“What can I get you?” the bartender asked. She had startled Mark Valentine. Despite the fact that a drink was all that he had wanted for the last 2 hours, he had been distracted by the Sox game on the corner TV.
“Good evening, Liz. What are the beer specials this evening?” God, how he hated to ask that question. The Crown Royal bottle on the top shelf was waving and calling his name but he was on a copper budget. His gold tastes would have to deal with it.
“Coors Light and Bud Light draft are $2.50 each.” She seemed to be on edge tonight, not as friendly as usual. He would know, he was as regular as Norm from Cheers.
“Bud Light, please.”
“You got it.”
Within seconds, a tall mug of cold, GMO infused, foamy piss water was in front of him accompanied by a basket of tortilla chips with Salsa. For anyone else, that’s another $2.50 but Liz always took care of him. He took a long sip of his beer and scanned the bar. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular. Maybe a new face or something to indulge in his favorite past-time. People watching. His scan was nearly complete as he turned his gaze back to the Sox game.
As he did so he inadvertently caught the gaze of the guy sitting beneath the TV. He was careful to not stare back but instead focused on the TV. He occasionally found himself darting his glance at the man and each time his gaze was met. This annoyed him. Why does every dickwad sitting under the TV think I’m looking at them? Where the fuck else am I supposed to look? He glanced over again and the fellow looked particularly hostile. Mike was not in the mood for a confrontation, it was the very last thing he wanted after today. So, he chose to look straight ahead at the mirror behind the bottle rack. As cranky and depressed as he was when he came in, it was now worse. He was disgusted by the round face and bloodshot eyes that stared back at him. Relax, Mike. The mirror adds 15 pounds.
Yeah, but how many mirrors am I in right now?
He decided that he had to do what he hated most, play with his phone like “one of those” people. Mike Valentine was opinionated and old-fashioned and the phone thing conflicted him. He needed it and hated it at the same time. He saw the cell phone as an Orwellian nightmare, herefused to be glued to it and he an had open disdain for those who were. But in this case, drinking alone at 3:45 on a Tuesday afternoon it really was no time to stand on principle. As he pulled the phone from his pocket he saw that he had missed 3 calls. 1 from his boss and 2 from home. He made a mental note to call his boss back. He chugged the remainder of his beer and motioned to Liz for another. She was there with a fresh one immediately.
“Nice hat.” Mike had forgotten that he was wearing his Red Sox Scally cap. He loved the hat and got a lot of feedback whenever he wore it.
“Thanks Liz. I like it a lot.”
“Get it at Fenway?” she asked.
“Yup, thieving bastards got me good on it.” He had, on a whim gone into the gift shop at Fenway Park, home of his beloved Red Sox while on business in Boston looking for that very hat and paid stupid money for it.
“It looks good on you. It’s a keeper.” She smiled at Mike, there was a sadness behind it. As she walked away she said “My brother would love it.”
The comment seemed odd to Mike, almost as if forced. Less conversational and with intention. Whatever. Remembering that he had to return his boss’s call he pushed his stool back and stepped outside. He walked to the end of the concrete walkway to escape any noise from the patrons entering and leaving. Mike knew from experience that this was the best spot to call his boss and lie to him. The nature of the call would dictate how big the lie will be. Mike hated this part, and it was of no comfort that he had done it a lot lately.
Mike Valentine was in a rut at work. His customers weren’t busy, so consequently his portfolio was suffering. His competition was killing him and Mike was worn down by the constant “No’s” from his customers by about noon each day. Deep down he knew that he was a great salesman. But he had lost faith in his product, his managers and most important, in himself. He hated going to work lately. He hated going home also. Especially when the money wasn’t coming in. Every day that he could knock off early he did. Without permission, of course, which is why he was dreading making the call. If asked where he was, what would he say? He wasn’t where he was supposed to be so whatever he said it will be a lie, a lousy fucking lie that he thought he was above. He took a deep breath and dialed his boss.
to be continued…