“Hi!” Ashley’s almost bouncing in place.
“Come on in. I’ll show you where you can put your stuff and then we can get set up before anyone shows up.”
“Is it going to be busy?”
Not nearly busy enough. At least if the place was hoppin’, she could direct her energy to serving drinks.
“Probably not. But by the weekend, you’ll be ready for the crowds.”
“Oh, I can’t wait!”
I turn on the radio behind the bar to give us some music before the patrons start arriving. Big City Dreams by Never Shout Never. It’s a nice, mellow song to have in the background while I start training.
She surprises me by picking up on the general workings of the bar and making drinks. I supervise as she serves the few customers who have trickled in, but I don’t need to step in often. A steady increase of patrons doesn’t even phase her, impressing me even more.
That is, until John walks in.
“Hey, gorgeous,” he calls to me, pulling up a stool.
“I gave you the night off. What are you doing here?”
“Thought I’d check out how well the new girl’s doing. Am I out of a job?” He flashes his dimples, which makes a table of female co-eds nearby titter. Even Ashley’s staring, though she’s too far away to hear what we’re talking about.
I roll my eyes. “You’ll never be out of a job here. I need you around to keep me sane.”
“That might be too tall an order for even me to fill.”
Ignoring his teasing, I glance back over at Ashley.
“To be honest, she’s doing a great job. It’s like she was born in a bar or something, though she didn’t have any experience on her resume.”
Of course, at that moment, the sound of breaking glass fills the bar. Why is it, when a server drops plates or glasses in a noisy restaurant—or, in this case, a bar—the sound is louder than anything else? You can always hear it, no matter how far away it is.
Turning toward the destruction, I see Ashley bent over the shards, trying to clean up with her bare hands. I grab the broom and dustpan from the corner in one hand, and a trash can in the other, walking over to her.
“Watch out. I don’t want you to cut yourself.” I start sweeping, but she reaches her hand out for the broom.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispers.
“It’s okay. Happens to the best.” In an effort to reassure her, I smile, but when she finally looks up, I see she’s near tears. “I’ll take care of this. Why don’t you take a quick break. You haven’t come out from behind the bar since you got here.”
She nods and heads to the bathroom.
When I drop the last of the glass into the trash, John calls me over.
Cat’s in the Cradle? I look around and realize he’s not in the bar. It’s seven o’clock. He’s usually here by now.
“I dunno. Maybe he’s home sick. He had a rough weekend.”
“Yeah, he told me his wife might be cheating on him.”
“You don’t look very sympathetic.”
John shrugged. “Well, when you spend every day at a bar after work, rather than going home to the wife and kids, you have to expect something like this. I’m surprised she’s put up with it as long as she has.”
He has a point, but it’s not my place to really say anything. I mean, that’s every bar owner’s dilemma, isn’t it? Your livelihood is operating a place where people come in and continue—or are introduced to—their vices. On the business end, you don’t want to tell them to go away and get help. On the humanity end, well…
One thing I do know, alcoholics don’t like to be told they have a problem. They need to figure it out on their own.
Ashley interrupts my train of thought. “Hi! Can I get you a drink?” Her face is as cheery as her voice.
“Sure.” John nods. “Captain and Coke.”
She bounces off to fill the order.
“Has she been that happy all day?” he asks me.
“Well, except for when she dropped the glass.”
When she returned with his drink, he said, “I’m John. I’m the other bartender here.”
“Oh!” Ashley beamed brighter than the lamp over the pool table, and that is pretty bright. “I’m Ashley. Nice to meet you. The drink’s on me.”
I raise my eyebrows at her, but she’s not paying any attention to me. Her eyes are glued on John, who is enjoying it too much.
“No, I insist.” He reaches back to his pocket, retrieving his wallet. “I know how hard a Monday night is for tips.”
“Okay, then how about a trade? Rather than money, you give me tips on how to handle this place on a busy night.”
Did she just bat her eyelashes?