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.

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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.”

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