It had been a long day at work. Customer service is a thankless job, especially in the middle of a global pandemic when half of America has lost their jobs but are required by law to have car insurance. Needless to say, by the time I got to the bar for happy hour that day, I was ready for a stiff drink.
One of my favorite bartenders, Ernie, was there. He knew me by face, name, and drink order. As I removed my face mask, I smiled and waved, and he started preparing my Amaretto Sour. I surveyed the room. At the far end of the bar a man with a dirty face and some construction gear sat drinking a Budweiser and watching the baseball game. In the next section sat a couple, young, eating dinner and drinking some hard seltzer. It didn’t seem like a first date situation, but they didn’t seem super familiar with each other. Last was a gentleman in the station next time mine. He was very obviously three sheets to the wind, and it was only barely five o’ clock.
Ernie came by with my drink, and I took a long gulp. He laughed.
“So should I start making your next drink then?” he asked.
“Yes, please.” I said, also laughing. With one more gulp, I finished the drink clean.
“Coming right up. You want anything to eat?” he asked.
I thought for a moment. “You know what? I will have something. Let me get a big old pretzel with some hot cheese.” I said.
“Sure thing.” he said. He tapped the bar top twice and walked away. He quickly punched in my food order and started working on my second drink.
The inebriated man in the section next to me, we’ll call him Jimmie, began laughing.
“Hooo boy! My oh my girl, you sure do know how to suck ‘em down!” He laughed wildly at his own joke.
I politely laughed back at his crass joke. “Yepp. It’s been a long day.” I pointedly checked my phone. I had met a very interesting woman a few days earlier, and she was planning to meet me here at the bar. I shot her a text message to let her know where I was seated, since we had yet to meet in person. Make it easier for her to find me when she arrived.
As five thirty rolled around, Ernie turned down the television volume, turned up the jukebox sound, and lowered the level of the lights. Happy hour was now in full swing. My second drink was up, and my pretzel was ready. I made sure to drink this one slower, as I didn’t want to be sloshed when my new friend arrived. I took my time eating the pretzel and particularly enjoyed the crunch of the large pieces of salt.
The song over the loudspeakers changed. Shape of You by Ed Sheeran began playing. I am such a sucker for the song - it has a good hook and catchy melody. I began nodding my head along to the music.
Jimmie was attempting to sing along to the song as it played. I say attempting because he was shouting the words, not actually singing - very loudly - and most of them were gibberish since he didn’t actually know them. He definitely knew the main line though, so everytime the song said ‘I’m in love with the shape of you’ he got extra loud and passionate about it. He was also sloppily dancing in his seat. I made a concerted effort to not look at him, because it was evident he was seeking attention from whoever would pay it to him. The next part of the song came around where it repeats ‘Come on, be my baby, come on’ and he REALLY started getting into it. He was standing up out of his seat at that point, beating his hands on the bar completely off rhythm. It finally got to the last part of the song, and with the final line as he shrieked ‘I’m in love with the shape of you’ he leaned over the bar in my direction and pointed directly at me.
I quickly looked away from him and busied myself with my pretzel and my drink. I plucked the cherry out of the top of the glass and ate it. Only one cherry this time. I dropped the stem onto the napkin after I dabbed my lips and fingers.
“Go on girl, get you some of that cherry cherry boom boom!” He began neurotically laughing again. He also started clapping to himself, like he had done some great service to the bar for even speaking.
Ernie came over to check on me. I was finished with my pretzel so he cleared it away from me, and he began to prepare me another drink. He knows when he does and doesn’t need to ask me. I decided to step out on the back patio for a smoke, as I was getting a little frustrated with Jimmie’s overbearing presence next to me.
To my complete surprise, two of my friends were seated at one of the picnic tables. I ran over to them and gave them a hearty hug each. Due to the pandemic, I hadn’t seen them in quite a while. It turned out my friend had also had a very rough day. Seemed like today was the day for happy hour at the local dive. We caught up about what we had been doing for the last few months, how we’d been holding up through everything, and discussed what we were excited about getting back to doing.
I mentioned Jimmie, and the antics he had been getting into inside the bar. I had just finished my smoke, but based on her incredibly concerned look I decided maybe it was worth having one more.
“You haven’t heard about him?” she asked. She bummed a smoke from me, clearly shaken.
“No, I haven’t seen him around here before.” I replied.
“I’m surprised.” she said. “He’s pretty well known around here. Almost every girl who comes here knows him, and ninety five percent of them hate him because he’s such a player.”
Now let me make it clear - Jimmie is not an attractive man, by any means. In my personal opinion, he’s actually very UNattractive. “I can’t believe he pulls in girls!” I said, expressing my astonishment.
“Well, I don’t know what he does for work, but he’s loaded that’s for sure. So he’ll buy girls as much to drink as they want, and by the time he asks them to come home with him, they’re so drunk that they don’t even really realize what they’re agreeing to.” she said.
I was gobsmacked. “Wow, that’s fucked up.” I said.
“Yeah, it’s super fucked up, right?” She took a hard draw from her smoke. “What’s even more fucked up is that a good handful of the girls who leave with him? No one sees them again.” She was getting into her story. I was more than invested. She stamped out her cigarette in the tray on the table.
I was confused. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“A ton of the girls who he hooks up with are regulars here. And a lot of them, once they leave with him, they never come back again. A bunch of people think they’re too embarrassed to show their face again given his reputation, but I don’t think so.” she said, finishing off her drink.
“What DO you think then?” I asked.
“Well I’m not totally sure.” she admitted. “He might just have them held up in his house, kidnapped and whatnot. But honestly? I think he kills them. Two of the girls, I went to high school with them. And after they went missing - both girls - their families started reaching out to see if anyone had heard from them. I just followed up with one of them a few days ago. Still hasn’t heard from her, and it’s been two months now.” she grabbed her empty glass and we both went inside together.
For old times sake, we took a shot together. Pineapple Upside Down Cake. A classic, for sure. It helped me relax a bit, what with the information I had just learned. She grabbed her newly filled glass and headed back outside to our other friend. As she was walking away she gave me that ‘I’m watching out” signal, pointing to her eyes, at me, and back to her eyes.
I checked my phone, and my new friend had sent me a text message, letting me know they would arrive in about ten minutes. I was getting antsy.
Jimmie hollered aloud to the bar, “Who wants a shot? I know I do, and I ain’t drinking no shots alone now.” There was a very long, drawn out pause. The construction worker completely ignored him and continued watching the baseball game. The couple looked back and forth at each other, and neither one said anything.
“Well if y'all ain’t saying no then I’m going to take it as a yes!” Jimmie said, laughing and clapping once more.
Another gentleman had entered the bar while I was outside, and he nodded, agreeing to the shot. Jimmie looked at me. “And how about you, sugar?” he said with a smile that resembled a snarl.
“No thanks,” I said, “And sugar isn’t really my thing.”
“Well alright then…” he snickered. “Sugar!”
Ernie poured the shots for those who had agreed, and even took one himself. He clearly needed it. I felt bad for Ernie, he dealt with such assholes, all the time.
I decided I should use the bathroom before my new friend arrived. The bathroom at this bar was more like a dungeon. It was located in the basement of the building, and the flight of stairs needed to get to it was one of the steepest I’d ever seen. The ceilings were low, and it was always cold, even on the hottest days of the summer.
I was halfway down the steps when I realized Jimmie was following down behind me. I felt the sheer panic rising inside of me, and needed to think fast. Way fast.
When I got to the bottom of the steps, I turned on my heel. Jimmie was right behind me, so close that our noses were almost touching.
I ran my finger down his arm, and slapped a sultry smile on my face. “Look, I can tell you are attracted to me. Your flirting was super obvious. It’s not that I’m not attracted to you, but I have a pretty serious persona around here. I don’t want to get messed up in all the drama around you.”
He smiled, not expecting me to have reacted that way. “That’s alright sugar, we can play your way.” He put his arm around my waist.
I took his hand, and began pulling him into the women’s restroom. “I’m a pretty dirty girl, Jimmie. Are you down to get nasty?”
I could see the erection growing in his pants. “Oh yeah, sugar, whatever you want.”
“Good.” I said. I pushed him into the singular stall of the bathroom. I roughly unbuckled his pants and pulled them down. He wasn’t wearing any underwear. I put my hands on his shoulders and pushed him down onto the ground, so he was sitting on the grimy bathroom floor in front of the toilet.
“Damn, sugar, you sure are nasty.” he said, reaching for me. “I like it.” He was licking his lips.
I swatted his hands away. “Lean your head back. I want you to have a full view while I climb on top of you.” I said, pushing his head back. He let me.
His head was now resting on the toilet bowl; the seat of the toilet was lifted. I leaned forward, placing my hands on his shoulders once more. I looked him dead in the eyes.
“Hey Jimmie?” I prompted.
“Yeah, sugar?” he responded in earnest.
“I told you sugar isn’t my thing.” I grasped the heavy porcelain toilet seat and slammed it repeatedly over his head. He jerked a few times, and I heard his skull crunch with each hit, just like the large chunks of salt from my pretzel. A little bit of blood sprayed onto the wall next to him. He stopped moving.
I washed my hands, and exited the bathroom back to the bar. Ernie handed me another drink, two cherries this time. Just as I was pulling the straw away from my lips, my new friend appeared next to me.
“Hello!” I said, and giggled. Perfect timing.
“Hello!” she said back. She reached out her hand, and wiped something off my face. “Looks like you got a little cherry juice on your cheek.”
“Yeah,” I said, laughing, “Cherry juice.” Her hands felt wonderful.