Monday, September 8, 2008

Absent friends

He rolled past the bar, not looking sidelong into the picture window but concentrating self conciously straight ahead. He turned right two blocks past and came back around the bar again about two minutes later. Still rolling past, not looking sidelong into the picture window but concentrating self conciously straight ahead.

He had been doing this for about two hours, fifty-five trips around before he pulled into the parking lot and turned off the engine.

I had been sitting on the other side of the picture window, drinking Budweiser and smoking Marlbros and looking out the picture window at the man driving by in the dark green 1964 International pick up truck. Waiting for him to park the goddam truck. And after he parked the truck, waiting for him to get his ass in the bar.

Register sat in his truck and lit a joint and smoked it slowly and thoughtfully. Taking deep hits and then sucking in the wisps that emanated from the lit end. When he was done he flung the fat roach out of the window and onto the parking lot. He stumbled out of the truck and into the bar.

I saw him approach the door from the picture window. He went to the far end of the bar, where there were no people and sat. I picked up my cigarettes and beer and joined him.

"So what's up?" I asked.

"Sorry I'm late," he said, "I got busy doing some errands and couldn't make it over on time. Sorry."

"It's no big deal, what'd you want to meet me for?"

"You want a bump?"


He handed me a baggie with about a half ounce of coke in it and his keys. I went into the bathroom and didn't take too much. He was testing me.

When I came back out and handed back the baggie he looked closely at it and put it back into his pocket.

"Come up to the office with me." he said.

I followed him out the back door, across the patio and into the out building that constituted the office. The owner of the bar was inside at his desk. Across the room from him was a very cowed looking young man on a couch. I recognized the guy as someone I had gone to middle school with.

Register looked at the owner and asked, "get anything out of him?"

The owner just shook his head.

Register looked at me for a second then he looked at the cowed young man, "I've got to be out of town for three days," he pointed at me, "you pay this man three hundred dollars today, three hundred dollars tomorrow, and three hundred dollars the day after tomorrow or he will kick your fucking ass." He said it very quietly and very pleasantly and the cowed young man on the couch began to cry.

He looked at me and said, "You pay," he pointed at the owner, "this man six hundred dollars by day after tomorrow or I will kick your ass." The cowed young man on the couch began to sob.

I nodded my head and Register and I walked back into the bar.

"You want a shot?"

"Sure thing man"

"You don't mind that I did that do you? That I put you on the spot like that?"

"No. Do I really have to shake this guy down? And pay up?"

"Hell yes you do."

"Can I have another bump?"


I did another. We sat in the near deserted bar and didn't talk for a while.

"Hey Register. How come you was riding around the block out there for two hours?"

"I was listening to my Allman Brothers tape. You know, I listen to those guys and I just get lost in the music and lose track of time."

"Two hours?"

"You want a shot?"


"Hey bartender, round of shots."

The bartender sauntered over. "What you want honey?"

Ken looked at me, "Cuervo." I said.

"Two Cuervos and Schnapps for everybody else."

"Can I have one too?" the bartender asked.

"I said everybody didn't I?"

"I's just making sure honey."

We did shots. Then we just sat not talking just drinking our drinks and smoking our cigarettes and looking toward the picture window.

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