Here’s my entry for our little Alex Bean challenge: http://writejuliawrite.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/inaugural-u-pick-with-buts-writing-challenge-alex-bean/
Alex and Nancy
I really wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. I just wanted to get hammered. So I took the stool at the far end of the bar. You know, the part of the bar where there are only two stools, right next to the restroom; the kind of restroom the exudes a urinal cake scented wind every time someone opens the door. Nobody ever wanted to sit at that end of the bar and that was exactly the way I wanted it. So I slid up onto the stool just as a drunk couple came stumbling out of the bathroom, accompanied by the vaguely coconutty aroma of the urinal cake. To me it was the scent of satisfaction, solitude, impending alcoholic bliss. I was really looking forward to falling into that bliss. Like right now.
I draped my jacket over the other stool so nobody else would sit there. I ordered a whiskey and downed it in two gulps. God I loved that sting of the first swallow. It always makes my eyes water a little. I felt like less of a man because of it, and I always made a special effort to not let the pain show on my face. I liked to think it impressed people that I could take a full shot of whiskey and not do that sharp, between the teeth, sucking inhale that guys in movies always do. I always wondered why they did that. Probably to make it seem like they’re manly for putting themselves through such pain. Bah, I say. I’d rather suffer in silence. Ah, now we’re getting to it. Suffering in silence. It’s what I do. It seems to be my reason for being. I’m the silent sufferer. Apparently I’m also a whiner.
I ordered another whiskey and as I was just about to tip it back I felt a hand on my shoulder. Not like just touching it, but actually putting weight on it, like really pushing down. I almost fell off my stool. Half my whiskey sloshed out onto my crotch. I was about to say, “Hey!” or “Excuse me!” or “Sorry.” (Knowing me, “Sorry” was most likely). I turned to watch while the owner of the hand used my shoulder to steady himself as he lumbered up onto the stool next to me. Onto the stool next to me with my jacket on top of it. The stool next to me with my jacket now between the seat and the guys butt.
“Thanks, Nancy” He said as I tried, unsuccessfully to pull my jacket out from under him. At first I wasn’t sure I heard him right, so of course being me I said “Sorry?”
“Thanks, Nancy.” He smiled, all grey teeth, gold caps and gaps. His breath was surprisingly pleasant. Kind of herbal with a hint of vanilla. I found myself uncharacteristically leaning toward him as he settled in. I caught myself just as I was about to close my eyes and savor the scent.
“My name isn’t Nancy” I said, giving my jacket one last half-hearted tug. I was pretty much resigned to dropping it in a dumpster on the way home.
“Nice to meet you, Nancy” the guy said, shaking my shoulder in a friendly manner. Oh, it was then I noticed he still had his hand on my shoulder. I thought about leaning away, but I didn’t. That in itself should have told me that I should have leaned away. Finally he took his hand away and waved to the bartender. My shoulder suddenly felt cold and I felt weirdly disappointed.
He slapped his hand on the bar and said “I’ll have what he’s having, Nancy, and bring him another.” He waved his hand loosely toward my half-spilled whiskey. My guard instantly went up. I didn’t want some strange guy buying me a drink. Wait, free drink? Okay!
“Thanks…” I said.
The guy turned toward me and winked with his closer eye. I saw that most of the eyebrow over it was missing. It looked for all the world like a yellow-grey (the vulgar yellow-grey hair of a once blond godlike human with bronzely tanned skin and luminously white teeth who was now just old and tired) hitler mustache. “Alex” He said. “Alex Bean” His half eyebrow raised up and the skin around it got all stretchy and shiny. I was fixated on that for a second. He extended his left hand for a handshake, which kind of creeped me out, because…well it was just kind of creepy. No, wait it reminded me of one time when I was watching the tonight show and Joe Cocker and Tabitha Soren were guests. Tabitha Soren was on first so she did her interview. Then Joe Cocker was the musical guest. He did his set in his typical screechy fashion, then came up to the dais to sit for his one on one with Jay Leno. You know how they always make the previous guest get out of the seat of honor and move over to the couch of secondary importance? Well, Tabitha got up and you could tell she was somewhat star struck, getting to meet Joe Cocker. So she turned toward him to shake his hand as he was going to sit. You could just see in his eyes, he didn’t want to shake her hand. You could almost see the inner argument happening within that one second. “I don’t want to shake her hand. Who is this skinny kid? But if I don’t shake her hand I’ll look like a jerk. I don’t care if I look like a jerk. I am a jerk. I guess I’ll be magnanimous for the camera” (I’m sure this all only happened in my head for Joe Cocker) And then he reached out his left hand and pinched her right hand (the correct shaking hand) loosely between the fingers and shook it limply with this “eye-rolling, oh-fine-if-I-must” expression. So anyway, that’s why I got the creeps from Alex Bean trying to shake hands with his left hand. It’s all Joe Cocker’s fault.
I resisted shaking his hand on principle for about 30 seconds but he just kept staring at me with that banana-slug colored hitler mustache stretching over his eye. It was like he had no concept of the passage of time. Finally, in hopes that it would get him to stop staring at me, I gripped his left hand (the wrong shaking hand) in mine. Of course I was creeped out a little, because it was upside down! The thumb is supposed to point up when you shake hands! But as I squeezed his hand (why did I actually squeeze it anyway), the creepy feeling went away. It was so warm, and soft, yet firmly strong. Before I knew it, I found myself starting to do the double handshake (Nooo!) Before my left hand could involuntarily come down on top of his, I jerked my right hand away. “Dave. Dave Rabble”. I said.
He just looked at me and laughed. “Alright, then!” He chuckled. “Hey, Nancy. You gonna drink that?” He picked up the fresh whiskey the bartender had just set in front of me. I looked at the one in front of Alex Bean as Alex Bean downed the one that WAS in front of me.
“Dave.” I said. “ I guess not” And I felt another hand on my shoulder. I looked to make sure it wasn’t Alex’s, and it wasn’t. A woman had wedge in between us and used my shoulder and Alex’s to push herself up on to Alex’s lap. She swung her legs up and rested them on top of my thighs while I just kind of…sat there and watched it happen. She wasn’t wearing shoes. Just a pair of those rainbow colored socks with the little toes. Her feet were small and they were in my lap…with bar floor on them…getting bar floor on my lap. They were pretty shapely feet though.
In order to distract my mind from her dirty shapely feet in my lap I looked at her face. I think she was waiting for me to look at her face, because the second I made eye contact, she winked and grinned one of those big open mouthed grins, like a laugh, but with no sound. She looked a lot like Linda Ronstadt did in the 70’s. Very tanned, and Linda Ronstadt-y, but she had a really wide gap between her two front teeth and her jaw was more square than Linda’s. Her dark hair was in an afro with a wide ribbon wrapped around it, making it sort of poofy on top. The big poof was right in Alex’s face.
“Hey babe.” Alex said from somewhere inside the afro-poof.
She turned her head and kissed Alex’s nose. “Hey lover.” she said. “Can I have a quarter for the jukebox?” I watched her hand snake into his jacket and pull out a coin purse. (He had a coin purse?)
She turned back to me and gave me another open mouthed silent grin. “Hi. I’m Nancy.” she said. Then she stuck her finger into my half-spilled whiskey and rubbed it over her lips and squeezed them together like women do when they are smoothing out their lipstick. She hopped down off me and Alex and shuffled off, collecting more bar floor on her toe socks.
“Yep, yep, yep” Alex said. He watched her shuffle away and sighed. Then he reached into his jacket and pulled out probably the last thing I would expect a guy like Alex to pull out of a jacket. He looked more like the brass knuckles or blackjack type. But no, that wasn’t what he took out of his jacket. What was it, you ask? It was a pair of knitting needles with some pretty nice looking knitting going on between them. Being a product of my upbringing, which was pretty much, men do men stuff and women do women stuff, and also being told what women and men stuff was, I expected him to set the knitting on the bar for Nancy. But no. He didn’t. he took a needle in each hand and I think my mind must have checked out for a few seconds, because one second he was just holding the needles, and the next second he had the little baby blue yarn looped around one finger and was sitting there, at a bar, knitting. I could not believe how nimble his fingers were. And these weren’t like giant knitting needles either. They were little things, barely longer than Bic pens. I couldn’t help it. I just sat and stared.
“I know what you’re thinking, Nancy.” he said after a minute.
“Dave” I said. “You do?”
“Yeah you’re wondering where I got all these scars on my hands. I get that all the time.”
My mind said “No you don’t” but my mouth said, “Uh…yeah!”
“Well, see I did some time in Joliet a while back. It’s where I learned to knit.”
“Wait. You learned to knit in prison?”
“Yeah. Surprised? Some of the finest knitting I ever saw came out of Joliet. learned from an old lifer. Name was Rosa, but everyone called him Pappy. He was the only man I ever saw knit with one hand.”
“You mean they let inmates have knitting needles?”
“Nah. They only let us use them in the rec room. We have to check them back in before we go back to our cells. Couple guys tried to sneak them back but they got caught by the metal detectors. But man I was hooked. I needed it day and night. I need some needles of my own That’s where the scars come in. I had to make my own needles in the wood shop. I ripped a couple of splinters of wood off an oil drum pallet and whittled them down with a piece of broken glass I found. The damn glass kept slipping and I kept stabbing and slicing my fingers, but eventually I got that wood smoothed down into some nice needles. Course, by the time I was done, they were completely bloodstained. I kinda liked that though. Anyways, Nancy. that’s where my scars come from.”
Nancy came back to the bar and ordered a soda water. Alex went back to knitting what was starting to look like a tiny blue yarmulke. I looked at my half shot of whiskey and decided not to touch it. I was going to leave, but I needed my jacket which was kind of stuck at the moment. So I just sat and watched Alex knitting his tiny hat and Nancy sipping her soda water and….ohhh!.