I parked on the street. There was always parking at this time, the time just after the dinner rush, but before the bar rush. I lit a cigarette as I got out of my car. Jack Lats’ was one of the only establishments in the whole city that allowed their patrons to smoke. A city ordinance had banned the activity from all public business, but the owners fought for their right to allow smoking in their establishment. An obnoxiously bold sign was posted outside that read, “This establishment allows smoking in doors. If you don’t like it, take your butt somewhere else.” They’d been sued, of course, but won the case as a privately owned business. It didn’t hurt their bottom line. A lot of gay people were smokers.
I walked into the bar, my eyes immediately accosted by its dim presence. The neon signs lit like beacons on the wall above the main bar and around the room. The dance floor was not on. It was too early for all of that. A few drinkers scattered throughout the place. A couple in the corner, awkwardly close to each other, a few friends grouped at the bar corner, a few more pairs sitting at high tops puffing away and laughing. The juke box was playing a kick-back Madonna in her retro, dance glory. Adam was working the bar, a client. He looked up when I walked in and smiled, winking as he mixed a drink for a solo barfly. He turned to me when done.
“Hey, my man, what’s going on?” He was a mullet wearing, mustache baring gay man. A Village Person in the flesh, I always thought, and wondered how the gay culture had circled back around to that stereotyped look. Facial hair, groomed or not, had become a fad among the gays again. Made it a little easier to distinguish a top from a bottom, but that was beside the point.
“Not much. Just doin’ my rounds, you know.” I looked at him squarely. He knew I meant business.
“Cool, cool. Can I get you a drink? I’ll go get Danny.”
“Sure.” He always served on the house. Another perk of being a drug dealer. I never had to tell him what I wanted. He always knew. A whiskey man, I flavored it up with a coke and a splash of grenadine. My own Jack Cherry Coke. No one else ordered it, he told me once. Tossed a couple of cherries in it. James disappeared from the bar, walking to the back where the office was. By the time I’d about finished my cocktail, he’d returned, inviting me back. No one paid attention to us, consumed by their beverages and company. Smoke wafted in the air, billiards clicked, Madonna was on a marathon, a modern era song now pulsing with the latest synths and rave beats.
“Lexxie!” Danny squealed. “Well if it isn’t my favorite top daddy in the whole wide world!” Danny wasn’t the only one whom referred to me as Lexxie, but I did prefer Alex. He was a total blouse from what I’d been told. I’d never known him sexually, despite being invited to numerous parties throughout our brief history together. I never went even though I could probably wrack up new business. I was particular about my clients, and didn’t need many. It also helped keep a low profile and limited the amount of runs I’d have to make. Sometimes all you needed were the right people to be successful.
The office was small, but nice. It looked clean and everything seemed to be in proper place. The lights were provided by a few table and floor lamps. The carpet looked new and clean. He remained at his desk; a multi-drawered credenza. A flat screen computer, paperwork and files, and a desk lamp sat idle before him. There was a long couch and coffee table to the right, ash trays and pillows decorated the furniture. A small fridge sat in the corner, and a large cabinet occupied opposite corner. The place was well put together and not what you’d expect in a dive like this. Danny was clean faced with a short, styled coif, and fit with toned arms. He wore a tight black shirt and slacks. He was older than he looked, more of a daddy than I was.
“Thanks for stopping by, Alex. I always appreciate the visit.” I liked how Danny got straight to business. He never seemed big on wasting time.
“For sure.” Danny stood up and opened one the doors on his credenza’s second level.
“Sooo,” he intoned, “A G for an 0, right?”
Danny hadn’t bought as much before. He musta’ been prepping for a party or something, “Yessir.” I dug into my coat pocket. I pulled out a baggie of pearly silver white dust. It was best smoked. I couldn’t imagine this drug been around long enough for people to try different, crazy ways of consuming it. As far as I knew, no one had ever mainlined it. Danny licked his lips as we made the exchange.
“Thanks, Alex. I deeply appreciate it,“ he said again. I think he was fiending.
“For sure, man. Anytime. As long as I stay wired, I’ll always be there for you.”
Danny shook my hand and pulled me in for a hug. It was customary with him. I embraced back as he stroked my back with a flat hand. I semi forced a release. He laughed. We didn’t much small talk, and it was okay by me. I was usually in and out. Sometimes I caught a drink, other times a hit with Brett, another bartender. I hadn’t seen him this time.
“I guess I’ll see you around, Danny.” He bowed and agreed cordially. I hugged him again, and turned away. The scene was not as awkward as it read, it was just extremely formal. A business transaction.
“Be sure to grab a couple drinks on me. Adam, you take care of Lexxie.” Danny was pointing in the air towards Adam, who stood by the door looking at his phone.
“Sure thing, Danny.”
Adam, the mustached and mulleted bartender and I walked out of the office, back into the dim sanctuary of the dive bar. I had a couple more drinks at the bar with him. It was the best way to pass rush hour in this city. Madonna was still playing on the jukebox. Musta’ been a die-hard fan in the audience today. He gossiped a bit about Danny, remarked how he was throwing a smasher in honor of Jimmy, a good friend that’d gone missing. He’d been ill, and then one day just was gone. We took a shot to Jimmy. My head began to swirl a bit. Motion swiveled. Another bartender came in. Eric. Eric was a hot, young one. His toned and muscled physique was a fan favorite and a reason why he worked the night shift. He created more loyal patrons in his waist-hi jeans, the band of his jockstrap usually riding over his beltline, making patrons thirstier every time he turned around. Adam and I shared another shot as Eric finished his set-ups. All the barflies were to themselves at the moment, none requiring attention or another round. Adam and I had been laughing and enjoying each other’s company when he asked if I wanted to share a hit with him out back. I obliged, not intent on leaving downtown yet. The traffic was still thick.
“Faery Hill” is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. Short fiction, part two of five.