One drink, another. Stack the spent $2 Hamms into a nice pyramid. The sun hasn’t even set yet. The drinks tonight are on the State of Illinois. See this leather jacket? Bet you’d never guess it belonged to Paul Newman. Ever heard of him? Hey. Want to do some blow? Don’t look at me like that, man, I’m just trying to get laid.
These are literal children coming into this bar, with their translucent pink faces and snot-matted mustaches tucked into scarves and, like, fucking army surplus jackets. They know nothing about the world. He’s been sitting beneath the fuzzy warmth of the heating vent long enough for a sludgy beer sweat to accumulate on his forehead. Grease under his chin.
He gets up and staggers to the bathroom. Someone has written CIRCUMSIZE YOURSELF in Sharpie and it’s so funny he misses the urinal. He wishes he had a pen so he could write something. How many times has he pissed in this urinal and he always forgets to bring a pen. He gets worried sometimes that when he dies he’ll be forgotten.
Back outside it seems the crowd has already turned over. There’s a skinny kid racking balls for a game of pool. He walks over to the kid, slicks back his hair, says, “and his hair was perfect. Yeow!” The kid is confused. “Color of Money? Paul Newman? What?”
He’s got the pool table to himself now. Break like a thunderbolt. Show these kids what’s up. $200 in his pocket could become $500 but everyone’s too chickenshit to mess with The Hustler. They’ve never dealt with a real pool shark. You can’t even smoke in bars anymore in this ridiculous country.
Back on his stool there’s a girl next to him with a tattooed hand drinking a Pabst and he makes his move, telling the story about partying with ? of the Eagles in Malibu. The story used to be one that always got him laid, but now it seems it’s only making this girl angry at him.
“You look tasty,” he says, and she tells him to fuck off. But it’s okay. Barkeep. Whiskey for me, scotch, the good stuff, and one for my friend here. And get her some pretzels.
And like that the money and the bartender’s patience are both gone. Time to go, no credit extended. So he goes. I’ll be back soon, honey. Keep the beer cold and the women wet. He zips his jacket and stumbles off down rows of darkened houses trusting his feet to get him back to someplace that looks like home.
Brian Moll lives and works in Denver.