Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Life of the Party

It was one-thirty in the afternoon.  A customer had Mark tied up so that he couldn’t get away for lunch earlier.  It had been a hard-fought but profitable week.  It was time to get away for a little while.

Mark hesitated just inside the door as his eyes adjusted to the light.  Behind the u-shaped bar Jeff drew beer into a tall frosted mug.  Mark recognized one of the two guys shooting pool.  The man looked up and they exchanged greetings.  Lisa smiled and greeted Mark as he settled onto a stool.  Jeff set the mug of beer on the bar alongside of another and Lisa moved them to her tray.  She headed toward the two guys at the pool table.  The jiggling round forms only marginally contained within butt-hugger shorts didn’t escape Mark’s gaze as she hurried toward the pool table.

“What can I get for you, Mark?”

“Make it a double on the rocks.”  Mark didn’t need to call his brand of whiskey.  It never changed and all of the bartenders knew him.

The woman half of a sixty-ish couple at a side table called out to Mark.  “Are you glad that the elections are over, Mark?”

“You know it, Iris!  I was sick of that crap.  My name is Mark and I approved this gripe.”

The three laughed as Jeff set Mark’s drink on the bar and took his twenty.  Mark put the whiskey to lips and pulled a full swallow from the glass.  He could stretch a drink out for awhile but he never liked sipping, especially with ice.  Mark preferred his whiskey straight up. 

The ice was about appearance though.  He didn’t want to look like a drunk.  He would consume this drink a little faster than usual because of the ice.  Mark didn’t like the whiskey diluted by melting ice.  The whiskey warmed his empty stomach on the way to his small intestine.  Almost immediately, he felt the glow spread from his innards throughout his torso.

Jim, the man in the sixty-ish couple called out.  “Yeah, this election was like most of them.  There wasn’t anything to choose from.”

“Yes there was,” countered Mark.  “You had a choice between a jackass and a shape-shifting liar.  The only trouble was that you couldn’t tell which one was which most of the time.”

Everyone laughed again.  Even Jeff, who was usually all business, nodded in agreement and chuckled.

Two women came into the bar and seated themselves a couple of tables down from Jim and Iris while that banter was going on.  One was a hottie with shining black, flowing hair and large blue eyes set perfectly into her pretty face.  She was wearing slacks that fit snugly around her shapely bootie and fell flowingly to her sandal-strapped ankles. The slacks were made of a white, clingy but loose synthetic fabric that tantalized the imagination for what might be hidden within.  Her top was of similar fabric but in red with spaghetti straps that exposed her shoulders.  The unfettered girls behind the thin cloth danced with every movement of the pretty lady’s body.

The other woman’s oval face was framed with short brown hair.  She was kind of cute but a little too tall for Mark’s preferences.  Her long legs started just north of slightly heeled clogs on her feet and disappeared into the hemline of a blue denim skirt about twelve inches above her knees. She crossed the long legs at her knees in one graceful movement as she sat down.  It was odd that these ladies were dressed for a night out this early in the afternoon.  Mark wished that it was later and he had his wingman in formation.  He was still dressed in his office attire.  Then again, if it were later, there would be some tomcats in competition.

Mark continued his banter with Jim and Iris but deftly kept the beauty in his peripheral vision and stole an occasional subtle glance.  He didn’t miss the fact that Blue Eyes was looking past Lisa toward him as Lisa took an order from the ladies.

Mark took another pull off of his whiskey.  The sharp taste was already suffering for melting ice.  The glow came back but not as strong as the first drink.

“Yeah, I guess that Texas has a petition going around to secede.”  Jim knew Mark well enough to know what direction this would go.

“Let them.  Good Americans gave their lives to help free them from Mexico. Then they didn’t have the stuff to run a republic on their own and they were annexed by their own volition.”

“Isn’t that that the truth?”  Iris put in her two cents.

The two pool players set their mugs down on the bar and each took a stool at the bar across from where Mark sat.  They ordered a plate of nachos.

“You know what the difference is between a Mexican and Texican, don’t you Jim?”

“What?  One starts with an M and the other starts with a T?”  Jim laughed at his own response.

“No… that’s not it.”  Mark paused and put the whiskey glass to his mouth.  The whiskey was watered beyond his tolerance.  He downed the rest of the drink.  There wasn’t a glow anymore but he felt good all over.  The alcohol was evenly distributed through his body now.  His seasoned and well practiced liver was working double quick, compared to normal person, to process the toxin now flowing throughout his veins.

Mark had the attention of everyone in the bar as he set the empty glass down.  In his peripheral vision he confirmed that the two women were also looking in his direction.

“The Mexican works for a living and the Texican lives off of the Mexican’s work.”  Mark dropped his deadpan expression and grinned as he finished his punch line.

Jim and Iris roared with laughter.  Caught off guard, one of the two pool players nearly choked on a nacho chip.  Jeff and Lisa were laughing.  Mark turned to the women to find Blue Eyes laughing and Legs frowning.

“I beg your pardon, pretty lady.  Did I say I say something that offended you?”

Legs looked away from Mark as if embarrassed.

“Come on now.  If I’ve hurt your feelings then please tell me how so that I can properly apologize.”  His tone was genuinely sincere.

“It’s okay.”  Legs was embarrassed to have all eyes in the bar looking at her.

“It certainly is not okay.  I have a good hunch that you might be from Texas and my humor has understandably offended you.”

Blue Eyes nodded a confirmation and turned back to her friend speaking something softly in an attempt to comfort her.

“He doesn’t mean any harm, honey,” Iris chimed in.  “He’s just a big story teller.  If you hang around long enough he’ll be telling Yankee jokes.  This guy picks on everybody.”

“Another drink?”  Jeff picked up the empty glass in front of Mark.

“Nah, make it a draft this time.”  He turned back to the women.  “You know, pretty lady, you have confirmed one thing that I have always adamantly believed.”

The shyness faded a little and the woman was looking at Mark again but she wore a confused look.

“I have always believed that there is raw and unblemished beauty everywhere in the world.  You are living proof of that.”

The woman’s embarrassment returned but the compliment made her feel good.  She smiled.  Mark took a drink of beer from the mug that Jeff had set in front of him.

“You know, I’ll bet that I can guess where you’re from in Texas.”


“Most definitely!”

Mark gazed off as if deeply contemplating what he was about to say.  The woman, still a little uneasy with the attention, focused toward him in anticipation.

“I’m thinking that…  Don’t give me a clue now.  Bear with me while I think this through.”  Slowly Mark followed with, “I’m thinking that….it’s either Austin or San Antonio.  Don’t help me though!  Let me figure it through.”  Mark puzzled as he gazed off again.

Legs and Blue Eyes were both on the edges of their chairs now.

“I have to say Austin….but not right in Austin, though.  You’re from one of the suburbs.”

Mark could by tell by the eyes wide and mouth open look on the two faces that he had nailed it.  Legs couldn’t contain excitement any longer.

“Round Rock!

“Yep!  That’s it,” agreed Mark.  “I was pretty sure but I hesitated to press my luck too far.”

“How did you know?”  Blue Eyes was more astonished than Legs.

“Well, actually, it was pretty simple process of elimination.  You see, they call Texas the Lone Star state but they should have called it the four star state.”

Both women wrinkled at the brow.  Mark went on.

“That’s because there four distinct regions within Texas. West Texas is nothing but rough country.  Everything out there is going to bite you, sting you, scratch you, stick you or try to eat you.  Your friend here is way too pretty and refined of a creature to be from such rough country.”

Legs beamed at the flattery.

Jim smiled at Iris.  “This guy is never at a loss for BS,” he said in a low voice.

“You’ve got that right,” Iris agreed.  “It’s fun to watch him though.”

Jim nodded.

The two men at the bar had their own conversation going but they were still tuned into station M-A-R-K.

Mark took a gulp of beer.

“When you get in around Dallas and Fort Worth there are some nice people.  Personally, I think that they get nicer as you get into the Fort Worth side.  There isn’t anything wrong with the people in Dallas.  They’re just… well, they’re just from Dallas.  I’ll leave it at that.  Anyway, you’re too common and down-to-earth to be from Dallas.  You could be from Fort Worth, maybe, but not Dallas.”

Legs nodded knowingly as Mark paused for another drink of beer.

“Then there is the Aristocratic Kingdom of Houston.  Those people ought to be their own republic so that the rest of the good people of Texas wouldn’t suffer the shame of association with them.  Houstonites would probably prefer it that way too if they could have a choice.  I’ll bet that’s where that secession petition originated.”

Mark drank some more beer and looked over at Jim for confirmation.  Jim and Iris were talking quietly to each other now.

“Leaving out Houston, this brings us to south Texas.  The region around Austin and San Antonio is a perfect blend of Anglican and Latino cultures.  It’s rich in heritage, tradition and history.”

“But, how did you know that I wasn’t from San Antonio?”

“San Antonio is a friendly city.  You can’t walk down the street and past somebody without exchanging a greeting.  Anybody that isn’t friendly in San Antonio isn’t from San Antonio.  They’re just outgoing people there.  I don’t suggest that you’re not friendly but you are a little shy so it was my guess that you weren’t from San Antonio.”

The women were open-mouthed again.  Mark tipped the beer mug again while they pondered his explanation.

Blue Eyes spoke up next.  “Can you guess where I’m from?”

Before Mark could answer Jim came back into the conversation.  “Watch yourself, little girl.  The direction that you’re headed now, you’ll be buying his next beer.”

“That’s okay!  I’ll buy him a beer if he can guess.”

“The point that you’re missing is that he won’t guess.  He already knows where you’re from, little girl.”

Blue Eyes looked at Mark and he grinned.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said, “I’ll warm up the wager by telling where you’re not from.”

“Okay!”  Her face lit up.

“You’re not from here in Tampa and you’re definitely not a Yankee.”

“How can you tell that?”

“First, do we have a bet?”  This time Mark found the bottom of the mug when he took a drink.


“You’re from the central part of south Florida.”

The blue eyes went wide again.  “How can you know that?”

“You’re talking to me.”  He grinned at her puzzled face.  “The way that you stretch out your vowels is pure rural Florida.  I’d say Okeechobee, Glades or Hendry County.  Those are about the last three havens in Florida that aren’t yet infested with Yankees or Cubanos.”

“Yes!  I’m from Moore Haven….but I was born in Georgia.”

“You might have been born in Georgia but you learned to talk in Florida.  My brother was born in Japan because our parents lived there when my father was in the Navy.  My brother doesn’t speak Japanese.”

Everyone in the bar laughed at that comment.

“What’s more, if you were a Georgia country girl we’d need a translator to have a conversation.”

“What do you mean?”  Blue Eyes frowned.  “They speak English in Georgia.”

“You are correct.  However, they have different alphabet than the rest of us do.”

Mark looked around the bar to confirm the attention of the others and then grinned at the woman’s frown adorned pretty face.

“You see… in rural Georgia they only have about seven to ten consonants in their alphabet.  Those are CH, D, F, G, M, K, S, SH, T and TH.”

Blue Eyes interrupted Mark.  “CH, SH and TH aren’t consonants.”

“They are in Georgia.”

Jim and Iris laughed.  Everyone joined in.

“When Georgia country people talk they just roll a few vowels around in their mouth until they pick up a consonant or two and then they spit.”  Mark mimicked his version of what their speech sounds like.

Now everyone in the bar was roaring.  Jim was shaking his head in disbelief.  He had heard Mark perform plenty of times but it amazed him that the man never ran out of new material.  He was an improv master.

Blue Eyes beckoned to Lisa.  Lisa held up two fingers for confirmation.  Blue Eyes shook her head and Lisa went to the table.  She brought back a fresh frosted mug of beer.  Blue Eyes paid for the beer and called out to Mark.

“Here’s my payoff on the bet.  Will join us?”

It took all of what little self control that Mark had left not to run to the table like a bird dog on the hot scent of a running pheasant. After a double shot and sixteen ounces of beer in less than an hour his inhibitions and sound judgment had all but been wiped out.  He sorted through his money on the bar and left his usual generous tip for Jeff before pocketing the rest of the cash.  He forced a casual walk to the table where the women sat.

When Mark sat down formal introductions went around.  Blue Eyes was named Ashley and Legs was called Carrie which was short for Caroline.  Legs made it clear that she did not like the name Caroline and would not respond if called by that name.

Mark kept the women laughing but the rest of the bar quieted down.  Mark thoroughly enjoyed the jiggling girls behind the thin fabric of the red spaghetti-strapped blouse.  Occasionally, Ashley movements would allow the blouse to fall open just enough so that Mark could see over top of the cloth as one of the girls would wink in pink.  It didn’t seem to Mark that Ashley was blatantly teasing but, still, he sensed that she was uninhibited and aware of her immodesty.

The women were dressed for a night out to celebrate the birthday of a friend.  Some of the friends were meeting them at this bar before they joined others in the banquet room of O’Malley’s Sports Bar for dinner and a party.  Ashley extended an invitation to Mark to join them.

Mark was definitely interested but he begged off for needing to get home to let his dog outside and feed him.  Also, he didn’t say it, but he would have felt like a party crasher.  He suggested that they might catch up with each other after the party.

To this idea Ashley asked, “Do you have a cell phone?”

Mark took the phone out of his pocket and Ashley took it from him.  She brought up the touch pad, put in her cell number and pressed the send button.  As soon as she heard her phone ring she canceled the call and handed it back to Mark.

As she saved Mark’s number in her phone as new contact she told him to call her later to see where her group was.  She would love to have him join them when he could.

Mark was contemplating who he could get for a wingman when three other women walked into the bar.  Carrie called out to them and got up to pull another table alongside.

Holy Shimolie!  Forget the wingman.  Mark was going to need a whole squadron if this group stayed together.  What’s more, there was a BBW in the group.  The woman wasn’t fat and was fairly attractive for her size but it was always harder to pair off somebody to a BBW unless she was a known and a passionate cougar.  That might be the case here.  The woman did appear to be older than the others.  Then another thought hit him as he scanned the faces for a mother-daughter resemblance.

The woman would have to be a cougar if her daughter was in the group.  Caution would be a must for survival of the tomcat that goes for the she-cub.  Mark shook it off.  Maybe he was just complicating things too much.  He would try to find a wingman and let the others go their own way.  After all, arriving at different times, they evidently came in separate cars.

Introductions went around and Mark declined the offer of another beer.  He had bought a round for the table just a few minutes before the other women arrived.  He stayed long enough to be sociable with the new arrivals and excused himself with a promise to catch up later.  He left his beer mug on the table half full.

“I might bring along one of my friends if it’s okay.”

“That would be fine,” Ashley responded.

Carrie smiled at the thoughtfulness of Mark bringing a friend.  She was interested in Mark herself but when she saw Ashley’s obvious interest she deferred to her prettier friend as she had been conditioned to do so in the past.

Mark stepped out into the late afternoon sun and his eyes scanned the area for any sign of police cruisers.  It had been years since his DUI conviction but he was seasoned enough to know that the cops often ran license plates of the parked cars outside of a bar.  Common sense also told him that they wouldn’t wait in plain sight but he couldn’t help looking.

Mark felt unsteady as he crossed the parking lot to his vehicle.  He knew that he shouldn’t be driving.  He usually stayed around the bar for a couple of hours without drinking so that his skilled liver had time to do the job on the alcohol.  This afternoon, though, he had a mission.

The first that Mark saw the small child was just before the point of impact.  The terrified eyes looking back at him were to be forever haunting.  A split second later the little body was thrown so violently to the ground by the force of a Mark’s forty-mile-per-hour SUV that it laid completely still.  With all of the force that was transferred to the child’s body the impact to the high profiled SUV was not enough to launch the airbags.  Mark’s wingman called out to him on the smart phone that was now lying on the floor of the car.  Mark was not listening now.  His mind had ceased to function with exception of displaying two small terrified eyes that were now indelibly etched onto his own retinas.

Mark couldn’t hear the screams of the father who had been teaching his child to ride a new bicycle given to him on his final birthday.  He didn’t hear the hysteric wailing of the mother who, kneeling by her motionless child, was torn between hugging the still form and fearing that to do so would cause more traumas.

Crimson spilled slowly from the small mouth and nostrils onto the pavement.  The little eyes, now sightless and dilated, turned cloudy as the spirit gave up the young flesh.

The police arrived at the horrific situation.  For them the only solution was a charge of DUI and vehicular manslaughter against Mark.

The paramedics arrived to their hopeless situation.  They had no solution for the dead child or the agonized parents.

Later in the evening, Ashley wondered that Mark didn’t call.

The dog relieved himself near the back door when he could wait no longer.  His stomach growled off and on through the night for lack of food.

This story was re-posted from others written by Marlin Woosley at

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