It came to my attention that I show an affinity for waitresses and bartenders in my stories. I looked at each story and these men and women have walked in to every tale with a stiff drink, coffee, food or flirt.
An excerpt from Further due out 2016
I made it to Buster’s at 4:45 ahead of a 5 0’clock meeting and had the place to myself. The manager, an extra-large black woman everyone called Miss Sheline, was my waitress. She closes at six, before the drunks find the place, and is usually the last person on the floor that late in the afternoon.
She waved when I came in, grabbed a pot of coffee and waddled her way to my table. She flashed her pearly whites at me as she poured a cup and said.
“Somethin’ to eat, Vin?”
“Aww! Come on now. Fine young man like you, you need your portions! Oh…or
is it business today?”
“A’ight then. Someday I’m gonna give you some business. Mmmm mmm, you have no idea…” She let that trail off as she winked and laughed and steam-rolled her way back behind the counter.
An excerpt from Rusk
I walked by a sign over a door that just said “Drink.” I was ready for one. I had never been much of a drinker, but since I arrived in New Orleans a couple years earlier, I liked it more. I had spent my life in the most antisocial circumstances, but drinking helped me communicate with other humans. I tried to understand them.
It was 9 a.m. and I would have had the joint to myself if it hadn’t been for the bartender. He looked at me when I came in and did a barely perceptible double-take. I ordered a double rum and coke and studied his face for a moment.
“Do I know you, pal? Seems like you know me.”
“Darkest big Negro I ever seen come by here a couple days back and described you, told him I wouldn’t serve his kind, but he gave me a buck to pass you a message.”
He opened his cash drawer and handed me a note. Thelonius, Tom Anderson’s house man, was looking for me here in Memphis.
I put the folded note in my shirt pocket, grabbed my untouched drink and tossed it over my shoulder. Glass, ice and liquid flew everywhere, and the bartender almost came over the bar. Almost.
I caught him by his hair and jerked his head back.
“Hey! Hey! Hey! What the hell? What gives?”
“That man you wouldn’t serve? He was more of a man than you’ll ever be. I served with him in the French Foreign Legion, survived five days stranded in the Sahara with no food and the only water was what he shared from a half-full canteen. I fought side-by-side with him, trading shots with Egyptian slave traders. He was born a free man, had his education at Oxford paid for by the Archduke Ferdinand himself, and is one of the world’s best fighting men both with weapons and hand-to-hand. You’re not fit to wash his skivvies. Let’s call that his drink laying there. Now, clean it up
“He’s dead! Swanson was in there!”, he heard from a bystander as he approached the scene. A Fire Wagon, pulled by a four horse team with the large bell mounted by the driver clanging loudly, passed by Luke Rob as he continued on past the explosion site without slowing down and on towards a sign that read Alfie’s Eats. He edged past a young fresh-faced girl in an apron at the door gawking down the street and tipped his hat on his way by, smiling politely. He nodded at the cook, a giant of a man with a keen look in his eyes and forearms the size of hams, who was deftly deboning a large hunk of beef on a long table behind a low dining counter. “Sit where you will, Mister. Angie will be along,” the cook said in a heavy Finnish accent loud enough for the girl at the door to hear.
“Oh My! So sorry, Mister!” Angie said. As she approached him across the dining room she decided that she liked the look of this stranger. A black unusual Stetson type hat atop very dark well trimmed hair with salt and pepper in the side-burns. Striking green eyes, with just a hint of crow’s feet at the corners shone from a deeply tanned face. His back was straight and his shoulders were broad, straining a little in his well- tailored black suit made of a material she had never seen before, but knew must be expensive. A very striking man, she thought.
The restaurant was painted in gaudy shades of purple, gold and green and the customers ranged from low budget travelers, to high powered business men and women. All present were in good spirits, and a live jazz band in the corner kept the mood up-beat.
When his waitress came by, Vin ordered a Hurricane, his first alcoholic drink, and a sampler platter of Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters Creole, and Oysters Manhattan, all baked on the half-shell.
His dinner proved to be one of the best he’d ever had, and the twenty-four ounce Hurricane, now half empty, was fast becoming his favorite drink. He liked the fuzzy feeling of his first buzz. Colors seemed brighter, the waitress was getting cuter, and the musicians were now semi-gods.
This truck stop was a place I had been to twice before, and I had a melancholy moment of coming home. Before I was a Robineux, I was a 16 year old kid that spent nearly a year hitch-hiking around the country, on the road for the deed I had done to my bio-father, and never stopping anywhere for more than a few weeks. I had spent my entire childhood moving around the country in an RV and it was in me to keep moving. In the Toolies held all those memories for me. I recognized two of the waitresses- the young farm fresh cute one, and the tall rode hard and put away wet cougar with a two-inch scar that started under her eye and went over her cheek bone. We sat in her section.
“Well, you must be him.” My eyes had adjusted just enough to see the skinny, colored bartender. This was another joint that I would have had to myself if not for him. I was beginning to realize that folks started drinking late pretty much everywhere besides New Orleans.
“I might be him.”
“Thelonius, he say, watch for a big scary-lookin’ white man who walks into this Negro joint like he just don’t care.”
“Can’t tell this is a Negro joint.” I looked around at the empty tables and stools.
“Will be, shortly. I expect Thelonius will come by soon. He usually shows up around ten. What’ll you have?”
I ordered my second rum and coke of the morning, hoping that maybe I’d get to finish this one. I told him to make it a double. I needed to make up for the last one.
I nodded, hoping he would not want to talk.
“Wasn’t called Beale Street ‘til last year. Used to be Beale Avenue.”
My hopes exploded into flames.
“W.C, Handy, he wrote that ‘Beale Street Blues’ and it caught on all over the country, so the City changed the signs.”
“That Handy, he never did come around here. Too good for us, I guess. Always went down the street, went to all them blues places. Swanky places. Too good, that’s what he is.”
I got up, turned my back on him, walked to the back of the room and squeezed my oversized frame into a booth in a corner where I could see the front and back doors.
Forty-five minutes passed. I had made my way back to the bar for another double, then went back to squeezing and snapping my way back into the booth before Thelonius walked in. Just as I did, he stepped to the side just inside the door until his eyes adjusted. Men who lived on the edge were always cautious, never wanting to have our backs to a door, not wanting to enter a dark place blindly, observing and evaluating everything and everyone around in one visual sweep. Letting your guard down could mean death.
He didn’t stop by the bar but made his way straight to me. He was taller than me by a couple inches and twenty pounds of muscle heavier than me. He tried to join me in the booth and the booth screeched, snapped and clattered apart, sending both of us in a shoulder roll away from the wreckage.
“Awww, sumbitch!” came from somewhere behind the bar. We both dug in our pockets, laid a fin apiece on the wreckage to pay for the pile of cushions and lumber, went to another corner and found a free-standing table and chairs.
They brought their coffee with them and I ordered one from the fluffy middle aged waitress with one milky eye. The three of us got up to smoke outside and as we passed my waitress carrying my coffee, she flashed me a smile showing off a grill of five teeth. They looked like burned corn kernels. The movies, especially the ones made in the 80’s, glamorized the people of the streets, but reality was my waitress.
I told Chris that I was going to see my father and he aimed the Crown Vic west on I-10 for the 25 minute drive that took us to the bayou boat slip north of La Place. I didn’t like being up before noon and was in no mood for Chris’s bubbly humor and he knew it. He spared me and we made the trip in silence until he dropped me off at a boat slip on the north end of town and said that he’d be back for me in a couple hours. I rented a belly boat with a five horse Aquabug motor and slid into the steaming bayou on a course for Esteen’s cabin.
I don’t like the bayou and nothing that lives there likes me. Except my father. I don’t like bugs, and there are some there that aren’t in any biology book. Every snake I motored by was poisonous and the gators never showed themselves completely but showed me their eyes and splashed their tails to let me know they were there and waiting. I remembered little of my four years in Minnesota, but I still had flashes of forest and clear cool lakes. I dwelt on those as I looked for the landmarks that led me to the cabin that was still a ways off.
I saw my father sitting on the deck as I cut the engine and drifted up to the dock. Since Miss Jovetta died, Esteen moved back to the swamps and had no communication with the outside world. If someone needed him they could come to him. His once short brush-cut silver hair had grown to his collar like a silver mane and he had become ill tempered. But his mind was in- tact. His gun metal gray eyes pierced as intensely as ever.
He was sitting in the ornate antique wheelchair that we left behind when he lifted Miss Jovetta into the canoe to take her to the “Big House” almost three years earlier. The foot paddles were tucked in and the wheels had been locked. It had become his deck chair. It had ornate handles with a raised carving of a gator wrapped in a snake on each and I still marveled at the craftsmanship as a walked up and sat in an old lawn chair beside him.
“Yes , Sir.”
“Okay. Let’s smoke first.”
He stepped into the cabin then and came back in a moment with two black coffees and set them on the top of the crawfish trap he had flipped up on end as a table between the chairs. He took out the makings and deftly rolled a cigarette in the time that it took me to reach in my pocket, shake a Marlboro out of the pack and light it.
We smoked in silence and listened to the morning sounds and watched the swamp things move in and out of the shadows of the stunted cypress. We saw a Macaw with a flame-orange chest and fire engine red wings land silently in the highest tree.
“Must have been someone’s pet.”
After a while, I went in the cabin, refilled our coffees and we smoked in silence again. I had been there for thirty minutes before he turned to me and said,
“What ails you? You have to leave and play in the darkness some more, oui?”
My father has seen the darkness that people do and although he tries to keep to himself, he’s never far from it. He wants me to have a brighter simpler life, but I just can’t see that happening. I’m young, but I don’t see a future of me as a citizen.
I laid out everything I’d discussed with the hunter lady. He sat silently, smoking and drinking coffee. His eyes never left mine and he listened intently. He had always given me his full attention and likewise, as he was teaching me about life, I regarded him with the same attention.
Chris was my road-dog. We’d hitched to New York and back earlier in the year. The warm weather was running out. A harsh Minnesota winter was lurking near-by; time for a road-trip.
We made our plans, and shared our weed, with a couple of other guys from our circle of survivors. We were going to The Big Easy. The other two guys, Tooth and Mike, wanted to come with us.
Tooth had just done a two year bit in some joint back-east somewhere, and was road material. The other guy, Mike, was a large, pasty faced queen who just jiggled at the thought of going to Nawlins- Land of the Drag Queens. Me and Chris shared a ” Oh, HELL NO!” look at the thought of the four of us on the side of the road.
Trains. It was the only way. And Mike was Tooth’s…
View original post 872 more words