"She was a goddess I'm telling you!" Fat Phil's voice was
insistent, as it climbed, ever further, into the upper registers of
Fat Phil's hands were busy shuffling sports jackets on hangers in his
closet, like a crazed carney slight-of-hand artist, looking for the
"Nothing fits," moaned Fat Phil.
"After all these years, she decides to visit. You're gonna have
to tell her I'm dead - I don't want her to see me like this."
"Well, Phil, it's not exactly like you were 'Mr. Slim Jim' when
you two were dating. After all, 390 lbs, 420 lbs, what's the diff?"
I offered, hoping to get Phil refocused on the upcoming card of racing
for Wednesday afternoon.
"I ain't going," Fat Phil declared. "I got two weeks
to lose weight, and I'm startin' now!"
The pending arrival of one Ms. Gloria Simone, ex heartthrob of one
Philip Anthony Romenchuk, was the event that had sent this large bastion
of sanity into seizures of apoplexy.
"You gotta help me, Hack!"
Now, I always try to be a loyal and true friend. If there is something
I can do that would in any way help a friend in distress, I'm usually
there with bells on.
"Not a chance, Phil," I quickly replied.
"I've seen what's happened to people who got between you and the
last slice of pizza! That's definitely not the way I'd planned on going,
"Hack, this is different. This is the woman I nearly gave up smoking,
drinking, philandering and gambling for! There ain't a day gone by since
she left, that I haven't thought of her."
I tried to point out that he had taken more than a few moments squinting
at the signature at the bottom of the letter he'd just received, before
determining the identity of the sender.
"Ah, I didn't forget her, she just has lousy handwriting!"
The next ten days became a grizzly exercise in deprivation for our
"I can't watch T.V. 'cause there are too many ads for food,"
moaned Fat Phil. "Same with the newspapers and magazines. And I'm
gettin' too weak to get any exercise, so I just sit at home and try
to stay awake. If I fall asleep, I get nightmares about lasagna and
Rocky Road ice cream!"
As a friend, Fat Phil is definitely an acquired taste. But now the
big guy was no fun at all.
And, the repercussions of this self-inflicted torture test were beginning
to become more widespread, extending well past our own small social
Several local restaurants and fast food delivery joints began laying
"Paddy's bar called yesterday," said Phil sadly. "It's
time for their next booze order, and they were wondering if they should
order the usual three cases of over-proof bourbon."
The whining, moaning, breast beating and gnashing of teeth made the
days leading up to Ms Gloria Simone's arrival seem like an eternity.
But, there it was, February 14th, and Fat Phil was hiding in bed with
his Toronto Maple Leaf's goose down comforter pulled up to his nose.
"I ain't goin' to the airport," mumbled Fat Phil, from under
"Tell her I died."
Just then, there was a knock at the door.
As Fat Phil opened the door, ready to chastise the paper boy for trying
to collect before the end of the month, there stood Ms. Gloria Simone.
Fat Phil did not remember the bi-focals, nor the streak of gray hair.
There also seemed to be a lot more of her.
"Hi Phil. It's been a long while, eh? I caught an earlier flight,
and, well, here I am!"
And then she smiled, and it was 1975 again.
"I brought you a present," she said, handing him a big red
heart filled with chocolate covered cherries.
"I've come a long way looking for a valentine - I hope you haven't
made other plans for dinner."
The smell of chocolate, and the promise of dinner, suddenly made Fat
Phil a little dizzy.
"Come in," he blurted out.
I left the two of them sitting on the couch, munching candy and laughing
at each other's stories of the strange ironies of this journey called
And it occurred to me that at least this Valentine's Day would not
end up being the exclusive domain of super models, movie stars, and
the people in those moronic beer commercials.
Nope, Fat Phil had himself an honest to goodness Valentine, and if
that were the case, then maybe I just might find one too.
I turned and headed towards Paddy's bar. It had been 10 days since
I'd been there, and I was craving some of their deep fried crab cakes.
Anyway, it seemed as good a place as any to start looking