One thing about living in Santa Carla I could never could stomach, all the damn vampires!
-The Lost Boys
Saturday nights at The March were becoming less and less fun for the more seasoned regulars. With the classy new décor and Rosie’s growing popularity, they were turning more and more into a cheesy bacchanal. The boys were all sweaty bravado, on the prowl for Ms. Right Now, laughing too loud at lame jokes, loudly clinking bottles of Amstel Light in a desperate camaraderie. The girls wore miniskirts and eyeliner, growing shriller with each vodka/cranberry, dying for the approval of those silly boys.
Most of the regulars complained bitterly from their corner about these weekend bon vivants. But John Farebrother didn’t resent the young folks for their Saturday nights. He’d been one of those silly boys himself, after all, some years ago. But, he did tend to stick to home on Saturdays.
On Sunday evenings, though, good music came out of the jukebox at levels you didn’t have to shout over. There was usually someone around to play Scrabble or chess with. The clientele was made up of regulars, or off-clock industry types for whom Sunday was the start of a quiet weekend. These people, and John Farebrother was one of them, came to the bar to chat, to watch a game, to relax.
On Sunday nights, the camaraderie at The March was lightly toasted and easy.
Farebrother walked in expecting to see Gio behind the bar, as he had been on Sundays for the past few months. But Gio had begun working regular hours at an accounting firm. While he was still game for weekend night bar shifts, it was too hard getting up at 7:00 am if he’d just gotten to bed at 3:00. So, he told Caleb he was done and the next bartender in line was promoted to these plum shifts, where bartenders didn’t work too hard, and there was no waitress on to share tips with.
The next bartender in line was Brooke.
Will was the doorman that Sunday night, given the shift due to his experience and reliability, despite Caleb’s worry about the potential for romantic drama. He greeted Farebrother at the door, saying, “Be nice to Brooke. She’s totally nervous.”
“So Brooke has moved to Sunday nights,” said Farebrother. “So long as she can open a bottle of Old Style and get the whiskey into a shot glass, she’ll be fine.” But he knew what Will meant.
Farebrother had observed Brooke behind the bar on her Friday and Saturday night shifts. She was the speed queen, the workhorse. But she wasn’t comfortable leaning back against the bar, shooting the shit with the corner regulars. And on a Sunday night, that was pretty much what you could expect to be doing. Small talk was part of the gig.
Brooke was nervous. She’d begged Gio and Celia to come sit at her bar and ease her in. They were happy to do it. Gio was looking forward to being on the fun side of the bar on a Sunday night, sitting next to his girlfriend.
Farebrother joined them at the bar and settled in comfortably.
“On your first night,” he said to Brooke. “It’s always wise to bring in reinforcements. I’d better buy them a drink and make sure that I’m getting in good with the new barkeep.”
Brooke smiled and set shotglasses upside down behind Celia’s and Gio’s beer bottles (these serve as a marker for the next paid-for drink). “I was gaming the system,” she said. “Guaranteeing myself a friendly crowd.”
Will wandered up with a case of Budweiser. “I’ll help you, Brooke,” he said. “If it gets busy, I’ll wait on some tables for you.”
Rules are, if he waits on tables, he gets to keep tips,” said Gio.
“And I know how to bring it when it comes to getting tipped,” said Will. “I’m not above showing a little skin.”
“Slut,” said Brooke. “You let me know if anyone gets handsy. I’ll take care of them for you.”
The night progressed easily. Farebrother, Gio and Celia chatted about this and that. Brooke wiped bottles down and cleaned out the well. The conversation lagged for a bit, until Gio brought up the topic of Celia’s graduation. Farebrother told them he’d gone naked under his graduation gown.
“Are you making a suggestion,” asked Celia.
“Wouldn’t dare to,” said Farebrother. “Just recollecting. That’s how we did things at the University of Chicago.”
“That is the nakedest school,” said Gio. “I’m always hearing stories.”
“Well, it was the 70s,” said Farebrother. “That was a pretty naked decade.”
Brooke laughed and mixed up some drinks for a table of guys who’d come in after a workout.
By 10:30, Brooke was leaning comfortably against the back bar chatting with Farebrother, who’d begun a game of chess with his friend, Dan. Her tip jar was pleasingly full. She was drinking a glass of ice water and lemon juice.
Farebrother and Dan began arguing good-naturedly about Michael Jordan’s place in the pantheon of great ball players and whether it was coaching or talent that was responsible for his performance so far. Farebrother was on the side of “Michael Jordan is the greatest player the game has ever seen.” Dan was more “He’s pretty great, but the coaching is greater. The triangle offense is responsible for as many wins as Jordan is.”
“What’s a triangle offense,” asked Brooke.
Farebrother and Dan were thrilled to explain it to her. They started with words; long descriptive passages with peppered with unfamiliar familiarities like “point” and “paint” and “key.” When she looked befuddled, Dan tried sketching it out on cocktail napkins in expansive (if tipsy) detail. Straws were manipulated into models. Finally, they brought Will over and performed a live demonstration, which illuminated Brooke not at all, although it did amuse her.
When Farebrother went home, Brooke and Dan played a couple of games of Backgammon. Brooke won. Dan bought her a shot.
Before she knew it, it was 1:15, the bar was empty and it was time to begin closing up. She went into the office to do her paperwork while Will broke the bar down and restocked the beer.
Brooke was done before Will, so she sat down at the bar to have a beer and count her tips. A few minutes later, he joined her with a beer of his own. She handed him a $10 tip out.
“Good night, huh,” said Will.
“Yeah,” she said. “I could get used to this.”
They were quiet for a little.
“They must have come for the recycling today,” said Will. “It was empty out back.”
“Someone worked it out with Fred’s pickup guy,” said Brooke. “They come on Sunday mornings.”
“That was Tré,” said Will. “I think he’s got an idea to brand all the L.G.E. places as green or something. Recycling will be part of the whole thing.”
“He told me!” said Brooke. “Tré is such a good guy.”
“Yeah, he’s a pretty nice guy,” said Will.
They were silent again, looking around. They both felt a little like you did the first time your parents went out and let you stay at home by yourself: a little privileged and grown up; a little like they were getting away with something.
Brooke fetched them a couple of more beers and they settled down on stools, backs against the bar, surveying the empty room. The barstools were all upside down on the tables, legs pointing towards the ceiling. Will had flicked all the neons off, so the only light came from the front door and the back bar light. Old popcorn and cigarette butts littered the floor. A weekend’s worth of revelry and conversation and arguments and dancing and drinking and romance echoed, but they were alone in a place no one else was allowed to be, drinking beers they hadn’t paid for.
“Tré is a good guy,” said Will, unnerved by the silence. “But it was your idea, after all. You were the one who got it started.”
“It’s not much,” said Brooke. “I mean, I know that recycling some bottles isn’t going to save the world or anything, but it feels like something.”
“I know,” said Will. “I know just what you mean. It’s moving forward.”
“Forward,” said Brooke. And then she didn’t know what to say, and found she felt kind of awkward.
Will felt awkward too.
Brooke looked over at Will, who was studying the floor, and picking at the label on his beer bottle. She started to wonder what he would do if she just turned around and kissed him. Or maybe if she just touched his hand. She gripped her beer bottle a little tighter and did not reach for his hand. Why was she suddenly thinking about reaching for his hand? Oh shit, was Teddy right about this in the end?
“Well, I guess we should lock up,” she said, in a loud voice.
The two walked together out the door. Brooke turned the key and they emerged to the empty sidewalk. They stood in the quiet, cool night for a few seconds, feeling like the only people out and about on this early Monday morning. The moon was out. Everything felt fine and close and still. Brooke unlocked her bike and was about to get on when she stopped. To hell with Teddy.
“Will,” she said.
“Yeah,” he said, more eagerly than he’d meant to.
“Do you want…”
She trailed off. Will’s attention had turned to the other end of the street, where the doorman from Scottie’s stood on the corner, grinning down the street at them. Scottie’s was open until 4:00 am on Sunday nights.
“Hey, you guys,” he yelled down the street. “Heading straight home, huh?”
“Uh, no,” said Will. “I think I’ll head over to Scottie’s for a drink. Be safe getting home, Brooke.”
“OK,” she said, abashed. “I will.”
She rode off alone.
Will and the doorman walked toward the open bar together.
“I guess we should feel special,” the doorman said. “You sending a good looking girl like that home on her own just to visit with us.”
“She’s just a friend,” said Will. “We just work together.”
“Maybe I should take a run at her,” said the doorman. “She does have a nice ass.”
“Fuck off,” said Will. “Just shut the fuck up.”
He walked into Scottie’s alone.