“Hey, Barkeep, where’s my cold one?” I recognized the voice even without turning around. Switching the Oasis on, I let the pink mixture blend for 30 seconds, poured the daiquiris into the sugar rimmed Cyclones, added a lime to each and placed them on the service bar on top of the chit.
“Hey Larry, how was your shift?” Wearing my best smile I slid a pint of 50 in front of him.
“Looong and over.” He boomed, the cold mug to his lips before finishing the sentence. One of my regulars, Larry was a shift worker at the nearby plastics manufacturer. I saw him every night at 11:15 when he was working afternoons and every afternoon at four when he worked mornings.
“Are you gonna be eating today Lare?” I asked, waving a menu, figuring he would pass as he usually did.
“Yeah, I’ll take a menu and why don’t you pour us a coupla shots – your pick. Jeff’s coming today.” His gaze hugged every inch of my body, making me wish I hadn't forgotten my sweater.
“I can’t Larry. You know Joe’s new rule, we can’t drink during shift even if the customer is buying. Besides, I’ve got class tonight.” I swallowed the bile rising in my throat. Great, he had his kid today.
“Sure? Joe’s not gonna hear it from me. C’mon, pour us two Lemon Drops. I wanna celebrate shiftend! Don’t let me drink alone.” There was the familiar desperation in his voice. Every single night this guy had something to celebrate.
“Why don’t you grab a bite? What time is Jeff getting dropped off?” His ex-wife usually brought the ten-year old straight to the bar after school. Anger gripped my shoulders thinking about these two being allowed to have a child.
“Soon, he'll be here soon. I’ll grab something when he gets here.” Then laughing conspiratorially leaned over the bar. “I wanna down a couple before he gets here though.”
I couldn’t wait to be done school. This job wasn’t worth it some nights. My lighthearted facade was wearing thin with this guy.
“No problem Larry, but you know I’m not gonna keep serving you when Jeff gets here. Remember what happened last time. You locked him out of the house and passed out. He walked back here and had to stay at Sam’s. It’s not right, a ten year old, wandering the streets at midnite.” I tried to keep my voice steady but I could hear it rising, rich with indignation.
He grabbed an olive from my garnish tray, his yellow fingernails black rimmed; then popping it into his mouth, he chewed hungrily. He lifted his mug and drained the last half of his beer, not even giving the condensation a chance to wet the bar.
I turned my back, pretending to read one of my chits. Disgusting, I thought. But pointing out this vulgarity would only encourage him to treat the garnish tray as a buffet later on when he was drunk.
“Really? Are you gonna be like that now too? First Sam. Now you? Whatthafuckman?” He slammed his mug on the bar. Then audibly dislodging the phlegm in his throat, he grabbed his cigarettes. Automatically, I held my lighter to his smoke, having to control my urge to aim elsewhere.
“Thanks.” He muttered.
I reluctantly poured him a Lemon Drop. He signalled to his empty mug and I was forced to pour him another draft too.
At least I wouldn’t be around to witness the sloppy mess he would become later. When it was just him, I could care less. On those nights, I stuffed him into a cab and gave the driver his address. But these shifts, when it was his turn to take care of the poor kid who called him Dad: serving him on these occassions made me sick. Made me want to call Children’s Aid.
This is my entry for The Red Writing Hood prompt "someone who really gets under your skin." Constructive criticism is welcome.