Thursday, 31 March 2011


“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.


  1. Oh no. That would make me upset too. I love all the detail you put in. I remember when I used to drink lemon drops - feels like a lifetime ago.

  2. This guy would get under my skin too-way under. The part about his yellow dirty fingernails was perfect! It was the icing on the creep cake!
    Great writing Kim!!

  3. This post sent shivers down my spine. I cannot imagine the will power it took not to set that bastard on fire!
    You have such incredible recall for the smallest details. As always, your writing brings these memories to life.

  4. Your use of imagery was amazing. I wanted to punch that guy out through the story. Great job.

  5. This was my favorite line. "His gaze hugged every inch of my body, making me wish I hadn't forgotten my sweater." Very effective. I had a strong reaction to this.

    You could probably make your point more powerful by dropping the last paragraph. You have done such a good job painting the picture, the reader already understands how disgusted your protagonist is. It goes back to that whole show-me- don't-tell-me rule.

    An excellent job as before. Cheers.

  6. That guy really gets under my skin. Nice job with this - you really captured his repulsiveness.

  7. So many wonderful details here. The sweater. The nails. Pitch-perfect.

    I also loved...

    "I tried to keep my voice steady but I could hear it rising, rich with indignation. "

    That's fabulous showing instead of telling.

    This character is so flawed that he almost speaks for himself. I would consider cutting some of her commentary, and let her body language and physical repulsion speak for itself.

  8. Oh this one gave me a stomach ache. You built the tension so well, set the scene and portrayed both characters so well.

    "The poor kid" was a familiar thought. What I liked most is how you portrayed the sinking feeling someone on the outside feels when they know that a kid is being mistreated.

    I loved this line: "He lifted his mug and drained the last half of his beer, not even giving the condensation a chance to wet the bar." because it showed so much.

  9. Things like this make me so mad. I don't understand how people can act like that when they have children. This was well written and it sparked the emotions I think you were trying to spark.
    This part was great: His gaze hugged every inch of my body, making me wish I hadn't forgotten my sweater."
    That one sentence let us know exactly what kind of person he was and how she felt about it.

  10. This is one of those pieces that will stay with me for awhile. He just oozes traits that make my stomach turn.

    I can never understand how some people wind up with kids.

    My favorite line-

    "His gaze hugged every inch of my body, making me wish I hadn't forgotten my sweater."

    Unfortunately, I have met men like that.

    Thanks for sharing-

  11. This would really get me angry. I hate when parents are like this with their kids, especially since I grew up with this.

    Regarding the writing, I thought you did an excellent job of creating your characters. Your descriptions made them very real to me. I wanted to slug the guy.

    You also showed how difficult it is when you work a job like this and need to keep the job.

    The writing was excellent:~) The only question I had, which may be related to where I live, is why didn't she call Children's Services?

    You did a great job with this prompt!

  12. What a horrible man! All the details really paint a very visual picture of him. Great job!

  13. you wrote the ugly here really well. thank you for sharing the perspective and background of someone who doesn't just get under your skin, but makes your skin crawl.

  14. I've read this piece several times today. You have a commanding use of language. "Lare" is a jerk and we get that. There is so much anger in this story; I'm interested to know its source.

    If I were to meet Lare after he left the bar, I'd stab him multiple times resulting in so much paperwork. Please save me from myself by giving me a reason to care about the guy. I hate paperwork. And jail.

  15. He's odious. Great job painting him. I wanted to reach into the story and smack him.

  16. Good job showing what a complete jerk Larry is.
    I've met that type also. Fortunately none had kids that I knew of.
    Both characters come through well.

    Found one omitted word in this line. "I couldn’t wait to be done school." But that's not a biggie. All around good writing.

  17. Scary thoughts of children in that kind of situation hit me right away from your brilliant writing.

    You set the tone, the stage, the angst all so well my friend.

  18. Great writing - I got fired up just reading it. The child was the key that took it from an annoying guy who drinks too much to an unacceptable situation. The details were wonderful, making me shiver at the thought of him.

  19. Well done. You got the characters spot on and I loved details like his black rimmed fingernails.

  20. Great story! I wanted to make the call to Children's Aid myself!

  21. He makes me want to call child services too. What a terrible guy. You definitely captured his behaviors well. I loved all the little details you added that made him so real. Great job.

  22. I often wonder how bartenders feel about serving those they know they should not.

  23. Well written! I felt connected with your main character. I was a bartender for years and could actually put myself behind that bar with Larry sliding onto his stool.

  24. This one gave me a stomach ache! I kept hoping she'd call CPS.

    You use of imagery was brilliant. I could picture the scene, see the man and feel the main character's frustrations.

    The only bit of concrit I have is that I would have liked to have heard the story from Larry's perspective. He is, after all, the one getting under the main character's skin.

    Why is he drinking? Why is he drinking more than usual at the thought of seeing his son? What's his story?

    The fact that I want to know more means you wrote something that sticks. Great job!


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