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.