It was at least three days before I could face my neighbors again. They kept their eyes on me. They didn’t leave their yards. I didn’t say anything. I just got in my car and drove off.
It was going to be a good day, I thought. I was getting back together with Veronica. I was on my way to eat dinner with her, fresh fish tacos. I was wearing my best sport coat. I listened to a big band station on the way across town to her place. The sport coat had an inside pocket large enough to fit a pint of gin. I sipped from the bottle as I drove.
Veronica shared a house on the side of a cliff. It was very steep. My car often reached her driveway with great reluctance. That day was no different. By the time I got to the top near the driveway my transmission locked up. I could go no further. I was so close I could see her house. The car began to roll backwards down the hill. I stepped on the foot brake but nothing happened. I could only steer and use the emergency brake. Cars honked at me as I rolled down the hill.
At the bottom of the hill there was a bar that I saw each time I went to Veronica’s house. I had never stopped. That day I stopped. I backed into a space near the door and pulled some quarters from the ashtray. Enough for a beer while I waited for Veronica to come get me.
The bar was dark and smelled like the bartender had pissed in the mop bucket before cleaning the floor. Two men played pool.
I had enough left in me for one more beer. Being yelled at made me thirsty. The final beer tasted best of them all.
“What’ll it be?” the bartender asked me.
“Golden’s,” I said, “in a bottle.”
“No,” he said, “we only serve good beer here.”
The tap was at the other end of the bar.
“What do you have on tap?” I asked.
“I’d like a Milwaukee’s Water, please,” I said.
The beer looked like lemonade and tasted like beer that astronauts would take into space. The bartender never smiled. I would have to come back sometime.
The best thing about drinking cheap beer is that you can drink more for less. After my third beer I called Veronica.
“Where the hell are you? I’ve been waiting for an hour! The goddamn food is…”
I hung up the phone and went back to the bar. I had enough left in me for one more beer. Being yelled at made me thirsty. The final beer tasted best of them all. The payphone I had used began to ring. I ignored it.
The bartender answered. He had one crossed eye and I would swear he was watching me with it as he picked up the phone. It was for me. I sipped the beer and took it with.
“You bastard!” It was Veronica. “Don’t you hang up on me!”
“You knew where I was.”
“Caller ID, asshole. You’re down at the Gaslamp. I should have known you’d be at a bar. Are you drunk yet? Are you…”
I hung up the phone. She would be there soon enough. I sat down and finished my beer.