Tis the Season

The door opened. Lucy looked up from her beer. A familiar face. He brought the cold air in with him. He smiled when he saw her, came right over. “Buy me a beer, Bill?” she asked.

“Poor Loosey,” he said, “always waitin’ by the phone.” He always said it like that, L-O-O-S-E-Y. A single cigarette.

She grabbed her cell phone off the bar and stuffed it in her back pocket. “If those knuckleheads would call me back already . . .”

Bill waved to Mike behind the bar. “Two pints Lagunitas, amigo. How’re the kids, Mike?”

Mike pulled the tab on the draft. “Home for the holidays,” he said. “How’s the stag life treatin’ you, Bill? Stayin’ warm?”

“Most nights,” Bill said.

Foam ran down their glasses onto the bar. “Thanks for the drink, Bill,” Lucy said.  “I’m glad you’re here. If I had to listen to one more Burl Ives record, I’d’ve gone postal.”

“Let’s grab a booth,” Bill said. “I gotta eat somethin’.” He left twenty bucks on the bar with Mike’s name on it.

Sam came around with a pair of menus under her arm and bags under her eyes. “My feet are killin’ me,” she said. “Move over, Bill. Let me rest my dogs a minute while we figure out what y’all havin’.” Bill slid; Sam sat. She slipped her shoes off under the table, wiggled her toes in her socks.

“How’s a burger sound, Loose?” Bill asked.

“Medium well.”

“Rare on mine,” Bill said. “Fries on the side. And we’re ready for round two—Mike knows what we’re drinkin’. Just ask him.”

“That’s all? Can’t y’all order more? So I can keep sittin’ here.”

“Throw in some poppers then,” Bill said.

“Same time?”

“We’ll take it as it comes.”

Sam put her shoes back on, snagged the menus and doubled back to the kitchen.

Bill looked at Lucy. Lucy stared at her phone. “A watched pot never boils,” he said.

Lucy sat back, slid her phone out of sight behind the Heinz. “Sorry for bein’ such a Deb,” she said. “I’m tryin’ to put one in the mail in time for Christmas, you know.”

“Tis the season,” Bill said.

“I got the whole thing set. It’s all shits and giggles til somebody gets the bill. Then it’s crickets. And guess who ends up lookin’ cheap? Don’t answer that.”

“Can’t you go to your brother? Instead of messin’ with these knuckleheads.”

“Please. There’s no water there.”

“Where the hell’s Sam?” Bill asked. “I’m thirsty.”

Sam came back with her hands full. She put the plates down on the table. “Thanks, Sam, honey,” Bill said. “Just the beers and we’re all set.”

“I didn’t forget—I’m coming right back. Mike had to switch out the keg.”

Sam dropped off the beer and split. Bill said, “It’s a good thing I ran into you, Loose. I may have somethin’ for you.”

Lucy wiped the burger grease from her lips with the back of her hand, and leaned in close.

“I need a driver,” Bill said. “I got two dozen eggs goin’ to Rosa this weekend. One point each on your end. Your payday comes soon as I get mine.”

“When and where?” Lucy asked. “I’m there.”

“Friday morning. I need you at my place, 8am. Not 8:05 or 8:15. 8am, no bullshit. That means I better not see your truck parked out here come Thursday night.”

“I won’t screw it up. I need this,” Lucy said.

“It’s small potatoes.”

“No, really,” Lucy said. “It’s a huge help.”

“Hey. Why the long face?” Bill asked. “It’s good news, no?”

“It’s not that,” Lucy said. “It’s just… I wish Dillon looked out for me the way you do, Bill.”

“Come on, Loose. He wants to help. In fact, he had a hand in puttin’ this little run together.”

Lucy reached for her beer and made it disappear. “I knew it was too good to be true,” she said. She stood up.

“Don’t be stupid, Loosey,” Bill said. “What difference does it make?”

“It does to me,” Lucy said. “I don’t work for him anymore. He knows it, too. Look, I appreciate what you’re tryin’ to do. But just forget it.”

“Hang on a minute—he wants to help get you back on your feet. Don’t you want your old room back at the motel? Take a nice hot shower. Crank up the heat and watch some cable TV?”

“What for? So he’ll have one more favor hangin’ over my head? Thanks, but no thanks. And you can tell Dillion, if he’s got somethin’ he wants to say to me, come tell me himself.”

“Lucy, wait . . .”