The phone rang.
“It’s me. How’s work going?”
“It’s just fine.”
“Listen, I’m sorry about this morning. I want to come in tonight and drink a little.”
“We’ll be open.”
“Alright. I love you.”
I hung up. It rang back.
“I told you I loved you.”
“I heard you.”
Bill shook his head. She paused for a second. The first wave walked in.
“I have to go. The first team just walked in.”
“Maybe I won’t come down tonight. Maybe I should just move on.”
I hung up.
Wednesday was ladies’ pool league night. The largest and most wretched women in the county filled the bar with their fat asses and sexual repression. Once in awhile they had a thin one in the herd, but my girlfriend showed up around seven at night and she stayed until closing, drove me home and bitched at me until she had to go to work. Once in awhile we had sex, but not too often. Her weak mind was paranoid over me taking off with a girl after work, or she would try to get herself worked up for home when we got there. I preferred masturbation over either. One of her biggest problems with the bar job was Wednesday. Once in awhile a cow would run her hand down my lower back or touch my hair. But I always walked out of the bar with at least a hundred dollars. Buck smiled at me,
“Trouble in Paradise?”
“She says she’s moving on.”
“Moving on to what?”
“I don’t care.”
The girls pulled out their sticks and rolled them on the table. They were the team from Madras. I walked over,
“Hello, ladies. The usual?”
They cackled and elbowed each other.
“We’ll take three pitchers of Coors Light and a few pizzas.”
“Will you ladies be running a tab again tonight?”
“Only if there’s a lap dance involved.”
They cackled again. I smiled,
“You couldn’t afford it.”
I walked away and poured the pitchers. I nodded to Buck,
“Cheese or meat combos?”
“What do you think?”
He walked back in the kitchen and threw them in the oven. I walked the pitchers over and came back with the glasses. Vickie walked in and waved to me. I set the glasses down and poured their first beers. Little things like that fattened the tip jar. The pool games went on until eleven or so, and the mating ritual began. I walked behind the bar. Vickie looked at me and smiled. I fixed her a Bloody Mary. She lit up,
“My girlfriend’s daughter’s coming in tonight with them. You’d like her. I told her about you.”
“That’s nice, Vickie. But I can’t do anything about it, being how I live with Satan and all.”
“Maybe she won’t come in tonight.”
“And maybe I’m a Swedish doctor.”
“I don’t know why you don’t kick her to the curb. You should be with a nice girl.”
I looked at her. Bill was right beside her. She saw him,
“Oh, hey Bill. Shit.”
“I didn’t hear a word. But you’re probably right.”
She laughed with him and nodded to me,
“You’ll like Tina. She’s funny.”
I did like Tina. She was a healthy farm girl. She took her vitamins . The bar was in full swing. I hustled my ass off. Rhonda and Cindy didn’t play pool. They ate pizza at the bar and smiled at me over their Chablis. It was just after eight. Tina walked to the bar.
“What can I get for you?”
“A shot of Maker’s and a Newcastle.”
I set her up. She tipped heavily.
“How long have you worked here?”
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Don’t say that out loud. She’ll appear.”
“Vickie said you should dump her.”
The door opened and she walked in. I looked at Tina,
“Great. Thanks a lot.”
She laughed and walked past her. They eyed each other. It was good. She sat a few stools away from Rhonda and Cindy.
“Who was that?”
“I’ll bet. Give me a drink.”
“Goat’s blood or the soul of a child?”
Sam and Lutz broke out laughing. She got up and walked out. I ran some pitchers over to a pool table. I looked outside. It was snowing. Carl and Dale had found a group of bison and blended in. I poured Lutz another. He took the glass and moved his eyes to the door. I nodded.
She sat back down,
“Let’s try this again. Can I have a Whiskey Sour, please, bartender?”
I fixed the drink and set it down. She smiled.
“I don’t have any money.”
I reached into the tip jar. Lutz nudged her,
“Must be nice.”
She took a drink,
“He has a good ass on him, but his brain is evil.”
Sam shook his head at his glass.
“Oh, I think he’s a big sweetheart. You’re lucky.”
Cindy glanced at her, “Damned right.”
I looked around the bar. Everything was covered. I poured a coke and opened a pack of smokes behind the bar. Tina sat down and held her lighter out. She lit me up,
“You work hard. Do you work that hard in bed?”
My girlfriend was in flames. I set Tina up with another shot and a beer. She tipped me five dollars.
She winked at me and walked off. I walked over and poured Sam another beer. He looked at my girlfriend,
“How’s work going down at the bathroom joint?”
“It’s not just a bathroom joint. I sell ceiling fans and lighting, too.”
He rolled his eyes at me. She nodded for another drink.
I made her one in a big water glass. It was full of whiskey. I put a ten in the till.
Buck smiled at me through the opening between the kitchen and the bar. I walked back.
He was pulling some pizzas from the oven,
“You don’t have to do that. I’ll buy her drinks.”
“It’s not about the money.”
He shook his head,
“They always gotta make it a fucking war.”
-Excerpt from ‘January’ in Dead Birds Hot