The alarm clock down the hall wailed for his two a.m. feeding. My wife smacked me with a limp arm, “Your turn.” I rose from my slumber and careened down the hallway. As I passed the baby’s room, I wondered what my single friends were doing two blocks east at Burton’s Bar.
Tommy’s signature pickup move, “Horseshoe meet tennis ball, tennis ball meet horseshoe” while alternating the flexing of his biceps and triceps had forced another girl to reconsider that date with her mother’s co-worker’s son. Digger was sending out a mass text to all three of the girls he had hooked up with in the last decade for a chance at redemption of his whiskey-enhanced performance. Danzig’s ‘Mother’ reverberated throughout the bar.
I entered the kitchen where I prepared myself a delicious snack of hand-carved Gouda, a tangerine, and a scoop of peanut butter. The baby’s milk warmed on the stove. The crisp night air rushed through the open windows bringing in the city’s sounds; a primal yell from the downhearted drunk, the rustling of wild dogs patrolling the streets, and the muffled clip-clapping of the ‘L’. I took in the food and sounds ignoring the screams from the adjacent room. A voice broke my moment of calm.
“We’re all doing shots!” Digger yelled out while waving a lone finger in the air, “none of the premium stuff; rot-your-gut tequila!” Unfazed by another over-served yuppie waving his Visa card, the bar-backs readied themselves near the kitchen tightening the grip on their mops waiting to slop up the vomit and urine at closing time. With the single girls fleeing from Tommy’s advances, he transformed into his alternate ego, “Thomas Toughguy.” Mr. Toughguy grabbed Digger’s shot off the counter, took it down without the typical salutations, and smashed the glass on the floor. His nose flared as he tried to draw eye contact from anyone shorter than him. Having overestimating the number of people who would want a bottom-shelf booze, Digger choked down the four unclaimed shots and extended Sunday’s hangover through lunch. Meanwhile, Thomas’ eyes locked in on a target.
“We’re all doing shots”
“What do you think you’re doing?” my wife unloaded into my serenity. “You’re eating and drinking while my baby is starving,” she scolded. Didn’t she see what I was trying to do? I was shaping new life by teaching delayed gratification, the joy of simple things, and demonstrating that abundance is not the source of happiness.
“Airplane rules,” I declared. Her quizzical look let me know I needed to explain.
“The stewardess always says ‘when you are travelling with a child, secure your mask first, and then assist the child.’” I had her; thank you FAA. I shoved the final piece of cheese in my mouth, grabbed the warmed bottle, and glided past my wife to tend to my child.
The savage yell erupted from his mouth. Thomas owned the night. No one dared confront the Red Bull fueled fighter. Digger and Thomas closed down Burton’s. The bouncer stood guard at the door while the bar-backs flipped the chairs on top of the tables and canvased the floor with bleach water. Two of Digger’s text messages bounced back as undelivered; the third, unanswered. Digger resorted to hitting on strays stumbling down Addition Street. None of the girls acknowledged his pick-up line of, “I’ll jump into your back seat if you’re driving.”
The fighter and reveler walked down the quiet sidewalk to Clark Diner to recount the night and reminisce about stories of yesteryear.
As the bottle emptied his half-closed eyes signaled he was ready for his crib.
Special thanks to C.A. for this article suggestion.