A MAN WALKS INTO A BAR
by Salvatore Buttaci
A man walks into a bar. But it isn’t a bar. It’s a grill. For that matter it isn’t a man either.
“My name’s Greer,” he says. “Make it a tall one.”
I lean over the beer-stained mahogany and stare into Greer’s sky-blue ball bearings. “And a tall one is exactly what?” I’m the bar guy, but on some nights here at the Poco City Grill, I’m on the other side: bouncing rowdies out on their cans. I’m big. Muscular. Imposing. Greer doesn’t even flinch.
“A tall whatever you got,” he says. I can hear the squeak of his elbow socket as he lets a silver hand drop on the counter. “Cold one on a hot day.”
What I wanna know is, who turned the world upside down? And why? Things, they weren’t bad enough with these pseudo sapiens in factories and good strong men and women falling by the unemployment wayside because these expensive shiny chrome lit-heads eventually saved the Big Boys Big Bucks?
Now Greer’s tapping iron fingers for my attention.
I give him my back. Now he taps a few decibels up the ladder. “Hey, easy,” I tell him. “You want an eviction notice? You ain’t welcome here. The Poco City is for flesh-and-bone patrons. The kind that like filling their bellies with liquid jolts now and then. Not oil in their tanks!”
I can feel the red passing my neck and heading up my face. Lucky for me the Poco’s almost empty. It’s me and Greer and three old timers who practically live here. Two are napping their heads on tables. The other sits there in a one-way conversation with her bottle. Jack Daniels.
Greer refuses to take a no.
“I’d like to serve you, Mr. Greer,” I say in mock patronage, “but we have these rules. ‘No robots served here.’ It’s my job, know what I mean? I slip you a tall one and forget it!
All the while I’m spieling, he’s got me locked in a stare. One of his hands reaches inside his pseudo-man gray suit pocket and takes out a wallet. He one-handedly flips it open to a wad of americo bills that he fan-flashes on the counter. A stack. The faces of long-dead Presidents on them, like Regan and the three Clintons. My eyes are eating them up.
“You can open a new place,” says Greer. “More democratic than this loco Poco you’re wasting time in.”
When I don’t respond, Greer digs into another pocket. This time the pile of americos, much taller than the first, has me thinking hard: Do I play by the rules or chuck the rules and go for me?
“Who’s the new guy?” one of the drunks, up from a nap, says from his table. “Ain’t seen him here before. A cop?” Then before I can answer, he lets his head drop into his arms and falls asleep again.
“Maybe that’s the next step,” I tell him. “Oklahoma run by metal detectors!” I laugh and notice Greer laughing with me. “Metal cops in their metal cars. Shooting metal guns! Who the hell knows! Maybe my grandkids will live long enough to see most of this damn society with nothing but tin men and tin brawds. The human race cleaning up after them, if they know what’s good for them, right?”
“Take the americos. They’re for you, Mr.––”
“Wells. Call me Stony. Everybody else does.”
“Take them,” Greer says. So I shove them deep into my pockets so not one finds its way to the Poco City floor. All but three bills.
“What’ll it be? Put a name to the tall one.”
Greer twists his hard-rubber lips into a pensive look and says, “My dream’s been Irish beer. Don’t ask me why. Maybe I feel lucky today.”
Lifting one of the americos, I add it to the register, then pour Greer a tall one. Like he’s been asking. I even pour myself one. He bends a metallic arm so we can click glasses like the good old boys do on Friday nights.
“To your health, Stony.”
“To yours, Mr. Greer,” and we down those cold ones till Geer says, “Friends call me Mac Nine, for Machine #9. “Let’s have another,” he says, and I’m pouring again. Smiling. Shaking my head like a man does when he can’t believe something was that easy after all.
“You sure he ain’t a cop?”
We both turn to the on-and-off napping drunk and laugh.
Salvatore Buttaci’s poems, stories, articles, and letters have appeared widely in publications that include New York Times, U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Cats Magazine, and Christian Science Monitor. He was the recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. Retired from teaching, Salvatore Buttaci lives with his wife Sharon in Princeton, West Virginia. Contact Salvatore.