It was gonna be another slow night.
Strolling into the bar, letting the too-loud country twang music and beer scent wash over me, It was hard not to notice one of the assistant managers sitting at one of the short tables by the pool tables, nursing a drink.
It was already another slow night.
With visions of getting the night off to shoot some pool and practice my crash-and-burn with the ladies, I asked the boss, "So, want me to clock on, or just hang out and give the bar my paycheck back?". He responded, "Nope, bar #2 needs a good cleanin', anyways. G'ahead and grab ya the till in the office, let me know what needs restockin', and we'll give it an hour or so and see how we're doin' then, m'kay?"
I clocked in, grabbed the till, and went to bar #2. The club that I worked at actually had three bars, one on each wall not occupied by the live-music stage. The doors opened up at the immediate end of bar#1, bar #2 was across the dance floor, and bar #2 (the slow bar) was tucked away on the shorter wall, behind the DJ booth and amidst all the pool tables. If it was a slow night, the only traffic you got was from the pool players, and it was looking like that night wasn't going to make me much.
About 45 minutes into the night, one of the bouncers came by with some napkins and liquor that I needed to stock the bar. "Hey man, don't worry about the bouncers' cut - hell, we'll probably make more than you tonight, anyways", he said. It was a much appreciated offer 'cause while bouncer made minimum wage plus 10% of the bartenders tips, the bartenders only made something like 2 dollars and change. It was expected that we'd make it up in tips. Looking at the loose change I had found beneath the ice bins and put into the tips jars, I figured as how he definitely would out-earn me for that night.
That's when Odd showed up for the night.
He's named, 'Odd' here, not for any great physical abnormality, but due to the fact that there was something off with the guy that I couldn't quite put my finger on. He had showed up one night, made a round of the bars, and proclaimed my drinks the best he'd had in a long while (they were Jack and Cokes, so figure that one out). He was normally a good tipper, so his service was likewise good. He was kind of quiet - didn't hardly dance, just had a few drinks, shot some pool, and left about 20 minutes before closing, a few times a month. After a couple of nights, he'd become one of my regulars.
Odd wandered into the bar, looked around at the three couples on the dance floor, gave a half-assed salute in my general direction, and glanced into the cashier's window. The cashier's window was where the club collected the cover charge on some nights, and also where we kept the pool balls. As there was no cover for this dismal night, the boss had put a couple of trays at each bar. Knowing what he was looking for, I lifted a tray in one hand, and a bottle of Jack in the other. He nodded his head while maneuvering through the tables, and I proceeded with his drink.
He put his hat on the pool table nearest the end of my bar, grabbed a stick off the wall, and rolled it on the table. I was about done stocking the beer and liquor, and was killing time before getting to rewashing all the glass, so I poured myself a Coke and leaned up against the beer coolers, at the same end of the bar. We started to talk, same conversation we'd had before, about everything and nothing, all wrapped up into one.
As he was trying to decide on while stick was least crooked, I went ahead and racked the balls for him. He asked if we were still not allowed to shoot some pool, or if he could at least buy me a drink. Looking at the boss man starting his second since I'd been there, I grumbled as how we still weren't.
He started to play, and I got to cleaning the glasses.
About half way through the Hurricanes, he sauntered over to the bar, grabbed a stool, and drug it to the counter. Shaking his head at the lonely crumpled up one dollar bill in the tip jar (a sad little attempt to bait for more tips / it was from my wallet), he dug into his jeans and came up with a ten dollar bill. He ordered a beer this time, shrugged, and stuffed the ten into my tip jar. Good man.
That money meant that I got to grab a bite to eat that night, at least without having to bum some cash off my buddies. Good times.
Turning around, I slid back the top of the beer cooler, grabbed a beer from the middle of the stack, and cranked it open with the bottle opener. I slung the opener back into my back pocket, took the cash, and made change. We resumed our conversation.
"So, what do y'all do around here for fun" he asked, looking around the still nearly empty bar - "besides hang out here all night?" He chuckled.
"Hardy har-har", I responded.
"Seriously though, I mean, what you y'all do for fun, the employees that is, after work?"
I started to explain how on occasion we would all congregate at my apartment, as I had kicked out my last roomie on account of not paying his share of rent, and make do just fine.
Taking a pull from his beer, he made a face.
"Shit, man, I'm sorry," I started. "Beer all right? I restocked earlier, if it's a little warm I can get you another if you like". He told me that sounded just fine.
I set the opened beer bottle on the sink, turned around and leaned over to another beer cooler, and slid the cover open. Reaching down for another beer, he suggested, "from the bottom, iff'n you don't mind. I had reached way down, half leaning into the cooler, when, from directly behind me he asked,
"So, what're you doing tonight?"
That's when I figured out what it was that struck me as odd about the man.