text that ran through all of it - protection, caring, and a very believable "guardian angel".
    You know, this would make a delightful short story. The advantage of writing fiction is that while you can certainly keep whatever factual information you wish, you also have the freedom to introduce interesting variables.
    Just a thought. Good luck, Bob

  2. Thank you very much for your comment, Bob. I will definitely consider where it might go :)



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