“You want another drink, boss?”

Clyde could tell just by the way the man grinned at him from the opposite side of the bar counter that he wasn’t a native Washingtonian. The smile was too reserved, just friendly enough to suggest he wasn’t annoyed by Clyde talking up his big plans for the weekend as soon as his shift was done.

But it was too honest a smile. Certainly not Seattle nice.

That, and the man’s suit-and-tie getup that made him look out of place, even at the Ballard Yacht Club. A sports jacket and jeans were considered formal wear.

The man glanced out the window overlooking Shilshole Bay, noted one of the recreational sports fishing boats pulling into the nearby marina, and grinned again.

“Sure, make it a chardonnay from that local winery you were chatting about just now.”

“The one aged in steel barrels? You bet, boss.”

As Clyde poured the wine into a portion glass, he shifted for a moment away from his big plans and asked the man boilerplate questions he did with every new club member.

By the time he slid a full wine glass over, he had yet to hear something that surprised him.

Randall was another techie from the East Coast come to escape the expensive real estate and traffic congestion of New York City. He loved sailing in his new boat, but like most newcomers, he hated Seattle’s rain. He was at the yacht club celebrating a dual victory: the cloud service startup he worked for just secured millions in venture capital funding, and earlier in the week he had managed to outbid a Chinese investor for a house in Magnolia.

“Well, we both got something to celebrate,” Clyde said.

Randall raised his eyebrows. “Yeah? What were your plans again?”

Clyde recited it like the 1996 Supersonics basketball team roster he had memorized by heart; a reservation that night at a speakeasy-style restaurant, a big suite booked for Saturday at the Marriott, plus separate restaurants for each meal of the day. And then there was a table Saturday night at a lounge his friend Jake had RSVPed for him.

He chuckled, unable to contain his enthusiasm.

“What’s the party for?” Randall asked.

“It’s my birthday tomorrow: I’m turning sixty-five. But it’s also my sixty-fifth anniversary.”

Randall frowned. “Get married in the delivery room?”

Clyde chuckled. “Nah, I’m celebrating sixty-five years of living here in Seattle.”

“Really? You been here your whole life?”

“Born and raised.”

The look of pride on Clyde’s face left Randall confused, but he didn’t hold it against him. Nor did Clyde hold it against Randall that he would soon be living in his old neighborhood, a place he knew he would never be able to afford again.

Randall just wouldn’t understand. He hadn’t grown up in a house near Queen Anne with an amazing view of Lake Union. He hadn’t been there through good and bad, starting in the 1970s when the economy was down, and they had that sign that half-jokingly read: “Will the last person leaving Seattle — Turn out the lights”

Now, the challenge was the opposite: finding a way to afford living in his hometown he sometimes hardly recognized anymore. Newcomers making money hand over fist were pushing up rent and house prices while adding traffic to the roads. Clyde’s morning commute had transformed from a twenty-minute drive into a bumper-to-bumper journey to the yacht club and back to his place, sometimes lasting well over an hour.

He didn’t really blame the new people for all that, but it quietly bothered him when everyone spoke of how great it was there. It was great for some, especially those who were new.

No one thing that had forced Clyde out of the historic single-story home four years ago that he had bought in 1979. The reasons why ran longer than the length of his old Buick Century that had maneuvered like a tank through narrow residential streets with every inch of curb now lined with parked cars. He and his wife had just replaced it with one of those high gas mileage Toyotas paid for with a car load.

Even the equity on his house had hurt him, as the property taxes increased faster than his salary could keep up. And though he made a nice profit off the house sale, it was nowhere near enough to buy another place anywhere in the area and leave him and the wife something left over for retirement.

There were rural parts of King County or places up north along Interstate 5 he could go, but he refused to leave Seattle. To him, it was like surrendering to some unseen foe subtly waging war against people like him who liked living there, not because the economy was good, but because to them it was their home. His wife felt the same.

Now, they were stuck with a small condo in north Seattle with a homeowner’s association composed of California transplants who operated like the mob when it came to dues. Something always seemed to need repair.

“You been planning this party for a while?” Randall asked.

“Yep, since last year. Socked away money from every paycheck.”

“Sounds like you’ll have a good time.”

“I plan to. Nothing can wreck this for me.”

Randall finished his chardonnay and paid his bill. He discreetly slipped a twenty-dollar bill into Clyde’s hand when no one else was looking. “It’s not a tip. Get a drink on me tonight.”

“Thanks, boss!”

For the next few hours, the bar area was quiet. Other workers were assigned to handle the table orders. He turned the dishwasher on and watched the clock, taking occasional glances out the window offering a view of downtown Seattle. Traffic for the moment looked good.

He was just about to clock out for the day when he got a call from his wife, Andreas. Somehow, he knew there was trouble before he answered it. Her sniffing confirmed it.

“You coming home?” she asked.

“Yeah, what’s wrong?”

“I got this thing in the mail that says we owe a lot of money for the car.”

“The loan payment?”

“No. The tabs or whatever.”

“How much?”

She named the figure. He asked her to repeat it.

Three hundred and four dollars.

There had to be a mistake.

“Sit tight,” he said as he headed out the front entrance. He ran to his car and hopped in, pulling onto the road. He didn’t get far before he got an alert on his phone; an accident near the Fremont Bridge was clogging up the local roads. He headed north, hoping to get home by going around Green Lake.

Turning right at an intersection, he looked at a long stretch of road full of cars as far as he could see. The light ahead was green, but no one was moving because there was nowhere to go on the other side.

He slumped back in his seat, fumbling with the radio stations. One of them was playing oldies, but no song seemed to break him out of his indescribable mood as he watched the cars ahead remain idle minute after minute…


Andreas was there to greet him in the foyer when he arrived at their condo, an opened envelope in her hand. She wasn’t crying, but she was doing her best to hold it all together. He gave her a reassuring look as he pulled out the bill from the state’s department of licensing and read it.

He didn’t speak for a while.

“Well?” Andreas asked hopefully.

He put the letter down and spoke in a monotone voice. “You’re right. That’s how much the tabs are.”


“That new tax that got approved last year to pay for all those new transit projects.”

“But the tax wasn’t supposed to be that high!”

Clyde didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t followed the issue much during the election. All he knew was that it was one more thing that made it hard for him to afford living in the city. He needed to come up with three hundred and four dollars, soon. He couldn’t take it out of his checking account; he needed that to cover impending medical bills. And he wouldn’t take out more credit card debt. He and Andreas had saved hard to pay it all off.

“What are we going to do?” she asked.

He put the letter down on the kitchen table and walked into the living room. The walls were covered with pictures of his family. He fixated on one photo of his childhood outside of his parents’ house in Queen Anne.

After a long sigh, he grabbed his phone and reluctantly dialed a number. He slowly put the phone to his ear.

“Jake? Look, we’ve got a change of plans…”


“Want another drink, sir?”

Clyde looked up from his Old Fashioned at the young bartender offering a professional grin. He looked no older than twenty-four.

The lounge was so loud Clyde didn’t bother trying to be heard. He just shook his head, then sipped the rest of his drink.

He suddenly felt a nudge from Jake, his friend for twenty years. They were both dressed in their favorite sports jackets and flat caps, looking like identical twins.

“You alright, man?” Jake asked. He worked at a repair shop, the smell of grease and oil still on him.

Clyde nodded. He couldn’t show his disappointment and ruin the mood. The hotel reservation had been cancelled, along with the speakeasy. The Friday evening celebration had instead consisted of playing pool at one of the few dive bars left in Seattle. Now they were at the Pelican Lounge, a cocktail bar that had opened last year in Belltown. Yet, the interior offered nothing to suggest they were in Seattle. It might as well have been New York City.

Andreas was at the end of the bar counter talking to Shauna, Jake’s wife. Both seemed happy enough. She had taken the news well. But then again, she wasn’t a true native: she had grown up on the Eastside.

“It’s all good, man,” Jake said to him, slapping him gently on the back. “We had a good time last night, and we’ll have more fun tonight, too.”

“I know.”

“What time you want to be back home?”

“Never. I want this night to last forever.”

The bartender laughed with forced humor as he fixed a Bloody Mary for another customer.

“Where you two from?” he asked.

“Here,” Clyde replied.

“When did you move here?”

“Never. I’m native.”

The bartender seemed impressed. “Really? That’s cool. I’m from Idaho. I live down south in Renton right now, but I want to get a house with friends here in Seattle. That way we can be around everything, like you.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“You sure you don’t want another drink?”

Clyde shrugged, nudging Jake with his elbow. “He’s taking care of the tab tonight, so why not? Make it a gin and tonic.”

While they waited, Clyde and Jake resumed their ongoing debate over the greatest moment in Seattle sports history. Jake insisted it was 2013 Seahawks, while Clyde favored the 2001 Mariners. When his gin and tonic arrived, they stopped their friendly bickering to once again toast to their mutual, eternal hope the Sonics would one day come back home.

“It’s cool you guys have been here so long to remember all this stuff,” the bartender remarked. “What’s it been like?”

“What do you mean?” Clyde asked.

“What’s it like to have lived in Seattle for so long?”

He offered the young man a peculiar smile that only Jake understood.

“It’s nice,” he said.