“Beer,” he ordered, lifting his chin up from the iPhone in his right hand as it continued to spill sound into his ear.
His eyes didn’t make contact with the bartender, but rather some space above her head for a moment before lowering to the bar in front on him. “No, nothing,” he explained to the voice on the other line. “I’m just ordering a drink.”
He was dressed in a gray suit and crimson red tie, which he smoothed out with his free hand as he settled on the bar stool.
“Go ahead,” he told the voice on the other line. “No, really, I’m listening. Uh huh. Uh huh. Yeah. Of course.”
At least a minute-and-a-half passed, him sitting, drinkless. He looked around, raised his chin a little and silently mouthed the word “beer” to the bartender. His eyes bugged out a little in annoyance and impatience before turning away again and focusing on the bar top in front of him.
“Yeah, that’s right. No, no, I get it. Yeah, uh huh. Right.”
Another minute passed and his hand reached for the pint of beer that wasn’t there.
“Oh, what the fuck,” he said. “No, not you, goddammit. I’m still waiting for my beer. I swear, there’s not even anyone here. Hey, bartender!”
“I’m sorry, are you speaking to me?” the bartender responded, a sardonic naivete playing out on her features ever so briefly, before wide eyes narrowed and the faux shock in her open mouth closed and twisted into a cruel sneer.
The man silently mouthed the word “beer” again, this time trying to draw the one-syllable word into something long and condescendingly obvious.
“Oh I heard you the first ten times, jackass,” she said.
The man’s head went stiff for a moment and then tilted on an axis. “What. Did you just call me?”
The bartender silently mouthed the word “jackass,” having better luck than he at drawing out the two-syllable word into something long and condescendingly obvious.
“I can’t believe this. I’ll have to call you back,” he said and before the voice on the other line could take a breath, let alone respond, the man in the gray suit had switched off his phone and leaned over the bar. “What kind of service is this?”
“Who said I was serving you?”
“I’m not intoxicated. You have to serve me.”
“No, actually. I don’t. We have a strict No Asshole policy at this bar.”
“That must be why it’s so empty.”
“It’s ten in the morning.”
“Can I please have a drink?”
“I dunno. Can you?”
“May I please have a drink?” the man said, with a sneer so large it threatened to swallow her.
“Well, I’m probably going to regret this, in fact I know I’m going to regret this, but what the hell. Since you asked so nicely, sure. You can have one. If you behave yourself.”
“Fucking lovely. I’ll have a beer, if you’ve got one of those.”
“Actually, I’ve got fourteen of those. Which one do you want?”
“Jesus Christ, is this a test? I don’t know. Just pick one.”
“Really? You don’t care what you’re about to drink?”
“Do I look like I care?”
“Fine,” she said, turning around and filling a shaker pint with something that was orange and cold. She placed it on the bar in front of him. “Five bucks.”
He threw a fifty dollar bill at her. “Got change?”
“Let me see,” she said, her voice a barely controlled snarl.
The man in the suit took a half-sip of his beer and gagged slightly. Dribbles of cold orange liquid spilled out of the corners of his mouth until he pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and dabbed them away. “What the hell is this?” he asked. “It’s awful!”
“It’s the beer you couldn’t bother to order all by yourself,” the bartender said from across the bar, as she started pulling change together.
“Well, this is disgusting. I’m not drinking this. It’s… bitter!”
“It’s an IPA. It’s supposed to be bitter.”
“You just gave me the worst beer on the menu because you don’t like me.”
“Actually, that’s my favorite beer.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact. Cross my heart and hope you die.”
“You… like this?! Girls don’t drink this shit. If a girl is going to drink a beer, it’s got to taste like a candy and fruit orgy.”
“Well, good thing I’m a woman, then. I like beer that tastes like beer.”
“This is like drinking razor blades. I still think you’re shitting me.”
“Well, I still think you’re full of shit,” she said, as she counted out the forty-five dollars in change, all in ones.
“Really? Forty-five ones? What am I supposed to do with all these?”
“Well, you could leave some of them as a tip, I suppose–”
“–and there’s a gay strip club across the street where you could blow the rest of them.” And then the bartender snorted a little. “Blow. Heh.”
“Alright, that does it. I’ve been patient enough. What’s your name, young lady?” the man said, straightening up and taking out a pad of paper and a pen.
“Oh no, am I in some sort of twuh-bull?” the bartender said in her best Little Orphan Annie voice.
“You will be when your boss hears about how you’ve been treating me. Now what’s your name?”
“Well, my full birth name is Go F. Yourself, but most people just call me by my middle name, Fuckov. I’m Russian. Do you need my address, too? It’s 123 Get Bent Drive.”
“Very funny. I’ll find out your real name. It’s only a matter of time. Or I’ll just describe you and what time I was here. You’ll be fired. Or at least severely reprimanded.”
“Oh, man, I love a good reprimanding.” she said. “Right after I get out of a hot bath, I’ll just lie in bed, reprimanding myself for hours.”
“You think I’m joking.”
“No, but I think you’re funny. To look at.”
The man got off his barstool, his face red with emotion. “Alright, I’m going to give you a chance to make things right here. You refund my money for the swill you poured me, you apologize to me in writing for the way you treated me, and… and…”
“Oh, there’s more? Wait, wait. I’m gonna need to get a pen to write all this down. It’s comedy gold, Jerry. Gold, I tell ya!”
“–and you give me your phone number and agree to go out on a date with me.”
The bartender’s gleeful smirk cracked in two and was replaced with an expression that seemed to say, I was walking down the street when a stranger approached me and slapped me with a dead mackerel.
“Well?” the man in the suit said, tapping his pen against the pad of paper impatiently. “What is it to be? Those are my terms.”
“Oh. My. God.” Realization dawned on the bartender. “This was all an act, wasn’t it? The phone call, the suit and tie, the over-the-top belligerence? You’re seriously a pick-up artist, aren’t you? Seriously.”
The man’s eyes wandered away from the bartender’s face. “Well, well, no. What? No, of course not.”
“You are! You are! Oh my God! That was classic!” The bartender laughed so loud, she almost fell over backwards. “Oh, you had me. So, so brilliant!”
“Does that mean, will you–?”
“What? Go out with you?”
“Yeah, you know, to a movie or dinn–”
“Oh Fuck no. Get the hell outta here.”
“Oh. Oh, well. Alright then,” he said, looking suddenly about two sizes too small for the expensive suit he was wearing. He picked up the pint of beer and knocked it back in one enormous gulp, set the empty glass back down gently, and left ten $1 bills lying on the bar before turning his back to the bartender and walking towards the door, head hanging, eyes buried into the ground before him.
“But hey!” she called out.
He turned around, a glimmer of hope shining beneath the dense fog of his embarrassment.
She shrugged her shoulders. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” she said sweetly.