The place had a good feel to it. Swamp blues smoothed it out, not too loud, not too soft. The bar stretched from the street-side windows all the way to the back wall. There was a long string of tap handles, beers I’d never heard of—Andygator, Ponchartrain Porter, Lion’s Pride, Dixie Jazz—and the shelves were packed with more bottles of booze than I’ve ever seen in one place. They were catching the yellowy-orange lights all around and glowing like ten-thousand dollar gemstones.
I found myself a seat at the bar next to three interesting looking men having a curious conversation. They were in executive gear, had on dress pants, trendy shirts with ties loosed, belts and shoes that matched, except for one of them, whose dark tan belt fought madly with his burgundy shoes. And this mismatched one’s hair, it was disheveled, like he’d run hands full of stress through it. The other two, their hair was slicked back solid, unbreakable.
The bartender hurried over to me, put down a cocktail napkin like time was a-wastin’ until he found out I wanted a Sazerac cocktail. He grinned and slowed down to fix me one in the traditional way, brought it to me. I tipped him well and asked for a menu. Then I sipped my drink, enjoyed the layers of flavor, the burn of the rye, the spice, the honey, the bite of the bitters, the sugar to smooth it out. And I listened to the three men, watched them out of the far right corner of my eye.
One of the slick execs was built like a running back, made big, blank pronouncements about business and about life, while conspicuously drinking his Abita Amber. The other slick exec was cut from the same cloth, just a smaller sized bolt of it. He agreed with the majority of Mr. Big’s statements and when he did venture to disagree, it seemed it was only for the sake of appearing to have a few opinions of his own. Similarly, he’d thought to order a Abita Golden.
The mismatched one was more detached, brooding at times. He listened more than he talked and took careless swigs off a Budweiser. When he did speak, Mr. Big and his sidekick became silent and cocked their heads as if to get better reception, then raucously agreed or disagreed, but either way, would be sent off on a new tangent.
The bartender noticed I’d closed my menu and he rushed over, pad in hand. I ordered the shrimp montage and another Sazerac cocktail. He nodded and winked, took up my menu politely and was gone. I tuned back into the Mr. Big show just in time to hear the mismatched one speaking a rare few of his words so quietly I couldn’t make them out. But I did hear Mr. Big respond, “Where in the world…”
And to this, they all somberly raised shot glasses of golden liquid to their mouths as if bidding a deceased friend farewell. Mr. Big and his sidekick tossed their shots to the backs of their throats and Mr. Big was first to jerk his head back forward. He slammed his empty shot glass down. Thick glass met hard, resin-coated wood with a hurtful crack and he just stared at the empty glass, shaking his head. The sidekick’s glass hit the bar with less force, but if it were possible for a glass to be emptier, his glass would be that.
The mismatched one drank his shot slow and drew the glass from his lips reluctantly. He held the glass before his dark eyes, turning it around and around in his hand. Lights from the outside—green, blue, red—streamed in through the window, through his fingers, and mixed in the facets of the glass with the yellowy-orange from inside, like it was the emptiest glass in the world. He set the shot glass quietly down on the bar and ran his light-filled fingers through his disheveled hair.
Jacques-imo’s Café http://www.jacquesimoscafe.com/imgs/restaurant.jpg
Sazerac Cocktail http://www.flickr.com/photos/sazerac/3286656997/From Chuck T’s Flickr Photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sazerac/
Missalister’s “Comparatives,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#173 – Where in the World?” and Paschal’s “Shrimp Montage” .