It’s raining cats and dogs, and I’m at the bottom of a sea. Actually, I’m in Gove, Kansas, and it used to be the bottom of a sea. Now it looks like a forgotten era, with the pyramids looming in the distance. It would be nice to have a moment to appreciate the sight, but the rain feels like a BB gun, a million BB guns, all aimed at me.
I never knew there were pyramids in Kansas, which leads to the assumption that none of the kids I grew up with knew about them either. The people here probably say things like, “You wanna know how to get to the hardware store? Well, ya gotta go down to the pyramids, you know where I’m talkin’ about, and take a hard right…”
I pulled into the first pub I saw and I took my drenched self inside. I was only at the bar for a second when the barmaid came over to me. She was barely in her forties, wearing jeans, a tight tee, dark blonde. For a fleeting moment I could see her in the back of the bar, semi private spot, bent over with her hands bracing herself against the wall.
“What dark beer do you have?” I asked.
“We got a good Emerald brewed right here in Kansas”
“I’ll take one of those and a burger.”
“How do ya want it?”
I liked the question, “medium-rare”.
She smiled and winked. She had little laugh lines around her eyes that were friendly, inviting. I quickly received my beer and a little eye contact before she moved on to another customer.
The television in front of me was on a baseball game so I looked around for any TV on anything else, but I had no luck. By the time my burger arrived I was on my second beer and had dried off from the drenching rain.
Near me, a billiards game was started by four guys in suits. They weren’t half bad which meant they were half good. They were loud and the center of attention. As I finished my burger, one of them came to the bar to buy a round of drinks. He looked over at me like I was interesting. He made me uncomfortable.
Finally, he asked, “What are ya havin’?
“An Emerald?” I had to turn the bottle around to verify my claim.
Looking away from me he yelled out, “Hey hun, grab the man another and put it on our tab.”
She didn’t look like a ‘hun’ to me. “Thanks,” I said to the strange man.
After I finished my beer, I slid off my barstool and flagged the bartender. She happily bounced in my direction with my tab. I enjoyed the show.
My new friend, seeing that I had gotten up, called over to me, “Hey, we just lost our forth guy would you mind filling in?”
‘Why not,’ I thought and walked over to the table. They bought me another beer and handed me a pool stick. I realized a guy in a red tie was my partner.
“I’m Beau.” I said to him, sticking my hand out.
He shook it, “I’m Donnie.”
“Andre,” said a tall one with a black suit and tie to match.
“And I’m Drew,” said the man that liked to buy me beer. I hoped he didn’t get a wrong idea about me.
Andre set up the table and Donnie broke. Drew went next and soon it was my turn. I made a simple side pocket and then went for a bank shot that I barely missed.
“Do you get to play a lot?” asked Donnie.
“Just once in a while.”
“What do you do,” asked Andre as he lined up the three ball.
“Handy man kind of work. You guys all look like office.”
“Yup,” said Drew. “We are butt kissers in the finest.” with that Drew walked away, heading for the bar.
The other two chuckled. Andre apparently felt the need to explain Drew, “Don’t mind him, shitty job and a new born at home.”
Donnie stepped up to the table, “fun times, fun times”. He focused on the ten ball.
“I remember when my kids were infants. I never got any sleep and worked all day. When I got home, my wife said she needed a break. Now they are two and four and all they do is scream.” Andre said.
“My girl is eight and already rolling her eyes at everything I say. My wife always has some sort of event going on at the school or an organization. I go home to TV dinners and a quiet house. She has no idea where I am. I’d almost take the screaming,” said Donnie as he missed his third shot.
“We have a deal! You can take my household and I’ll take yours!” said Andre.
“I said almost.” Donnie stated with his eyebrows raised. He yelled over toward the bar, “Hey Drew, what’s taking so long?” Looking at me he said, “He’s flirting with that bartender again. So you got any kids at home?”
Drew finally made his way back over to us, handing a shot to Andre and Donnie, then offered one to me, “here ya go, Beau.”
“No thanks, it’s your turn though.”
“You sure?” He seemed to be referring to the shot.
“Yeah, I’m on a bike so I’ll take it easy. Thanks.”
With that Drew stepped up to the table and began to look it over.
Andre spoke up next, “Are you married?”
I nodded my head, “You could say I’m a loner”.
“That’s the life I should have chosen,” said Drew. “Bottoms up!” They chinked their shot glasses together and tossed their heads back. Their mouths stretched to the sting of the tequila. Drew immediately reached for the last lone shot and threw it down his gullet.
“You guys do this often?” I asked.
“As often as we can.” Drew stated.
A few turns later and the game was done. Drew, all too happily, approached the bar to pay his tab. I couldn’t help but notice the lack of bounce and eye contact as the bartender took his payment. I grabbed my helmet and followed the men outside. Andre climbed into a beat up Ford Explorer. Donnie had a nice black M3. And Drew barely pulled himself into a blue Toyota Land Cruiser with a pink baby seat in the back.
I decided that I’d wait a few minutes, just to give them a head start, and then I’d find a motel. As they pulled out of the parking lot, I started my bike. Before I got to pull away, I saw the bartender standing in the door. She raised her eyebrows and I beckoned her to come closer.
“Can you tell me where to find a cheap motel?”
“Yeah, but you don’t need one.”
“Need a ride home?”
“Climb aboard.” I couldn’t help but allow a half smile.
As I lay in her bed that night, enjoying the warmth of her body next to me, I thought of the men I had met and what their wives must endure. I smirked, “and girls think I’m rude”.
© 2009 J. M. Tompkins