[personal profile] rattlecatcher
Part 2: Take this with a Grain

“When it rains, it pours,” Ray’s dad says, coming in out of the wet.

“You want me to make you some coffee, Dad?” Ray says. There’s a Mister Coffee behind the bar, not to sober up drunks because any former cop-turned-bartender will tell you that’s a myth, but because sometimes it rains and people want a cup of coffee before they turn to drinking.

Of course, there’s always a chance that this will backfire, because sometimes some old geezer will smell the coffee and say, “You know what we used to drink back in the seventies? Irish Coffee!”

“Irish Coffee!” the other old farts say, and they all chuckle, man, an Irish Coffee, those were the days, and Ray gets out the brown sugar and whipped cream. Twenty minutes later, there’s half a pot of coffee and a bunch of half cups of Irish Coffee with the whipped cream licked off because Irish Coffee is disgusting and no one wants to say it.

Of course, once you make a pot of coffee, everyone smells coffee and thinks, yeah, a cup of coffee would be great, and people stop drinking beer. But while the beer might be four-five bucks, people get pissed if you ask a dollar for that cup of coffee. “For what?” they all say, “for this? A cup of coffee that you didn’t even put a slug of whiskey in?”

Because he’s now the owner of a bar, Ray knows the cost of every drink and the profit of every drink, and he knows how long things take to make, which you have to take into account. And he also knows the hidden costs: coffee doesn’t cost much to make, but once people smell coffee and stop drinking beer because they pretend they’re more drunk than the last time they had three beers and so they only have two beers and a cup of coffee, they have now cost Ray four dollars, and they’re whining that he wants it to only cost him three.

All because someone had a memory of sideburns and bell bottoms.

“I agree, it’s a lousy saying,” his dad says.

“What is, Dad?” Ray asks. He flicks the coffee pot on because god help him, now he wants a cup.

“Oh, that saying about it never raining without pouring,” his dad says. “Bob here says it’s not true.”

His dad is sitting alone at the other end of the bar, same as always.

“The other day, it drizzled, you remember? And last Thursday, in the morning? Spit rain! You remember that, Ray?”

“I must have been asleep, Dad,” Ray says.

“No, you were doing your books. Bob said it was about eleven thirty and you were adding up your bills and you looked out the window, isn’t that right, Bob? Bob?”

His dad looks around. Apparently, Bob left.

“Well, apparently, Bob left,” his dad says.

Thing was, Ray had been doing the bills last Thursday. He always drops his receipts off at the accountant Thursday afternoons around four. Because the game was going to be on later and he didn’t want to get side tracked, he’d done the bills in the morning.

Before the bar was open.

So how did Bob know that, Ray wonders, and then shuts his eyes and shakes his head.

“Well, next time you see Bob, tell him he was right,” Ray says. “It was a spit rain.”

The next day, it’s raining again, and his dad’s the only one in the bar, except for Bob, judging by the conversation. Ray is starting to wonder if he should tell his mum. He doesn’t want to cut his dad off after three beers, because come on, who gets drunk on three beers? Not his dad!

There is no answer yet on this issue, but there’s work to be done. The early regulars will start dropping by soon, maybe thirty minutes or so, and so Ray’s gotta make sure the well is stocked and the taps are flowing free. Then again, that’s all of about five minutes work, right?

The door is opened with some force, and there, in all the glory you can muster when wearing a nice coat, is the Bookman, pencil-thin moustache and all, with enough attitude it ought to be keeping the rain off him.

“I take it you’re pretending to serve coffee for some reason,” the Bookman says.

“I take it you’re pretending I want you as a customer,” Ray says back.

“I got a place I go for coffee, Stanley. This ain’t it.”

“Gee, and I bought the Joe DiMaggio pot and everything,” Ray says. He reaches under the bar because it’s time to begin getting ready for the early regulars.

“There a reason you wanted to insult Benny?” the Bookman asks, or something like that.

“There a reason I want to do what?” Ray asks, and the Bookman looks at him, not certain if he’s being mocked or not. Oh, you’re always being mocked, Ray thinks.

“Benny,” the Bookman says, clearly enunciating. “You got in his face the other day.”

Ray has no idea what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know anyone named Benny, and of the people he and the Bookman have in common, none of them are named Benny, or Benjamin, or -

Hold on.

“You mean Benton?” Ray asks. “You know a lot of guys names Benton who tell you to call them Benny?”

“So you admit you know who I’m talking about!” the Bookman says like he’s made some great Perry Mason-level of discovery.

“Oh, I remember him,” Ray says. “I’m a little surprised you sent him. Also, why did you send him?”

“I sent him to talk to you about the sign!” the Bookman says, and he’s steamed.

That’s weird, but Ray doesn’t say anything about it.

“All right, if you want me to talk to your boyfriend, Bookman,” Ray says, and as if they rehearsed it, the Bookman doesn’t stand for this and comes out swinging.

“He’s not my boyfriend!” the Bookman yells, then looks at the window, as if he’ll be able to stop people who are passing by from wondering what.

“So who is he?” Ray asks. “Come on, spill.”

Bookman is hot, hot, hot under the collar, but Ray doesn’t back down until the Bookman does, and when the Bookman backs down, it’s accompanied by some heavy breathing.

“He makes me coffee,” the Bookman says.



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