Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Clean, Dim-lit Place (a short story)

A Clean,
Dim-lit Place

(A Chick Evens Story, 1962)

You don’t throw away what little you have because you don’t have it all—only to end up with nothing’—lest you be a dupe! (And I never have.)

It was getting late in the evening, pert near everyone had stopped eating, and it was just making sure the bar area was filled with ice. Several men sat in the shadow across from the horseshoe looking bar—at the Belmont Club, as the busboy, Chick Evens, brought buckets full of ice out to the bartender.
At night time University Avenue was quite busy, and you could hear the cars and horns from inside the bar. One customer was talking to the bartender asking who the bus boy was—his name in particular, he was a little drunk, and he knew the fellows across the bar on the other side also. He somewhat kept an eye on the group and the boy as he brought bucket after bucket of ice to the bar.
“Say, isn’t your last name Evens?” questioned the man to the boy of fifteen. The busboy was surprised he knew his last name.
“What about it?” Replied the boy.
“Nothing,” said the man.
“Then, why did you ask if it was nothing?”
“There’s a man over in that group across from the bar that looks like you, that’s why,” said the stranger to the boy.
The boy stood stone-still by the fellow for a moment, tried to see who was the four or five men across from the bar, but trying not to be too obvious, they were all clustered together, and the place was dim lighted. A waitress came by, “Honey,” she said, “you better go on and get some more ice in the back before Howard the manager sees you just standing around.”

The car lights shone through the windows from University Avenue, and when the boy came back out, he could see reflections of the group of men across from the bar, he hurried beside the bar and gave the bucket to the bartender to empty into the ice cooler.
‘What does it matter who they are,’ the boy said to himself.
The stranger was now sitting at the bar, saw the boy, there was a man standing in the shadow with his glass on the bar surrounded by the other three fellows, the stranger pointed over to him, “Erve,” he shouted, “this is your boy!” then he turned to the boy, “He’s your father son,” he told the boy.
“You’re drunken mister,” said the boy.
“Go say hello to him, he’ll not stay all night!” said the man. “A little more whiskey in the glass,” said the stranger to the bartender. The bartender poured slowly on into the glass so that the whiskey didn’t slop over the top, “Thanks,” said the stranger. He’s going to leave son, if you don’t go over there.”
‘They’re all drunk over there,’ said the boy, mumbling to himself, he had never seen his father, why would a stranger be pointing him out now, but he tried to look, he only got a shadow for a face, and a dark suite, or sport coat.
“He comes in here every weekend,” said the stranger.
“That’s nice,” said the boy, unbelieving it was his father.
“Go say hello to him, see how much money he’s got,” and the man chuckled; then commented, “He’s gotten plenty.”
And the boy thought: he must be forty-five now. And then went to get some more ice, when he came back the group was gone. ‘I didn’t want to look at him anyhow,’ the boy garbled to himself.
(If he really was who the man said he was, he has no regard for me anyhow, the boy thought inside his head…)
The bartender was saying to someone, “No more for you tonight.” The stranger was lying on his forearms, and his elbows were on the bar counter. The boy watched the lights from the cars pass the window, unsteadily, as they went down the street. He wanted to ask the stranger some more questions, but the coincidence was so unbelievable—and the stranger was no longer interested in the occurrence, and so the boy, he just let it be; then he got himself back into a hurry to do his job right.

Note: written 12-27-2010
No: 646