Happy Valentine’s Day, My Ass!

It was setting out to be an interesting Valentine’s Day at the old Marlin’s Inn.

For starter’s, the Lovebirds returned.  The time was midday, so we anticipated that this was merely the starting point for the Prince and the Princess’ big Hallmark Holiday plans.  It would eventually turn out we were wrong.

The Prince approached Santiago as openly as he had he first visit.  Howdy gentlemen, he said to us all.  Garçon, if you would be so kind to put a round for all these gents on my tab.  My old lady and I are getting hitched, and I want to celebrate.

Hank vocally grumbled.  The remainder of us grumbled internally, but we each took our drinks with a nod.

And a pair of super dooper Long Islands for us, thanks.

As Santiago handed the Prince his mugs, he clarified something.  You called me “boy.”

I did.  I’m so sorry.  Well, how do you say bartender in French?

“Barman.”  But I’m Cuban.

Well nice to meet you, Cuban.  The Prince left a hefty tip for Santiago, so he answered to Cuban the remainder of the night.

How come when I refer to you as Cuban, your butt puckers and your urethra gets its panties all up in a twist? Hank wondered.

Santiago pointed his finger in Hank’s face. Because you are a racist and a bigot.  And you don’t tip.  I am an excellent “camarero“, and you never seem grateful for that fact.  (I found out camarero is Spanish for bartender.)

Technically, Kilgore began, a bigot is a racist.

Shut the fuck up weirdo!  Santiago and Hank said together.

As the Prince and the Princess danced and drank the early evening away, another pair of visitors appeared.  It was my co-worker Ellis, and he was accompanied by some mystery woman who was possibly his recent ex.

This one’s on you, puss.  I always sensed that Hank didn’t like it when I became a regular.  I really think he’d rather be all alone in this place.  Simply him and his beer taps.

Ellis rushed right to Hank, stole his hand and shook it.  I owe it all to you, Mr. Chinaski.  Thanks for setting my mind straight.  I mean it with all my heart.

The last time Ellis followed me here from work – or was invited here by me out of pity or whatever – the crew gave me the cold shoulder as I had them.  They stepped away from their infinite positions at the bar and sat with Ellis the rest of the night, listening to his unending sob stories, dispensing advice like stale Pez candy.  We all laughed about it the next day, but Hank must have gotten through.

You touch me ever again and thank me so much, I’ll punch you right through your chest and rip out your heart.  Understood?

Like in that Indiana Jones movie?  Sure, Mr. Chinaski.  I get it.  And Ellis winked at him, like he thought he got it, when he really didn’t, at least in Hank’s mind.  Hank jerked his hand away and returned to facing forward.

Ellis engaged me next.  I got back with the misses.

“Great,” I responded, thinking it probably wasn’t the best idea.  After all, they had trouble.  Didn’t she cheat or something?  I must not have been paying that much attention, but I swore she was unfaithful.

I promised her I’d never cheat again, and she took me back.  Mr. Chinaski told me to say whatever she wanted to hear, and that I should iron out the details later.  His cuckquean waved from their table.  I’ve got to get back, otherwise she might accuse me of another affair.  Imagine that!  He laughed as he grabbed his order, and I avoided imagining any such thing.

As the hours passed, Kilgore and H.L. took up a game of pool against the Lovebirds.   Ellis and his sucker would take on the winner.

Hank and I sat quietly at the bar.  Santiago hand dried some glasses.  I wanted to bring up a topic to Hank, but I sensed he knew I wanted to bring up a topic he didn’t want to hear.  So I chose to mope and think about my Ashleigh.  I thought about the six Valentine’s Days we spent together, and the six elaborate celebrations I held in her honor.

I thought about how I never would have never cheated on her.

I thought about how much I loved her.

And I thought about how I would have never brought her to this bar.

The frontdoor squeeked as it cracked open in the middle of my travels down memory lane.  The play list had just ended on the jukebox, and from the other room, Kilgore and H.L. cheered as they sunk the thirteen ball standing in for the eight ball.

And I felt it.  The chill down my slouching spine was unmistakable.

Hello motherfuckers!  With those words, Ryan Antonlini made his presence known.  And he brought Ashleigh with him.

The Splash

It was one of those silent nights up at Marlin’s Inn.  Our collective gazes were locked in on the old Zenith for hours, and the only sound beyond the static of the screen was the occasional grunt to prompt Santiago into changing channels.  Once he happened upon a show about monster trucks, there was life.

Who the hell needs anything with wheels that big? Hank growled.  I don’t need to be climbing any damn stairs in order to drive.

Actually, you ascend a ladder.

Hank flipped Kilgore off.  Ascend this.

No need to be such monsters.  H.L. laughed at himself so hard he almost fell out of his seat.

Young guys can get away with driving them.  Kilgore thought he had a point.

Idiots can.  Hank knew he had a point.  How are you supposed to pick up a broad in one?  You’d actually have to pick her up to get her in.

“Well, it would depend on the type of woman you were looking for.”  I stopped myself from bringing up Ashleigh.  She liked monster trucks.  She liked all kinds of trucks.  Ryan drives a Ranger Splash.

Hey guys… twenty says Pussy’s thinking about his ex.  A chuckle was shared by all.

I wanted to tell him to shut up, but I thought it instead.  I thought it hard.

The Squeeze Play

Classic Kilgore logic:

You know how people yawn when they see other people yawn, or even hear people mention the word “yawn”… well, I’m that way with farts.  All I have to do is inhale someone’s foul stench and my body processes it like it’s, like it’s…

I filled in the blank: “A Play-Doh Factory?”

Kilgore shook his head.  I don’t know what that is.

H.L.waved his hand from behind the MegaTouch.  I’m that way with belching.

Kilgore leaned forward.  You’re telling me when somebody burps, you can’t help but to burp?

H.L. made a strange face.  No, belching makes me fart.

I wondered aloud, “Where’s the rim shot when you need it?”

So Hank provided one… a low-rumbling, leg lifter.  Then Kilgore was kind enough to follow suit.  Santiago’s face soured and he grabbed one of his wash rags.  I had to tuck my head in my shirt collar.

When the coast finally cleared, that’s when H.L. belched.  And then Kilgore once again played the part of the Play-Doh Factory, taking it in and squeezing it out.

The Rub

Work isn’t something I like to carry around with me, literally or figuratively, but when it follows you, what are you going to do?

Who’s the pooper scooper?  That was polite compared to Hank’s usual standards.

The Pooper Scooper in question was Ellis, one of my co-workers.  His girlfriend had dumped him just in time for Valentine’s Day, and that reminded me of Ashleigh, so shared sorrow forced the invite.

He looks like a tool, Hank continued as I grabbed two beers from Santiago.

“Technically, Hank, a pooper scooper is a tool.”

I sat at one of the tables with Ellis, out of earshot of the gang’s barbs at our emotional states.

When I went up for round two, Hank had more to say.  What’s with all the girl’s names, anyways?  Yours, his, your girlfriend…

“That’s because Ashleigh is a girl.”

Not him.  The one we call Steve.

As the night persisted and the brews melted away the bruises, I slowly realized something.  Ellis was a tool!  Some choice phrases between sips and sobs:

  • We were gonna spend forever together, together forever.
  • Everyday we wore the same color underwear.  Today was supposed to be purple!
  • She made the best cereal in the morning.
  • Her hands fit perfectly in my favorite pair of blue jean’s pockets.  Like a glove!
  • We didn’t make love… we invented it.

When I headed to the bar for a later round, as I had with all previous rounds to keep present parties apart, I failed to return to Ellis’ aid and company. 

Besides, by that point he was crying at photos in his wallet.

I shrugged at the guys and sighed, and when it became clear I was planted to my bar stool, in planned unison, they stood up and joined Ellis.

The Eight Ball

H.L. is a bit of an anomaly.  I would venture to guess that’s been his lot in life, and it would appear to me he never minded it a bit, nor a lot.  He keeps to himself even when he’s engaging us, like he’s studying us as we intermingle.

At least that’s what I always thought to myself.

One day, H.L. was playing pool on the torn felt, six-footer in the back room nobody uses.  I thought I’d join him.

“Hey, H.L.  Need company?”

Like a sock soaked in static cling, he sprung at me, cue and granny stick in hand.  He crossed them under my throat like samurai blades and backed me against the wall.  If they were actually blades, or if H.L.wasn’t so small and more menacing, I might have worried.  It wasn’t completely out of character for him to freak out, so I rolled with the punches. 

Until he freaked me out.

You’re a bit of an anomaly, aren’t ya, Aiden.  You’ve been like that you’re whole life, I bet, and you don’t mind at all.  I can see it in you.  It’s like you’re in your own head when you’re chatting with us, like you’re studying us.  He withdrew his impromptu weapons and snapped from great white back to pool shark.  But yeah, I could use some company.  He returned to the table to set up the game.  We can only play nine ball, though, because the eight is missing.  But we’ll use the ten instead of that.

I was stunned.  I couldn’t assemble any sense of what just happened.  H.L. sensed my dismay.

It’s okay, it’s okay.  He handed me the cue and padded my shoulder.  We’ll use the thirteenball.  At least it looks like half an eight.

I scratched my head and lined up the cue ball, fearful to look at H.L. again.

By the way… he mumbled.  What are the stakes?

Published in: on February 9, 2009 at 11:28 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Miracle

Not surprisingly, Hank’s impromptu road trip failed to motivate the masses.  Upon struggling with the logistics of travelling to the strip club, noticing our funding was insufficient, and realizing we’d all rather stay at Marlin’s Inn, the intentions curled up and died…

…like the bush on my fourth wife, Hank continued.  Some say Helen’s balding below was a bad sign, but I called it a miracle.

Mind you, this was in a time before the scissors and razors and waxes and lasers had no sites set on the pubic region.  Helen liked to grab my locks and lock my head in her snatch, cupping my ears between her cottage cheese thighs.  Her sallow cushions did a good job of drowning out the sounds of the night train that were prone to give me headaches.  Every morning and every night, her hairy muffin was my breakfast in bed and my midnight snack.  Only problem was I started developing a rash on my upper lip, like a rug burn.  So I started growing in the old juice collector, and the rash disappeared.

But a new problem arose, H.L. chimed in, having heard this story probably more than once before.  It was then I had the first realization that all the guys had heard each others tales more than once before.

Damn straight.  Between Helen’s magnificent muff and my impending handlebar, we developed what I like to call a Velcro situation.  Did I mention Helen had a frotch?

“A fire crotch?  You did not.”  Red hair, down there.

Because of the tangled mess of facial and frotch, I stopped munching.  She bitched more; my headaches returned; we fought more; she broke shit; I broke more shit.

“Why didn’t you get rid of the moustache?”

I couldn’t!  I was a short order cook at the time, and though you may not think people cared much about health and cleanliness and such back then, if the fellow cooking your meal had rug burned lips, it meant something was fishy.

So to speak, Kilgore blurted.  Santiago chuckled.  Was this a part of their routine?

Everyone was quiet, as if the story had ended, but I wasn’t satisfied.  “So what happened?”

I already told you she went bald!  It kept us married another two and a half years until she ran off with the goddamned mailman.  I lost the apartment, but not the headaches.  The damn fool ended up marrying Helen and being an upright guy.  He’s the one that got me in with the postal service.

Again, silence.  For the first time I worried that my new friends might not be as lucid as I once thought.

My point being: if Helen’s ruby round and curlies hadn’t have curled up and died like our plan, I’d have never met Celia on my mail route, and she’d have never become my fifth wife.

On second thought – scratch my last thought.

The Aftermath

After Ryan’s appearance, I thought the proverbial cat was out of the bag.  But not a purr, meow, or roar was heard about this pussy’s lack of, well, you figure it out.

Santiago made a rare guest appearance out from behind his bar.  He started mopping and cleaning up the mess Hank had made on my behalf.

“I’ll clean up the beer,” I said.  Santiago handed me the mop and wet rag.

Hank returned to his stool and leaned over the counter to refill his mug under the spouts.  Remember to put this one on the kid’s tab.

Kilgore kept to his doodling; H.L.to his MegaTouch.  It was as if nothing ever happened.  Almost.  Meow.

Please tell me you at least got your straw sucked on.  I kept on scrubbing.  Hank audibly sighed.

I didn’t sleep with my wife until we were married.  Kilgore rarely brought up his beloved ShelleyAt least that’s what we told her parents.  My father caught us once in our youth.  We were embarrassed and were quick to cover up.  My old man turned right around and never mentioned it until on his death bed.  He told me, “Son, I didn’t know folks could have sex like that.”

H.L. slapped his hands together and cheered at his game.  His game: a spot-the-difference picture puzzle that takes its cue from strip poker.  I finally got to see her naked.

Hank, taking his cue from H.L.Tell me you saw her naked.  You were engaged to be ball-and-chain, weren’t ya?

“I once snuck a peek when she was changing into her bathing suit up at her family cabin.”

Everyone sighed and threw up their arms.  Santiago came back out from behind the bar and took away my mop and wash rag, shaking his head.  Hank rose from his seat like a hawk ready to eat its prey:

Boys, I think it’s time for a road trip.

The Showdown

You could say it was inevitable. 

H.L. said it was improbable.

Kilgore said it was a slap in the face.

Santiago shrugged.

And Hank said, It figures.

Ryan Antolini – he who stole my Ashleigh away from me – stopped by Marlin’s Inn.  And I stopped breathing.

The worst part is it was my good buddy T.J. – I mean Steve, who told him about the place.  He is his half-brother, but I have half a mind to beat the ever loving shit out of him, which Hank is fond of threatening to unleash.

Well, well, well.  Little Aiden Caulfield.  My brother said this place was a “man bar,” so you’ll understand my surprise at finding you here.

(“Man bar” is a term coined by Steve.  But I’ll get to that another day.)

Ryan continued his peacocking.

Oh, yeah.  Peacocking, according to Hank:

When a small dicked fuck thinks they got a plume of damned feathers coming out their asshole, when all that’s up there is shit, they’re peacocking.

I haven’t seen you since that… scene, occurred.  I hope you understand I’m only with Ashleigh because that’s what she wanted.  Ryan patted my back and took that seat between me and Hank.

The ever stoic Santiago chimed in first, because he could: So that makes you her bitch.

Ryan cracked his knuckles.  Let’s just say, I was the one that made her a woman.  He turned to me.  I wasn’t the one trying to protect her… he made his air quote fingers, an annoying habit if there ever was one… virtue.

There wasn’t a moment between his words and what happened next.  Hank emptied his beer glass on Ryan’s head.  I think it was a fresh glass, too.  Ryan leapt from his bar stool, sopping wet.  Somehow the suds missed me.  His mouth hung open and he gasped like a fish out of water.

I’ll sue you!  Ryan batted the brew off the sleeves of his black leather coat.  Hank spun his stool and stood up.  H.L., Kilgore, and I did the same, not knowing why.  Santiago only smiled.

Hank dug change out of pocket as he approached a backing away Ryan, and he flung it at him.  That’s all I got!

Blindly, Ryan fumbled for the door handle and made his escape.  Hank turned around to face me.  He pointed his crooked, nicotene-stained finger at me: You owe me a beer.

The Bulls-Eye

I was abusing my body a lot of late, and not in the gutter minded sense.  With the guys up at Marlin’s Inn, seemingly any time of day, and any day, it’s hard to stay away.  But the hops and the barley and the Yellow Dye Number 5 if they even use that was getting the best of me, and it was affecting my work.

So for once, I decided to stick with cola.

Those are rum ice cubes, right?  Keep, the pussy ain’t living up to his name now is he?  Santiago furled his brow at me and nodded to HankPussy, why do you make it so easy?  I wish all the pussies made it so easy.

I don’t know if it was because I was sober, but I cracked.  “Aiden.  It’s Aiden.  Stop calling me a pussy, or Pussy with a capital P, or Fat Fish Pussy, or any of it.”

Kilgore bobbed his head.  I thought Fat Fish Pussy was funny.  My eyes were like darts and his face was the Triple-1, which is what I seem to always hit when I aim for the bulls-eye.  He tilted his head.

“My last name’s Caulfield.  Call me that.  Or Cauliflower… or anything resembling some form of my name other than P-U-S-S-Y.”

I didn’t realize I had stood while I was raging.  Truth and the fact of the matter, I didn’t even really care that he insulted me constantly.  It just felt like it was the thing I should do at that moment.

Hank sat quietly and he took it.  He never faced me through any bit of the fit.  Quite honestly, I thought he was considering hitting me.  And at his age and at my age, it wasn’t a fair fight.  The spit was in him – my mouth was all dried up.

H.L. had been in the bathroom.  As he returned to the scene, he sensed the friction in the air.  Hey, Hank.  Is the pussy giving you lip?

I lost it.  It quickly shaped into one of those laughs you can’t escape, where you gasp for breath like you’re underwater, and your eyes squeeze shut so tight they’re wrung like linen.  It’s the same kind that swallows up everyone else like a sinkhole.  H.L. cracked up so bad, he had to lean on a table, and when it fell, there was no hope for the rest of us.  Luckily he was okay, and when composure was regained, I ordered another cola from Santiago.

H.L. snuck in between Hank and I and draped his arms over our shoulders.  What was so funny anyway?

I answered: “I’m gonna be called Pussy forever.”  And Hank nodded.

The Interlopers

As one night was winding down, a pair of lovebirds happened upon Marlin’s Inn.

All giggles and clutched fingers around jacket lapels, it brought Ashleigh flashing back to the forefront of my forehead.

Goddamn it… Hank began.  He’s gonna start whining again, ain’t he?

The heart wants what the heart wants, Hank.  Kilgore – my champion.  But consarnit Aidenif you do… my heart’ll want me to sock you square in the jaw.

The Prince and the Princess chose their holdout – a hideout a safe distance between us and the exit.  He held out her chair and helped remove her coat before heading to the bar to place his order.

As he approached, I readied to share.  “I used to…”

Five bucks on zinH.L. initiated the game and prevented me from slipping.

Ten says two Canadian beers, Kilgore added.

Hank shook his head.  Twenty he’ll get shots.

I attempted to finish my statement.  “I used to get…”

Two Long Islands… pleaseThe Prince removed his winter garb as he smiled back at his girl.  And can I get change for the jukebox?

Santiago obliged.  As the pours were made, the gentleman nodded at each of us.  He stood between Hank and I, and upon getting ignored by Hank, he started conversing with me.

Has this place been here long?  The pair of them were a good five to ten years older than me.  I’m no good at that stuff.  My perception is warped from associating with these dirt bags.

“It just opened.”

With Long Island Ice Teas gripped firmly by the handles, coat folded over his arm, and a pocket full of change, the Prince shrugged and returned to his lady of the hour.

They played some of the old records.  They got a kick out of the collection of forgotten tunes.  And of course they danced .  With our all of our backs to them (save Santiago), they acted out versions of our memories.  They were history hiding right behind us, and we couldn’t escape.  It was our place – not theirs.

H.L. ordered another drink.  I’ll take a zin.

Kilgore: Give me two Canadian beers.  I don’t care what kind.

Shots, stat, was all that Hank uttered.

It was funny, but my beer tasted just fine.