We get to the bar every day 'round 1 o'clock. Me and Lucky do. That's my dog. Don't worry, he doesn't drink. I do drinking's good for's both. Lucky just sits by me. Sometimes he lies down. Every now and 'gain, I lie down with him. 'Round 5 o'clock, I do. That's how I get. Roll over, sometimes. Play dead.
Don't worry, he does drink something. I set a glass of water out, or Lena does. That's the bartender. She works every day except Tuesdays when she takes Max to his appointments. That's her sister's son's name, Max. He comes to the bar on Thursdays after school, too. I'd say Thursday's Lucky's favorite day, then. That's my dog, Lucky.
Lena tosses Lucky a few nuts on occasion. Don't worry, I give him water. Just a few. Too many's poison for a dog. Lena knows what to do.
She used to work with dogs. That's how I met Lucky. He was sick at her shelter. Someone left him on the road somewhere. Once they got him well, she brought him in to see people. He liked me. I told her he was stupid 'cause he liked me. She thought I could use a dog. I said no, but she insisted. Brought him here every day, and he'd follow me home. She thought I could use a dog, but the truth is I don't at all. He just watches me. Sits by me.
I guess I do use him sometimes. I was almost arrested one night out of town for hurting someone. That's how I get. Want to know what Lucky did? He bit the officer just right so I could get away. I was heading to jail for a long time if he didn't. That's happened more than once. More than twice.
He knows when I'm in trouble. He knows how I get. And still, he doesn't want to be without me. I tell him he's stupid all the time. Stupid for sitting by me all the time. That's my dog. He just sits by me. When I sleep, he sleeps. When I go, he goes with me. That's what he does. If he weren't Lucky, I'd call him Shadow. I tell people that always. If he weren't Lucky, he'd be Shadow.
I don't go out of town no more. I stay here at The Whistler with Lucky. Sometimes, I go down to the Rips Bar if I feel like it or if a buddy's there. They all know Lucky.
What do Lucky and I do the whole time at The Whistler here? Well, he sits by me, and I sit. I play darts sometimes. Go to the bathroom. I don't really know what I do, but I do it every day. Dogs need a routine.
Most of the time, I don't know how I get home. That's how I get. Lucky gets home on his own. Yeah, the dog goes home on his own, before me. I always stay too long, but Lucky knows to go home. That's my dog. He saved my life once, so I keep him around. I'll tell you the story later.
I don't know when he did it the first time. I think it was a few years ago. I couldn't get home. I just couldn't. And the boy was tired. I told him to get. I always tell him to get. That's how I get. So what'd he do? The simple old thing walked home. I can't make it sometimes. So the dog knows just where to go, and he waits for me.
The Whistler isn't far from my house at all. Not even a block. Don't worry, I give him water. He just heads out the door, wanders a few houses down. Always stays off the street. Don't worry 'bout that. And my neighbors know how to look for him around 8 o'clock or so. I always stay too long. That's how I get.
It's Thursday today, isn't it? That means Max is coming, I think. Lena's nephew. She takes him to appointments on Tuesdays. He wheezes a lot, and he's got this inhaler he uses. I remember one Tuesday she came in sad to death. They must have gotten some bad news. Lucky felt sorry. I couldn't care, but Lucky felt it. He's good about that, the old thing. He comes up to you and just sits with you. That's my dog. Do you know something? I don't really consider him my dog. I'm more like his, I'd say. I don't do taking much care of anyone.
Lucky'll be happy. They'll go out back like they do on Thursdays. This bar's got a tiny area behind it. Fenced in. It's mostly the dumpster, but there's some space for playing sometimes if it's not busy.
"His surgery is next week, so he won't be here." Lena's telling a guy next to me. It's Larry. He likes Lucky, too. That's my dog.
"Poor kid," he says. He sucks his beer glass till nothing's left.
"Here he is," she says. Lena's sister comes in with Max. She looks tired all the time. Dark circles under her eyes. Bent over. Acting like smiling.
"Lucky!" Max yells. Lucky comes right to him and rolls on his back. He does that a lot. Almost knocks over his glass. That's my dog.
"Hi, Janet," I say. That's Lena's sister. I don't say anything else. I know she don't want me to 'cause I don't want her to.
"How you doing, Max?"
He stands behind Janet.
"Why ya hidin'?"
Janet smiles. "That's how he gets."
"Is he nervous for next week?" Lena asks.
"Shhhh," Janet says. She covers Max's ears, but he already heard. "He hasn't slept. He got like this last time."
Lena comes around the bar and squats down to where Max can see her eyes. She grabs his shoulders gently. I wonder why she ain't have any kids.
"I'm gonna' be there right by your side, buddy," she says. Lucky could do that well. He just sits by me. That's my dog.
Max nods his head slowly.
I tell Max he can take Lucky in the back. They look like two little birds running out there. I know birds don't run, but that's what I said. I know what I mean. Sometimes I don't.
Lena hands me another glass. Another. She knows how I am, but she still gets worried. She's seen it happen so many times. What everyone hated once. No one even cares anymore. It's been too long for that.
But Lena gets worried. She's a good spirit. Or she's acting like Janet. They say things run in families. What's Lucky's family? Did they follow a bunch of people around a lot? Must have. And Max's? What happens to everyone? And mine? If things run in families.
"That's enough, all right, Bob?"
It's always one more. I always stay too long.
The next thing I know ain't pretty. It's scary how something can go so wrong so fast. It's scary 'cause I don't know it happens till after. Till it's too late.
• • • • •
Lena's looking at me all nervous. I think something's on my face. I see some blood on my hands. A stool on the ground. Blood there, too. Someone's laying down. That's how I get.
"Larry? Larry?" Lena shakes him. He ain't moving. Playing dead.
Lucky comes up to me and whines. He knows, too. It's happened before. It's all happened before, and he still follows me around just like following myself around. My own ghost. I don't know what the next thing is. I can't stay too long.
Lucky starts barking.
"I have to call an ambulance," she says. I nod. I play dead inside.
"Max," I say. I say, "Do you think you can do something for me?"
"What?" he says. He's almost crying. I don't think he likes blood. Poor kid.
I can't stay too long.
"Will you take care of Lucky a little bit for me?"
"Y-yeah. Yeah, I love Lucky."
"He- yeah, he's gonna' stay with you a little bit, okay. Tell him I'll be back for me."
Lucky comes closer to me. I turn around quickly and head to the door.
"No, now tell him I'll be back now, Max."
Lena's on the phone. Larry's gone, I think. It makes no difference. I turn my head back and see Lucky walking down the street with the boy. I see my neighbor come out. Lena knows what to do. He'll know what to do. Max. He'll know. I can't stay too long.