Closing Time – Episode 18

XVIII

At four o’clock, I hurry back down to the bar to meet with Ashley for her second night of training. Tuesday is Trivia Night, so we tend to get a few extra patrons in from work. Most of them are just waiting for the traffic to clear so they can get home at a decent hour and avoid sitting in the car.

She waits for me at the door. “Just you and me again tonight?”

“John will be here around six to help, too.”

Her eyes light up and I stifle a groan. With my busy morning, I’d completely forgotten about the discussion we had last night. Luckily, she doesn’t say anything, saving me from the need to lecture.

Even when John shows up two hours later, Ashley manages to keep her cool and I’m a little impressed with her maturity.

“Adam’s here,” John whispers to me as I’m cashing one customer out.

I glance up in the mirror to see Adam perched on his usual corner stool. Slamming the register shut, I turn to drop the check to the customer before walking over to him.

“Heya Luce,” he says without his normal enthusiasm. His eyes are bloodshot and dark circles below them indicate his lack of recent sleep.

“You okay, hon?”

“She left me. And she took the kids. Said I needed to figure out what I wanted more—my job or my family.”

“I’m sorry.” It’s not a lie. I am sorry, but I can see her point. That’s why I don’t have a family. I wouldn’t have time for one, and I’d end up in the same position as Adam.

His chuckle is flat. “Not your fault.” We share a moment of silence before he visibly shakes himself. “Anyway, lemme get a Newcastle. Tall.”

“Sure thing.”

“And hey, when does trivia start?”

A quick glance at my watch tells me it’s seven. “In thirty.”

He nods and I slide the beer to him.

The waiting-for-traffic crowd has thinned, but the co-eds are filling the seats. Trivia man, whom I call Jeopardy for obvious reasons, comes in and starts to set up in the corner. He nods to me and I wave.

When it starts up, I get two pads of paper out, a ritual I’ve picked up over the last few months. John is wicked smart, and I keep waiting for the day when I beat him. When Jeopardy calls the questions, we have our own competition, since we’re not eligible for the main one.

“Ashley, will you take the tables for a little bit so John can come back here?”

She nods and goes to collect him.

“You’re never gonna give up, are you?” John asks when he arrives, his dimples showing.

“Not until I can sing some Queen.”

He looks at me, puzzled, and I sigh.

“To sing We Are The Champions?”

“Oh.” He nods, though his expression says I’m nuts. Whatever.

Running down my half of the bar, I make sure none of my customers need anything right before the game starts, and then flip the jukebox off. That’s the signal.

“Welcome to trivia, everyone!” Jeopardy yells into his microphone. He continues on to describe the rules. Four rounds, four questions each. He’ll read the categories before each set, and we decide the point values to assign each answer. “Anyone who wants to play, c’mon up and get some paper, a pencil, and decide on a team name!”

John and I don’t use the same scoring as the rest of the bar. We just tally at the end, and whoever gets the most right answers, gets twenty bucks. I’m tired of losing. I mean, I already give John a paycheck, but thanks to my competitive streak, I’ve also “tipped” him over a hundred and fifty dollars over the last few months.

“Are we ready?”

Pen gripped in my hand, I’m ready for the first question.

“The first round’s categories are…”

“Nervous?” John whispers.

“No. And you just made me miss the categories.” I punch him. It looks like a light tap, but I twist my fist at the last second so the knuckles connect.

“Ow.” He rubs his shoulder in an exaggerated manner and moves out of arms’ reach. “I should have known better than tease you during a war. You’re violent.”

“Yeah, well, you keep this up and your winnings will forfeit for cheating.”

Hands up in mock surrender, he answers, “I’m done teasing. I need the cash for lunch tomorrow.” With a wink, he grabs his pen.

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