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Arendt and Eichmann: Behind Bars-Fiction by Edward Francisco
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Carol's-Fiction by G Emil Ruetter
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ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

carols.jpg
Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2018

Carol’s

 

G Emil Reutter

 

    The joint had been here for over fifty years. Howie the bartender had been working the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift for twenty years. Dotty worked the 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift and had been at the joint for over thirty years. The joint had a sign out front hanging from iron supports, Carol’s. Fact was there was never a Carol who owned or worked in the joint. There were two entrances, the main and the ladies entrance that was never used. The regulars would saunter in around 7:15 in the morning. Each had a seat at the bar that was designated as theirs. There were no taps, a small selection of beer, no wine, and just a few bottles of cheap whisky. Howie would fill the peanut and cashew dispensers each morning. For a quarter you could open the tongue and get a handful of nuts. For those with finer tastes there was a jar with beef jerky in it. The joint had no kitchen. The only glasses on the back bar were shot glasses.

   Regulars would throw a five or ten-dollar bill on the bar and Howie would fill the shot glasses and place a bottle of beer in front of each of them. Their faces were leathery, noses red, eyes always bloodshot. It was a routine, four or five shots, two bottles of beer and they were ready to head out of the joint. It was a place to drink, no tables, just the bar. The juke box broke long ago and there wasn’t one complaint. In the corner there was a dart board but no darts. Dotty took away the darts after a fight over a game and one guy stuck a dart in another’s eye. It was a basement bar, no windows and smell of stale beer.

    So, the day began as normal for Howie. At 8 a.m. the suits came in on their way to the commuter station. Always the same two shots and they were gone. Neighborhood retired guys came in around 10 and stayed until 2. The talk was always the same. The nagging wives, who died last week, tall tales of working in the mills until they closed and of course how the kids never came to visit. The joint had banned talking politics years ago due to fistfights and all the regulars abided by the rules. At 4 p.m. the joint came to life as the early morning crew and the suits returned for their afternoon fix on the way home. Dotty came in at six and told Howie she had to talk to him.

“You know I’m getting old and I think I am going to have to move on.”

“Are you going to sell the joint?”

“If I do, you’ll have first shot at it, Howie.”

“I don’t know if I can come up with that kind of money, Dot.”

“If I do we’ll work something out, but I think we are going to need someone else in here or we can cut the hours.”

“Let me know what you want to do, Dot, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

    Dotty wiped down the bar and cleaned the shot glasses. A handful of evening regulars came in. She refilled the jerky jar. At eight two strangers came in, grabbed two open seats. They were in their twenties and the regulars were checking them out. They each ordered a bottle of beer. Dotty took their money and put in the cigar box under the bar right next to her Billy Club. One of them got up and stood behind the other, he eyed the door and the regulars. The one at the bar was relaxed and a hand talker.

 “Listen, old lady, we don’t want no trouble. You reach under that bar and give me your cash, and no one will get hurt.”

“You can’t come in here and ask for money!”

“But I can. My friend back there has Glock in his pocket.”

“Well then I guess I don’t have a choice.”

Dotty eyed the man at the bar. For a robber he was very calm, his hands were flat on the bar. She reached under and grabbed the box with her left hand and the club with her right.

As she placed the box on the bar, the man went to grab it, she slammed the Billy Club down upon his fingers. The man yelled as the regulars jumped on the second man. They searched him, no gun. Then they tuned him up as the first guy was yelling grabbing his swollen hand. They grabbed him also and headed to the front door.

Dotty yelled, “For Christ’s sake open the door!”

Out the door they went landing on their asses. They got up and ran off.

“Drinks on the house boys!”

At 2 a.m. Dotty locked the front door. She wiped off the bar, mopped the main floor with bleach to get rid of the blood. She grabbed the cigar box and headed up the back steps to her house.

 

     Dotty woke the next morning, prepared her bran and sat at the kitchen table. She giggled. Her adrenaline woke up last night, she enjoyed the encounter and it brought back memories. Dotty remembered the old days while she was listening to KYW radio. There were brawls that spilled out on the street. She enjoyed the flirting with the men but that hadn’t happened in a decade or more. Times had changed and bar brawling and drunkenness was now frowned upon. She had made adjustments at the joint and it was well known if you caused trouble you would be banned for life. Dotty always knew her advantage with the customers came down to one attraction. They were all drunks. She took her afternoon nap and at six headed down the steps to the bar.

“Hey Dot, what happened last night? Everyone is talking about it!”

“Hell, Howie it wasn’t like the old days. We just chased them off.”

“Is it true you used to have a baseball bat under the bar?”

“Sure is. As I got older, it was tougher to bring out and when the cops stopped carrying Billy Clubs, Bob the cop gave me his. It has had its uses.”

Dotty went on for an hour about the old days with stories of the old timers and how rowdy they were.

“It’s a different world today, Howie.”

Dotty told Howie she had a plan for him to run the bar. She told him he couldn’t buy the building as she lived upstairs and would die upstairs.

“You have to promise not to change anything. No improvements.”

“Tell me your plan, Dot.”

After a pause Dotty told Howie he could buy the business from her. For six months he would pay her $1500.00 cash a month. If all went well, he would pay her $2000.00 cash per month for twelve months. All payment would be due on the last day of the month. After that she would officially sell him the business for $5000.00 and transfer the business to him.

“No down payment?”

“Nope. It’s the same way I bought the joint.”

“So, when do we start this?”

“Today. I will work a month or so at night like always, but you have to find someone to come in for me to train in the ways of the joint.”

“It’s a deal Dot!”

     The next morning Dotty went shopping at the ACME. She made a turn onto the soda aisle and there in the middle of the aisle were the two guys who tried to rob her. One had a bandage on his hand and was standing look out. The other had a long coat on and was hooking cases of Red Bull to the inside of the coat. They didn’t recognize her. Dotty didn’t realize how skinny they were. She ran her cart into the one with bandaged hand pinning him against the shelf.

“Oh shit! It’s you!”

He tried to shove the cart away, but Dotty put all her weight on it and he couldn’t move. The other guy got up and ran, slipped on the floor, got up and ran again.

“Now, don’t the two of you know how to do anything else?”

“Please let me go. You already busted up my hand. You’ll never see me again!”

Dotty pulled back and watched the young man run away. She went to the checkout and out to her car to head home.

     At six she headed down the steps to the joint. She told Howie and the regulars about bumping into the robbers at ACME. They all roared with laughter.

“Are you sure you want to sell the place to me? You seem to enjoy it so much.”

“Listen, Howie and this is important, when your time comes. You can love a job, a place, and the people in a place but there comes a time when you have to know when to go”

“Thanks Dot.”

“Besides, Howie you already own the joint.”

And with that Dotty told the regulars she would be around for a month or so, but Howie now owned Carol’s.

One of the customers asked Dotty who Carol was. Dotty smiled and said she didn’t know, no one ever told her.

 

g emil reutter is a writer of stories and poems. Nine collections of his poetry and fiction have been published. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2018