“You’re here early.” Maurice greeted him as he walked into the bar.
Rob mustered a half-smile, and said, “Yeah. Work was boring.”
The place was nearly empty this early in the afternoon. He sat down and took a sip of the beer already waiting for him. It was a lie, of course. Work hadn’t been boring. Indeed, he hadn’t had any work in almost a month. Every morning he went out looking for a job. Every afternoon he came here after coming up empty. Today, he had given up earlier than usual. There were only so many times he could hear “no” in one day.
“Hey, Rob,” Maurice interrupted his wallowing. “Will you do me a favor?”
“Sure. Anything for you. What do you need?” It was always a good idea to keep your bartender happy.
“If Jim comes in…”
“Come on. I need someone he’s still on friendly terms with.”
“‘Reese, I’ve told you. I don’t want to get involved in that disaster.”
“It’s driving Denise nuts. I just want you to get him to go away for a little while. Just until everyone calms down some.”
“Why don’t you just tell him to leave? It’s your place. You can kick him out.”
“If I ask him, he’ll think Denise put me up to it. That’ll just lead to more hard feelings. Anyway, it’s just for a little while, a couple of weeks maybe.”
Rob sighed. Jim and Denise. The bar’s favorite couple. Until last week, when a night of drinking and stupidity ended it. Now everyone was taking sides. Rob just wanted a place to drink in peace. To forget about his own shitty life, not to be dragged into someone else’s.
“Fine. I’ll talk to him. But I can’t promise he’ll listen.”
“Thanks, Rob. I appreciate it. Oh… And don’t say anything about this to Denise, okay?”
More customers had come in, and Maurice left to go wait on them. Rob sat alone at the bar. Maybe he should ask for a tab, just until he got something to bring money in. But he didn’t want to have to admit he was unemployed. He tried to release the stress from the day, while attempting to come up with other job opportunities he could pursue. It was a self-defeating strategy. The only thing he managed to accomplish was drinking a few beers.
Some of the staff and other regulars began to arrive. Jim walked in, and Rob sighed. Maybe trying to sort his friend out would take his mind off of his other problems. He had nothing else to do, so he stood, intercepted Jim on his way to the bar, and steered him to a table.