The neon sign was broken. It blinked “A,” then “R,” then a long pause. The steel door creaked as he pushed through it. Inside, it was dry, but too warm. Like the radiator hadn’t clicked off when it was supposed to and the whole place might burst into flames at any second.

It was a slow night. Two blue-haired old ladies played video poker. Three grizzled old men sat next to each other, silently sipping beer from pilsner glasses. Aaron clocked what appeared to be a transvestite measuring him with apparent disgust as she drank a cocktail alone.

He threw his leather jacket at the foot of a barstool.

“Hey pal.”

He wondered if the bartender knew his name. He’d been here three times a week for the last ten years. It didn’t matter. He didn’t know the bartender’s name, either.

“What’ll it be?”

“Pitcher of High Life,” Aaron said, pulling a pack of Luckies out of his breast pocket and lighting one. “Shot of Rittenhouse.”

“No can do on that High Life, good buddy,” the bartender said, clicking his tongue. “Keg didn’t get delivered. We ran dry around noon.”

“Are you fucking shitting me?”

“What the fuck is this world coming to, right? We got Pabst.”

“Who the fuck orders Pabst? You guys have Hamm’s, right? In the tall cans?”

The bartender nodded “A tall boy of Hamm’s and a shot of Rittenhouse?”

“Keep them coming, too. You know how it is.”

“Yeah. Sure thing, pal. I get it.”

He looked at himself in the mirror. His hair was flat again. He combed his hair upward, trying to make Elvis appear in the mirror.

The bartender returned with his drinks. He downed the shot and gave the chilly, watery beer a long pull. The bartender made change out of his apron.

“You know what I just thought of?”

“No, sir.”

“Hamm’s and Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse is a rye, right?” The bartender grinned, waiting for him to get the joke.

“Yeah?” He took another long drink from the can.

“Hamm’s…on rye.” The bartender laughed.

“Like the sandwich.”

The bartender laughed harder. “Sure, pal. Like the sandwich.”

Aaron forced a thin laugh.

One of the bluehairs appeared out of nowhere. She grinned a yellow, brown, and black smile.

“Hey!” she yelled at the bartender, holding up a small slip. “Hey, I won!” She turned toward him and lit a long all-white cigarette. “I won!”

“Ain’t that some shit,” Aaron said. “I’m proud of you, girl. Where are we celebrating?”

The blue hair winked at him. “As far as my boudoir if you’re up for it, sonny.”

He laughed. It was a joke and not a joke at the same time.

“I don’t think I could keep up, to be honest. You look like a real animal.”

The old woman’s cackle cut through the bar, then melted into a hard, hacking cough. She motioned desperately toward a stack of cocktail napkins. Aaron handed her one. She hacked one last time and spit into the paper before balling it up and dropping it on the bar next to his hand.

“You’re goddamn right about that, kid!” She said, catching her breath. “‘A real animal.’ Shit. You don’t even know. Just don’t ever get old. It’s a real bitch.”

“Don’t worry,” He said. “I won’t.”

The blue hair rubbed his back a little, like his grandmother might have if she weren’t entirely opposed to sucking his cock in the toilet of a bar smelling faintly of piss.

The bartender collected her ticket. His eyes widened. He scanned it at the till and counted ten $20 bills on the bar. The blue hair licked dried white spit off of cracked lips. She picked the crumpled bills up holding them to her face, inhaling deeply.

The bartender shook his head, lighting a cigarette. “That’ll be back in the box by the end of the night.”

He shrugged, lazily dragging on his smoke. “How else they gonna pay for the schools?”

The bartender tapped his nose with the tip of his index finger and walked to the old men.

Just then, the door exploded open and a short, fat blonde stormed through sporting the biggest beehive hairdo he’d ever seen. A scarf held the front in place. Two long pigtails hung halfway down her back. She wore a pair of low-waisted, flared jeans that would have been inappropriate on a woman ten years his junior. Except she looked like she was 15, maybe 20 years older than him. Pancake settled in the ditches of her crow’s feet. Her blue eyeshadow covered a clownish expanse from her lashes to her brows. Fluorescent barlight cast sinister shows on her face.

She locked eyes on him, walking right up to him and holding his gaze. He stared at her ass as she sat down. It wasn’t a good ass, just a big one, wide and flat from years of sitting on stools just like this one.

The bartender leaned over the bar.

“What’ll it be, sweetheart.”

“Hamm’s tall boy and a shot of Rittenhouse,” she said, lighting a long pink cigarette. “And an ashtray.”

“You got it.”

She stared at him with a piercing intensity in her eyes. Like she was trying to bore a hole through him.

“I think I know you.”

“Yeah? I think I’d remember you.”

He couldn’t stop checking her out. She had garish yellow and green flower patches on her jeans. They looked like the grips her grandmother glued to the shower floor to keep herself from falling. Her tie-dyed top could have been a smock or a dress or a blouse or something else entirely. She looked like a Partridge Family groupie who hadn’t gotten the memo that the 70’s were over. Like a Jap in the Philippine jungle ready to take a bullet for a dead emperor.

“Do you ever go to the Paris Theater?”

“I do,” he said. “On Grindhouse Night and whenever they do those kung-fu double features. I was there for the H.G. Lewis film festival. You hang out there?”

“No, I’m the projectionist.” She giggled and pushed her hair up.

“No shit,” Aaron said, whistling. “In the union and everything?”

“Uh huh!” she said, nodding manically. “I love it. Been doing it since I showed up here…” She breathed deep, counting. “A long time ago. You were probably in diapers.”

He blushed. “I’m not that much younger than you.”

“Good answer,” she said, blowing smoke in his general direction. “Mind if I smoke? Not that I mind if you mind.”

“No,” Aaron said. “I’d be more bothered if you didn’t. Never met a woman who smoked unfiltered cigarettes before, though.”

“Smoking cigarettes with a filter is like sucking cock through a sock.” She licked her lips and bared her teeth.

He stared inside the mouth of his can. “That’s one way of putting it, I guess.”

She shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes behind fake eyelashes more appropriate for a burlesque show than a bar.

“I’ve always had a way with words. Should have been a writer maybe, but I’ve got too many bills.”

An awkward silence settled over the entire bar. Even the jukebox was silent. He looked around. He twirled his lighter, trying to find some way to occupy himself without looking at her.

Sooooooo…” she said, drawing out the word, like even she hadn’t decided what to say.”What about you, cowboy?” she asked, twirling her pinkie in her shot glass before downing it all at once, then sucking daintily on her nail, never looking away from Aaron.

“What about me?”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a mechanic.”

He ordered another beer.

“Are you good at it?”

“Good enough to keep my job, I guess. Probably not much better.”

She kicked his jacket under the bar with a pair of giant wooden wedges. “Are you a biker? Is that your Harley outside?”

“I ride a bike, anyway. If you mean the Sportster, yeah, that’s mine.”

Oooooo…” she cooed, wriggling around in her seat.”I’ve always wanted to ride on the back of a bike. You know what they call the back of a bike, right?”

“Sure,” He lit another cigarette and stared at the burning head. “I know.”

“They call it a ‘bitch pad,'” she said.

“Yeah,” he said. “I know.

“Perfect spot for me. I’m such a bitch.”

He was sure he hadn’t seen her blink once.

“Maybe I’ll let you give me a riiide later.”

“Maybe,” he said. He thought about how he wasn’t that opposed to giving her a “riiide” and how he was a little disgusted at himself for it.

“Maybe if you’re real lucky, I’ll hop on and ride. You don’t think I’ll break it while I ride, do you?”

He drowned the rest of his beer and summoned the bartender.

“Another one,” he said.

She rested her head on his shoulder.

“Buy me a round?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, let me buy you a round, then.”

“That’s all right. I’ve got money.”

“Suit yourself,” she pouted. “I’ll have a round of whatever Mister Party Pooper is having.”

The bartender shuffled off and back again with her drinks.

“What’s the matter, big boy? Don’t you think I’m groovy?

He spit beer laughing.

“Sure,” he said, looking at the top of his beer can.

“‘Sure,'” she said. “Sure what?”

“Sure you are,” he said.

“Sure I am what?”

“You’re the grooviest gal in the whole damn bar, darlin’.”

“Yeah,” she said. Her eyes darted to the transvestite and the old ladies playing video poker. “I guess I am,” she hissed through broken teeth. “How old do you think I look, anyway?”


Beehive coughed, irritated.

“You’ve gotta learn how to flatter a woman better, kid.”

The bluehair was back at his side. She was smiling but didn’t have the same energy as last time.

“I won again,” she said, flat and matter of fact.

He smiled at her.

“How much this time, young lady?”

She put her arm around him.

“A lady never tells.”

She hacked up another glob of something, blushing as she defiled another cocktail napkin. The bartender scanned her ticket and dropped $50 on the bar.

“I’d like to buy the stud’s next round,” she said.

“No,” he said. “You won it. It’s yours. Keep it.”

The blue hair shushed him and put a finger against his lips. She dropped a $10 bill on the bar.

“You can let me buy you a round or you can keep the ten or you can leave it for the buzzards. You’re good luck. I tip out for that.”

“I guess I am. Yeah.”

The beehive huffed as the blue hair ambled away. “Give me a double of 151.”

She slammed the shot down.

“Fuck!” she yelled as if to the entire bar. “Fuck! That’s the good stuff.”

The beehive didn’t look half bad, actually. He could see her gut through her weird smock-blouse-dress top. He wondered if a woman her age shaved her cooch. He hadn’t seen a fur burger in a couple of decades. At least he knew he couldn’t get her pregnant.

The beehive caught him staring. “How old is that bike of yours?” she asked.

“Not that old,” he said. “Younger than me, anyway.”

“You riding it home tonight? I mean, can you? In the rain?”

“Not after this round,” he said.

“Do you like old cars?”

“Not really.”

“I have a ’66 Falcon,” she said.

He grunted in acknowledgement.

The bartender came back over with another beer and a shot. “Hey, pal, that round is only six bucks. You don’t mind if I keep the change, do you? I mean, a man’s gotta eat and it’s been a slow couple of nights. You don’t mind, right, pal?”

“No. I don’t mind. Share the wealth. That’s what Pop always said after a good day at the tracks,” he said and tended back to the old men.

Soooo…” she said, “What’s your favorite movie?”

“I dunno,” he said. “Hard to pick just one. I like anything with Nancy Sinatra or Peter Fonda. What’s that one they’re both in where they play bikers?”

“The Wild Angels. There’s a ton of those AIP biker flicks. Ever seen The Savage Seven?”

“Hell yeah. Love that one. It’s got…whatsisname,” he said, snapping his fingers in the air.

“Larry Bishop!” She said, excitedly, like she’d just won a million dollars.

“Larry fucking Bishop,” he said.

“Larry motherfucking Bishop!” she shouted, holding up an empty shot glass.

He sucked on the Hamm’s like a baby bottle. She grabbed his arm and turned him to face her.

“Listen, I’m just going to come out with it.” She took a long drag off of her cigarette. She blew the smoke right in his face. He could smell everything she’d been drinking. “What I want is, I want you and me to go back to my place and fuck. Just like…” she grunted low and long, “…fuck. And if you’re into that, that would be great. We’d both have a great fucking time. But if you’re not, I’m probably just gonna leave.”

He laughed nervously, looking everywhere in the bar but at her.

“Soooooo?” The beehive twirled her pigtail in her hand. “What do you think? I gotta little blow back at my place if you’re into that. I got some movies you might like. Dirty, but not hardcore. Old school stuff. The Defilers. The Scum of the Earth. That kind of thing. And I got some flicks on 8mm that will just blow your little mind.” She moved her long, pointed nails up his chest.

“Come on,” she said, pulling on his elbow. “Let’s go to my place and fuck. I don’t even know your name and I don’t even want to. I just wanna fuck. I will break your steak. Believe.” She croaked another hoarse laugh.

There was a long pause. “I don’t think so,” he said.

“Why not?” She said, narrowing her eyes in hostility. “Are you a faggot or something?”

“No. It’s not that.”

“Look, if you’re just lazy, I’ll suck your cock.” She snuffed out her cigarette. “And not through a sock.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Aaron said, “It’s a flattering offer, but I think I’m gonna take off. This is too much for me.”

“No. I will.” She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “You’re a sweet kid. I get it. Grandma can be a little much sometimes.”

She stood up and picked her sequined clutch up off the bar.

“I just have one parting request. If you shoot me down, I swear to Christ I’m gonna cry in the middle of the bar, okay?”


She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, firm and wet. He tensed up, concentrating on not pulling away.

“Merry Christmas, all right, kid? And if…if I see you around again, can we just pretend this never happened?”

“Sure,” he said. “I’d like that. Merry Christmas to you too.”

“Merry Christmas, baby,” she said, hurrying out of the bar.

He stood up and went to the bathroom. A perfectly formed kiss print glowed in pink on his cheek. He pulled a wad of toilet paper from the roll and wiped it off, feeling guilty. He skulked back out to the bar.

The bartender scowled at him, confused. “What was that all about?”

“Brother,” he said, “I just don’t even know.”