The Bartender

Looks as if I’m gonna smell again today. Jesus, you’d think I could be on time for a six-thirty shift. Alden reached to the floor and grabbed a T-shirt and jeans. After quickly checking his hair and using mouthwash, he ran out the door.

Even after working at the bar for over a year, he still felt uneasy about entering work from the alley. It was poorly lit and void of life. Stepping inside, he heard a voice from the adjacent doorway, You’re late. The voice belonged to Jerry, the owner, and a walking stereo-type for the West Hollywood crowd. He was of average height and weight, constantly dressed to perfection, with expensively groomed short brown hair, a never growing five o’clock shadow, and he spent too many hours at the gym. He said that he bought the bar to get away from the screaming queens. Alden thought it was due to the fact that he didn’t want his personal life mixing with business.

I’m on time. Alden replied with little irritation. He leaned in to see Jerry at the computer.

Yeah. But you are usually thirty minutes early.

Oh, I was out late last night.

I know. Justin told me you had a hot date. You meet her here?

Yeah. He tell you that too?

No. I just figured. It seems to be the trend for bartenders.

Well, I’m here. Sorry to make you worry.

That’s fine. Did everything turn out alright last night?

I had a good time. I’m not too sure. We’ll see.

Sorry. You must have liked her. Guys talk a lot more when they care very little.  You find some one you like and the mouth shuts. Too bad kid. I’d root for ya.

Alden nodded and walked to the front, not too sure of Jerry’s meaning. A group of office workers crowded the place. As usual they drank a lot of beer. It made things easier and faster and Alden would be awake and going in no time. When he got behind the bar his coworker cracked a devilish smile of recognition and continued to serve the patrons. Alden grabbed the tip jar and emptied it onto the counter between two registers. As he piled the money together, some one spoke behind him.

Hey, that guys stealing your tips! Alden spun around to see a man in his mid-thirties, red-faced and wavering balance, Yu…putt..those…bawk. Those Daniel’s. The man slurred out the words and attempted to hold down a hiccup.

Alden pointed a finger at his own chest and raised an eye brow. Alden resumed his sorting when the man failed to respond and placed the money into an envelope.

Don’t make me come back there. Those Daniel’s I told you.

Okay sir. You are cut off. Alden spoke forcefully. He felt limbs get heavy and weak, but remained erect.

You ain’t been serving me. You can’t cut me off. Only Jussin can cut you, the man noticed his mistake, cut me off.

Sir, either find a seat or I’m going to have to ask you to leave.

You ain’t doing shit boy! As the man jumped over the bar Alden froze. In an instant his strength ran from his body. The man’s voice reeked of stale beer and his breath poured over Alden. Alden returned the man’s stare without emotion.


What the hell are you doing back here! Justin yelled. The patron leaned on Alden, pressing his back against the bar.

He’s trying to steal your tips.

He works here you asshole.

The man’s face turned white, blank and questioning.  He was grabbing your-

He’s putting my tips away so we don’t get tonight mixed with today! Wait a second, why am I explaining this to you! Get the hell out from behind my bar! It’s none of your business! Justin and Alden often compared themselves to Of Mice and Men. Justin, the larger of the two, was a linebacker in college, and though thirty years of age, still retained his athletic build standing over six feet and over two hundred pounds. He came to Los Angeles to be a stunt man, but enjoyed the lack of injuries that occurred while bartending.

Justin pushed the man from behind the bar. I was just trying to help. The man mumbled.

I don’t need your help! Take your trouble somewhere else! Leave! The man tried to sit down at a table. I said leave you fucking drunk! Go drink downtown if you want trouble, but you are not welcome here! Justin stood at the end of the bar waiting.  The bar was silent as everyone waited to see the outcome. After a couple more seconds, trying unsuccessfully to save dignity, the man left.

As he calmed, Alden’s head came into focus. How cowardly. Why didn’t I just hit the guy. At least I could have stuck up for myself. Unlike youth, time to prove one’s self came along less often.

You alright man? Justin laid his hand on Alden’s shoulder and looked him in the face.

Yeah, I’m fine. I was just caught off guard. Next thing I knew he was on top of me.

This ain’t like Knoxville, is it?

How so? He engaged the conversation to alleviate the embarrassment.

If some redneck was going to come over the bar he would have led with his fist. They know that if they come over, they are going to get hit. LA is different. Every place I’ve been in this city people talk and talk. They don’t act. I’m sure fights happen, it’s just not like the South. When you are in a place where the next guy you hit may at least know, or is, some lawyer waiting to sue you, why would you mix it up?

Alden felt the patrons waiting to be served and he could feel his face burning with embarrassment. He was not thankful for Justin jumping in. What’d you want? he asked an anxious customer.

Two Lites. the man stated and the night started.

The evening profited a considerable amount of money.

At the end of the night Justin and a couple of women at the end of the bar as Alden wiped the counter. The tills had been counted and sent to Jerry to double-check the math. When Alden finished he called Justin over and poured the tip jar over the freshly whipped counter. During lulls in business Alden changed out the ones with twenties. They each cleared two hundred dollars.

Hey Alden, you want to come out with us? We are heading to Swinger’s in San Mo for a quick bite and maybe grab a couple of beers after.

Where are you going to grab beers at this hour? asked Alden.

My place.

Alden found one of the girls rather attractive. He was tempted, but after the previous night he decided to go home and write instead. He had not written for a couple weeks and wanted to get to Dominic’s to speak with Guy before tomorrow. Thanks, but I need to get some rest.

That’s too bad. The attractive one put on a sad face, letting her bottom lip curl.


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