Joey sat alone in the shadows at the end of the long mahogany bar, watching beads of moisture run down his glass. He was ready to order another, but since he was on his third he was engaged in a solid argument with the last of his good sense. He pushed the glass around on the dark surface of the bar. He slid his thumb and middle finger up and down the glass, his forefinger lifted as though about to make a point. Then, deciding, he drank the last of his rum and coke. Maybe his argument wasn’t too solid, after all.
The sound of glass slamming back onto the bar and ice cubes rattling in an empty glass, summoned Bob (or was it Guy) back to Joey’s end of the world.
“Last one,” he said, but he didn’t know if he was offering assurance to the bartender or himself. He watched while Guy (or was it Bob) expertly mixed him another. While he watched, he listened to the jukebox.
“You know, they got it right with this one,” he said, when Bob/Guy returned with his drink.
Bob lifted a brow, without comment.
“Who sings this?” Joey asked.
“They know their stuff. I can totally dig this.”
Again, the brow lifted.
“Come on, man. Don’t you see? I got dog problems.”
Bob took the empty glass and returned with a rag to dry the bar. The place was Thursday afternoon empty, and there was still a stretch of clock ticks before the Happy Hour crowd surged in. Joey, wearing gray slacks, a black silk shirt and a narrow tie sporting the black and white pattern of a keyboard, was not the usual customer. His fedora alone was enough to set him apart.
“Yeah, dog problems. It’s all about urges. Eat, drink, sex, defecate. No problem, as long as you keep it simple. I had things good, you know? I had a great girl. I thought she was great, anyway. Or maybe I just believed she thought I was great.” Joey sighed and took a sip of his drink. He asked again, “Is it alright if I smoke?”
Bob tilted his head, curved his lips in a half-smile, pointing at the ubiquitous sign, with the circle and slash over the smoking cigarette.
“I know. I’m trying to quit, right?” he stared at his drink. Bob took his time, drying glasses, waiting. He didn’t know this guy, but he knew plenty like him. His story was needing to spill out, and there’s no better place than the dark comfort of a bar.
“I thought she adored me. She used to look at me like I hung the moon. Then one night, out at a spot not too far from here, I went to the can and when I came back? Yeah, you know how the story ends. She was all over some other guy. A biker dude. Leather. Studs. Boots. Shit. Women. I thought she was my everything. Everything that made me smile, made me glad to be alive. What’d they say in the song? My tangerine? My pussy cat? My trampoline? Yeah, all that. She was sweet and soft, fun to pet, and, if I may be so crass, fun to jump on.” He smiled wistfully into space. Or maybe he was watching the “Bud Light” sign flash, fascinated. Dog problems, indeed.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Katelynn challenged me with “‘I’m at a loss, you were my tangerine, my pussycat, my trampoline, now all I get our wincing cheeks and dog problems.’ — The Format, Dog Problems” and I challenged Kurt with “‘If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times….’ (fill in the rest of the story). “