Friday, August 6, 2010

People I meet in bars #19: the dude who wouldn't reveal his name

I hate Reno right now. I really do. My loyalties to Willy Vlautin and Richmond Fontaine withstanding, this town can go do something rough and moderately masochistic to itself.

I just want to sleep, but there are too many lights.

I pull into the Motel 6 right off of the frontage road. From my room (a smoking room, of course, because that's just how my luck is), I can see what seems to constitute Reno's "strip," a pale imitation of the Las Vegas illumination that can probably be seen from space. But Reno? Despite the legalized prostitution (and the subsequent, relative cleanliness of the downtown area), it's still a shit town in a shit state and I don't want to be here.

But there's a bar next door. Perhaps my luck isn't so bad. I plunk myself down in a crooked barstool with a lumpy cushion.

"What'll it be?" asks The Man In The Apron.

"Gin and tonic, please."

"Don't have gin." He dries a freshly-washed highball glass.

"No?" I pause, searching frantically for a second choice. "Scotch and soda?"

"Don't have scotch." He pa-toos into a spittoon and I swear I hear it ding.


"Jim Beam work for you?"

"That's barely bourbon." I can't decide if my distaste is pretentious, accurate, or where on the combination scale it falls.

"Says 'Kentucky bourbon' on the bottle." This man is not happy. I'm also not happy, considering how surprised I am that he can read. "This not good enough for you?"

I'm waiting for him to tell me that I ain't from around here, am I, boy. "Just not my favorite," I say, trying to diffuse a potentially get-the-shit-kicked-out-of-me situation. "Anything else?"

"Got Jim, got Jack, got Johnnie. The three wise men." A sardonic smile peeks between pursed lips. "And we've got Bud and Coors. If that's not good enough, this place..." he says, throwing empty hands into the air to indicate the setting of which he so winningly speaks, "well, it probably ain't for you."

"Fair enough," I say, rising to tired, road-tripped feet. But I pause, looking at the small collection of bottles behind the counter. "Shirley Temple?" I ask, the pitch of my diction rising like the summer sun.

"Yeah," he says, pulling a bottle of grenadine into a vise grip, "I can do that."

He shoots the Sprite from the beverage gun, adds the grenadine, and slides the full glass two feet down the bar to my open, waiting hand.

"Thank you." I sip and it's perfect. This guy knows what he's doing. "What's your name?" I extend an open palm, extended thumb jutting toward the heavens. "I'm Andy."

"You're from..." he pauses as though he was sharpening the blade of his words on a pumice block, "...out of town, aren't you." I nod. "I thought so," he says, looking into the distance, his eyes visibly begging for his regulars to show up. "You're probably not gonna come back here, are you." This is, of course, more of a request than a question. I nod again. "Good," he says.

"Not big into earning tips, eh?" I say, more to myself than anyone that'd be listening.

"Minimum wage is higher here," he says. "I'm gonna check out things in the back. Let me know if you want another Shirley Temple." He walks through the swinging doors next to the Bud Light cooler and, once he makes it through, I can hear him sigh in disgust. I think I hear the clinking of a filled-and-subsequently-emptied shot glass, but I can't be entirely certain.

I sip in silence and leave even quieter than I arrived.

Some stories aren't really worth telling.


Sarah said...

On the contrary (to the last line), I found this one extremely interesting. But maybe that's because I like stories that go nowhere and seem pointless, and because I tell a lot of these kinds of stories. I could almost hear a southern drawl.

AzĂșcar said...

Nice order.

rachel said...

Andy, Granny won't be there. She died two days ago, on Sunday. If I told you while we were eating I would have cried. She was so much fun.

Meg said...

This is one of my favorites