True Story, Chapter 4

Chapter 3 here

The redhead is still gone.  There’s a male barback who looks like he just earned his high school diploma a year early. Nervous. Baby face. Overwhelmed.

I drink beer slow, and slowly do the Asians trickle in. I’m not being racist. It’s all Asian tourists arriving, like warriors dressed in Patagonia with selfie-sticks as swords. They are social media conquerors. They are driven to have a good time. 

The selfie-stick among young rich Asians is generally more accepted. They view it as fun. Americans with any form of self-awareness generally carry some self-loathing while taking a selfie. Notice how I say “self-awareness,” not self-preservation. This self-loathing  enables them to keep taking selfies while simultaneously reading New York Times articles about the negative impacts of social media (“Is Facebook Making Us More Self-Centered?”) Yes, a master’s degree is a powerful defense mechanism. 

Of course,  I’m being cynical. I’m sure some people from our continent use selfie-sticks without any narcissistic impulse. They’re called Canadians.

The music is back to ACDC and I’ve been asked to buy at least two aging pirates drinks. They’re nice enough, and promised no more “Back in Black,” so I’ll take what I can get. 

The Asians are beautiful and fit and both incredibly excited to be slumming in the real Alaska,  but also rightfully scared because the bar probably is somewhat racist. Some of these men fought in the Vietnam war, and I don’t say that because I’m political,  but because two of them have brought it up in the last hour to get that drink from me. Both served at a base in Ohio. 

Some Asian men hold their women’s hands a little tighter, or give them the random peck on the lips. This isn’t because they are afraid, though they are, but insecure that their lady might be drawn away because they are revealing themselves as scared. They are afraid of their lover finding out they are afraid. They are afraid of being known.

But God is good,  and one must thank the mid-twenties female tourist who decided, against the will of the bearded bar and round tables of crocodile skin, to play The Best of TLC.

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls!” sings six Chinese women and one already-drunk Japanese man (he knows he’s an outlier in this mostly Chinese crowd,  and is acting out accordingly.)

The redhead bartender comes out from the back. She gives me the look that says there was a lot of piss

How was it? I ask.

Lot of piss.

Ouch.

Yeah. Want another beer?

Sure,  as long as it’s not domestic.

Why?

Too much piss for one night.

That’s not really funny.

Not trying to be.

You’re doing a really good job.

Hugenheim White, then.

Okay.

She pours. I check my phone. 9:50. She hands me the beer.

So,  she says, N sent you?

Yeah.

Okay.  What did he tell you?

Just bring the selfie stick.  Meet you.

It starts in ten minutes.  We need to talk.

Where?

Outside.

Yo Danny,  she shouts to the barback, I’m gonna go smoke.

Okay, Danny says, be fast, they’re all coming in.

Yeah, yeah.

We walk out of the building and stand outside. She lights up.

Want one?

No, I’m trying to quit.

You said try.

I shrug and take a drag off hers.

So, she says,  let’s make this quick. We know a certain businessman associated with a massive Chinese bank is coming in.

Okay. 

She takes out her phone and shows me a photo. It’s official, from the bank’s website. He looks like a flabby Jackie Chan in a suit villains wear on TV shows about rich evil businessmen.

Guy is powerful. COO. Loaded. On his first vacation since he started his career. 

So, what, I gotta take a selfie with him?

Sort of. You need to get him really drunk.

Why?

We’re going to kidnap him.

Excuse me?

Kidnap him. Don’t worry,  you don’t have to do anything but lure him away.

How do I do that?

He’s gay.

Oh.

Excited?

Not really.

You’ll do fine. You just have to remove him from the bar.

So, no hotel room shenanigans.

What? She says, nearly coughing.

You know, like, you bring the person to the hotel room and get information.

No, no. Wow, you’re green. This isn’t a spy movie. You’re just moving him to the road then a van will grab him.

Okay.

Unless you want that.

I’m not gay.

You kept looking over at the Mike’s Hard Lemonade sign.

That was…

I’m a bartender, honey. Even if you just like the taste, don’t ever order Mike’s unless you want a man with that name. It’s a mating call. 

Gotchya.

So, when he comes in, do your magic.

How will the van know who to pick up?

You tell me when you’re leaving the bar.

Okay.

I’ll tell them, they’ll watch you leave.

What about, like, bodyguards? 

No security in Alaska. He wanted to “experience a week unknown.”

How do you know that? 

Guy thinks Windows Defender will stop hackers wanting his emails. 

She takes a drag while grinning then loudly whispers, It doesn’t.

I nod. 

You’ll do great, she says.

Thanks.

I gotta go back inside. Good luck. 

Here, I say, I’ll finish the rest of that cigarette. 

She smiles and hands it to me, looking into my eyes the whole time. 

She says, easy there, cowboy. 

I watch all of her walk away.

As the smoke goes upwards snow falls from a near cloudless sky. The snowflakes melt into the stars. I take a drag. 

Oh mercy. 

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