I love dive bars.
By “dive bar” I don’t mean a college bar, with cheesy shot specials and Golden Anniversary on tap. Dive bars are neighborhood joints. Cut-price watering holes where drinks are ordered two at a time, with a Trainspotting toilet and puke on the floor.
I used to frequent a smash-mouth Irish dive bar. The place was too dark to see, with no sign and no indication of its presence except for people smoking by the door and the PBR neon in the window.
As with all good things, that bar came to an end.
When the doors were shut I stopped drinking in public. Hack and I made a few attempts, bouncing from bar to bar, but nothing was the same. Every other place we went was too clean and too crowded. After a few months I was stir crazy.
One Friday I got a call from Roland, asking if I wanted to drink beer and throw darts. He drove. We ended up at a place he frequented uptown. I had been there a few times, but it wasn’t really down to my standards. This night, however, was different.
We walked in the door and the bartender was dancing on the bar. She was wearing a short skirt, half falling out of her shirt, and grinding on one of the female regulars.
I went digging in my pocket for singles.
We parked our asses at the end of the bar, near the dart board. The impromptu floor show ended, and two free shots came our way. Roland’s missus arrived, along with Deer Jack and Metro.
Roland and I were locked in a conversation about firearms – the pros and cons of German handguns – when I received an inadvertent hip check. The girls were dancing behind us.
Three white-boy thug muffins came walking in through the Fire Exit and shuffled up to the other end of the bar. They were drunk, borderline servable. I sneered and went back to my drink. I noticed Roland looking over my shoulder. He shook his head at something and I was bumped again, this time more vigorously.
“You have no idea what’s going on behind you,” he said.
Assuming he meant that the girls were dirty dancing, I didn’t bother to look. Roland came out of his seat, reaching over my shoulder to shove one of the thug boys. He was dancing with Roland’s missus, rubbing his junk on her backside. Roland took exception to this.
Apparently Roland’s head-shaking had been an early warning. Fat Boy hadn’t taken the hint. Roland pushed forward, jabbing his finger at the kid’s chest. Before I understood the context of the misdemeanor I turned around, ready to break up the argument.
“Back off and forget about it,” I said.
“Fuck that,” came Fat Boy’s reply. “Wanna go outside!?”
I knew that my drinking was now on hold.
There is something to be said for walking away from a fight. I’ve done it before, although I can’t remember when. However, there are certain times when one must stand their ground. Someone putting their hands on your girl repeatedly is one of those times. Situational awareness told me someone needed an ass-beating.
I let Roland go.
“Let’s go outside,” he said, calling their bluff.
By this time Deer Jack and Metro heard the comotion and took up position on either side of Roland and me. Obviously outmatched, the short, skinny whigger stepped in front of Fat Boy and put his hands up.
“Come on, man. Let’s just be peaceful . . . “
“How about you three and me, then?” Roland said, pressing them.
“I jus’ wanna drink,” said the skinny goon in a thug-life accent.
He hiked up his sagging pants and pushed Fat Boy back down the bar.
Roland was stewing, returning slowly to his drink. It was only our third round, and my beer was still full. I pushed it across the bar and fished my keys and my phone from my pockets, tucking them into my hat. I moved my knife to my back pocket, within easy reach. Roland shrugged at something, overtly, and stood back up from his stool.
“I think they want to fight,” said one of the goons. They stood up and backed out of the bar slowly, through the rear entrance.
The last thing I wanted to do was follow three guys into a dark alley, where they could hit me coming out a door. I looked over at Roland, and then to the front door, intending to cut them off at the sidewalk.
No one else was moving.
Roland sat back down and ordered another beer. The bartender looked visibly relieved. The only other patrons in the bar were sitting by the front door, and seemed completely indifferent.
If those three had wanted to fight, they would’ve thrown punches in the bar. The more I thought about their stupid posturing, the angrier I got. I took a sip of my now-warm beer when I heard Roland’s missus:
Jack had been running the dart board. The empty Bud bottle he was spitting dip in sat on the heater nearby, unattended.
“Son of a bitch!” said Roland, and bolted for the door. I beat him to it, shoving people out of my way as I went.
The Thug-Muffin Three were standing in the street in front of the bar, hollering obscenities at Deer Jack. He answered back, with rural indifference, about how they might fuck themselves.
As Roland and I came out of the bar one of the goons picked up a stick. He dropped it almost immediately. A police cruiser moved slowly up the street. I could hear the muffled sound of the dispatch radio as it passed, lingering briefly at the corner before it vanished from sight.
“Get back inside before that cop comes back around the block!” said Roland’s missus.
She smacked Deer Jack. He went back inside, followed by everyone but me. A hail of insults came from across the street.
I was furious . . .
I wasn’t angry because of what the goons were shouting. I was angry because I wanted to stomp them for sport. Everyone else had gone inside and now they were walking away!
I was looking down the street for cops when I heard one of the goons shout:
“I don’t need another fuckin’ felony, but I’ll take one for beatin’ up a faggot!”
I seriously doubted any of those soft-belly whiggers had every been locked up for anything hard. The play only made me madder, and I started to walk out between two cars. My right hand was in my back pocket, unfolding my Recon. I shouted back.
“I bet you were a fucking punk! You must be a fucking punk! You still have all your teeth! You must love to suck cock! Come back here and suck my cock, you fucking faggot!”
I was calling their bluff. I figured it was my best chance to goad them into a fight . . . but I was hedging my bets. I wasn’t about to follow them out onto the main drag, away from the bar, alone.
“Leave the children alone, they don’t need any encouragement!” came a shout from behind me; the bartender’s voice.
She walked down the front steps and took me by the arm like a child. She cooed at me and lead me back inside. I felt like a jackass. I stuffed my knife discretely back into my pocket. I wanted things to get out of hand sooner. I wanted to rumble in the bar . . . but I knew better.
Never, under any circumstances, fight in front of women. When the blue-and-reds start flashing they will throw you under the bus every time . . . purely by accident.
Well, he said this . . . then they said THIS . . . and . . . but then you punched him, right? No, wait, you didn’t punch him . . . I mean . . . it’s legal as long as the other guy pushed him first, isn’t it, officer?
I walked back down to the end of the bar, away from everyone, and ordered a double. My adrenalin was on, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. She brought me my drink and waved away my money.
“You’re a firecracker . . . I didn’t know you were like that at all!” she said quietly.
“‘No cure for fools’,” I muttered, and downed my drink.
She didn’t get the reference.