If you like this story, please check out my completed book, “Butts in the Seat”; one reviewer said it was “amusing, entertaining, and provides therapeutic value.”


For well over a year, Champagne Mike’s designated enemy has been Rugby Rudy; Rudy gained that status by demanding Mike prove—in front of Ben and Jim—that he knew the meaning of the word merkin. At least that’s Mike’s perception of what happened.

Mike had no plans to switch enemies, but this Tuesday night things took a turn which necessitated a change. He, along with most regulars, knows that Mary Ann is co-owner Steve’s wife, and has seen her at the hostess stand and at other places throughout Stenny’s. They have had no communication beyond perfunctory nods. Mike has in fact never heard her voice, until tonight.

It’s early, before 6pm, and the burger night crowd has not yet materialized. Mike is sitting at the bar, drinking a split of Pommery POP and contemplating ordering a baked brie appetizer, when Mary Ann approaches.

“Mike,” she says.

It’s not a question, and to Mike’s way of thinking she has not said anything that requires a response, so he says nothing.

“You are Mike, correct?”

This is a question so he deigns to answer.

“Yes,” he says.

“I’m Mary Ann. Steve’s wife. I’d like to talk to you about your tab.”

Mike was allowed to run a monthly tab when Stenny’s was Pogo’s, and the practice has continued under the new ownership. Mike decides he loathes Mary Ann, so he hopes to make her feel uncomfortable by again saying nothing. It does not work, as Mary Ann plunges ahead without hesitation.

“Our records show that you are late paying your November tab.”

“It’s December 2nd,” Mike says.

Now it’s Mary Ann’s turn to say nothing.

Mike elaborates. “I am accustomed to paying my monthly tab around the 5th of the following month.”

“The bartenders did not clear it with Steve or Lenny to allow you, or any customer, to run a tab, let alone not pay it on time,” Mary Ann says. “So here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to pay your November tab tonight. You spent $864.23, including tax, to which we added 15%, for a total of $993.86.”

Mike taught Shakespeare to his 11th graders for many years, and has begun to see Mary Ann as Lady Macbeth—ambitious, cruel, and cunning. He sees an opening to bring the wicked woman down a peg or two.

“There’s no need to add 15%. I tip the bartenders in cash every time I’m in, much more generously than 15%.” Tara, Melissa, and Stephen would probably dispute the “much more generously” part, but it doesn’t matter anyway.

“It’s not a gratuity. It’s an administrative charge. If you want to continue to run a tab, you will have to pay a 15% surcharge,” Mary Ann says.

Mike half-remembers that at one point Stenny (the collective Steve and Lenny) wanted everyone to run a tab, and to receive a monthly invoice; he does not recall there being a surcharge involved. But it was many months ago and Mike is fuzzy on the details, so he does not bring that up.

Instead, he says “Consider it not so deeply,” a line spoken by Lady Macbeth; he trusts it will establish his superiority in this very irksome conversation.

Mary Ann does not react to the line. She hands Mike his tab, and says, “You can pay Stephen. And from now on there will be a 1% penalty added for every day a monthly tab is late, in addition of course to the 15% surcharge. Late is any day after the 1st of the month.”

She walks away, and likely does not hear Mike say “At this hour lie at my mercy all mine enemies,” from another one of Shakespeare plays.



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