Down on Main Street, the sun began to hide behind the buildings as cars flooded the streets, each trying to beat the other for a good parking spot. On the sidewalks, families walked with their kids jumping forward, avoiding the cracks so they wouldn’t break their mothers’ backs. Employees in the restaurants were serving the customers by the tens. Tables suddenly filled up and food flowed from the kitchen. Looks like it’s another busy Friday for the city.

In one packed pub down the street, the young bartender with four months of experience will meet his favorite customer today.

“Hi Derrick!” A group of six college girls waved after entering the pub.

“Hello, ladies,” he replied with a smile as he opens a bottle for a customer.

A blonde in a yellow skirt walked up to him with major news.

“Guess what?”


“Someone is 21 years old today!”

“Who’s that?”

“Me!” The same girl raised her hand as the others cheer. Derrick stood there speechless.

…Didn’t she drink something last week? Derrick looks around for Mr. Logan, hoping the owner doesn’t know about him accidentally forgetting to check her driver license before. He doesn’t see his boss or anyone who recognizes the girls last week, so he decides to play his mistake off. “Let me see that ID. I wanna make it official.”

“Here you go!”

“…Yup! You’re 21 now!” he shouted to make the announcement so others can join in the celebration. “What can I get you?”

“A strawberry margarita!” she ordered, which made him worry even more because she and her friends ordered that last week.

“Y-you got it, anything else?”

They all decide to have the same and he double-checks the other girl’s ID. He doesn’t want to serve a minor for the second time in his four-month bartender career. After the pictures matched with the girl holding it, he went to work concocting the Latin drink.

The girls started talking to each other while on their phones. Derrick made a quick sigh of relief. He could sweep this under the rug without anyone else knowing.

Five minutes later, he served the girls the drinks and they go find a table to celebrate. He knew he was going to have a busy night. The birthday girls normally get free drinks from plenty of guys, and of course he can’t refuse their money. The girls continue cheering and thanking him for the new drinks as some of the guys tried to make a move.

An hour went by and he finished making a Washington Apple for a guy with a backwards baseball cap, knowing who it wasintended for.

“Here you go.” He watched the guy walk over and it turned out it was the birthday girl’s boyfriend. How he knew was bcause the girl made an announcement to everyone, saying he was the best boyfriend while slurring her words. “Wasn’t expecting that,” Derrick said to himself.

Ten minutes later, the six college girls started stumbling their way out, laughing and thanking everyone for the drinks. Derrick now took the opportunity to clean some of the dishes, knowing the typhoon of orders will now be a calm wave.


By the time he was halfway done, a middle-aged man with gray hair with an obvious combover arrived, looking lifeless and still in his red gas station uniform. The man sat at the counter and Derrick met his favorite customer.

“Welcome back, Mr. Howards. The usual dollar beer?” Derrick said with a cheerful smile while wiping a glass.

“Yeah,” he said while staring at the polished brown wood table.

“Okay.” Derrick opened the bottle and poured it in a mug to protect the man’s pride before handing it to his customer. “Rough day?”

“More like week.”

“What happened?” Derrick asked while handing him a small bowl of almonds and a spare napkin.

“I’ve told you before. You don’t need my problems to ruin your night.”

“Yeah, so?”

Mr. Howards stared at him; in return, Derrick gave him a high-spirited smile. The older man gave an annoyed sigh.

“…so what I’m saying is that you don’t need to talk to a loser like me.”

“I never said that.”

“Everyone else does. Especially your owner. But who can blame them?” He took a sip and continued. “I would say the same if I was them.”

“I wouldn’t. I mean, I have no right to judge.”

“Well, you’re the employee anyway, you’re not supposed to. The owner would fire you on the spot. That’s what happened to the last guy who wouldn’t serve drinks to gay people.”

“I’ve heard about that. But that’s not what I meant.”

“How about we just drop this? You know I like to drink in peace.”

“Let me know when you want another round then.” He walked off and started filling an order for a table of four.


A waitress walked over and speaks lowly about the customer.

“Derrick, why you talking to that guy?”

“Mr. Howard isn’t that bad.”

“He plays the victim. He just tells sad stories just to get free beer. He’s only taking advantage of you. You know how Mr. Logan is when someone gives away free drinks.”

“He’s a customer regardless. I’m just trying to be a good host.”

The waitress believed it was a cover-up story. She remembered Derrick was always acting nice to that man since he started working. And he never flirted with any of the ladies there; she could only assume one logical thing since he didn’t wear a ring, either. She looked around to make sure the conversation stayed between the two of them.

“…are you into older men? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

“No, I’m not gay. I have a girlfriend.”

“You do?”

“Yeah.” Before she could start an argument over all the times she was flirting with him and he never responded back, he explained, “You never asked.”

“Well, never expect a free drink from me ever again.” She stormed off with her head held high. Derrick had to ruin her independent strong woman moment.

“So, did anyone order something?”

She stopped, turned around with an evil glare, and gave him the ticket.


Ten minutes later, he checked in on the man who told sad stories.

“Mr. Howards? You doing okay?”

“Sometimes I don’t feel anything anymore.”

Derrick froze.

Uh-oh, he thought. “You don’t mean literally, right?”

“I wouldn’t mind if that was true.”

“Don’t say that, Mr. Howards. This is just another mountain you gotta climb.”

“They teach you that in bartending school?”

“No, I just grew up believing in stuff like that.”

“I used to think that, too,” he paused and stared at his drink, “until my wife died.”

“Excuse me?” a customer said from the other side of the counter. Derrick looked over and saw their hand raised.

“I’ll be right back.”

“Take your time.” He waved him off and watched the bartender at work. “He’s too chipper. He’s still young. I’ll never understand why he hangs out with me.”


“Sorry about that. You wanna talk about it?”

“How much do I owe you?”

“It’s fine. I wanna hear what happened.”

“About my dead wife?”

“It’s cheaper than you saying this to a therapist.” Derrick opened another bottle, this time a popular beer instead of a generic one. “And this might help.” He offered the beer, and the man accepted it by gulping a few down. It was the first time he had real beer in a long time.

“Alright, listen carefully, because I’m not repeating it.”

“Can you at least pause?”

“I guess I can do that.” Mr. Howards takes a deep breath; it’s the first time he’d told anyone about this in such a long time. “Years ago, I was a happy man working at a factory. Met the girl of my dreams in a bar one night and I married her a year later. Then about two years later, I got a promotion, we celebrated, and she got pregnant.”

“You had a kid?”

“Although it was an accident, he was my pride and joy. But it came at a price.”

“Hey, Derrick?” Another waitress came up to him.


“That glass is clean now.” She noticed he was still cleaning that glass for over two minutes.

“Oh, right. Here.”

“Also, I need two double Irish whiskeys.”

“Got it.” After making the order, he returns with another glass to wipe while listening to the hard life his customer has. “Okay, Mr. Howards, go ahead.”

“Are you sure you want to listen?”

“Would another round help?”

The man looked around; he’s aware that everyone knows that he can’t pay for it. He’s worried that someone might call him out on the lies he told about himself. When Mr. Howard looked back at the bartender, he saw a glass of iced water. Now nobody could complain about the poor man’s poverty problem.

He resumes his story.

“But after the company went bankrupt, I couldn’t afford to keep everything. I sold the car, couches, TV, clothes, donated blood, an I was still struggling. So, I made the toughest and worst decision of my life. I put my baby boy up for adoption. I promised that I would come back when I could make it on my own. But I never did. I have five grand left in my debt. I’ve spent a lifetime in dead-end jobs just to pay it off. It’s been over 20 years. Now I don’t know where my son is. I don’t even know if he’s still alive or that he knows he’s adopted.”

Mr. Howards had his head down; his nose was barely touching the cold counter. He told his story to some young bartender that pitied him. It wasn’t a proud day in his life.

Derrick then asked, “You worry about him?”

Mr. Howards looks up with tears down his face.

“Every day of my life. If only my wife never died. We might have ended up divorced from the bankruptcy, but at least my boy is in safe hands.”

“There are agencies that can help you find your son.”

“Even if I did, will he be proud of me? I go see him, what would I say? ‘Hey son, sorry I had to get rid of you. I had to pay your mother’s debt and I still haven’t paid it off.’ I don’t have any money to take him out for a meal. I still have to pay bills, too.”

“I see what you mean. I guess some parents would come back only to ask for money. And I don’t know how much those agencies would cost either.”

“If anything, he would have to find me. But I doubt it. What kid would be proud to see a poor and drunken old loser like me?” He gave a defeated sigh. “If he hasn’t found me by now, I don’t think he ever will.”

Derrick couldn’t find the words to respond. If he tried comforting him by saying everything will be alright, no doubt Mr. Howards would get fired up with liquid rage. The old man was drunk and was releasing his emotions for once. It might have been the best option to remain quiet and keep listening.

“Yo, Derrick!” a customer shouts from the distance.

“I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere, please.”

Mr. Howards watches the young man smile as he serves another customer. The space over there brings joy and carelessness, a paradise compared to his lonesome spot.

“He is a good man. I bet his father is very proud of him. I just hope mine isn’t following in my footsteps.” He got out of his stool and took out his wallet.

“Mr. Howards, would you like another drink?” Derrick asked, holding an open can of beer.

“I’ll get going. I think that’s enough for me today. You better call your parents every once a while.”

“I do, at least once a week.”

“Good man. How much was it?” He held out a ten, knowing he might have to skip a meal tomorrow to make up for his budget.

“Your money’s no good here.” Derrick smiled, which made Mr. Howards place the bill on the counter.

“C’mon, kid. Sooner or later your boss is gonna fire you for it. I don’t want you to get in trouble because of me.”

“Not if I’m paying.” Derrick took a bill out of his tip jar and cashed in for his customer. “See?”

Mr. Howards once again gave a defeated sigh. He knew he shouldn’t let the bartender spot him; the young man deserves to keep his money.

“You don’t need to help a loser like me.”

“You’re not a loser. You’ll get over this and someday, you might see your kid. Just keep fighting on, Mr. Howards.”

“I wish I had your determination.” He put his wallet away and said something important that Derrick wanted to hear. “I’ll see you next week, kid.”

The man walked off as the young bartender watched him leave. When the bartender saw him leave the doors, he said to himself with a nod:

“Bye, Dad.”