December 20th, 2010

I sat at my usual end, where the bend of the wood is warped and moist on the bar top. For weeks, I’ve sat here watching the regulars but I don’t know the name of the bartender— or whoever really is the girl hiding beneath all that make up. She talks to the tab runner down on his luck about the guy who picks too many fights after too little scotch. The old fighter could’ve been a prize boxer once; but twenty years later, all that’s left is man who doesn’t know when to quit. He walks to the bathroom, fading in a faint cloud of ash and cancer comes from the corner of one-lungers who talk really fast and really loud even though no one’s listening. A quietly fading dream serves them drinks and coughs beneath a hand. She doesn’t have the heart to tell them not to breath, not to live.

The new guy comes on shift and I can tell he’s uncomfortable, nervous. Greased stained and shifty screams at him, “CHEESEBURGERS UP,” banging his spatula on the oven top startling the poor guy. All bark and no bite, good ol’ boy Greasy is just pissing on the tree. I don’t know the new guy’s story because he hasn’t told it yet. They all do, eventually, but I make one up. A crashed car and a failed semester at the U have sent him bustling into here, ready to work and ready to leave. A sad story but probably true— we all don’t come willingly but we all come quietly, heads bowed.

Nice Odds, the bookie, sits and argues with a couple of fresh faces, clean shaven and cleaner cut. Christmas cookies don’t come crisper but just as bland. Sugar coated and chip both wager with the nice odds not realizing I call him that with humor. A success story in both robbery and chasing off his wives, the bookie is a clever man but he never has enough.

There’s a line to the bathroom that seems like one out of a bad joke— a banker, a lawn blower, and a math teacher stand uncomfortable close. I’m prejudiced, and hear me roar, because the punch line is I damn sure don’t look like a writer. One glance and I know who they are; in places like this stories will write themselves if you don’t carefully craft your own.

Two strangers to themselves sit at the far end of the bar, gesture to me and I hear them mutter beneath their own ragged breath— “Who’s the uppity snot hiding in the corner every night?” I grin perhaps too soon, too wide, but I can help it: I’m a legend and a fool.


– Rough copy.

– Concept? trying to describe people instead of naming them.