Whatcha Drinkin, Buddy?

Whatcha Drinkin, Buddy?

by Mark Driver

I empty her ashtray, choked shut with bent and burnt butts, slapping a new one down in front of her with the other hand. Pieces of cancerous gray ash fall like snow around the trashcan.

“I’m a good girl,” the lady says, pulling herself up to the bar, “I really like you. I really like you. I’m a good girl. I’m a good mom. My kids smoke pot. I want you to meet my daughter. You should marry my daughter. My daughter is beautiful. I’m a good mom.”

“How old is your daughter?”

“She’ll be eighteen next June.” The lady squints up at me through coke bottle glasses, her front teeth are half an inch apart, expulsed like mammon tusks under her cracked lips, black at the bases. She came into the bar drunk already, but I mixed her a White Russian before I knew how gone she was, and now I’m suffering the consequences.

A guy who looks like Jack Nicholson on chemotherapy struts through the back door in a tan Members Only jacket. His nose is exploded.

“Bourbon water.”
“$3.50.”
“Hell no.”
“Hell yes.”
“Huh?”
“Yes.”
“Huh?”
“Yes.”
“Huh?”
“$3.50.”
“OK.” He pays and downs it and doesn’t tip. “Another. Hey!”
“What?”
“It that yer old lady down there?” He jerks a thumb at mom-of-the-year.
“Nope, she’s all yours.”
“Huh?”
“Nope.”
“Huh?”
“Nope.”
“Huh?”
“Go for it.”
“Heh heh.”

He smoothes back his greasy gray mop and slides down the bar. Thanks, old timer. Get her off my nuts.

Up on the stage, one guy has been hogging the karaoke all night, which is no big deal because there’s only six people in the bar. Three Mexican dudes are drinking pitchers of Bud Light and shooting pool in the corner, loading up the salsa-filled jukebox to cover over the warbling hoglines of Lionel Ritchie’s “Truly” coming from a guy who asked me to keep his crack pipe behind the bar while he was ‘performing’. In some vortex of inverse logic, he gave me fifty cents not to call the cops.

The old guy convinces Tusky to move onto the dance floor with him, just in time to hear the skinny white crackhead take a shot at holding up Ozzy’s end of ‘War Pigs’. They’re slow dancing, hip to hip, holding each other, just like witches at black masses. God, that dude is slaughtering Sabbath. The karaoke master joins in to help him. They’re both off time and out of tune. That creepy couple is still slow dancing. He tries to dip her. He drops her. She gets mad and sits back down. A cue ball from the pool table rolls behind the bar and goes underneath the beer cooler. The Mexicans all start screaming “Marko Marko Marko” and as I try to fish it out with a broom handle, I realize my biggest mistake was telling anyone my name.

The old guy gets another drink, the dropped lady lays across three barstools at the other end of the bar.

“She’s a real piece of work,” he says.
“Yup. She’s a real handful.”
“Maybe your handful, not mine.”
“Yeah.”
“Huh?”
“Yeah.”
“Huh?”
“Yeah.”
“Huh?”
“Yeah.”
“You’re fucking bullshit,” he says and walks out the back. Another fifteen minutes have passed at the bar.

One month ago to the day, I was having this conversation:

“Have you ever shoveled dog food into bags before?” the fat guy asks from behind a wax wrappered desk.

“Well, no,” I protest in my little interview vest, “but-”

“And you think you can just walk in off the street and shovel dog food?”

“Well, umm� yeah. Sounds sort of entry level.”

He holds my resume with tight fingers, bile leaking from under his nails.

“I will have you know that regardless to what this job might look to some young dot-comer and all that World Wide Interweb, this is some high tech machinery we have here. This is a skilled position. I worked it myself for three years.”

“I’m sure it’s not easy.”

“It isn’t”

“Well, I’m a quick learner, and I’m a big guy � and I work hard. I’ll show up on time and do the job right.”

He shakes his head. I’m the dumbest man in the world.

“We want more than just showing up on time. We want someone who’s going to give us 110% because he’s hungry and he wants to move up. We want someone who wants to be here. Not someone just killing time until something better comes along.”

“We are talking about the $6.91 an hour shoveling dog food into bags on the graveyard shift job, right?”

“Yes. It’s an honest job. All you twenty-something millionaires thought you had it made, and now you’re actually having to work for a living. Well, excuse me if I don’t bend over backwards and let you on through.”

I thank him kindly and walk back to my car, beaten again.

Yes, dear readers, it has been officially confirmed that the world doesn’t give one fuck whether I live or die. I had always suspected as much, but in my insular white tower, wrapped in layers of pink fat, I could philosophize freely without reality putting its finger directly into my eye. Well, three months with no income and nothing in the bank will sure spank you back barefoot onto the coldness of that long, gray sidewalk called life.

But I will bitch no more, for after months of searching, I have finally found employment.

I am a bouncer. I am a therapist. I am a hall monitor. I am a babysitter.

I, dear friends, am a bartender.

I am the facilitator of public irresponsibility, for what is going out and getting drunk but a chemically induced shirk of duty? A casting off of the choking robe of social mores that keeps you tied down and clicking like a grassbug on its back. Getting out of your head. Nothing wrong with that. Responsibility makes your genitals shrivel, it ruins your stomach, it makes you no fun. Just ask me. I’ve worried off nine pounds in the past month, fourteen in the past three. And what responsibility do I have? Two weeks after starting my tenure at South Seattle’s most notorious Mexican/Samoan gang bar, they have me working the ten hour night shift by myself. Whoa! You heard me right. Yes world, some unsuspecting fool has given Mark Driver the keys to a bar. 2 am finds me alone with eighty bottles of liquor, 12 beers on tap, a sound system, a deep fryer, two pool tables, and a dartboard. The only enemy is three video cameras, easy to trick. Oh, and the customers. The customers are total enemies. And all my co-workers are enemies. Backstabbing enemies. The collective lot of them all want me dead. Which is fine. Par for the course. Something I’m totally used to.

I’ve been there a little less than a month, and the stories I have accumulated already could fill a book, but I will not reveal the name of this butthole bar until I get fired, because I don’t want any of these freaks to know I’m writing about them. Not that any of the people I’m writing about could work anything more complicated than a microwave full of sausage-flavored Hot Pockets, but I’d hate for the word to get out.

After all, on good nights, where I break up fist fights between arguing brothers and chase ten year olds out and karate chop liquor board officials and wake up the guy who likes to sleep in the ladies room and stop that old perv from squeezing his tits at construction workers and listen to tales of woes of including flat tires and furniture that’s hard to move and kids that live in Arizona and impending jail sentences and what assholes parole officers are, I can clear up to $30 in tips. Who would want to jeopardize an employment opportunity like that? Like I said, there’s a book here for sure.

And speaking of books, mine is complete, but my agent search has stalled at fifty attempts. This is what gushing agents have had to say about the synopsis and first three chapters of NOBODY CRIES WHEN A RATCATCHER DIES:

“Sometimes humorous”
“Not for our line of books”
“Has no mainstream potential”
“Very well written, doubt I could sell it”
“The storyline isn’t attractive to me”
“Too harsh for our clients”
“Forgive us for using this impersonal form letter”
“No chance for placement in this tough publishing climate”
“I only handle serious literature. No humorous material. You should have known this before sending me your pitch.”
“This is good writing. Unfortunately, it is not for me.”
“I do not see you having problems finding an agent. I, however, cannot represent this.”

Now, as operator this ramshackle excuse for a column I am used to much tougher criticism, where thoughtful readers pick apart my logical shortcomings with clever arguments like:

“HEY YOU SISTERFUCKING FAGGET! WHY DON’T YOU MOVE TO USSR AND FUCK OFF TO HA HA HA I WILL KILL YOU PUSSIE! HA HAHA!”

and

“If you will not pray for youself I will pray for you’re sole because your a sinner in the eyes of God. Repent and beleve and turned a way from Lucifer. Reed the Bible. All the ansers are their. John 3:16”

So having some tight crotched vanilla wafer with a fedora and a lisp and a pet cockatiel named Clem get all snippy at me because I didn’t follow correct procedure for what he likes to see pop into his mailbox, well that don’t have much impact on me past the fact that I have to keep going to work. But how can someone who writes sentences as long as the previous one not have an agent? Why does God keeps handing me the poo dollar? Doesn’t holding the prestigious honor of being the 7th most popular anti-establishment humor columnist on the Internet even get me into the top few buttons of the prom dress?

Maybe it’s my dark and mean approach. Maybe because the majority of my pitch packages were mailed two days before the New York attacks. Maybe they’re afraid of the envelopes, afraid of anthrax. Who could blame them?

LOOK OUT, ANTHRAX! Can you say disinformation? The media is certainly keeping up it’s end of that deal on this one. Can you imagine their directives from the Department of Defense? The meetings held deep in the beehives of power?

Suit #1: “What can we do on the homefront to keep people terrified and distracted and continuing to keep up their confused support of our clever forms of international justice?”

Suit #2: “We need a distraction. Something that will lead the news instead of the bombs we’re dropping on Vitamin C depots and furry zoo animals and sometimes the Taliban.”

Suit #1: “How about a kidnapped celebrity?”

Suit #2: “Are you kidding? No one gives a shit about celebrities since those damn buildings went down. Michael Jordan held seventeen press conferences to announce his return and he still didn’t make CNN until yesterday.”

Suit #1: “Bomb scares?”

Suit #2: “Not far reaching enough.”

Suit #1: “Generic, unspecific, and purposefully vague threats of terrorist activity?”

Suit #2: “Oooh, I like that.”

Suit #1: “Oh oh oh oh! I got it! Anthrax in the mail!”

Suit #2: “Great! Now that’s why you make the big bucks! Let’s go down to Mark Driver’s bar and celebrate by starting some fights!

Suit #1: And then I can puke into one of the urinals so it overflows!”

Suit #2: “I’ll call for the helicopter!”

Suit #1: “I’ll find the cowboy hats!”

And why not this version of reality? This cynical, pessimistic, rotten view that everyone is the enemy and everyone with a plan is fucking everything up for the rest of us. Oh, Allah told you to crash planes into buildings, that sucks. Oh, the mandate of righteousness told you to launch a bombing campaign against the people of a sovereign nation because they weren’t quick enough to curl their tail between their legs and submit to your superior righteousness, that sucks. Oh, the Taliban are moving artillery into orphanages, that sucks. Oh, now we’re bombing the orphanages, that sucks. Even in my last column, by far the most jingoist and out-of-my-mind column to date, I got shit for “not being on board 100%”. Fuck you. Complete compliance and subservience to a party line is not patriotic and it’s not American. Wartime is the time to be on guard against the guards, because when the entire public is so busy showing how high they can wave their flag, scary things happen. WWI saw civil liberties brought to the level of the Soviet Communists we would grow to hate. WWII gave us concentration camps in California. Now, the very right we socked King George in the eye over, the right to be charged with a crime before being held by government agents (aka the cops), has been removed.

A knock on the door. “Come with us. We know you’re guilty of something, we’re just not sure what. Stay in this cell for a week while we do our homework.” We keep this shit up, this ‘tough but absolutely necessary in today’s hostile climate’ shit, and it won’t matter if terrorists bring all the buildings down. The America I know will exist only in PR campaigns.

But maybe this isn’t the way things are. Maybe I’m wrong. Big deal. If some cornhead thinks that slapping a plastic flag on his Chevy Blazer is helping anything, then I get to pretend too. If educated media figures who know better are allowed to simplify this conflict into “good guys” and “bad guys” to ensure continued public support for warfare, then I get to make my own shit up too. And if everyone is afraid to give George “smoke-em-out-of-their-holes, smoke-em-out-of-their-holes” Bush any guff just because we’re in the middle of bombing the shit out of someone, then I get to ignore all sorts of stuff too.

Except for work. The clock. The drunks. Shit. I’m already late, and I still have to vote today. I don’t feel like doing anything. I’m sick. I’m wiped. I wanna curl up into a ball and sleep for a week, and I’m looking at ten hour shifts until Sunday. Hi-ho, Hi-ho. Welcome to reality, Mr. Driver. Tuck your balls up into your ass, the limo has arrived.

Stay tuned my friends, things are getting weird