At two minutes past midnight, the bartendress had seen enough. It was time for her to go home and feed her cat. Time too, for the news and a bag of microwaveable popcorn. She would give her cat small pieces of these treats if he asked, but he never did, so the bartendress always ate it all herself.
Two men, loon squawking buffoons prancing around table number twelve, jamming dollar after dollar into the tired old jukebox, were not yet done with the night. Soon their companions would go home, leaving the two to their own devices, left to wander in wonder, and later, to wonder what had happened.
“Hey Consuela Rosita Maria GlorrrrrriiiiiiA! Howsabout you get some Dylan on here, eh!? Every time I try to play Dylan, Rob fucking Thomas rears his ugly head!” the balding one shouted from across the room. He is tall, built like a hockey player, with teeth to match, though his creative dentistry had come not come from thugs with sticks, but rather drugs with pricks.
“Well, cabron, you shoulda knowed by now, eh pendejo? Bob stinking Dylan has not just walked into my bar and sat down behind that jukebox since the last time that you tried to play him! Eh culo?” the bartendress chuckled as her wet rag swept across the slate bar top.
Five more minutes, and that was it. This happened every time the two men came to play pool. One of them once told her, in a cocaine-rasped whisper, that they were poets. This had made her emit a loud high laugh. She had never heard such a thing in her bar. Poets….The nerve. In her bar, even!
One of the women that the men were with got up to take her turn at the table. The bartendress watched from behind the bar as the comely Latina arched her back to reach across the green table for a long shot. “I once had legs like that,” she thought to herself. “And an ass BETTER than that.” She shook her head and counted up the tally for the two men. They each shared a portion of twelve beers, a mixture of Bud Light and Guinness from her tap. The Guinness was always better to serve, she thought. The dark beer required a delicate pour, to weed out the thick foam that formed when the ale burst through the pipes of her tap. It gave her more to do on Tuesdays like this, when the only patrons were tired tourists and late arriving resort workers.
A flash went off from over by table number twelve. One of the men – older by several years, the bartendress imagined, judging by his soft, rippling brow and the spots on his hands – was taking a photograph of the taller Latina chica. She posed easily, hair piled up over her far ear, raven dark and thick with salt water from the day’s sea kayak trip. Her golden cross swung freely down by her neckline, like a foot bridge across the deep misty canyons below. She knew the men would notice, but she arched her back just a little more to be sure. Her hamstrings flexed with taunt hesitance. The office job at the tractor store was starting to make her feel like an old lady.
The older man went off to the bathroom for one last hit before the bar closed. It was the only ventilated bar bathroom in town, and also the only one that bolted with a dead bolt. The three at the pool table thought they would play a joke on him, and when he opened the door, more glassy eyed and pleasant than before he had entered, he found his running partner and their two dates locked into a three-way grope session.
“Lucky bastard,” he thought. The three flicked tongues at one another, and rubbed each others’ backs and legs with a previously unseen desperation. The girls squealed with delight. He moved in closer to inspect this new development.
As the older man came closer, his three friends burst out of their embrace with a large, drunken, “SURPRISE!” He laughed along with them, but stored the image away for later. Who knew what these women were here for? Who knew what they were capable of? They were mystery women from the Planet of the Lost Angels. Tractor saleswomen from the big city, conventioneering on the company dime. Wild and husbandless, for the moment at least.
“Enough! Enough of your shenanigans! I have to go home! Romero is going to be pissed! He needs his insolation, you know. He is a diabolic, you know!” The barkeep yelled. “Come get your tickets. Time to pay the beetch” She added.
“Diabetic,” the bald poet said as he came bounding across the room.
“Wha?” the woman asked.
“Romero. I assume that is your cat. He is diabetic, no?” he added. Her face lit up. She loved Romero with every ounce of her being, and had since the very first second that she had seen him. Her aunt Felicia had given her Romero when the INS came and took Felicia back to Juarez. It made her so sad that Romero was sick. But the medicine helped. The medicine fixed Romero and she would not have to worry about all of the nonsense medical terminology that the veterinarian had gone into. As long as she had the Medicine, Romero was safe and sound. Nothing could break up her love for this cat. They were connected by the heart. Romero’s collar even said it. It said “Consuela’s Romero, Two Hearts Beat As One”, right on the collar. She had had this specially engraved in Salinas last Christmas, and gave it to Romero on Christmas Eve, along with half of a Wendy’s chicken sandwich. Romero loved cheese the most, but she did not get a cheeseburger that day, for some reason. It had been years, and much had happened since, but for some reason she always regretted not getting Romero a cheeseburger that day. It was the next day when his spells had started. How cruel, she thought in her nightly prayers, that God had made her Romero start his slow death on Christmas Day.
The bald man paid his tab and so did the older poet. The two women hugged them both and strutted out of the bar and down the street to where their car was parked. There would be no hotel romp that night, but numbers were passed and tentative plans were made to go to Big Sur and hike down to the beach at Garrapatta the next afternoon.
It was a more or less normal night. The moon was but half full. The men stared up at it and made small talk until the women had passed into the darkness around the corner, and then they started walking up Alvarado Street. The night was young, and their energy was up. But where to go in the stale, unfulfilled din of a Tuesday night? Lately they had been passing the twilight hours quietly writing on the decks of docked shrimp boats. It cost the poets a few lines of their stash to grease the security guard and the early-arriving deckhands. But, then, there was no shortage of instant energy in this town.
The barkeep locked the door to the pool hall behind her, amusing herself with thoughts of two poets drinking beer at her bar. It kept her from her worries about the dark walk home to her apartment. Cabron’s should get a real job – like construction, or cooking, she thought. Poets! Ha! She watched as they sauntered off up the road. I wonder how they will write about me? she thought to herself.
The night was perfectly calm. The moon was half full and tipping towards the great black sea that always looked to her like it would swallow Monterey. The sea had always given Consuela an unnerving shiver when it was this dark. Her prickly mind conjured up an enormous, silent wave rising up and sweeping her out to sea, away from Romero and her popcorn.
Out in the blackness, a small blue trawler light flickered on and off, faint and reassuring. If it cannot eat this moon, then it cannot eat me, the bartendress thought, before turning towards home.
Corby Anderson is a freelance writer who writes from the spidery loft of an old log cabin on a ranch in Emma, Colorado. His essays, literary, food and music reviews, PR work, novel excerpts, letters, poetry and other detritus can be found at www.corbyanderson.wordpress.com, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.