“What’ll it be, Mac?”
“Scotch’n rocks. Name’s Mike.”
“Right,” says the bartender, his shirt unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up to, I suppose, to reveal his biceps. I’m sure we’re all really impressed.
I lay a twenty on the bar, loosen my tie and turn to watch as two couples work their way towards the piano clanging out a melody at the far end of the room.
I guess this is actually a lounge, although I’m not sure how you make that distinction, but the sign on the door says ‘Easy’s Lounge.’ So? So, who really cares?
“Here ya go, Mac.” He sets down my drink and I notice a tattoo on his forearm a black dagger encased in a red arrowhead.
As he scoops up my twenty, I point to the tattoo. “Delta Force?”
He makes a quick assessment of me, gives me a cold, solitary look and says, “In another life.”
Delta is the United States’ primary counter-terrorism unit. Makes me wonder why a Delta Force operative is schlepping drinks in Louisville.
An old man with suspenders and a cigar shuffles up to the bar and says, “Hey, Steve, beer.” He looks down the two stools at me and nods. I nod and turn away. The last thing I need is to get into a conversation with an old Kentuckian chewing a cigar.
Steve draws the old guy’s draft and brings me back a stack of ones. A goodbarkeep will always leave you cash for the tip. I take a sip. Not bad…
Who the hell has their corporate office in Louisville anyway? I should be home in Seattle with Sue. Bobby’s pitching tonight, and here I sit in GOD DAMN Louisville! I slam my empty glass down on the bar.
The old man turns my way. Steve is talking to the waitress and jerks his head around. “You alright down there, Mac?”
“Yeah sure, sorry about that, Steve.” I hold up my glass. “I’ll have another.” I learned a long time ago, if I stick with scotch I can last all night.
The place does look pretty nice; all done in light oak with what looks like walnut inlays, indirect lighting, glasses clean and hung all around. Steve keeps a nice bar. Oh Shit! Get a load of these guys: white shoes, no socks, chains, and, oh, that walk. Couple gay blades, if I ever saw any.
Steve sets my drink down. “Hey, Steve.” His eyes are always moving. I get the feeling he is searching for something he knows isn’t here. “You have anything to eat here?”
“I got a menu from the restaurant next door. We pass drinks and food back and forth.”
He smiles as he hands me a menu and says, “Pork chops are good.”
Hmmm, pork chops, but since it’s on the expense account I might as well have a steak. I look at the menu a second. “Why don’t you get me a rib-eye, medium rare, baked potato, and salad with Italian. And, Steve I think I’ll move down here to one of these tables.” I point to one of the small round tables near the wall.
“Sure, no problem, Mac. I‘ll tell Savanna.” He moves on down the bar.
“Uh . . . it’s Mike.” Oh, never mind. I leave the stack of ones on the bar, take my drink and the little cork coaster and move to one of the tables. There’s a pretty good crowd starting to form back around the piano.
Steve talks to the waitress. She looks at me, smiles and heads my way. Wow, she is cute. Short blond hair, blouse way too tight and skirt way too short. She’s what I’d call a tip magnet. She smiles and I notice an old scar on her cheek. Just enough to make her seem a little dangerous.
Hi, I’m Savanna,” she says, with a sweet southern drawl that somehow makes her seem even more adorable. “Steve says you’re a waitin’ on a meal.”
“And now you’ve made the wait worthwhile. I’m Mike.”
She twists a little and smiles even bigger. Now the scar is more obvious. “Well then, Mike, are you ready for another scotch-rocks?”
Holding up my half full glass, I reply, “I think I’m fine right now, but I’d appreciate it if you’d take this five and ask the piano man if he knows any Elton John.”
She turns a little, takes the five and gives me a wink. “Sure enough, sugar, I love him.” She leaves with a little hop. Just enough to give me a peek at her sweet little ass.
Three guys in tuxes come in. Hey, you guys late to the prom? They seem to know Steve. Before they even speak he’s setting them up drafts at a big table.
Oh shit, look at this coming through the door. Too much makeup, clothes too tight, wonder bra and six inch heels. Working girl. They got’em in Louisville, too. She glances down at me as she struts past. I smile and look away. Sorry, baby, that shit ain’t ever gonna happen. I stare down at my glass. The ice always seems so clean.
I feel my pocket vibrate. My cell. Maybe it’s Sue... Oh great, it’s the boss and he’s texting me. Now we text. He’s probably at his kid’s ballgame and too busy to call. See what he wants. Reading the message. Yeah. Yeah. I text back. Everything went fine today. Louisville is great, wish you were here.
What pisses me off is, we could have done this entire thing with conference calls and e-mails, but no, these rubes had to have a man on the scene. “Hey, Savanna, sweetheart, another scotch. Make it a double.” Let’s see-three hours difference, Bobby should be maybe into the second inning. Why the hell hasn’t Sue called? She could at least text. Hell, even Jack took time to text. God damn Louisville!
“Here’s your double, Mac, and I think ya’ll’s steak’s ready.” Savanna sets the drink down and turns back to get the food.
“Thanks, and it’s Mike.”
She returns with a covered plate and begins arranging the table. “Savanna, if you don’t mind my asking. Uh, how old are you?”
She straightens up, hands me a napkin and cocks her head like a puppy. “Why, I’m twenty-three.”
“Aw, well then, you don‘t have kids.”
“I have a little boy.”
“Oh, I didn’t see a ring, so I . . .”
The scar disappears as the smile runs away from her face, “Yeah.” Her eyes drift away. “Well, he’s gone.”
“Hey, look, I’m sorry. I. . . . I’m just away from home, I miss my family, and my twelve-year-old boy is pitching right now and . . . well, shit . . .”
She smiles. “That’s okay, Mac, I get asked a lot worse questions. Your steak’s a gettin’ cold.” She quickly moves away.
“Hey, it’s . . .uh . . .Mike.” Aw, what the hell.
I’m battling my steak when I notice the old guy from the bar standing in front of me. “Real smooth, Mac.”
I finish a bite and stare up at him for a second. I didn‘t notice before; the huge bags under his eyes and the absence of two front teeth. Obviously a NASCAR fan.
“Savanna,” He nods his head towards the waitress. “Real smooth.”
“Oh.” I smile. “That. You got me wrong, Pal. I wasn’t hitting on that kid. I’m not hitting on anybody. I’m just, kinda’, like a guy in prison; all I want is to do my time here and get back to Seattle. Sit down, I‘ll buy you a drink.”
“No, that’s okay. I just come here every evening, have two beers, go home, pat the old lady and watch TV. How’s the steak?”
“Ah, should a got the pork chop.”
“Yeah, I think when a horse loses at the track he ends up on one of these here plates.”
“Ha, that explains it. Sure you won’t have another beer?”
“Nah, two’s my limit and anyway, the old lady will be expecting her pat. And for the record. I didn’t think you looked like the type to be chasein' after a kid like Savanna.”
“Yeah, the only thing I’m interested in right now is chasing down old Seabiscuit here with some scotch.”
He turns, throws up a little wave and says, “Well, good luck with that.” He disappears out the big glass door.
Well, that’s enough of this also-ran steak. Think I’ll try and call Sue. Damn it, she should have called me. No answer. I’ll leave her a message. “Sue I’m sitting here in a bar in Louisville surrounded by beautiful women. I’m waiting on your call… What’s going on, pumpkin?”
I glance up and it’s Savanna, “How’s his game going?”
“Oh, I can’t get Sue and it’s killin’ me.”
“I‘m sure there’s a good reason.” She points to my plate. “Done with this?”
“Yeah, not that hungry, but I’ll have another double.”
She clears the table in one stroke, “Maybe she just forgot her phone.”
“More than likely didn’t charge it. She’s not good at remembering stuff like that.”
“There ya go. Be right back with your scotch.”
A cloud of brown smoke hangs just off the floor as the crowd around the piano seems to have mushroomed. Savanna works the room like a politician, smiling and talking with everybody. She navigates her way through the swarm of empty-glass patrons, keeping just out of reach of the few that may have been over-served. Arriving back at the bar she relays the orders to Steve from memory, picks up my scotch and hustles it to me, “Here ya go, Darlin’. Any word from Sue?”
“Nothing. Hey, you are getting a pretty good crowd back there.”
“Yeah, Berry really pulls ’em in.” She raises her head to listen, “Aw, Time in a Bottle, I love that one. I’ll be back.” And she’s gone.
Now what is this? She must have come in while I was watching Savanna walk away. Or could it be, I have had too much scotch? But it seems from out of nowhere, standing at the end of the bar, a goddess has appeared. Not a nymph like Savanna, but a gorgeous, seductive woman with dark, shoulder-length hair and dark wide-set eyes that seem to smolder. The almost transparent skirt that stops just above her knees rises slightly as she raises on tip-toes to whisper something to Steve. He quickly prepares a martini. She takes it and moves to the table next to me. I sit, mouth open, totally mesmerized by this queen of womanhood. What a babe.
I should say something to her. I mean we are both sitting here alone, not more than two feet apart. I’ll keep glancing at her. Maybe she’ll look my way. There now. Aw,Man, she looked right through me. Am I that bad, you can’t even acknowledge me as a person? I’ll just keep an eye on her.
She’s looking at her watch. Oh, that’s it, she’s waiting for someone. I should have known anyone who looks like that wouldn’t be just sitting in a bar all alone. Not somebody like that.
“Hey, Savanna.” She looks my way and I give her a little wave. She holds up one finger and carries drinks to the back of the room. I toss back the last of my double and turn to look at the enchantress to my left. She’s looking at her watch again. Man, she is so hot.
After several minutes Savanna shows up. “Another scotch, Mac?”
“Yeah, and get the lady here a martini, too.”
The babe looks at Savanna, shakes her head and says, “I’m fine, Honey.”
I just look at Savanna and shrug. She puts her hand on my shoulder and says, “How many have you had, Mac?”
"Oh, I’m fine, sweetheart. I can drink scotch all night.”
“Heard anything about the game?”
"No. God damn it. I otta be there!”
“I’ll get your scotch, but we need to slow down. Okay?"
I turn and the doll is looking at me. “My kid is pitching his first game tonight in Seattle and damn-it, I should be there.” She doesn’t say anything, but she doesn’t turn away either. “But, NOO, I have to be in Louisville because these ass-holes are too dumb to do a conference call or a tele-conference. They want a man on the scene, for two weeks. That’s all, just two weeks. Two weeks of holding their hands.” Oh shit, my big mouth. She is still looking at me. “Look, I’m sorry about that. Please excuse me.”
Not saying anything, she just glances at her watch and turns away. Now, that’s cold, but I suppose I had it coming.
The door swings open and she is silhouetted against the lights from the street. Now, this is a Hollywood profile and I’m pretty sure she knows it. Through the open door two Marines enter, both sporting artificial limbs. They march past us without looking around. As they near the rear of the bar the piano player bangs out the Marine Hymn and the patrons break into applause. A bald, black guy with no neck, sitting at the bar, announces, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Hey, Steve, whatever they want is on me.” Again the crowd claps.
I turn back to my fantasy girl and she is looking past me to the piano-bar. I can’t say that I have ever seen eyes that dark brown, that exciting. She is still sitting here all alone, but unlike me, she doesn’t look lonely. “Are you ready for that Martini yet?”
Without looking at me she glances at her watch again, shrugs and says, “Sure. Why not.”
I look around, “As soon as Savanna gets back up here.”
“Name’s Monica. You might as well join me at my table.”
“Yeah, sure. I’m, uh . . . Mac.” I pick up my glass and discreetly slide to a chair at her table.
“So, I hear you’re from Seattle.”
“Yeah, Seattle. It‘s in . . . uh . . .Washington.”
“Heard of it. Rains there a lot. Right?”
"Yeah, like almost everyday.”
“Wow. All that rain. What do you do?”
“Aw, well, we pretty much just let it rain.”
Her eyes sparkle as she laughs, a sexy laugh. “Oh that‘s pretty good. Are all the men in Seattle so funny?”
“No. I . . . uh . . . I think it is just me.”
“Oh, Mac.” As she laughs she puts her hand on my knee.
“Well, Mac, I see ya’ll found a friend.” Savanna is standing at our table.
“Savanna. Yeah, another double and a martini for the lady.”
Without taking her eyes off me, Monica says, “Make that with two olives, Honey.”
"Got ya.” Savanna turns quickly away.
“So, what brings Seattle’s funniest man to Louisville?”
Ten minutes ago she didn’t want to breathe the same air as I do, now she can’t get enough of me. Oh, well, it’s kind of nice. “I work for this big corporation and we are merging with a small company here. And, well, I’m the guy that does that kind of stuff.”
“So, I guess you’re a pretty important man?”
“Oh, I don’t . . .” She squeezes my leg. “YEAH, I guess you could say that.”
Savanna sets our drinks down and turns to leave. “Oh wait, Savanna.” Getting out a five I ask, “Monica, is there anything you’d like to hear from the piano?”
Her eyes focus on mine as she says, “How about the song by Rod Stewart, Have I Told You Lately that I Love You.”
Holding up the five, I swallow hard and say, “Savanna, uh . . . Have I . . .”
Savanna snatches away the five, “I heard her.”
I look around, “What’s the matter with her?”
I feel Monica’s soft finger on my cheek as she directs my face back towards hers.
Her perfume is enthralling as her face is only inches away. Her lips part gradually. My head is spinning, I’m dizzy and warm in places I had forgotten about. Should I kiss her? No. “Maybe we could go someplace.” I can’t believe I said that. “I . . .I have a room at the Hilton.” Who is this talking?
“Ooh.” Her voice seems deeper, more sultry. “That sounds wonderful.”
I dig out my company card, look around. “Savanna, check please.”
With the same soft finger, Monica pulls my face back around. “That’ll be five hundred for the night, sweetie.”
“What? What was that?”
"I promise, it will be a night you’ll remember the rest of your life and we can put it on that card.” Her tongue slips out and makes an ever-so-slow circle, causing her lips to glisten. At the same time her hand moves slowly up my thigh.
My mind is doing calculations, expanding on repercussions, evaluating options, as her hand reaches the top of my thigh. “How . . . How will it show up on the statement?”
“Stress Relief Workout. Now don’t you think your big corporation would want your stress relieved?” She moves closer and whispers in my ear, “And I promise, it will be the best you’ve ever had.”
My pocket starts vibrating. My phone. I check the number, it’s Sue. I look up at Monica, pause a second. As the phone continues to buzz. I turn away and press the button, “Sue. Bobby? Son, I’ve been trying to call. She left it in the car? Oh. Well, how did the game go? You struck out seven! Oh, man, I’m so proud, Bob. Listen, son, I woulda’ been there if I could. What? What? Let me call you when I get back to the hotel . . . Okay? Okay. Love you, Son, bye.” Son of a bitch, he struck out seven guys . . . Son of a bitch.
I’m sitting with my head down and I hear Savanna, “Did you get that call, Mac?”
“Yeah . . .I did . . .Just in the nick of time, too. Who in the hell asked Berry to play Cats in the Cradle?” I look around. “And where’s Monica?”
“I told her to take a hike.” She hands me a tissue. “Here. Wipe your eyes, Sport. Want me to put everything on this card?”
"I do. And hey, my name is Mike.”
She raises one eyebrow as she turns away. “Yeah, and so is Monica’s.” DSS
Tom Graham, 67, of Greenfield, Indiana, is retired from work in construction and as a Realtor. He has coached baseball and played Santa Claus.
This is a fascinating, well written story, and if you liked it, donate here to keep Downstate Story publishing other fine fiction.