The beer joint was a throwback. On pre-disco rec-room paneling was a thumb-tacked running history of yesteryear and drink-up soft core ”T and A.” There was a current Championship banner hanging above an analogue jukebox. The beer taps in the center of the Formica bar drew but the domestic, generic, and the national distributed, and only three of those.
There was a phone booth, in working order. And only one television that appeared to be a first generation flat screen, struggling to keep up with the chyron CNN was scrolling.
Trump was speaking. But his best words were being drowned out by the swoosh swoosh and whomp whomp whomp of an old, tall, and off plumb standing fan fronting a boxed in the wall air conditioner. Tattered and unequal length of blue and green streamers quivered to give clue to cool, but it was a limp and lazy visual aid that lied. The dive was warm.
Which is why, I guess, the Bagman was drinking his scotch on the rocks. Bruising Johnnie Walker Blue is bad form. Which had me peg him as too priggishly bad-ass to ask the barkeep for a water-back. Always playing type to trim.
And that she was. That bartender. Not a day under fifty and not an ounce over her sweet sixteen fighting weight. She wore her black hair shoulder length with gray highlights that sparkled peacock blue peepers. And she sported upscale casual off the rack in born to the manor nonchalance. She had parked her five foot eleven inch frame on a backless bar stool behind the bar and began aggressively flipping the broadside like pages of The New York Review Of Books. Just a lazy and climate change Chicago mid-day in mid-November. And all for just the three of us in a long ago gone to seed bar.
“Whew. A bit warm in here,” I said, walking toward the front of the establishment, “Mind if I prop the door open a bit?”
“I do,” she stood and said.
“OK, Boss. I’ll lock it then.” I reversed the OPEN sign hanging on kite string. Then turned and walked back with a handgun pointed at the Bagman. The Boss had him targeted too.
“I oughta shoot ya for just being numb nuts,” I said, taking his weapon and briefcase. “ You noticed nothing. Nothing! Walker Blue here. Really? A world class woman. Wow. You cost me 1000 bucks.”
“I told you,” my boss said. “ And you owe me two grand, and stop brown-noseing.”
The Bagman was bug-eyed. And that tall fan was whiffing his fear about.
“ It wasn’t my idea,” he said, rising from the bar stool, “It was that asshole alderman.”
“Sit down, clown.” she said. He did.
I giggled and said “Street talk, like the old days. In that case, in this here brief case, be 250 large, sweet cheeks.”
“Watch your manners, Mister. And you,” to the Bagman, she said, “stealing a quarter of a million dollars of street money on election day in Chicago. That’s not ballsy. That’s dick dumb. Political walking around money. GOTV money, Damn it. You don’t even have a clue, do you? At least that ass-hole alderman did the honorable thing.”
“Clue him to Cleveland,” I said, laying a pack of hundreds on the bar near the Bagman. Then dropped a quarter into that analogue juke box. Punched in B-9.
“Take the ten grand, and go home,” she said. “Tonight. See the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. See it often. Come back and die.”
And Stairway To Heaven began to spin, with an initial scratch or two, at 45rpm.