Kyle sized up his surroundings and walked towards the bar. There were two older gentlemen, deep in conversation, and sitting at the end. One was drinking black coffee. Kyle watched the steam float up as the bartender placed a cup down in front of a man. A man she obviously new well. It was the reassuring way she touched his swollen and aging hand. The man’s confidant was holding a short class with mostly ice inside. Kyle had seen his father’s associates holding glasses like that one. Typically, while in deep discussion, as well. The bottom of the glass had once held a layer of whiskey, he’d bet. The man looked to have had a few of them.
The heavy woman behind the counter came right down to see Kyle. “What’ll ya have preppy boy?” asked the woman who approached him with a wink. In an instant Kyle knew he liked her.
“I’ll take a Budweiser. Bottle, if you have it, please.”
“I do. I wouldn’t have guessed it by the look of you. I’d have pegged you for an import. Just know that we only have a few of those.”
Kyle readjusted his hat, smiled and explained, “I come from a city built by Budweiser drinkers. The Bud will be just fine.”
“My name is Jan, if you need anything else,” she said as she opened the cooler drawer across from her.
“Nice to meet you, Jan. I’m Kyle.” he offered, while watching her fling the cap of the bottle behind her. There was no way to hide his shocked reaction as it went flying straight into the garbage can in the corner.
Jan threw him a brawny nod, “Whatcha doing so far from home? What’s up with your red hat?” she’d asked as she lit a cigarette.
“Put it out!” said a voice from behind Kyle. He’d decided it was the redhead speaking up. He chose not to turn around, but her comment amused him.
Jan quickly put the cigarette out. She grabbed the bar towel, twisted it around her left hand, and eventually began wiping water rings on the counter.
Kyle began to explain, “Actually, I happen to come from St. Louis which is why I like this hat. Did you know…”
“Don’t you know you can’t wear a baseball hat in football country? Do you like football? I can give you the lowdown on last night’s high school game, if you’d like? We’re very proud of our boys. You’re a pretty big guy. Did you play ball? You look like ya mighta been into the arts. Not many people wearing shoes like that around here. You a photographer?” Jan’s questions came out like a cannon. Each one more boisterous than the last.
Kyle suddenly knew what the redhead had been referring to when she’d mentioned acquisitions. This lady was a trip. He’d be just fine sitting here and listening to her one-woman-show. This would take absolutely no effort. Enjoying it was the sweet little bonus that seemed to slip past her, or didn’t.
Women like Jan, yeah, they seldom understood how easy it was to be around them.
“Jan, I do like football, very much, in fact. I’d love sit here and convince you why baseball is a much better sport, but I should go and see about accepting that young lady’s offer to let me sit on the other side of her booth. Do you mind if I do that, first?”
“You sure you wanna do that, Kyle?” she speculated as she stopped what she was doing and looked him in the eye.
“Yeah, I think I do, actually. She was pretty rough on you a minute ago, but I’ll take my chances. Wait!” Kyle leaned in and in an exaggerated mumble suggested, “First you’d better give me another of whatever it is she’s drinking.”
“Good Man! You’ll need this as much as she will. Trust me. You can thank me later.” she said while leaning in and patting his free hand. Kyle flinched a bit after she’d finished.
That was the second time and the second woman who’d stated that he would be thanking them later. He wondered if it was coincidence. Were women around here just used to trying to pave a clean path for the men who looked like they needed a bit of a head’s up? So it seemed. He took a look around while taking a swift drink from his beer bottle.
The place was nice and needed some updating, but he could see why hanging out at Rider’s had its appeal. There was a pool table with green felt, darts in the corner, but his eyes rested on the shuffle board equipment at the back of the room. Mr. Rider knew his bar toys. Buy that man a beer he thought, while turning his attention back towards Jan and swallowing another drink.
Jan turned around pulled out one of those short glasses and a bottle of Cabo Wabo tequila. He recognized it right away. The redhead’s poison came in a pretty blue bottle. Jan filled the glass with ice and quickly turned over the bottle, stretched the liquid up and down until the glass was full.
She slid the glass over to him, “Good luck, Preppy Boy. You’ll need it.”
Kyle winked at Jan while giving her his best smile without any effort. He let out a great laugh. It felt so good. He really liked her. She was funny. He pulled his cap down, grabbed both drinks, and turned around to take the twenty steps towards the corner booth, slowly.
“I told you she’d ask you a thousand questions, didn’t I,” she smarted off while taking her eyes off the graffiti wall and placing them on his. She flashed a smile.
“Yeah, you did.” Kyle nodded. She had a pleasing smile, but not one he was sure she allowed anyone to trust.
“She’s great, you can take my word. I keep a close eye on her, I’m Andy.” she said while offering her hand and motioning him to sit down.
“Hi, Andy. I’m Kyle. Thanks for the place to sit. Nice walls you have here. Read them often?” Kyle shifted himself into the booth and as he did he placed Andy’s glass in front of her.
“No problem, I’ll take the company. Plus, after that smirk you’ve offered three times over already, I’d say you were looking for trouble. You are a flirt, Kyle. I thought I should cut you off at the pass as soon as you walked through the door. In the end, you’ve left yourself with no real choice, actually. Jan’s a sucker for sneakers. And yes, I do.”
“Three times? Really?” said Kyle pretending to look shocked.
“Yes. The one you tried to hide after you walked through the door and then the one you gave Jan at the bar.” Andy reminded him easily.
“That one was for Jan. How’d you see it? And what about the third?”
“I caught the laugh lines around your eyes, that cap of yours doesn’t hide anything. I don’t know why you wear it.”
“My laugh lines? Aren’t I too young for those,” he wondered at her “and what’s with the stalker like eyesight? Don’t you think that comes off as a little creepy?”
“Look who’s asking me all the questions now.” she winked and looked down at the glass he had put in front of her.
“You’ve got me there…” Kyle admitted.
“At least you can admit it,” she said as she chose her water glass over his offering.
Kyle watched her take a drink, as he lifted the bottle to his lips. The long drink warmed his body, a little more of that and the edge he was quickly losing would be long gone. He couldn’t say at what point his exhaustion had chose to leave him, but he’d noticed. It probably had something to do with the woman looking at him. His leg began quickly bouncing. He flet his hand quickly try to stop her from noticing.
“So what’s up with you being so direct?” he asked as he slid down into the booth, “I mean it’s kinda refreshing, don’t get me wrong, but most folks would find it a bit off-putting, after a while.”
“Don’t you mean, you’d find that a little off-putting after a while?” accused Andy.
Kyle’s shoulders began to shake and a laugh escaped before he was ready. It surprised him so much that he snorted.
“Lady. You’ve met your match.”
Yesterday’s Intro: A Conversion With A Girl can be found here.