The Initiates

Whenever I arrive at Marlin’s Inn, the crew is always there.  As if they’re always there.

Santiago’s cleaning dust out of unused glasses.  Kilgore’s on the bar’s short side, scribbling away in between sips.  Hank is right in front of the taps.  That way if Santiago’s taking a piss or dropping a deuce…

Reinventing the wheel is Kilgore’s version of what I like to say.

Rollin’ Cuban cigars is Hank’s.

…then Hank can reach over and help himself.

But the first day things went out of whack, it happened to be the day Steve decided to show up.  Actually, I walked in with my childhood friend T.J. and left with Steve.  More on that in a minute.

So this is the infamous Marlin’s Inn.  T.J. had asked how I was handling the whole Ashleigh thing, and I explained that this place was my escape.  So you’re kind of like Frasier on his old show before he was on Frasier.

I introduced him to Santiago, who gave him a two finger salute.  Then to Kilgore – he waved.  Then to Hank.  Guess how many fingers were included in his salute.

“Where’s H.L,” I asked the fellas.  Kilgore was the only one to speculate.

Dead.   He pondered the severity of his hypothesis.  Possibly dead.  He tilted his head to see if his marbles might roll differently.  No, probably dead.

What’s your name kid? Santiago asked as we took our seats at the bar, on the long side, between Kilgore’s corner and Hank.

T.J.  Short for Thomas Jefferson.

Hank roared.  We already have one initiate in here.  I can’t be having two.

Not realizing what he was directly talking about, I started to think he didn’t want two young guys disrupting his place.  His escape.

It’s enough I gotta call H.L. H.L.  I’m not calling some twat-minded snot T.J. too.

In defense of the lad, you call H.L. by his last name of Fat.

Fish, keep your nose out of this.  Hank finally turned his stool to look at us, instead of through the beer logo mirror behind the bar.  You’re Steve. 

T.J. now Steve gulped hard.  Hank then swiveled his seat forward and reached over to refill his mug while Santiago watched, leaning on the far end of the bar.

Not another word was uttered.  Not another exchange about it.  T.J. was now Steve.  He was always Steve.  He will always be Steve.

By this point, H.L. finally arrived, not dead, possibly dead, or probably dead.  You’ll never guess what I saw.  I’ll never forget it.  And probably neither will you, as it will be in our collective unconscious.

Crap, what was it?  I can’t remember right now, but I know it was good…