Dive Bar Nepotism

Dive Bar Nepotism

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if Charlie is trying to run this place into the ground on purpose.  Between charging for tap water and beer backs, catering to regulars who don’t spend any money at the expense of new customers, and the condensation I find in countless bottles of vodka, it is really no surprise the parking lot is empty when I arrive for my shift.  I am surprised, however, by the new face sitting at the bar.

“This is my nephew, John,” Charlie introduces us.  John also goes by the name Peyton Manning… just in case anyone calls the bar asking for him.

“Um, ok,” I say, confused at why this near 40 year old burnout with yellowed eyes and pants three sizes too big has adopted the moniker of a famous quarterback.

“I’m putting him in charge,” Charlie says.  “This place needs some new life and this kid, this kid right here, he’s got some great ideas.”

Kid?  This “kid’s” hairline recedes, but instead of rounding out at the back like a cul-de-sac, the baldness continues down the back of his head to his neck, so that what hair he does have left exists as strips down the sides of his head kind of like a reverse Mohawk.  “Yeah, what kind of ideas?”

“You know, like ladies night, getting a DJ in here,” the aging wangster says as he takes a long pull off a well drink.

“Right…” I say, my blood seething in my veins.  Like no one has told Charlie he needs to get with the basic staples of the bar business already.  Like I haven’t written out lists of real ideas that Charlie promptly ignored…

After the owner leaves I ask our new “manager” about the last bar he ran.  “Oh I ain’t never ran a bar before,” he says.

Okay… “So where have you bartended?”

He shakes his head.  “I ain’t a bartender, I’m a hustler,” he says with a proud smirk.  Further digging, a little asking around, and the full picture is painted:  John is a high school dropout; closest he ever got to a real job was raking leaves on a work crew during one of many stints in prison.  He starts talking about how he’s going to run dollar shots tonight and I’m thinking I might have to break the Visine out again if this place is going to keep from going under.


Spiked, Part 3

Friday night- time to put the Visine, the body in the ditch, Detective Lin, all of it, out of my head and make some money.  The music is up, the beer is flowing, the shots are being tossed back.  The regulars are here to belt their hearts out on karaoke.  Crack heads and immigrants crowd the lottery machines.  Leeches look for a mark, the perfect place to stand when drinks are bought in rounds.  There are even some new faces in the crowd: a few tanning bed blonds are crowded around the bar, sipping on Cosmos while their two-sizes-too-small-mixed-martial-arts-t shirt-wearing-boyfriends take turns on the punching bag machine (also known as the dick measuring stick).

Everything is going great.  Sales are good.  The dollars in my tip jar are piling up.  The atmosphere is chill; none of the usual psychos have shown their faces.  I’m carrying a tray of drinks to a table when the room goes cold and I feel the weight slip from my fingers.

I see a ghost.  Celia’s ghost.  At the table, waiting for her vodka cran just like the rest of the girls.  They laugh and joke and she flips her hair and smiles right at me, just in time to watch me drop the tray with hers and everyone else’s drinks on it.  “Oh Tina, when did you get so clumsy?”

“How?”  I stutter.  “Where?”… “How?  I thought you were dead?”  She was dead.  She didn’t have a pulse.   I drug her out to the ditch.  “There was a detective here.”  My words are slow, cautious.  My hands shake as I kneel down to pick up the mess.  Everyone is staring.  “He said you were dead.”

“Oh my god,” she says, slamming her hands down on the table.  “You’re not going to believe what happened to me!”  Her words grow muffled, as if she is telling me the story from underwater.  “I woke up in a ditch!”   She turns and points towards the back of the bar.  “That ditch!  The one back there.  Can you believe it?  I was there the whole time.  Just passed the fuck out!  Tina, how drunk was I that night?”

My pulse races and my lips stammer.  “I…”

The girls laugh and say things in Spanish that I don’t understand.  “Exactly,” Celia says.  “How much did I drink?”

I can feel the sweat collecting on my brow, pouring out of my palms. What should I say?

“The last thing I remember is sitting at the bar, talking to you…”

“You shouldn’ta server her that much,” a girl who forgot to draw her eyebrows on says.  “That’s irresponsible.”

“Yeah,” another girl agrees. “Couldn’t you lose your license?”

“I…I..” I stammer again.

“Psssccchhh, chill out,” Celia laughs.  “Not like I died.  And I woulda been pissed if she had cut me off!”

But you did die!  You were totally dead!  “How… how…”  There is so much glass on the floor I give up and stand.  I’m going to need a broom and a dustpan.  Charlie is going to be pissed.  He’ll probably try to charge me for the broken glasses.  But she was dead!

“How did I pass out in a ditch for like four days?”  I can’t seem to say anything so I just nod.  She shrugs.  “I guess I was just that tired.”

No Ice Bitch

No Ice BitchIt’s just another day at work.  No big deal.  Nothing to worry about.  I pull on the warped and dented metal door, holding my breath as I cross the threshold into the bar.

Just act like nothing happened…

What are you talking about?  Nothing did happen.

Inside it’s quiet.  The rail is empty, as are all the tables.  A couple of paisanos chitter at a lottery machine.  And that is it.  Charlie is leaning on the bar, staring off into space.  He greets me with not much more than a grunt.  “Well,I guess I’ll go home now,” he says after a long quiet pause.  “Don’t have too much fun.”

“Yeah,” I groan as I survey the empty building.  With no one here to distract me, how am I not going to obsess about the body hidden out back?

I really need to learn to be careful what I wish for.

Scrubbing away at the black grime in the floor drain, fighting the urge to run out and peak under the banner in the ditch, distraction tumbles through the door with enough know-it-all cackles to make Mother Theresa homicidal.

“And then she said…”

The first big woman with big hair, big makeup, and big perfume is intterupted by a second even bigger woman with even bigger hair, bigger makeup, and bigger perfume, “Wait, wait, let me guess!”  They approach the bar and drop their big, oversized bags THUD!

“Hi ladies, what can I get you?”

They both turn and look down their noses at me.  The first one rolls her eyeswhile the second says, “Excuse you, we were talking.”  Here’s a little secret everyone twenty one and over should have figured out… don’t be rude to the person who controls the alcohol!

The liquor room needs organizing so I leave the two harpies to their gossip and head to the back.  A few minutes later they realize that they are thirsty and no one’s around to serve them.  “Where’s the bartender?” I hear one of them say.  The other huffs, “There goes her tip.” They bitch a little longer before one of them finally hollers, “Hey!  Hey!  Can we get some service out here?”

Right about now I’m kind of wishing Charlie had some Visine left.  Except there is no way I’d be able to drag either of those bitches  out of here.  Not to mention the trail of hair spray and eye shadow that would be left behind!

“Hey Bartender!  Can we get a drink already?”

“Oh sorry,” I say as I return to the front.  “I thought you said you didn’t want to be interrupted.”

The bigger of the two talks over me, “Why don’t you just do your job and get us a drink.  I’ll have a Long Island Ice Tea.”  She turns to her friend, who claps her ridiculous acrylics together and announces that she will have the same.

I grab two pounder glasses from the beer fridge and fill them with ice when the bigger, more obnoxious of the two snaps her fingers at me.  “Uh-hum, no ice in mine.”

She’s kidding right?  “You don’t want any ice?”

“Nope,” she smacks.  “No ice.”  She turns to her friend, “You don’t want all of that ice do you?  That’s how they water down the drink.”

Actually, it’s how we make the drinks not taste like shit.   But whatever, I’m sure this walking Aquanet advertisement knows how to do my job better than me.  I want to suggest we light a floater of 151 on top of it for her, just to see if her hair catches.  Instead, I dump the ice from the first glass and replace the pounder with a bucket.

“Hey what are you doing? I still want a full drink,” she snaps.

And I want you to have real eyebrows, but we don’t always get what we want do we?  “So you want extra sour and cola?”

“No…” she shakes her head in that snotty way usually reserved for daytime talk shows.  “I want it the regular way, just without ice.”

A half ounce each of rum, vodka, gin, triple sec, and tequila, an ounce of sweet and sour, and a splash of Pepsi later, I set the third-full pounder in front of her, and a standard Long Island in front of her friend.

“What is this?  Where is the rest of it?”  She points at the other drink.  “Why doesn’t it look like that?”

“You said no ice.  I asked if you wanted extra mixers in it.”

“I don’t want extra mixers in it.  I want you to make it the same.  This isn’t even full.  I feel like I am being cheated here.”

“If you don’t want extra mixers, the only way to fill that glass is to make it like a triple, and that is against the liquor control laws.”

She rolls her eyes at me and points near the top of her glass.  “Long Islands are like two thirds alcohol.”  I laugh.  At her.  She wants nine ounces of liquor for seven bucks.  That’s something you expect to hear from a high schooler with a fake ID, not a grown ass woman.

Spiked, Part 2

I had been waiting for that licentious smile of hers to twinge and contort into the unmistakable grimace of someone in a serious panic because, well, she is about to crap her pants.  This was not supposed to happen!

I rush out from behind the bar and lean down.  Celia isn’t moving.  Her chest is still, no breath goes in or out of her nose or open lips.  I lean down and press two fingers into her neck.  No pulse.  Shit!  I jump up and sprint to the front door, lock it before anyone comes in and spies her there on the ground.  I lock all of the doors and start to pace back and forth in front of her body.

What the fuck do I do?  Can’t call an ambulance, they find Visine in her system guess who the first suspect is?  Same thing if I drag her out back, leave her in the drainage ditch.   Unless… it took them a while to find her!  I could cover her up with some junk; give her a chance to decompose.  By the time the smell attracts attention there won’t be anything to test right?  Okay yeah, I admit, it’s a horrible fucking idea.  But my only other options- sending her to sleep with the fishes or feeding her to a herd of pigs- seem a little complicated and, well shit, impossible for someone like me who did not grow up in the mafia.  I’ve never even committed a real crime before!  (Not counting traffic infractions and casual drug use of course.)

Here goes nothing.  I grab her by the feet and pull her back behind the bar and out the back door.   It is pitch black outside.  Charlie doesn’t like to pay for any extra electricity so lucky for me there aren’t any lights out here.  It’s about ten yards to the ditch.  When we get there I feel sick to my stomach as I push Celia over the edge and she rolls to the bottom, landing in a puddle of muck with a wet thud.

The ditch is hidden by arborvitaes and another building so that it is almost invisible.  I run back to the bar and grab some cardboard boxes and an old banner from the trash.  This is going to work.  It has to.


Spiked, Part 1

Working in this sort of place, getting hit on is just part of the territory.  You expect it from everyone because, eventually, even the most platonic customers will get shitfaced enough to confess their undying love for you.  It doesn’t help being the only woman in the bar, but it isn’t just the men and they certainly are not the most aggressive!

Meet Celia, a quiet girl, she comes in with a few friends here and there, drinks a glass of cranberry juice and minds her own business.  Then last Saturday, out of nowhere, she decided to match shots with her girls.  Bad idea, she could not hang!  Three Pink Pussies later and she was perched at the bar, tweeting my ears off until I went for a smoke break.  But I still couldn’t get away, she followed me outside and that’s when she attacked me, pulled me onto her lap and tried to stick her tongue in my ear.

It was funny enough at the time, but now that she is back at the rail again, two Washington Apples down the hatch, I am a little worried that she might make a thing of it.  For now she is droning on, god knows about what: her purse dog, shoe collection, favorite musicians, favorite Kardashian, blah, blah, blah, I’m not really listening.  I just want her to shut up.  She orders another drink and saunters off to the wash room.  I grab Charlie’s economy size Visine from next to the register.  I always chalked the bartenders’ revenge up to urban myth, but figure it will be worth a try to get this girl to stop talking without sucking on my face first.

A few people come in and sit down at the lottery machines and I forget about the Visine as I make white Russians and cash tickets for the guys at the machines.  But when one o’clock rolls around and they leave for home and their impatient wives, she is still here.  Talking at me, smiling like she already knows what my pussy tastes like, until all of a sudden her eyes roll back in her head, she slides off of the bar stool and drops to the floor.

Want to know what happens next?  Stay tuned for Part 2, coming 10/25/2013.  Part One will appear as a teaser in the debut issue of Serrated Roses, releasing the same day