A Regular Day (behind the bar)
It was three-forty in the afternoon. The old man wouldnt be in
for twenty more minutes. The bartender wiped the slate bar top again.
He wiped in circular motions along its shiny, black length down and
back. He leaned over into the line of light to see it from a different
angle making sure it was absolutely clean. He looked at the clock on
the wall. Three forty-three. He had already polished and re-polished
the glasses. He had stocked the garnishes; sliced the lemon peels and
lime wedges and cucumber spears. He had pre-mixed a Bloody Mary concoction.
He reached up and pulled a stemmed wine glass from the overhead rack.
He breathed on it to fog the crystal then rubbed a clean, white cloth
around it. He held it up in the light to inspect it then slid it back
into its slot in the overhead rack. He grabbed another, fogged it with
his exhale and began buffing it as he looked at the clock.
© Jeffrey A. Beyl
- March 2003
The bar stretched from the highway to the beach overlooking the pier.
It stood on pilings out over the sand, as did the pier, and during high
tide the ocean rolled up under it. The bar shook when a wave crashed
into the pilings. The bar was long and bright surrounded by windows
looking out toward the ocean.
The bartender began to polish the shiny brass railing surrounding the
bar itself when a tall man wearing a baseball cap walked in, leaned
his fishing rod against the wall and set a rusty tackle box on the floor.
He sat at one of the stools with his back against the windows. The bartender
slapped a napkin down onto the bar top in front of him.
"Hows the fishin today?"
"Lousy! What kinda beer ya got?"
The bartender told him and the man ordered a draft. The bartender stepped
over to the beer taps and drew a beer into a thick, sparkling clean,
glass mug and set it down onto the napkin in front of the man. "Here
ya go. Thatll be a buck."
"One dollar," said the bartender.
"One dollar? Jesus, whats the world comin to? One dollar
for a damn beer?" The man pushed his baseball cap backward on his
"Goes up to a buck seventy-five after four oclock,"
said the bartender.
Baseball cap reached into his jeans, pulled out a wrinkled wad of bills,
straightened them out and set one dollar bill onto the bar top. "Here,"
he said. "But dont expect a tip."
The bartender could see that his fingers were cracked. The man took
a gulp and set it down hard onto the slate. "I tell ya, inflation
hits everything. Ya know its bad when a lousy beer in a cheap
beach joint costs a buck. This countrys gonna be a wasteland soon.
"A wasteland?" repeated the bartender. "You ever read
"Never mind," said the bartender. He went back to polishing
the glasses. He pulled another wine glass from the rack and exhaled
onto it. He looked out the windows at the ocean. He could hear Baseball
Cap mumbling "A dollar a beer, Jesus!" The bartender rubbed
the glass with the cloth. He looked around at the clock. Three forty-eight.
Almost time. He looked back at the ocean. The ocean was turning a dark
grey color with whitecaps forming out beyond the breakwater.
"Excuse me. Two margaritas please, with salt." The bartender
turned to see that a man and woman had entered the bar and sat down
at the far end near the front entrance. The bartender cocked his index
finger at them and went about blending the two drinks. He mixed the
shaved ice and the lemon-lime mix in the blender. He reached down in
front of him without looking for the tequila bottle from the well and
poured it in with the other ingredients. He had already pre-dipped the
margarita glasses into the bowl of salt and had the glasses laid out
in a row on the bar top near the garnishes. He poured the drinks into
the glasses and sat them down on two fresh napkins in front of the people.
"Here yare." He nodded to the woman. He could smell
She was smoking a long, skinny cigarette. She held it in her right hand
as though she were gesturing with it, her fingers pointed outward from
her body. She took a puff of the cigarette, inhaled deeply and blew
the smoke out in a thin stream back and forth as though she was writing
something in the air with the smoke. The bartender watched her. He thought
she was pretty but she wore an over amount of makeup on her face and
he could see the line of it running down along the angle of her chin
like a mask. Her eyes were very dark and he could smell her perfume.
The perfume was strong but he thought it was nice. It reminded him of
The man she was with looked older. He had a round bald spot on top of
his head and his jowls hung a little at the edges of his face. He wore
a thin moustache and his hair was well groomed and coifed. He wore a
dark suit and his tie was neatly and tightly knotted at his neck. "Thatll
be five dollars," said the bartender.
"Can you break a fifty?" The man was holding a billfold open
showing several bills inside.
"Can do. You want a tab?"
The man set a fifty dollar bill on the bar top. He snapped his arms
out straight in front of him then adjusted the cuffs of each sleeve
with the opposite hand. The bartender went to the cash register and
rung up a tab then slipped it, along with the fifty under an ashtray
in front of the man. He went back to his polishing. He looked at the
clock. Three fifty-five.
He began mixing an Irish Coffee. He put a teaspoonful of brown sugar
into a white porcelain mug, and then filled it half with hot coffee
and half with Irish whiskey. He topped it off with a swirling mound
of whipped cream. He set it down on a new napkin in front of the last
seat at the end of the bar near the big windows that overlooked the
ocean. He took a glance at the ocean then turned and watched the door.
A moment later an old man walked into the bar. He was walking with the
aid of a cane that had four little rubber tipped feet. He stood very
tall and upright yet leaned with his right hand onto the cane. He walked
slowly and with effort and carried his head so as to almost point the
path with his chin. He wore a brown, tweed jacket that had leather patches
on the elbows and a red handkerchief in the breast pocket and a black
beret on his head tilted to cover his right ear. He had a shock of longish
white hair hanging out from around the beret. He took his seat at the
end of the bar and nodded to the bartender. He set his cane between
his legs and took hold of the mug that the bartender had set down and
raised it to his lips. He took a slow sip then stretched his lower lip
up to suck the whipped cream from his moustache. His moustache was white
and wispy and covered his upper lip completely and hung loosely down
the sides of his mouth. He nodded again, slowly, to the bartender then
he turned and looked at the ocean.
"The fogs comin in," said the bartender. "Funny
how the fog muffles the sound of the waves."
The old man took another sip of the drink and again sucked the whipped
cream from his moustache. The bartender reached under the counter for
a wet towel that was hanging on a hook. He began to wipe the bar top
again. He did it without looking. He was watching the old man who was
looking at the ocean.
"Dont you love the sound of the rocks rolling against each
other when the waves come in?" asked the bartender. The old man
was sucking whipped cream from his moustache.
"Bartender, may we have two more of these lovely margaritas please."
The man, whom the bartender now thought of as Slick, called from behind.
"Excuse me a minute," the bartender said to the old man. He
blended two fresh margaritas and served them on two fresh napkins. He
rung the drinks up on the tab and slipped it under the ashtray with
the fifty. He looked at the woman. She smiled at him and he could see
her makeup was very heavy and was beginning to dry on her cheeks and
forehead. He could smell her perfume. She had her hand on Slicks
thigh. He heard a tapping and knew that the old man was rapping his
empty mug on the slate bar top.
He began to make another Irish coffee and as he did so he asked Baseball
Cap, "one more?"
"Still a buck? Its after four."
"Yeah, what the heck. One more?"
"Youd think the second one would be cheaper," said Baseball
"Sorry. Still want it?"
"Yeah, hit me. But Jesus, a dollar a beer.
"Management sets the prices, not me," said the bartender.
He drew another beer from the tap and set it down onto the wet, soiled
napkin. "Thatll be
"Yeah, yeah, here ya go," said Baseball cap laying a wrinkled
bill on the bar top. The bartender rang it up on the register then finished
making the Irish coffee and as he was applying the whipped cream to
the top he could hear the old man tapping his empty mug on the slate.
He took it over to the old man and set it down on a fresh napkin. He
set the empty mug in the sink behind the bar. The old man slowly nodded
his head, took a sip and stretched his lower lip up to suck the whipped
cream from his moustache.
"You ever read poetry?" asked the bartender. "The way
you rap your mug on the bar top somehow reminds of a poem."
The old man looked at the ocean. He sipped his drink and sucked the
whipped cream from his moustache.
"Just the other day," said the bartender, "a guy caught
a baby blue shark right off the end of the pier there. Said he was going
to have it mounted. You ever see anything like that?"
The old man sipped his drink and looked at the ocean.
The bartender wiped the bar top with the wet towel. "One day I
was standing right here behind the bar and when I looked out toward
the ocean I could see three big black humps moving in the water. Turned
out to be three Killer Whales. Quite a sight. They swim in a very up
and down manner, like a horse on a merry go round, up and down, up and
down. You ever see anything like that?"
The old man sipped his drink and looked at the ocean.
"Sometimes in the winter, before the Steelhead make their run up
the river theyll hang around out in front of the pier there. I
guess they feed off scraps from the boats and the fishermen on the pier.
You can walk out onto the pier and look down and see them. From the
bar here you can see them jump. Its quite a sight. They lift their
whole bodies out of the water. Theyll spin and sometimes land
back into the same hole in the water they came out of. Quite a sight."
The old man sipped his drink, sucked the whipped cream from his moustache
and looked at the ocean. Out over the ocean a group of pelicans flew
in snakelike unison along the water. They rose up and over a swell one
by one then back down to skim the surface when suddenly they flew higher
into the air, hovered a moment and arrowed down into the water.
"Theyre after baitfish," said the bartender. "I
love watching them fly like that. You know the pelican has the slowest
wing beat of any bird?"
"Speaking of birds, in spring," said the bartender, "you
can watch the pigeons mating on the railing out there. The female always
plays it coy for a while. But she finally gives in. Sometimes you can
watch the stray cats come hunting. Those pier cats are really something.
Theyll crouch along, you know how cats do, and sometimes if a
cat is very tough, hell get both birds at once. Thats a
sight to see. One cat trying to kill and drag two dead birds down the
pier while fighting off the other cats at the same time."
The old man looked at the ocean.
"Bartender, two more margaritas please." Baldy called again.
"Excuse me a minute," the bartender said to the old man. He
blended two fresh drinks, served them on fresh, clean napkins and rang
them up on the tab. He slipped the tab under the ashtray. The fifty
was still there. The bartender looked at the woman and she smiled at
him. He looked at the man. He noticed that the mans left eye looked
a little to the side on its own. He could smell the womans perfume.
The bartender looked at Baseball Cap. "One more?"
"Not at your prices."
The bartender turned back to where the old man was sitting and noticed
that he was gone. He must have gone out the side door, thought the bartender,
and then he saw that the old man was walking slowly out along the pier.
There were three dollars under the empty mug and fifty cents beside
the bills. He set the dirty mug in the sink and wiped the bar top with
the wet towel. He rang up the three dollars on the cash register.
Fifty cents. Not much of a tip but it was regular. The old man was gone
but hed be back tomorrow at four. Now the bartender would have
to put up with Slick and the perfume lady until more customers came
in. The fishing boats should be in soon and business usually picked
up then. He grabbed the wet towel and began wiping the bar top again.
Oh well, he thought, the old man wasnt much of a talker but he
listened well. Hell be back tomorrow, thought the bartender, and
then Ill tell him about the time that sloop came in too close
and beached out front and how the waves beat it to pieces.
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