Tell Her I'm Not Herebyqhml1©
I was a bartender for years when I was younger. This story and others to follow are about my experiences during those years. I have some other story lines going, Gonna Sell The Bitchs' Car in particular, but due to some feedback and my work schedule right now it'll be a week or two before I can post my reworked third installment. I already had this and some others written so I thought I would submit it. It's a cautionary tale, while I hope you enjoy it but take the message to heart.
I hadn't tended bar for years and was only doing this to help out a friend. It was a small, private club, one of those places that had an animal with large antlers as a logo. The place was in trouble, membership was down and it looked like it may lose its' charter, which would force it to close. My friend had been a member for forty years and on the board for almost as long.
He had done me a huge favor years ago so I agreed to help. I made it clear that I considered it temporary, having no desire to go back to full time. The board agreed, and promised to back me fully on any changes I made. The jury was out on that, I had dealt with this before. There was always one board member who was firmly convinced that his way was always best and was willing to fight hard to make sure everyone else did too.
Mostly I went back to bar tending because I needed something to do. My wife of twenty one years had died in an industrial accident. It was clearly due to negligence by the company, and they settled with the survivors and loved ones quickly. I had more than enough to live comfortably for the rest of my life. What I didn't have was a companion, lover, or soul mate. I mourned for two years.
It was 10:30. Closing time was 11:00, most of the members were working men who had to get up early. Staying open until one or two in the morning did no one any good. Some guys just refuse to leave until closing time, then the wives are angry, the bosses are angry because of tardiness, and the guys are angry because the bartender didn't make them leave earlier. Nobody wins in this situation.
I had one guy at the bar who seemed to be a permanent fixture. In the week I was there he had helped me close every night. There were three other men in their forties who had stopped by after bowling, and four twenty something guys who seemed to be having a serious discussion on important matters, telling lies.
The phone rang. I answered and a young lady asked if Joe Nichols was still there.
"Joe Nichols? Hold on and I'll check." I hated this part of the job.
"Joe Nichols, Joe Nichols. Phone call."
One of the young guys came over with a ten in his hand. He leaned over and whispered to me-
"Tell her I'm not here."
I palmed the ten and looked him in the eyes as I spoke into the phone.
"Ma'am, he said to tell you he's not here."
His eyes were as big as marbles. I chuckled into the phone.
"Ma'am? He's right here. Sorry about what I said, it's just bartender humor. I"m gonna give him the phone now, try not to be upset if he's a little late coming home. He was actually leaving when I asked him to help me out. I'm new here and he helped me with a few questions. Before I give him the phone, how about coming by with him Friday night? The first drink's on me. I just want to see if you're as pretty as he says. Here's your husband now. What? Yes, I'll tell him. Bye."
I hung up the phone and pointed at a sign posted behind the bar. It was one of the first things I did when I went to a new bar. The sign said "IF YOU'RE HERE, YOU'RE HERE. NO EXCEPTIONS"
I handed him back the ten.
"Boy, I just saved your ass. Now instead of being upset she's gonna want to know what we talked about, and did you really say she was pretty. Tell her we talked about forming a dance committee to bring dancing back to the club and I needed input from the younger members. Tell her I'd like for her and some of your friends' wives to be on it. Tell her we'll talk about it Friday."
I paused for a breath.
"Now, before you go I want you to talk to Buck here. He's got a story you need to hear."
"It started this spring. Me, my running buddies Cliff, Bill, and Sonny, decided we were going to have the best summer ever. It started with the fishing trips. We'd go out on the lake real early and fish until we caught a few. Then we'd hang around the bait shack until three or four, telling our wives when we got home we couldn't get a signal on the water. By time we got back home it would be too late for yard work or going out. We'd order pizza and keep drinking."
"Then we started playing golf. We would have to get a practice round in during the week to be ready for the tournament on the weekend, and there was always a tournament somewhere. If they called we would tell them we had to have the phones off so we wouldn't mess up a putt with noise, tournament rules."
"The grass always needed cut, and the wives complained we never did anything together, but we were having a ball."
"And of course there were the twice monthly poker games here at the club, we couldn't miss those. Sometimes I actually won, and would go out and buy a new rod, or putter. My wife called once to remind me we were supposed to go dancing. I had forgotten, so I told her I had lost big that night, and was too drunk to drive. Could she come get me in an hour or so? Boy, that was a chilly ride home."
"By now it was football season. We'd go the sports bar around one on Saturday, and usually stay for the night game. It was hilarious, eating wings and slipping those girls with big boobs in tight shorts twenties to say they hadn't seen us all day when the wives called. Then we would do the same thing on Sunday for the pro games."
"When the girls complained, we would tell them to go dancing or to the movies with each other. That's just what they did."
Buck hung his head for a few minutes, then continued.
"It all came apart about two months ago. I got home about ten and she wasn't home. I didn't worry because I figured she was out with the girls. At midnight I started calling around. Cliffs' wife said they went out dancing but she left early. Bills' wife didn't go out with them so she had no clue. By now it was almost one and Sonnys' wife wasn't too happy about being called."
"She asked me if I knew what time it was. I apologized and told her I was worried about Joan because she wasn't home yet. She said it was a little too late to worry now. I didn't understand but she told me the last time she saw her she was at the Silver Spur, and boy those line dance lessons were paying off. I didn't even know she was taking line dance lessons. She said she saw a guy from work and wanted to dance with him a few times before she left. That was the last she saw of her."
"I called the Silver Spur and asked the bartender if she was there. The band was playing and I could just barely hear him say he would see. About the time the band stopped and the bartender called out her name."
'I heard the phone hit the bar and then my wifes' voice saying-
Here's a twenty, sugar. Tell him I not here.
I jumped in the car but by the time I got there she was long gone."
"When I got home I noticed her clothes were gone along with most of her other stuff. I didn't see her for a month. They wouldn't let me on the property where she worked. I sat outside hoping to catch her as she was leaving but never saw her car."
"Then one day she called me to talk about the divorce. I cried and begged her to talk to me. We met at The Golden Corral, she told me I had to pay. She wouldn't let me talk until after we were done eating. She wanted to know if I was going to fight the divorce."
"I told her I didn't want a divorce, I wanted her to come back home. She asked me why, and I told her I loved her and didn't want to be away from her. She really tore into me then."
"All you want is someone to cook and clean for you and maybe screw for five minutes once or twice a month" She said. "Do you know this is the first time in nine months we've been in a restaurant at the same time? If I was a fishing rod or a golf club, or some 400 pound guy with numbers on my back it would be different, but I'm not. I don't know how to compete with that and I'm no longer interested in trying."
"I don't really see any point in coming back. I've got a nice little apartment it takes me no time to keep clean. I got a new, spiffy little car I traded that tank you got me in for. And while I haven't been seeing anyone, I've gotten two offers for real dates. Dinner, a movie, maybe a little dancing."
By now Buck had tears in his eyes.
"I couldn't get her to come back to me. I did get her to hold off the divorce for six months, but she ain't never coming back, I can feel it. My friends can't wait to tell me about her new hairstyle and how she must have lost twenty pounds. They tell me she got two or three guys she sees real regular. As far as I know she hasn't gone to bed with any of them, but it's just a matter of time."
"Now I just go to work and come here. My running buddies come around some, but they seem to always have their wives with them. I guess they saw the writing on the wall with what happened to me. They invite me out, but I feel like a fifth wheel."
By now Buck was all talked out. I looked at Joe hard.
"Do you understand now, son? If you don't do your homework somebody else will. Now, closing time. Go home to your wives and families."
When they all left I pulled out a picture of my ex-wife. My second wife was jealous for awhile until I explained why I carried it.
"I got a second chance with you," I said "This picture reminds me not to make the same mistakes."
After that every time I would be about to go brain dead and do something stupid she would asked me if I had looked at it lately. It was very effective.