Saturday, July 22, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Happy's Bar

In two weeks, the cast would come off.  It stretched from his right hand up to his elbow.  The gauze closest to his elbow was discolored a copper brown after he had cut himself while attempting to scratch underneath it with a straightened wire coat hanger.  In just two weeks, he would not only see his pale forearm again but finally get to assess the damage from that wire hanger misadventure.  He feared the cut would have left an impressive scab, but he also counterbalanced that dark thought with the assurance it was probably much smaller in reality like when the tongue runs over a chip in a tooth.  

The cast was white.  He had chosen white at the hospital instead of the more popular neon colors that were now in vogue.  White was traditional.  He liked tradition.  He had hoped all his acquaintances would offer to sign his cast like had happened when he broke his leg skateboarding as a kid.  No one had offered though and it seemed desperate to ask people directly.  The cast had just quietly yellowed as the days past.

That changed two nights ago.  He had been sitting out a burst of rain at a bar called "Happy's".  Happy's was not happy, and might have been the bleakest tavern on the West Coast.  It smelled like urinal cake, stale smoke, and vomit.  At any given time, a few men would be seated at the bar hunched over while slowly draining their government checks one 10 oz. beer at a time.  Happy’s was the sort of place where a man drank when the realization hit him that he would be unloved for the rest of his life.  It was a quiet place of accepted desperation. 

He could feel that desperation when he walked in.  Normally he would have walked right out, but the thunderstorm was really coming down.  Rainwater ran down the sides of the street like filthy creeks.  He ordered a bottle of Budweiser, not wanting to either drink from the glasses or tapline.  He sat down at a small table in the corner facing the door.  He never allowed his back to face a door as he heard that left one open to surprise attack.  He had not been the victim of an attack since a playground incident when he was nine, but one could never be too careful.  He was slowly sipping his beer and hoped he was blending in when he heard the voice to his left.  “You a regular here?"

The couple smiled at him like he had told a great joke.  The man was fat and balding, yet had a long braided ponytail.  He wore a faded jean jacket with a confederate flag patch above his cigarette pocket.  He sat with his legs extended with his motorcycle boots resting on the wooden chair across from him.  A very pale and skinny woman with a remarkable amount of tattoos down her exposed arms sat next to him twirling a cocktail straw in her glass.  They continued to smile at him, staring, deciding what to do next depending on his response.  He needed to be careful.  They could smell his fear.

"I usually come only on ladies night."  There was a brief moment of silence and then the couple both let out genuine laughs.  He hoped they hadn't heard him exhale.  The man stood up and yelled over to the bartender.  "Get me another round Pete!  Him too!"  And with that, he spent the next four hours at Happy's.  The man with the ponytail, Joel, lived in the neighborhood and "did odds and ends".  Rachel, his female companion, was a tattoo artist.  They drank most of the afternoon away while Joel expounded upon his theories of The Deep State, the Kennedy Assassination, how to eat pussy, and the problem with the Raiders.  While this monologue continued, Rachel silently and slowly drew an attacking octopus on his cast.  Her tongue tip moved back and forth across her lip piercing as she methodically filled in lifelike detail on the drawing.  He was equally afraid of Joel and consumed by Rachel.

When he decided to leave, he unevenly stood up and walked to the bar.  He handed Pete the bartender his credit card.  Pete first looked it like it was a foreign object as he may have been the only person in Happy's with credit of any kind, but pulled out an old style swipe machine to run the card.  "I got the tab Joel.  This is on me."  He had a beery happiness as he looked down at the fierce octopus that now occupied the cast.  Joel stood up and shook his hand.  "You're a good man!"  Rachel leaned in to kiss his cheek and slipped her tongue in his ear playfully making Joel roar with laughter.  "Come on back any ladies night!  Hahahaha!"   

He returned to his apartment and his life.  He called off work the next day, afraid of what his co-workers would say about the octopus on his cast.  He sat on the couch with the shades drawn, wary to let anything in.  He kept staring at the octopus drawing, the strong perfect lines drawn with complete conviction.  He felt an anxiety growing in his chest.  Later that afternoon he got dressed, putting on worn jeans and a plain black t-shirt from the very back of his closet.  Maybe he would take a walk down to Happy's and get a drink.   


At July 22, 2017 at 10:16:00 AM EDT , Blogger kk said...



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