The trigger came from The Burning Soul by John Connolly. This is a cat lady book. The cat lady sells used books to feed the strays in Argelès, and my writing mate loves supporting the hungry cat population while fulfilling her reading needs. The problem is that his piece of writing has no conflict, but is more of a character sketch. We both did character sketches. We both had the change kept by the bartender. She did the customer who was a great listener but a blueblood down on his luck.
I poured him a generous measure and he put a twenty on the bar. I started to make change and he indicated with a wave of his hand that I didn’t need to bother. Sometimes drunks do that and I hate to take their money that they might use for a cab or forget that they gave it to me. I’m not one to take advantage of others.
Being a bartender is like looking at a micro chasm of the world. The stories I hear directly or overhear directly . . . you wouldn’t believe. I didn’t set out to be a bartender. It was going to be a temporary job until I had enough to go to college. No way was I going to be in debt the rest of my life. But then tuitions kept going up and up until school was more and more out of reach.
At some point I realized that I was happy doing what I was doing. I had my days free to do what I want and eventually I used the university money as a down payment to buy a small house. In this time of McMansions, people might laugh at my tiny, two-bedroom Cape Cod house built right after WWII.
It had sat idle for at least five years and the old couple who had died hadn’t kept it up. Step by step during my days I would repair, refinish, redo—the three Rs so to speak.
It is strange to think of a bar tender as a loner, but I am—at least during the day. At night, I can be Mr. Sociable, but in the daytime I want my solitude.
Sometimes my mother calls and sooner or later she will ask me if I’ve found a girl. I tell her I’m still looking, and she says there’s no need to rush although I know she wants me not to just rush but to produce a grandchild. My mother says more by what she doesn’t say than by what she does.
I pocket the $15 tip. I almost have enough now for a new dryer for the kitchen. Life is good.