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Funny

“There’s a guy that’s been gone for twenty minutes, and I don’t think he’s coming back,” my co-worker — Sarah, the daytime bartender — told me. “And he was pouring his own draft behind my back.”


“I didn’t even notice anyone leave... who was it?”


“The skinny guy with the crew cut. He’s never been here before. I didn’t expect any problems though; he looked pretty clean-cut... He seemed to get wasted pretty fast.”


“OK, I think I know who you’re talking about... how much was his bill?”


“22.97... I don’t know why he would leave on it. Jeremy told me he was pouring his own beer behind my back, and I turned a blind eye to it. He was getting a deal.”


“So what do you wanna do about it?”


“Can you go look for him? See if he’s passed out in the bathroom?”


“Yeah,” I said with a sigh, “They don’t pay us enough to deal with this shit. Cover my tables.”


“Alright, thanks hun.”


Sarah: he was something to look at, but she wasn’t much in the brains department. It was a slow afternoon; I was only serving two tables. Something told me that I wouldn’t find him in the bathroom. I crossed the bar: the stained rugs, the smell of mold; the place was falling apart. But the owners didn’t care. We catered to a rough crowd, and they always made their money off the local drunks. I missed working in classier places, but moving to a new town means you have to take whatever job you can get. The bar rail was practically empty: only 3 regulars and this new guy we’d never seen before. How could she not pay attention to him? Sarah. Damn Sarah.


I walked down the rickety stairs to check the bathroom and walked into the smell of shit and graffitied stalls, but there was no sign of him. How could she not notice him gone for 20 minutes? He could be halfway across town by now. I had a feeling he wasn’t though; this character probably couldn’t afford a car or even cab fare. One time a guy left the last place I worked, and it turned out he was doing coke in his car the whole time and lost track of time. And sometimes they’re out front having a cigarette, chatting with people, completely oblivious to how long they’ve been out there. Even worse, sometimes you can find them around the corner, passed out in the grass. I’d find him, though. Nothing pissed me off worse than someone who didn’t pay their tab.


I walked out front to a group of people having cigarettes.


“Did any of you see a skinny guy with a crew cut around here?”


They all shook their heads.


“Why, what happened?” an old rough-looking black man with missing teeth asked me.

He was a regular.


“Some jerkoff left on his bill.”


He spit out smoke in a burst of laughter.


“That sucks,” he said, trying not to crack up.


He was laughing, but I didn’t find it funny at all. I wanted to have a few words with him about it, but he was a good guy and he always paid his tab. I left the issue alone.


“I’ll find him.”


“I hope you do,” the man replied. “You should knock his teeth out when you catch him.”


I wondered if that’s how he came to have a smile full of gaps. He looked like the type that was a troublemaker in his younger days, but settled down and accepted life at the bar rail in older age. I never caught his name, but I’m sure once I was promoted to working the bar I would; that’s if I didn’t find a better job before then. Twelve years of bartending, and now I’m back to working tables. I would’ve never had to take this stupid job if my girlfriend didn’t have to move. I could’ve stayed where I was, but things were getting pretty serious between us, and as I got older, I realized it was more important not to give up a good thing just for a bartending gig. It was times like this I wished I had gone to college.


I walked further down the street — to another pub — I had an idea: maybe he had stumbled to the next bar over. They do that sometimes. When I was younger and working in a similar type of dive bar, we once got a call about two local idiots that were intoxicated, kicked out of one bar, and looking for more drinks in the area. I kind of enjoyed working there: all the bars in the area looked out for each other back then, and we’d drink at each other’s places after our shifts were done. We knew all the troublemakers in the area, and we’d share stories — bartender to bartender — of some of the crazy shit we had seen. Those were good times, but I didn’t miss them. I missed the city and working the fancy bars with educated, classy people as clientele. These smaller towns were always full of people who never made anything of themselves.


I walked into Maguires (the pub a few doors down) and approached the bartender. This pub wasn’t much either, but it was nicer than ours.


“Excuse me,” I said to the bartender.


“What’s up chief?” he asked.


“I’m looking for a guy, he’s about yay high,” I said, making a gesture with my hand just below my nose level, “And skinny; with a crew cut. I think he was wearing one of those lumberjack coats.”


“Drinkers jackets,” he said with a smile. He was young, brown, with a shaved head and a clean smile.


“What?”


“Drinkers jackets... anytime you see someone wearing one of those, you know he’s a drinker.”


I laughed. It felt good to laugh; it eased some of the tension.


“Yeah, I never thought about it, but I guess that’s true.”


“Always, buddy, always,” he said. “What’s your name?”


“Joe.”


“It’s nice to meet you, Joe. I’m Ace.”


“That’s your name?”


“No, but that’s what people call me because I always got an Ace up my sleeve,” he said with another smile.


“I could use some luck right now. I gotta find this guy.”


“How long you been at Pearson?” he asked, recognizing the shirt.


“Two months. I guess I’m the new kid on the block.”


“Yeah, I guess so. You know, you should try the Velvet Curtain across the street, that’s where all the scumbags hang out.”


“Yeah, I guess I’ll go check it out,” I said as I turned around and gave him a quick wave before walking out the door and back onto the street.


The Velvet Curtain; my girlfriend would kill me if she knew I was going in there. But this wasn’t for pleasure, this was business. I jogged across the street when there was a break in the traffic and walked in. It had been years since I was in a strip club; I kind of missed those days. It was dark with dim pink lights and it smelled like sweat and broken dreams. It was the middle of the day, so no bouncer was working, and only a few girls were walking around. I scanned around the place and spotted him sitting with a bottle of beer and a middle-aged stripper beside him, years past her prime. I guess she couldn’t make it on the night shift. I snuck up behind him and tapped him on his shoulder.


“What’s up?” he asked as he turned in his chair to face me.


“I work at the Pearson Pub,” I said; my tone was all business.


“Oh,” he said as his face changed from a smile and he took a sip of beer.


“Come on, let’s go,” I said. The stripper stared at us, confused.


“Why?”


“What do you mean why? You can’t just pour your own beer and run away.”


“Well, why not?” he asked, his face turning back into a stupid smile.


“What are you talking about? What are you even doing here?”


“I was gonna come back and pay it.”


“Come on, it’s time to go,” I said, nodding my head towards the door.



“Ok... I guess I’ll see ya then,” he said to the stripper.


“Bye,” she said with a scoff.


I led the way towards the door in powerful strides, checking over my shoulder to make sure he followed. He did. I opened the door for him and he walked through but started running once his feet touched the pavement. The stuff I do for Sarah. I chased him down half a block, grabbed him by his shoulder, and pulled him into my rib cage, securing a headlock.


“What the fuck are you doing? Let me go!”


“Come on, pay up or we’ll have to get the cops involved... you don’t want that, do you?”


“Fine, fine.”


I didn’t let him go; I didn’t trust the bastard.


“Do you even have the money?” I asked.


“Yes! Just let me go!”


“Pull it out,” I demanded.


He reached into his pocket while I held him and pulled out a twenty.


“Come on, it was more than that. You’re lucky I don’t charge you for the beer you stole.”


“Alright, Alright,” he said, as he pulled out another ten and passed it to my right hand. I let him go and gave him a shove and a boot in the rear for good measure.


“Now get the hell outta here, ya ass monkey, and don’t ever come back to my bar!” I yelled as he took off running in a sloppy stumble. Damn Sarah, the things I do for her. But I guess that’s what good co-workers do for each other. My job wasn’t much, but I guess — for now — it was my bar. And no one was going to cause trouble while I was there.

December 18, 2021 01:15

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1 comment

Michael Danyluk
23:48 Dec 19, 2021

Great story, I like the part where the guy is drinking beer

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