The phone rang.
“Hello. This is Maurice.”
“Did you call the plumber?”
“Hi, dear. Nice to hear from you.”
“Ha, ha. Did you?”
“No, not yet.”
“You have to call him. I can’t live like this.”
“We have another bathroom.”
“I need mine. Call him!”
The line went dead, and Maurice hung up the receiver. Another day, another complaint. His wife was going to leave him, that much was obvious. He wondered if she even knew it yet. She hadn’t said a kind word to him in months, and lately he had given up trying to make her happy. Now they just shared a house. The only question was how much longer that would last.
He looked up and saw Denise and Amanda talking. It did not look like it was going well, so he hurried over to break it up.
“Ladies! Enough. Denise, come with me. Amanda, cool it.” He walked away with Denise following him.
“‘Reese, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have reacted to her baiting me.”
“Do you want me to kick her out?”
“No! I mean, sure I’m upset with her, but let her stay. I just need to keep my distance.”
“What about him? No good reason to let him keep coming in.”
He could tell she was chewing the inside of her lip as she thought about it.
“Just say the word, and I’ll toss the guy.”
She shook her head. “No. It’s fine. Thanks, ‘Reese. I appreciate you looking out for me, but it’s okay.”
“Alright. If you change your mind…”
“Thanks.” She left to go back to her tables.
Maybe it was this place that drove his wife away. One of the reasons Maurice loved owning a bar was the people he got to know, the way the regulars start to feel like family. But she never liked it. Never wanted to get to know these people or even hear him talk about them. He thought she’d get along with Pete and Denise and Rob. But she didn’t even try.
In the end, he had chosen to run a bar, and she didn’t like it. That wedge created a gap between them that now felt too wide to bridge. She didn’t try, and now he didn’t either.
The thought wasn’t a new one. But each time he considered it, he didn’t know what to do with it. She wouldn’t be happy unless he quit, and he wouldn’t be happy if he did. And now, he wasn’t sure that it would even be enough to change things. Hell, she had probably already found someone else.
Maybe that’s why wanted to kick Jim out. Misplaced anger at his wife. But Denise stopped him every time he tried. He hoped Rob would finally talk him into leaving.
“Hey, barkeep. Can I get a beer?”
There was a man sitting at the bar in front of him that hadn’t been there before. He looked disheveled, but also familiar. He had come in a few times, but not enough for Maurice to get to know his name.
“Oh sure. Sorry. Lost in thought for a moment. Pale ale, right?” He placed a mug on the bar.
The man picked it up. “Correct. You have a good memory.”
“For drinks. Not so much for names.”
“Heh. Mike. Also, could I borrow the phone?”
“Yeah.” He handed Mike the phone. “Not too many people need this these days.”
“I bet. Mine was stolen.” Mike dialed, three quick presses. “Yes. I need to report a robbery.”