Monday, August 20, 2012

happy hour

The writer limped into Bar Louie. His foot was bothering him. He couldn’t remember if he had injured it. He was almost 60 years old. Maybe just age, he thought, fearful, and quickly crawled up on a barstool away from all apprehension.

A female voice said hello. It didn’t immediately occur to him he was the one being so addressed. But after a pause he turned to his left and saw a 20-something, skinny babe. She looked at him almost smiling. It was more a promise she wore on her face than a grin. She was sexy. That was the immediate impression made by that perky countenance and the way she dressed. Sleeveless top and short shorts. Stockings. Christ she was all legs and lips, the old man thought, with luscious light-olive skin everywhere in between.

She told him all kinds of lies. The old man thought she acted like she wanted to hook but wasn’t sure how to take that first step. She seemed to be broke and was neatly stacking the small change she got back after buying a bottle of Budweiser. If she were already hooking surely she’d have plenty of green to flaunt. But maybe that was her play: the vulnerable waif. She was almost anime looking. A fool's fantasy, he thought.

She told him she just wanted to party somewhere and be left alone by the cops. Said she was rousted in the Wal-Mart parking lot where she claimed to have been reading a book in her car. The old man just following the conversation. Said she owns a house in Toledo but her mother rented it out while she was away in South Carolina. She was in South Carolina because she had wanted to get away and that was as far as she got. The old man liked that part. It was about the only thing she said that rang true, he thought.

She was a brunette with a sassy haircut and a titanium barbell through the helix of her right ear. Nice eyes, a piercing gray. She was long and lean and he could not help imagining her flopping uncontrollably like a hooked fish in his selfish embrace.

In conversation he was extremely cool and noncommittal. He certainly was not on the make for some 21-year-old. He figured he had no need to act like an even bigger fool than he must already seem to the youngish female waitstaff watching their odd twosome.

Then this ‘dude’ sitting on the young babe’s left, and who had been giving her the hungry up and down, starts talking to her. The old man contents himself with looking at the TV above the bar. The dude was maybe 30-something. At first glance he was kind of cool looking. But his rap faltered and his looks didn’t hold up to extended scrutiny.

Now the old man thought, was this dude brazenly cutting in on his action? Should he get the sweet babe to turn back his way and talk to him some more? But what did he care. He told himself again he was not going to make her, no way it would ever happen and even as he was forcing those rational thoughts through his mind he scrambled for any experience or memory or sign that might tell him otherwise. It could be possible, couldn't it? Would he even really want to? Dumb question. If she whispered in his ear he knew he would follow her but would only expect to be rolled. It was that kind of situation. Still, he didn’t like this dude thinking he could push him aside. The dude offered to buy her a beer. She said she had a fresh one but would accept another when she was ready. Then the dude got up and headed to the john.

The old man considered following the dude and setting him straight right there in the cramped men’s room. Bugger off, Buckeye boy before I teach you the Japanese word for elbow.

But instead the old man just slouched on his bar stool watching “Around the Horn” on the muted TV, trying to read the slate behind Woody Paige. It had words on it to the effect of “Why do you keep staring at me when I am invisible?” Good question.

The dude came back, settled his tab and walked out. Great, the young babe said, talking to the old man again. There goes my free beer. That guy said he would buy me a beer. But I already had one. Now he’s gone.

Maybe he went to the ATM, the old man joked. He was in his element now. He had dollars. I will be happy to buy you a beer, he told the young babe and she smiled back at him.

There was nothing like a cute girl to make the world a real place, he told himself. She had a turned-up nose and her whole face seemed turned upward. That was a very sexy attitude for a girl, he thought, to be looking up at the man. A mix of admiration, expectation, willingness. It was all there in the upward tilt of the neck, the angle of the eyes.

She liked Hunter Thompson, she said, and the old man told her about duke's derby day story. She corrected him, claiming the derby is run in Lexington, trying to pass herself off as knowledgeable about that part of the country, he supposed, or just knowledgeable about the world in general, as if to say, hey, I'm not just some lost little Toledo girl. I know things. I know about (and long for) the big bad world out there.

The old man didn't argue but of course she was wrong. So young, yet already so full of bull shit. Sad young American. Still he was seduced by her small mouth and her lips like filigree. But she had definite problemos. Was totally mental.

How about writing a story where such a babe does in fact hook up with an older writer guy, himself lost to society anyway. They high-tail it to South Carolina together, running away from boredom, running toward deeper troubles. He liked the idea. Maybe too derivative. But it was one thousand times more real than his manuscript about student hijinks from the 1970s, the old man thought, and realized why he was stalled in the middle of that tale. Compared to this young, sexed up and pathetic babe, it was crap.

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