I’d been walking around the east side in circles. I felt sluggish and in pain. I had to go somewhere. I had to eat. Like mother says, “a hungry man is an angry man.” I decided I would stop off at Piano’s for their happy hour lunch special. Burger and a salad for five bucks. Can’t beat it.
Where was I? Damn, this is the annoying part of town where the streets and the avenues aren’t numbered. Let’s see… Eldridge, Allen, Orchard, Ludlow. So four more blocks. Gosh, how could four blocks feel like so many? As though someone would have to manually pull me along with a chain. I dragged my bones into the joint. There were only two other customers—a young gentleman, eating a burger and gazing out over his beer, and a young woman rapt with her phone. Occasionally the woman would lift her head away, only to ponder what to type into it next. When she reached for her martini glass her eyes never drifted from the screen.
My burger arrived and I greedily went after it. The young gentleman was now reading a paper. The young woman was reaching into her pocketbook to pay her bill. She was prepping herself as though she had important things to go do. It occurred to me that people were getting younger. Then it occurred to me that maybe I was getting older.
When I finished my meal I went outside and sat on the bench for a smoke before returning to pay my check. A man came out from a bar next-door while I was smoking and said aloud to no one: “Awww, they split.”
He sat down next to me.
“Hey man, what’s going on?”
“Nothing,” I replied.
“How you doin?” he asks.
“I’m fucked up, man.”
“That’s good. Nothing wrong with that.”
He looks around, lets out an “Accgh,” and like a man possessed goes back into the bar he just came out of.
An older looking man walks past me, scratching off a lottery ticket. A young buck comes up the street with a dragon puff of hookah around his entire head, holding a light saber butt in his hand. I don’t understand these vape cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, whatever they’re called. All I know is that they don’t have the added benefit of looking cool. Nothing says tough, rugged, and manly like the scent of synthetic peach. But then again, I don’t wear my hair in a top-knot either.
I returned inside to pay my bill and saw the barkeep slowly and confusingly counting, then recounting a large stack of bills, then shaking his head and starting all over again, unable to keep it all straight. There were some twenties, some ones, at first glance maybe five or six hundred bucks, but perhaps over a thousand. He put his hand on his head and made an expression of genuine frustration. But it wasn’t long before his frustration dissolved, as he was either too tired or too stoned for the feeling to stick. I looked around for cameras and could find none. I didn’t really feel like it but the money basically had a sign on it saying, “Take me.”
I leisurely lifted my legs onto the bar counter, then swiftly propped myself over. Approaching the bartender with my right hand in the air getting his attention, I hit him with a hard left that knocked him backwards and out. I grabbed the bread from his hand, the rest of the stack that was on the counter, and everything that was in the register. I leered in at the woman who was scared stiff. I gulped her drink down. Then I lit a cigarette, took a drag, and put it out in the man’s beer. I hopped over the bar and walked out.
I wonder if the manager would make the barkeep pay the money back himself? I wonder if he even had enough to do so? The manager would be a real prick if he made the barkeep pay it back. But he’d just be covering his own ass from the owner. And it’d be the stupid barkeep that gets screwed. The one who can’t afford it. Oh well. Fuck the lot of ’em.