“Bartender, this menu has way too much crap on it. What kind of joint is this?”
“Sorry about that.” The young barkeep took the menu from the customer, and wiped it with a damp rag. “There. That should be pretty clean by now.”
The door opened and in walked Wayne Picard and Christopher Maddox, who gazed around the smallish wood-lined tavern before taking a seat at the bar located only a few feet from the entrance. The bar was long enough that the patrons seated nearest to them were three stools away. Wayne appreciated the fact that the place wasn’t overly crowded, while Christopher looked with interest at the stained-glass antique windows and pool tables that stood at the back of the room.
They were promptly greeted by the young, well-groomed bartender named Tony Abbott. “Evening guys, welcome to The Grasshopper Spot. What will it be?”
“Can we see a menu?” Wayne inquired.
“Sure thing. Our happy hour just ended but we still have some great Thursday night specials.” Tony handed them both laminated drink menus that showcased the establishment’s colorful array of wines, cocktails and beers on tap.
“What would you say is the best drink here?” Wayne asked as he gazed at the menu.
“Our signature drink, the Great Green Grasshopper, is out of this world.”
“What’s in it?”
“Well it’s equal parts crème de menthe and crème de cacao with some heavy cream, and our specialty is to mix in some Vanilla Absolut to enhance that sweet dairy flavor that’s almost like a dessert.”
Donny Holcomb, one of the servers, overheard and was quick to interject. “I love it so much I wanna make sweet love to it five nights a week. And I only make love to my girlfriend three nights a week.” He winked at the newcomers.
The manager, Jessie Rhine, shot a side-eye glance at Donny as she made her way to the bar. “Donny, I know your hands are quite magnificent, but you don’t need to refer to them as your girlfriends.”
“Well, okay, let’s go with that. The drink, not the guy’s hands.” Chris said as he handed back the menu. “What are you getting Wayne?”
“I’ll just have a Blue Moon on tap, cuz I don’t wanna get VD from a friggin’ cocktail.”
“You can’t be too sure about that,” Tony said as he took the bottle of crème de menthe from the display behind the bar, “Look I’m not supposed to say anything, but sometimes my boys Rick and Donny here like to do some unsavory things with the keg hoses, stuff that would make your skin curdle.”
“Don’t listen to him guys,” Rick Smalls cut in, “He’s just jealous because we don’t invite him to join in that stuff on account of his little code of ethics. He has a law degree so he’s honor-bound to report this kind of stuff.”
“If you have a law degree,” Wayne asked, “why are you tending bar?”
“Lots of people with law degrees do this,” Chris informed him. “it’s a great way to make extra money, or sometimes they do it just because they can’t find an actual job as a lawyer.”
“I did work in a big law firm after graduating from GW Law,” Tony said as he served Wayne his beer and began mixing Chris’ drink, “But oh man did I hate it. The less said about my time at Dewey Fukkem & Howe the better.”
“And you’d be surprised at the money you can make tending bar,” Rick told him. “You guys wanna order any food? Tonight’s special is… uh, Jess, which one of the entrées is about to go bad?”
“Not right now,” Chris said as his grasshopper was slid in front of him. “We’ll see.” He took a slight sip through his straw. “Oh wow, this is amazing! My compliments to the mixer!”
“Thanks,” Tony nodded. “Take it slow with that. It’ll go to your head faster than you think.”
“Donny,” Rick asked of the server, “Go check on Table 5. I think that guy wants his pitcher refilled.”
“Did the Bud Light keg get replaced yet?”
“I asked Jessie to change it fifteen minutes ago. It should be.”
“Okay Rick, I’ll go ask him.”
Jessie approached Rick while he was eagerly assembling a Manhattan for a customer. “Smalls, can I have a word with you in the kitchen?”
“What’s the matter Jess? Can’t say it out here?”
“In front of customers? I’d rather not.”
“Jess I’m sorry, but I don’t wanna make love on the pool table anymore. You keep knocking the balls around too hard and it hurts.”
“That’s not it. But thanks for reminding me that we gotta get the pool table sanitized.”
“So what is it?”
Jessie stood still, gazed around the bar, and took a deep breath before speaking. “Do you know anything about the rat shit that’s down in the basement?”
Rick and Tony suddenly acquired dinner plates for eyes. “Rats? Are you serious?”
“Yes! I saw it when I was down there changing the kegs!”
“Wait, did you actually see a rat?” Tony asked as he wiped down an empty section of the bar. “Was it scurrying?”
“No, I didn’t see it. But I did see a bunch of little black pieces that look like rat droppings! I can’t believe I have to call the exterminator again!”
“I dunno Jess, you don’t seem to have any real evidence here. I kinda DON’T smell a rat.” Tony snickered.
Jessie pouted, “I don’t think this is really funny. You know, health codes are kinda a thing. Oh wait – if we actually cared about health codes you boys would be out of work in an hour.”
“This is an old building, Jess,” Donny took the empty pitcher from Table 5 and handed it to Tony to be refilled. “Rats are gonna come. Believe me, when I managed this place five years ago we were almost swimming in them.”
“Huh. That could explain why you no longer are in charge and why I am.” Jessie stated.
“Nah, I quit the manager position because it was so much more work for no extra money. You know if I get good tips every night I can make double what the manager makes!”
“So put your money where your mouth is. Go to Table 7 and sell those ladies some apps, with gusto and goodwill.”
“As you wish,” Donny bowed, and returned to his section.
Jessie was sitting in the back office going over the schedule for next week, trying hard to put the discovery in the basement out of her mind. But it was difficult to do, and concentrating on the task at hand proved almost impossible. Frustrated, she slammed the schedule book shut and leaned back in her chair, putting her hands on her head and breathing in a controlled manner. She shut her eyes, pretending to be anywhere except for that tiny windowless room that was barely big enough to hold a desk and some filing cabinets. After a moment she opened her eyes, and glanced around the room.
She looked out the door into the hallway, and took slight notice of something on the floor right outside. She noticed some small dark dots that stood out on the red tile floor, and got up to get a closer look. That’s when she could see clearly what they were.
“Crap on a stick! More rat droppings!”
She stormed out of the office, locking the door behind her, and raced to the kitchen. Only one cook was working as it was a fairly slow night. Eduardo Villa was throwing some fries into the deep fryer when he noticed his boss coming over.
“What’s happenin’, Jess?”
“Eddy, have you seen any rats in this kitchen, or even some rat droppings?”
“Uh, no, I haven’t seen anything.”
“Think hard Eddy. This is serious. I’m seeing rat droppings in at least two different places.”
“Calm down, chica. Rats can’t kill you.”
“Don’t call me CHICA! We’ve been over this! You either address me as Jessie, or Jess, or Jessica, or Miss Rhine, or Lady Hitler, but never call me Chica!”
“Aww c’mon Jess, you gotta loosen up. Here, let’s get some music goin’!” He dashed over to the radio sitting on the steel counter behind him and turned it on to a Latin jazz station. “C’mon, let’s dance and have some fun!”
Jess was resistant, so Eddy hopped toward her and took her wrists to move them in a shaky dance between the two of them. After a moment she cracked a smile and boogied along with her cook next to the fry station. “I just hope you’re keeping an eye on that sandwich you’ve got on the grill.”
“First in the kitchen, then on the dance floor, then in the bedroom! Eddy will smoke them all tonight!” He slapped his spatula repeatedly on the grill and continued his groove as Jess walked out of the kitchen and back into the front of house to scope for more evidence of rodent activity.
“You guys want some Oreos?” Rick offered to the guests seated at the bar. “They’re not on the menu but Jess says I can’t snack on them during my shift unless I offered them to you all.”
“I think Jess was being sarcastic there,” Tony cut in. “I think she doesn’t want you snacking on them at all.”
“So who made her queen of the world?” Rick popped a cookie in his mouth. “I’m the one who’s bar manager here and I say Oreos are allowed.”
“Have you ever noticed how many different types of Oreos there are these days?” Chris mused. “It used to be just chocolate wafer with cream filling. Then they gave us vanilla wafers, which is great, and then they did peanut butter Oreos which are awesome. But now they’ve got like, what, a hundred different types of cookies? What’s that all about?”
“Well,” Tony responded, “There’s red velvet, there’s strawberry, there’s cinnamon bun, there’s smores… I think pumpkin pie they do around Thanksgiving… Around 4th of July they trot out the firework-flavored… Rick, help me out here, what other flavors do they have?”
“I love the mint flavored Oreos. Except for those awful ones that come out around St. Patrick’s Day that are mint and subway vomit-flavored.”
“My stupid supermarket doesn’t have any of those fancy flavors,” Wayne complained. “It’s just the regular, the double stuff, and the vanilla. I hate my supermarket. And my parents, but that’s another discussion.”
“Are you new to this town, man?”
“Yeah,” Chris said, “I just moved here from Minnesota.”
“Awesome. What neighborhood do you live in?”
“I live a few blocks away from here, in an apartment on Scott Circle.”
“Sweet. You’re gonna love it. This is a really happening neighborhood. So what do you do?”
“I write crossword puzzles for the Washington Herald. I got sick of writing them for the Minneapolis Star because they thought my clues were too hard for their readers.”
“I love crossword puzzles!” Tony shook his hand. “That’s so cool. If I had a girlfriend right now I would so do crossword puzzles with her! And no, that’s not a euphemism for anything!”
“I’m a man of the jumble,” Rick interceded. “And those cryptograms. You know, once you figure out which letter is ‘E,’ they’re not that difficult.”
“This Grasshopper drink is awesome!” Chris exclaimed through a sip. “I think I will have another!”
“And another beer for me,” Wayne requested. “Are there a lot of ladies that come here?”
“We get all kinds of people,” Rick told him. “The Grasshopper Spot is one of the most diverse watering holes in the Dupont Circle area, so sayeth a little blurb in the Washington Post.”
“I do wish it was easier to find,” Tony said. “A lot of guys seem to have a hard time finding the G-Spot.”
“We didn’t have trouble finding it,” Chris stated. “It looked a lot more appealing than that poultry place around the corner called ‘Go Duck Yourself.’”
“Well you guys have the gift. The G-Spot’s a small hole-in-the-wall place, located downtown, so it can be hard to find.”
“But the ladies can find it?” Wayne asked.
“The ladies love the G-Spot. It has a very stimulating atmosphere. We have fun, we have games, we have live music, events, whatever you love.”
“But don’t come in through the back door!” Donny bellowed from across the tavern. “It’s forbidden! There’s too much shit back there!”
Chris snickered as he was served his second Great Green Grasshopper. “Oh I wouldn’t think of entering the G-Spot through the back door. You gotta get special permission first.”
Having found additional traces of rodent feces in the back rooms of the tavern, Jessie was back down in the basement nearly losing her mind. She was searching the closet for the rat traps she was certain were in there but was unable to find. She was not having trouble finding any of the restaurant’s other supplies.
“Why the hell do we have so much brass cleaner in here? I swear I am gonna stop buying it. And why is there a box of urinal cakes marked ‘Ladies Room?’ That makes no sense!”
Rummaging through the boxes of supplies in frustration, the item she was looking for suddenly found her. A quick and painful snap on her finger caused her to yelp in pain. It was hard and cold as well, which did not make her feel better.
“Why, why would you place rat traps loose in the closet like this?!” she exclaimed. “Whose brilliant idea was that?”
That trap having been sprung and therefore useless to her, she freed her finger from its grasp and tossed it aside in anger. Right underneath it was a box full of fresh ones, which she removed from the closet and carried upstairs, bringing it to the bar area where Rick was currently relaying an anecdote to his guests.
“So I said to the guy, ‘hey buddy, fuck you and the horse you rode in on. And also, you can’t bring a horse into our bar. It made a pile on the floor and we are so gonna bill you to clean that up!’”
“Rick, I just found the rat traps,” Jessie told him as soon as she was able to pry him away. “I need you some time when you’re not busy to prime them with peanut butter. Or have one of the servers do it.”
Rick looked at the box Jess was holding. “Okay, sure. You gonna call the exterminator?”
“I think I will have to. We can’t have rats running around the G-Spot! It’s bad enough we have Donny!”
“That’s nothing. One time we had hermit crabs running around here,” Donny chimed in. “I think somebody brought them in from a trip to the beach. Those things get smelly, believe me.”
“We have crabs on our menu. Crabs in the G-Spot don’t freak me out, they’re just irritating to have. But rats spread disease and they chew through everything! I don’t want rats anywhere near my G-Spot!”
“Did you know that rat droppings can be found pretty much in all of our food?” Chris mused through the straw in his drink. “It’s true. The USDA allows a certain tiny amount of rat feces in our food, because food manufacturers claim it would be impractical to make sure their products are completely free of it.”
“You’re kidding.” Tony was mostly nonchalant but a little annoyed. “So how much rat crap do I eat in a year?”
“Probably a few pounds of it. But it looks your fellow barman there eats enough to fill a truck.”
“Damn straight!” Rick did not take the slightest offense to Chris’ jab. “I don’t lose weight – I win it.” He grabbed two more Oreos and stuffed them into his mouth.
Jessie was much less amused. “Will you please cool it with those damn Oreos? You’re getting crumbs all over the floor. In fact you’re getting them all over the bar!”
“Sorry Jess, but that’s how the cookie crumbles.” Rick finished chewing and then went to the POS system to print out a customer’s bill. “I’ll clean it up, I swear.”
“Wait a second…” Jessie’s eyes squinted down at an unoccupied stretch of the bar, where she noticed Rick’s cookie residue. “Those crumbs look very much like… oh my God!”
She thew the box of rat traps down on the floor in outrage. “Dammit! We don’t have a rat problem in this joint! We have a Rick problem!”
“Wait a minute Jess,” Donny could barely contain a chuckle, “Are you saying it’s Rick’s crumbs you were finding, and you thought they were rat crap?”
“Yes! Dammit it, you’re killing me Smalls!” Everyone at the bar burst into a chorus of laughter. “I almost broke my finger because of you and your stupid Oreos!”
Rick picked up two more cookies and waved them in front of Jessie. “Oh oh - oh-ohhh-oh! Oh oh – oh Oreo! What’s in the middle? THE WHITE STUFF!”
“New Kids on the Block? Really? Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Would you like me to bring in Chips Ahoys tomorrow?”
“No. I don’t even want to think about what song you can turn those into.” Jessie picked up the box of rat traps and made a beeline back to the basement.
By now Chris and Wayne had finished both of their second drinks. Chris was ebullient as he pushed his empty glass away from him on the bar. “I don’t know about you Wayne, but I kinda like this place! I will definitely be back! Tony, can I see your drink menu again please?”