Denizens: Maurice

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.”

Denizens: Tyler

“You’re making a fool of yourself.”

Tyler waved his hand, dismissing John’s disapproval.  “You’re just jealous.”


“You’re jealous that she’s into me and not you.”

John scoffed.  “Yeah.  That’s it.”

Tyler looked over at their waitress.  “How do you not see it?  The way she flirts with me?”

“Dude.  She’s trying to get better tips.  She flirts with everybody.”

“You think I can’t tell the difference?  I’m telling you, she likes me.”

“Okay, man.  If you say so.”

The waitress came back over to their table.  “Another round?”

Tyler smiled at her, determined to prove his friend wrong.  “Sure… uh…  I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name before.”

She smiled.  “Denise.”

“Hi, Denise.  I’m Tyler.  This is my friend, John.”

She turned.  “Hi, John.”

John gave her a quick wave.

“So.  Same as before?  Or did you want something different?”

“Same.  Thank you.”

She smiled again and walked back to the bar.

“See?  I told you.”

John looked incredulous.  “Told me what?  She took our order.”

“Wow.  You must be blind.”

“And you must be crazy.”

“You just aren’t a romantic like I am.”

“That’s what it is.”

Denise returned with their drinks.  “Here you are.  Can I get you anything else right now?”

“If you have a break, you could join us?”  He ignored John rolling his eyes.

Denise gave him that smile he was already in love with.  “I wish I could.  I just came on a little bit ago, and my boss is pretty strict about giving us our breaks.  Maybe some other time.”

He used his own smile to cover his disappointment.  “No problem.  Don’t want you to get in trouble with your boss.”

“Thanks for the offer, though.”

“Sure.  Anytime.”

After she left, John leaned forward.  “Can we go now?”


“Well, you struck out.  We can leave, right?”

“I didn’t strike out.  You heard her.  Her boss is a hard ass.”


“Seriously.  I don’t know why I hang out with you.”

“Because I’m the only one who puts up with your shit.”

“Thanks a lot.”

John grinned.  “I’m just kidding.  But can we go?  I do need to get up tomorrow.”

“Okay.  Let me settle up.”


Tyler took out one of his business cards and wrote his cell number on the back.  As they headed to the door, he handed the card along with a fifty dollar bill to Denise.  “Call me sometime, okay?”

“Sure.  Thanks.  Have a good night.”

“You, too.”

Outside, John let out a little laugh.  “I hope she calls you.”

“She will.  You’ll see.”

John slapped him on the back.  “I really hope she does.”

Denizens: Rob

“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…”

“Oh no.”

“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?”

“Yeah, sure.”

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.

Denizens: Amanda

Amanda sat at the bar, nursing her whiskey sour.  There was too much sour and not enough whiskey.  A perfect allegory for this place.  It just wasn’t the same anymore.

She watched as Jim walked through the door.  Rob went over to him, and they sat down at a table.  The urge to go sit down with them was strong, but she fought it.  Denise was across the room with another customer.  The awkwardness was heavy in the air.

One of the bartenders, Pete, walked over to her.  “You need another one, Amanda?”

“No,” she answered without really thinking about it.

“Okay.  Just holler if you need anything.”

“Wait.  I will take another.  But a little more Jack Daniels this time, huh?”

Pete smiled and nodded.  The drink was better this time.  As she took a few sips, the awkwardness in the room subsided a bit.  She made up her mind; things had to get back to normal around here.  Sitting by herself was not normal.  Mingling.  That was normal.

Not thinking about what she might say, she walked over to Jim and Rob.  Just like old times, she kept repeating to herself.  Just like old times.  She couldn’t help but notice the stare Jim was giving Denise, and she pushed down a twinge of jealousy.

Before she could lose her nerve, she walked right up behind Jim and put her hands on his shoulders, then said the first thing that came to mind.

“Is he still pining?”  She regretted the words as she said them, but tried to play it off as a joke.

Rob didn’t answer, but Jim shook her off.  “Cut it out.”  The irritation in his voice was palpable.  “I am not pining.  We were just talking about checking out some other bars.”

Leaving?  Was it really that bad?  She could almost understand Jim wanting to be elsewhere, even though she hated the idea, but would Rob really leave, too?  Why?  From his expression, she couldn’t tell what Rob was thinking.

“Okay.  You’re not pining.”  She looked at Jim and tried to act nonchalant.  “So where are we going?”

“We’re not going anywhere, Amanda.  But you can leave.”

The words went right through her heart.  She tried to remember that he was hurting.  And that it was her fault.  But she hadn’t been prepared for his anger.  She stood up before she started crying.  “Fine.  I get it.”

Back at the bar, a fresh drink was waiting for her.  Pete had been organizing some glassware that was already perfectly organized.  He stopped as she returned.

“So.  How you doing?”

“Great.  Just great.”  She used a bar napkin to wipe her eyes.

“I’m guessing things are a bit awkward still?”

“Yep.  But whatever.  Can’t let one little thing ruin your day, you know?”

“True.  Do you want some friendly advice?”

“Not really, no.”

“Fair enough.”

Amanda downed her drink in one long gulp and pushed the glass back toward Pete.

She’d like to believe it was the alcohol.  Or maybe that together with the way Jim had treated her.  Whatever the reason, Amanda leaned toward Denise, who had come up with an order, and said, “Your boyfriend is an ass.”

Denise turned a withering scowl on her.  “He’s not my boyfriend.  You’re so fascinated with him, you can have him.  Oh, wait…”

“Ladies!”  Maurice, the owner, had walked over.  “Denise, please come with me.  Amanda, I told you not to make things worse.”  He led Denise to the other end of the bar, leaving Pete and Amanda alone.

“Well, that was great.  You think he’s going to kick me out?”

Pete looked over at his boss.  “Well, he hasn’t yet.  Still, you should probably keep it low key for awhile.”

Amanda nodded.  Rob walked up to the bar to order a drink, and she looked over at the table.  Jim was nowhere to be seen.  Great.  She wished that she’d stayed home tonight.

Denizens: Jim

“Look at her flirting.  She’s rubbing my face in it.”

Rob looked across the barroom at Jim’s ex, Denise.  She was talking to a customer at another table.  He turned back to Jim.  “How do you know she’s flirting?”

“I can tell.  That little smile on her face.  She’s trying to make me jealous.”

“I’d say it’s working.”

“Yeah.”  Jim took a drink of his beer.  It tasted awful.  He drank it anyway.

“Why do you still come here if seeing her makes you so miserable?”

“Why should I have to quit coming around?  I have friends here.  You, for example.  Why can’t she go somewhere else?”

Rob chuckled.  “Well, she does work here.”

Jim gave him a very unamused look.

“I’m sorry.  It’s not funny.  But she does.  Why torture yourself like this?  There are other bars you could go to.  Heck, I’ll even meet you somewhere else for a beer.  Just tell me when and where.”

“You’d actually go to another bar?”

“Ha, ha.  I don’t live here, you know.”

Another regular, Amanda, walked up to their table and put her hands on Jim’s shoulders as she looked at Rob.  “Is he still pining?”

Annoyed, Jim shook her off.  “I am not pining.  We were just talking about checking out other places.”

Amanda pulled out an empty chair and sat down, her eyes still fixed on Rob, who merely shrugged in response.

“Okay.  So you’re not pining,” she said, turning to Jim, “but you want to go somewhere else.  Where should we go?”

Her intrusion irritated Jim.  Amanda was always pushing herself into his business.  With Denise leaving him, it had gotten worse.  He wished she would just leave him alone.

“Right now, we’re not going anywhere.  We’re just talking.  Privately.”

Amanda looked hurt, but he knew it was just an act.  “Okay.  I can take a hint.”  She stood up and walked back to the bar.

“That was a little mean, Jim.”

“Ugh.  I don’t care.  She was getting on my nerves.”

“One more reason to try out somewhere new.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

Jim looked around for Denise.  She was at the bar talking to Maurice.  He was the owner of the bar as well as a bartender.  He was sort of a father figure to Denise and took her side, but he was a good guy.  He wasn’t going to stop Jim from coming in.  As long as he didn’t make a scene.

Jim took another swallow and drained his glass.  Their waitress, Wendy, came over.  “You guys doing okay?”

Rob pointed to their empty mugs.  “Looks like we need another round.  Thanks.”

Wendy nodded and began to turn away when Jim stopped her.

“Not for me.  I think I’m going to call it an early night.  What do I owe you?”

Before she could start going through her tabs, Rob spoke up.

“I got these, Jim.  You go on.  You can get me back next time.”

“I’ll go broke.  But thanks.”

Rob smiled at the jab.  “No problem.  Have a good night.”

“You too.”

Jim headed for the door, nearly bumping into someone coming in at the same time.  As he got outside, he felt a mix of relief and loneliness.  He didn’t want to see her anymore, but he didn’t want to lose touch with her either.  And being alone right now wasn’t very appealing.  But it was better than getting kicked out for doing something stupid.