Part one can be read here.
He sat on the stool for a time, sipping at his beer, otherwise quiet. Trish stayed at her end of the bar, lost in her crossword. She checked how much beer remained of his pint every few minutes, but he seemed low maintenance as customers go. The jukebox was on, but turned low, so the bar was actually pretty quiet. Trish heard the man place his beer back on the bar, a creak from the stool, and the sound of Jeremy’s boots on the wooden floorboards. He walked towards her.
“Hey, uh, where’s yer bathroom?”
He avoided eye contact, scanning the back of the place.
“It’s back to the left,” she hiked a thumb over her shoulder without looking up, “under the tee-vee.”
As he trudged towards the bathroom, Trish’s gaze followed him there. He walked with a slight limp, and his upper arms were pinned to his torso, as if trying to hold it in place. He seemed to be in a great deal of pain. The man’s limp reinforced her opinion that he was injured in some way. A strange, sorry looking man.
Trish was pretty familiar with the type: the down-and-out. Bartenders counted on them for business, in fact. It didn’t matter what the individual looked like; the faces were all familiar, all the same. Some had lost jobs, or lovers, or families. Some, all three. Others had made bad investments, chasing wealth, only to lose years of hard work in an instant. Whatever the pretext, these boozers had lost it all, or most of it anyway, and the subset who frequented Murphy’s Pub painted a pretty depressing picture of the group as a whole. The guys—and a few gals—who stumbled in and out of this place had managed to drink away anyone and everyone who at one point had cared for them. They had replaced their social network with alcohol.
And alcohol was a shitty friend.
Trish felt a twinge of guilt about this, but she had to make a living, too. As the keeper of the booze, and conversation, Trish had become a friend by extension to many of these sad souls. And she knew when to cut them off. All the rest of it was a result of adults making their own decisions.
She was firmer on this point some nights than others.
She grappled with the notion of enabling, from time to time. Compounding their tales of woe. But the saps didn’t view that way, as more than one had told her… especially after getting cut off. No, from the other side of the bar, she was a combination of hero, priest, and comedian. With a splash of advice columnist, and a garnish of flirt.
For Trish, the job was the job.
Who was she to judge?
Plus, as mentioned, she knew when to stop the tap.
These feelings flashed through her mind as she watched the newest of the poor saps who sought comfort in her wares, limping towards the bathroom.
Then she went back to her crossword.