Tina was soaked. The downpour came without warning and was relentless. She knew that her chances of flagging a cab were nil so she ducked through a red vinyl covered door. There was a sign on the door “The Three Little Pigs”. She stood just inside and waited for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. This was her kind of place. It was a drinker’s bar. It was fortuitous, maybe even serendipitous that she had happened in here. Dark paneling lined the walls with a couple of neon signs back by the pool table. A grey ghost of smoke obscured the ceiling in defiance of the smoking ban. Green lights glowed beneath a mirror that ran the full length of the room behind the bar. A myriad of rainbow colored bottles sat on glass shelves and there were seven or eight customers sitting at the bar, staring into their drinks, munching peanuts. Charlie Rich sang softly from the juke box on the back wall.
She looked back out the small diamond shaped window in the door, deciding. The rain was still coming down hard. -HIC- oh great, now she had the hiccups to top it all off.
Tina made her way to the bar where she had a choice of sitting next to a grey haired woman taking up two stools or a younger guy with long blonde hair. She looked at the woman who had the pallid skin of someone who never ventured into the sunlight. Her hair was tangled and there were dark stains on her maroon print dress. Her black knit sweater had a hole in the elbow and was frayed at the cuffs. Tina sidled up to the stool next to the young guy.
“-HIC- is this seat taken?”
He looked at her, stared at her, with one eye. The patch he wore over the other was mostly hidden in the shadow below his brow. He shook his head, “go ahead,” he mumbled.
“- HIC -,” she sat down and raised her finger to signal the barman.
“Can I get a whiskey, neat, with a water back?” She knew she shouldn’t do this but she had no willpower, no resistance.
The barman nodded and shuffled towards the bottles on the back of the bar. She watched him reach for the cheap stuff and decided she didn’t care. She hadn’t had a drink in three years, what did she care what kind it was – as long as it was.
“Can you put the water in a tall -HIC- glass?”
He nodded, poured two fingers of brown liquor into a highball glass and ran some water in tumbler, he brought them both to her, tossed a napkin on the bar, “Seven dollars,” he said as he sat both glasses in front of her.
Rummaging in her purse she set a 50 on the bar, “keep ‘em comin’ -HIC-.”
Tina’s hand wavered back and forth between the water and the whiskey, -HIC- she grabbed the whiskey and drained it in a single draught. Then she picked up the water glass, took a deep breath, held her nose and drained it too. She set it back on the bar and looked around expectantly, anxiously. “Cool,” she said aloud to herself, “it worked.” She smiled, “-HIC- shit, it didn’t work.” She frowned and signaled the bartender for another, “-HIC-“ they seemed to be getting worse. When her drinks came she followed the same routine again.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” said the pirate looking guy sitting next to her. He wore a camel hair sport coat, a white dress shirt, and a tie.
She looked at him, “-HIC-“
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m planning on getting plastered and -HIC- getting rid of these hiccups.”
“Well, you’re going about it all wrong.” He said. “You’re doing ok on the getting plastered part, but that’s no way to get rid of the hiccups.”
“Everybody’s got a cure.” She said disgustedly, “What should I be doing differently, in your opinion -HIC- huh?”
He leaned his barstool back a bit and squinted his one eye, studying her. Finally he said, “That Charlie Rich sure could sing, couldn’t he?”
“What? -HIC- yeah, I guess.”
“My name’s Ken,” he said and stuck his hand out to shake.
Tentatively, she shook his hand, “Tina, -HIC-.” She introduced herself.
“Nice to meet you Tina.” He signaled the barman to bring her another round. “When was the last time you saw a rabbit?”
“What kind of -HIC- question is that, Ken?”
“Hey, humor me will ya? When was the last time you saw a rabbit?”
“I don’t know. Three -HIC- or four weeks ago.”
“Boy or girl?”
“Where was it?”
“Out past the cemetery on Boulder Creek Road.”
“Where was he going?”
“Make something up!”
“He was going home. He was a widower rabbit and he had gone to put flowers on his poor departed wife’s grave. Then he was going home to feed the kids and watch some TV.”
“What kind of shows does he watch?”
“Sitcoms mainly. He likes wrestling too. I think he wanted to have a beer after he put the kids to bed.”
Ken stood up and put some bills on the bar. “I gotta go Tina. I enjoyed talking to you. How’re those hiccups?”
Tina paused, put her fingertips on her chest, just below her throat, and raised her eyes, waiting. Nothing.
Ken pulled the door open and stepped out into the sunshine. It looked like the rain was over.
As the door swung shut behind him she yelled, “They’re gone Ken. They’re gone.” She grabbed her purse and chased him out the door. She looked left and right. Up and down the street but Ken was gone too. Turning her collar up, she headed for the station and thought about the one eyed man as she rode the train home.