Down and Out and 7 and 7Posted: March 25, 2016
The neon flashed in the window to the right of the door–open-open-open. I pulled in and parked next to the handicapped spot and just sat in my car a minute after I turned the ignition off.
I hadn’t been to this bar in probably eight months now, but I decided I’d stop in there tonight because I got some bad news. My ex-wife’s cancer was back, and she wasn’t going to shake it off like she did last time. I knew I had to call the kids, but I couldn’t face it without a drink or two first.
The brass handle was cool and comforting, exactly the shape my hand remembered. Did Jake still work the bar? I wasn’t sure, but I was about to find out anyway. I pulled the door open and stepped inside.
Where was everybody? I could have sworn there were at least half a dozen cars out in the parking lot, but the only person I saw was the new bartender, swiping the top of the bar with a dirty dishtowel. He looked up and nodded to me before returning to his work.
But a drink’s a drink, and it didn’t really matter if Jake or this guy poured it for me. I took the seat to the right of where he was wiping.
“Can I get a 7 and 7, my man?” I asked, digging in my back pocket for my wallet.
He nodded and dropped the towel behind the bar. Pretty quiet guy for a bartender, but I guess they can’t all be chatty. He fixed me up and help up five fingers. I slid him a twenty and told him to keep ’em coming. He nodded again and went back to swiping.
As I watched the bubbles make their way up through the ice cubes, I reminisced about my marriage to Margot. I’d like to be able to say that the good times outweighed the bad, but if that were true, I guess we wouldn’t have divorced. The bad times were just more meaningful, I guess. They counted more.
I finished my drink in a single long swig, the ice pressing coldly against my top lip. The bartender had another ready and waiting by the time I set the glass down, and this time I was the one to nod. I guess his reticence was rubbing off on me.
I wrapped my fingers around the second glass and laced them together at the back. The bubbles looked the same; they always looked the same. They looked like failure. I failed my wife, and I failed my sponsor. But hell, medical science failed my wife, too. My ex-wife. I still loved her, though. I still loved her.
Just not as much as the drink.
TBP’s On-line Writer’s Guild #5
18 minutes writing and editing: first time participating directly on Harriet, my laptop!
I pick 29.