Gimme another beer he shouted down the bar. It was mid afternoon at JJ's a local bar in the Silverlake district of LA. The damp grey air seeped in through the velvet curtain shroud surrounding the open door. The floor had a layer of grease and dirt that no amount of borax could cut through. Ashtrays on every table, and about 1 every foot along the L shaped bar that took up most of the space. Jerry, a regular, sat at the far end of the room, in darkness. He was always there when the doors opened an didn’t leave until his kid showed up to fetch him home around dinnertime. Hold your horses said John Jr. the proprietor. JJ was a resourceful man and the bar venture was simply the latest in a string of businesses in a string of cities across the country. There was the candy company and the sweet oil factory, there was the coffee grinding service and that farm they’d lived on for a time.
Elizabeth, his wife of 30 years and the mother of his 9 children had slowly sagged into her apron, her spectacles sliding down her nose, eyes defeated and lips downturned. She never laughed at his jokes anymore, or his stories from behind the bar. Of he tried to tell her, she would cut him off with a glance or a short comment. Oh year funny guy you are JJ. Remember the night that Rose was to graduate and you got hauled off to jail. I know it wasn’t you running numbers behind the juice box, but you knew what was going on. You and all your fancy radio friends going on until all hours. Me at home with dinner on the stove and mouths to feed while you tell jokes to strangers and posers.
Oh Elizabeth, give me a break darling. You know the kiddies love me and I always close early on Christmas, and wait till after the mid day mass to open up on Sundays. I never let those hucksters swindle my regulars, but don’t get in the way of a friendly poker game or a wager.
John, she frowned and wrung her hands. John I need more grocery money. You need to get a real job. Not just play act like you have any sense of business. You are charming but hopeless as a provider. The boys, our boys hanging by the door, picking up the cigar butts and lighting them out back, stinking up their clean clothes. They should be doing schoolwork, or selling magazines, helping around the house. You are not setting a good example for those boys, what’s to become of them
John looked up at her and smiled shaking his head, not a sound,
To be continued