by Michael Tuberdyke
The bar was always dark. The regulars didn’t mind anymore than they cared about the dents in the pine or the torn fabric of the carpet, which only covered part of the dusty plywood floor. The regulars went there for the company. It was here where they could talk and laugh and at small intervals dream.
“What’s that?” Tommy leaned over and shouted to John who sat near him.
“I didn’t say anything. What the hell you doin over there? Getting old?”
The two men laughed and their laughter disturbed a man from his slumber on the far side of the counter. The man looked around in a daze before realizing where he was. He noticed the glass he held was empty and after this realization he put his head back down along his forearm.
Neither John nor Tommy noticed this as they cursed each other out of friendliness and after the laughter John took off his hat and felt the light perspiration on his forehead.
“Been a helluva week.” He put his hat back on and adjusted it just enough so that the small amount of light, which existed in the room could not penetrate his eyes.
“Yeah and it ain’t even over.”
Tommy laughed at his own joke while John stared straight ahead feeling the scruff along his face. Generally, he kept himself clean, but this week building decks in the weather they were having for people half his age made him apathetic. He figured he’d grow a beard, quit it all, and move to the mountains of Vermont. This idea crept into him at certain times for the last forty years.
Tommy had stopped laughing. He looked at John partially sorry for saying what he said, but even more so he was depressed that he put an end to their conversation. He liked to talk to John. He liked to talk to anyone who was near.
“How you been lately?”
“Good.” John finished his drink. “Wife is happy. Kids are good.”
“That’s good,” Tommy said, raising one arm in the air and looking away from John before turning back. “In this life–”
“You want another” John said, tipping his glass toward Tommy.
“Yeah. Why not?” Tommy nodded while John barked at the bartender who stared vacantly up at the sports game on the television. John ordered a drink for Tommy and himself and while he put the money down he noticed the man passed out at the other end.
“Give my friend down there one, too.”
The bartender looked down to the far end. “I don’t think he needs it.”
“He’ll need it when he snaps out of it.” John said calmly, looking toward the man before turning back to the bartender and letting his voice rise. “Who’s paying for it anywhere? Me or you?”
The bartender didn’t say anything, but shook his head while he poured three separate Miller High Lifes into three separate glasses. The bartender distributed each one then went back to watching the game.
Tommy noticed the amount John left for a tip. “You’re feeling generous tonight, huh?”
“Yeah, well, it’s my kids birthday.” John coughed to clear his throat. “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to take you home tonight.”
Tommy nodded his head. Almost every night John took him back to his sister’s house where he resided in her living room.
“That’s fine. How old is your kid?”
“Seven or eight. I can’t keep track. He gets excited when he gets older, but I have to yell at him, you know, I tell him, slow down.”
They both laughed and the pair talked about small trivial things until their drinks were done. John paid for one more round and as he got up to leave Tommy convinced him to go one more time. He reasoned that it was Tuesday. Tommy always had a reason to celebrate. They talked a good deal more until the end and then John, now feeling the alcohol, put a cigarette in between his lips and began to button up his jacket.
“I’ll be seeing you tomorrow.” He stood up swaying a bit like a branch in a light breeze.
“Yep. I’ll be here.” Tommy tipped the lip of the glass toward John before he let the rest of it run down his throat. He exasperated when he put the bottle down on the counter. “Tell the kid I said happy birthday, all right?”
“Tell him,” Tommy began again with a slight stutter. “Tell him, Uncle Tommy said happy birthday. My sister don’t have kids. I always wanted to be an uncle.”
The two laughed and John patted the man hard on his shoulder and right before John left he looked toward the man on the far side of the counter. He was still asleep.
“Make sure our new friend makes it out alive.”
Tommy looked across the bar at the man then back to John “Don’t you worry, John. You know me, I got everything.”
Michael Tuberdyke lives in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. His latest novel, Glass Souvenir is available for purchase directly through shoplifters.store. The book includes a special introduction by Ken Fox Head of Library and Archives at The Richard and Ronay Menschel Library of the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. Michael’s other works include The Pharaohs and The River May Run.