A middle-aged woman approaches with her burly accomplice.
Pretty Ricky and I are sitting at a barrel with a tabletop plopped atop it at my trusty ol’ Cowboy Jack’s. I’m drinking a Michelob and he’s drinking a Bud Light, or perhaps I mixed them up when I set them down. They’re virtually identical, in taste and appearance, and they’re equally regrettable drinks. We lift plastic cups and suffer them nonetheless. Hey, they’re $2!
It’s after midnight, right around the time those boozy arcane streams creep up and flow through ol’ Jack’s. For me, standing in one will net me that elusive third star in a tough Angry Birds level when I’m here by myself on two-dollar burger night being COOL AS F*CK. When Ricky gets into a stream, however, middle-aged cuties appear.
We’re sitting about 40 feet to the left of the bachelorette party, the one with a plaid-rockin’ fish-faced creeper trying to wiggle his way into the fun. He circles the group, leaning into gaps when they open. The dames swat him back out, and the cycle repeats. I find his persistence admirable, but I’m certainly in the minority.
We’re sitting near the back of the building, some 30 feet from The Whiskies, whom Ricky affectionately referred to as “a Tuesday night band playing on Friday night.” They sully beloved tracks with stunning efficiency. Their cover of “Midnight Joker” is excretory, so much that I look up to Heaven and apologize to my deceased friend Mike. “Midnight Joker” was Mike’s song.
Back to this woman. She’s facing Pretty Ricky head-on so I can only judge her by shape. She’s short and slender, dark-haired, with a sweater and jeans. She stands between Ricky’s knees and raises her palms to his cheeks.
The bodyguard squares herself to me. I automatically raise my left hand to drink. MARRIED! But that’s not what she wants.
“That’s my cousin,” she asserts.
“Okay,” I answer. I check around to see if they were filming a Family Feud episode, but an iPhone is the most advanced recording equipment in the house.
A generously-fed milquetoast sits with a couple of girls at my seven o’clock. His head is squarish but circular, like an inflatable die maybe. His hair is just too tall to be buzz cut. A chinstrap snakes out from his tan goatee. His facial features appear locked in the “Who farted?” position.
An aside that matters: I had farted.
He came to the Wonderful World of Jack’s in a monotone, zip-up hoodie. His pants look worn, but not fashionably. I have to think the women were with him out of pity, or perhaps free drinks. That iPhone does look awfully shiny.
Back to Burly. Black hair is mussed behind her aggressive, dog-like face. She’s a gelatinous, unbalanced mess. She’s a Mongolian general made out of Jell-O, and she’s trying to recruit help to kibosh her friend’s little entrancement.
She forgets the gender divide here. When a female is confronted by trouble, fellow females rush to empower the female. When a male is confronted by trouble, fellow males rush to empower the trouble.
I point at Ricky and his new friend the way I would a bad sports play.
“Look at ’em,” I say. “Nothing’s going to happen.”
“We need to leave.” I don’t know what’s in this woman’s eyes. I assume Karkov — Svedka doesn’t become the world’s best vodka for another 19 years. “I’ve got a 14-year-old at home to attend to.”
In my head: “You do realize a 14-year-old recently won a Grammy award, right? I think he can find his way out of the play pen if he needs to go potty.”
Out my mouth: “If you need to get her and go, that’s on you.”
That’s when the cute friend lunges forward and plasters her lips onto Ricky’s. There’s no embrace, not even body-to-body standing. I’m not saying this lasts a figurative two seconds; I’m saying, one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, it’s over. I don’t see how the rotund cousin reacts. I tilt my head toward the bartender’s direction and scratch behind my right ear, as if I had just done something embarrassing.
The cute one dashes off. The Michelin Warlord (I’ve got these for days, guys, FOR DAYS!) bumbles off behind her, and a gray-haired woman dances her way past us and into the fray after them. Ricky looks behind him, then back at me.
“I just made out with that woman … in front of her mom,” says Ricky. My head pivots back, then to a side, then back at him.
“That woman was …”
“Yeah, that was her mom.” We hoist our steep drops and drink. Neither of us empty our glasses. We’ve suffered enough.
The magic of Cowboy Jack’s has been exhausted for the night. Our plaid-rockin’ shark, I’m fairly certain, passed out in an empty booth. The World’s Least Interesting Man was long gone, presumably to go pwn some noobs in a war game. The Whiskies had taken their shitshow back to whatever musical dumpster it had crawled out of.
A corner at the bar is all that remains, a corner being camped by the bar’s male remainders. They are the night’s untaken. They sit single-file with defeated faces, like we used to in the bleachers at high school dances. Waitresses are now wielding wet cloths and brooms. Televisions begin to go black.
Only a few minutes had passed, but the moment was special. It was special for me because I got to watch the magic in action. It was special for Ricky because he was the one casting the spell.