Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rex Backs Off

It was a Tuesday and things were quiet, inauspicious.  The bar was empty save himself.  Jazz music played softly, the water fountain trickled, glasses clinked inside the dishwasher amid the whoosh of the jets.  A low hum came from the refrigerators.

He was cutting limes, having filled the trays with cherries, olives and pickled onions.  The small tables had been lined up just so, candles lit, the floors mopped, the toilets checked for supplies.  Laughter drifted up the staircase from some of the early diners in the restaurant downstairs.  He could just make out the sounds of some traffic on the street out front.

He'd done many things, and would go on to do many more, but his skill set was particularly well-suited to running this "quiet little jazz-age cocktail salon".  His intense attention to detail served well in dressing the place nightly, in ensuring supplies were backed up, the decor constantly refreshed and the surfaces spotless.  His photographic memory worked well in remembering who ordered what no matter where their incessant mingling took them (and in collecting from them if they headed for the door).  His deep-rooted empathy meant the tellers of tales of heartbreak left knowing he'd remember their plight and would be looking out for their interests upon their next visit.  His gift of the gab kept the girls entertained and hopeful, the lads knowing they had a place to 'shoot the shit'.

His partners were better at leading the parade, at being the ringmasters, wearing the lampshades and joining the teeming throngs of 20-something lasses gyrating atop the pool table and bar-top late at night.  He was good at staying in constant contact with Adamo at the front door, minding the backed-up toilets, keeping an eye on the back door traffic and ensuring that no one did themselves grievous injury.

Truth be told, this was the most satisfying job he'd ever had.  The years working his way up as a corporate exec, the media business he continued to run, haltingly, with another partner during the daytime, the low-pressure unionized grocery clerk work that had put him through university, a myriad of jobs on the global road plus many summer jobs, none compared to making people happy, helping them both let loose and connect snugly -- facilitated by the various ways and means he and his bar partners had devised to ensure mayhem ensued, their special concoctions lubricating the slide to frivolity.  They were broke, but they certainly were having a good time! 

Still, there was something profound missing.  A platform, a base.  Roots beneath this tree of current complacent contentment.  Not money (though that would have helped), but a feeling of being needed, of 'mattering' outside of being a key-master in their little world of drunken bliss.  He discounted it when asked, waxing philosophical about being the lone wolf destined to roam alone (the black hole left by "The One's" check-out still sapping him, though Maltese-snippets plagued his waking thoughts less and less), but Rex had tired of the years of innumerable conquests and longed for a mate, a puppy-producer, a companion to share the long winter nights with, holed up in his cozy den.

Winston, one of their regulars, popped in for a quick martini classic with a twist on his way out of the office, still in uniform: a slick suit and patent leather shoes.  As usual, Winston wanted a sober recounting of hi-jink highlights from the weekend prior (the most unlikely couplings and most ribald mash-ups) and a prediction of what his fate may hold in the evenings ahead.  As always -- though Winston never tired of hearing it repeated -- he told him with sincerity and conviction that THIS would be the week it would happen for Winston.  Love was coming down the pipeline and Winston would assuredly be at the gushing end of that tube, finding himself awash in a potent shower of unrestrained feminine lust and deep emotional neediness.

Winston patted his moist brow with with a bar napkin (thoughts of women made him sweat), set his jaw and nodded earnestly, as he always did.  "OK, I think you're right!  I'm going to approach things with a positive attitude this week," he announced with obvious determination.


"That's what it's all about, Winston, positive attitude, being open and getting them to talk about themselves!"  Winston NEVER, ever, let women talk about themselves, he spent every available moment of open air time filling it with a non-stop barrage of information about himself, his mother, his job, his aspirations, his travels, his car and his boat. 

"So what's happening this week?  With Andy away (his principal 'master of ceremonies' partner), you going to need a new waitress?  'Cause I have a candidate!  Hot, European!  She's tall and pretty and smart and she wears a leather biker jacket.  Blonde!  Did I tell you she's tall?  I met her on the weekend down at my club.   I think she's smart, too.  She'd really make an excellent waitress.  I gave her a ride home.  I know where she lives.  In residence, nearby.  She's an exchange student at the university.  You should interview her!"

Winston paused, looking for all the world like a Miniature Doberman Pinscher cranked up on PCP-laced cocaine...

Read the rest of this story and the entire collection of Rex's short stories by buying a copy of "Is Rex a Dog?" for $0.99 at Smashbooks by clicking here!

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