The snow shouldn’t have come as a surprise, it was winter in the Sierra Nevada, but as usual she was unprepared. Having been on tour for the last 7 months, it was difficult to remember the days of the week, let alone what the weather would be in Nevada when she had just been in Georgia two days before. She had needed a break and the band was never surprised when a few extra days allowed her to go off the grid and then meeting up with them at the next show. She went unnoticed in her pony tail, average rental car and cheap motel ways. Somehow it grounded her, back to basics, cell phone uncharged and packed in the trunk, favorite jeans and her guitar. A few days to herself without her shadow of fame dragging her down.
Driving had been a challenge, but with the fading afternoon and snowflakes the size of cotton balls, she was relieved when she came across the small mountain town. If you considered a gas station, local dive bar, coffee shop and a grocery store a town. It obviously met the needs of its residents but was not a travel destination, no motel in sight. Her years on the bar circuit had prepared her for nights like these. Room or not, it didn’t matter, barkeeps always had a way of finding space for nomads of the night.
In short order, she had discovered the bartenders name was Keith, before she could introduce herself he handed her a beer and said, “This one’s on me.” She knew he recognized her but he didn’t say a word, she liked him all ready. They briefly talked about the storm and then she made her way to a table, occasionally retrieving another beer from Keith. Inspired, she took out her notebook and started working on something new, she had to run with these moments when they appeared, she heard the door, but was too lost in thought to look up.
“Jesus I need a drink,” he thought as he entered the bar. His own private, hard core communion wine, whiskey, forget the body of Christ and go straight to an infusion of sinners blood.
He didn’t care that the snow had forced him off of the road. He had been driving for days; starting when he had gotten the call the bastard was finally dead. He had left the east coast late one night and arrived on the west coast 4 days later. The cremation had taken place before he had arrived and he spent a day meeting with an attorney and realtor. Who would have guessed that the run down ocean front bungalow his parents had purchased at the end of their hippie days would now finance his early retirement. The only reason he had made the trip at all was to gather what was sitting on the seat next to him; a pair of ancient coffee mugs. Hers was permanently stained with her favorite shade of Channel Red lipstick and his was cracked and unmistakably smelling of cheap whiskey.
The bar was nearly empty, he noticed one other person but he was more focused on the bartender who obviously was trapped in the snowstorm. The bartender not only poured his newest customer a shot, but one for himself.
“Haven’t seen it blow like this since 1997. If you think this is some Bing Crosby holiday moment, you’re wrong, not one is getting home for Christmas.”
“I have no other place to be, as long as that whiskey keeps flowing.”
The bartender said, “My name is Keith.”
“I am Ben. Finally taking notice of the other customer, he nodded to Keith, “What about her, what’s her story?”
Not saying a word, Keith poured 2 more shots, slid them over the bar and slightly lifted his chin motioning toward her.
He didn’t ask if he could join her, he just sat down and slid a shot of whiskey her way. Taking her in, he noticed her long hair tucked behind her ears, empty beer bottles, a notepad and a worn guitar case. She smiled, drank the whiskey and said, “I don’t know who you are, but I am sure this blizzard just became worthwhile.”
He leaned forward, “I like that in a woman.”
“What would that be?” She asked.
“This obviously isn’t your first rodeo.”
“Is it that close to closing time all ready?” She smirked.
“Not even close.”
There is freedom that comes with an empty bar filled with 2 people. No witnesses to the beauty of what too much whiskey may bring. No companions to piss off and nowhere else to be. They both knew it was coming, but which one of them will it be? The whiskey will do its work, the laughter will be replaced by a long pause and then one of them will crack open the door to their soul.
She could feel him truly looking at her, his face was angled toward the table but his eyes were looking up to greet her gaze. She leaned back in her chair, feet up on the vacant one between them. She was pleased he had not recognized her.
He broke the silence, “You remind me of this girl in high school. My parents wore out their welcome in many towns when I was a kid, but one year we landed in a small town I will never forget. My sister hooked into her but before long, she was hanging out with the “who’s who” at school, being the new girl after all. So my sister would ditch us both and we would find ourselves hanging out, she listened and for the first time, I talked. You have that look.”
He had drawn her in, “What look would that be?”
“The one that cracks me open just enough to scare the hell out of me and makes me share more than I should.”
With one motion she lifted her legs off the chair and walked over to Keith who was smiling and ready to hand her the bottle by the time she approached the bar.
Returning, she filled his glass and hers. “I am Casey,” she downed her shot and refilled, “And after I drink this,” downing the next shot, “I think we just might be on the same page.”
To be continued………..