Another installment in my comedy western that still needs a name. I haven’t had made the time to add any new content to this story in a few weeks (shame on me) so we are still working off chapters I’d already written. Maybe with a bit of encouragement I’d make this project more of a priority….
Yes, that is me fishing for compliments and comments and conundrums. Okay, not so much the conundrums but I needed another “C” word. But if you’ve got conundrums, I’ll take those too. In the comments section. If you’d be so kind.
Did you see what I did there?
If you need to catch up here are the previous chapters. I’m sure you’ve got the drill down by now. Enjoy!
El borracho was used to being awake at four in the morning. However, he was used to still being awake at that hour. “Still” being the operative word. He wasn’t quite used to having to get up that early to be awake for the rest of the day afterwards. That was something new and different. He didn’t much care for it.
But, in the spirit of trying to get his life turned back around, and not wanting to let down the sheriff after he got him this opportunity, he bathed the night before and then was up and at the Gunnison Inn with a few minutes to spare.
It should be noted that Jack thought, every bit as much as Dan had as well, the sheriff was trying to be funny when he learned he was going to be working at a bar. It was a job though and he would make a go of it even if he too thought it wasn’t the best idea.
Dan met Jack at the door with a broom in his left hand. They introduced themselves and shook hands making his employment official, and then Dan handed off the broom. “It was a pretty easy night, nothing broken, but I still want the place swept up and then depending on how slow the morning is it could use a mopping too.”
Jack surveyed the room to find the best starting place for his new task. He opted to start up near the bar so he could then sweep the dust and grime towards the main entrance door and then out into the street beyond. It would be the most efficient way to go about the process. And there are only two drunks sleeping at the counter for me to work around. I can get the areas around them first while they are still passed out.
“I’m going to go get some shut eye. My room is just down that corridor, last one on the left.” Dan pointed towards the far wall where a small hallway disappeared into the gloom beyond. “Wake me when you are ready for your next task.” Dan threw a sideways glance at his new hire and then trudged off towards his room and the promise of a bed for a few hours.
Jack didn’t even watch him go. He just got to work without further ado. Sometimes the best way to wake up is to ignore the tiredness and just get busy. I guess we can discuss pay when I wake him up later. He remembered the mop and was on the verge of worrying about how he was supposed to do that chore when he spied it and the bucket, already full of suds, propped up against the wall on the opposite side of the counter. Well, lookee there.
Jack worked his way gingerly around the two sleeping drunks, making sure to get the areas under them swept thoroughly without making too much noise or hitting any part of them with the long wooden handle. Their arms were splayed out across the bar above their sideways resting heads, eyes closed, mouths open, drool pooling, and legs hooked behind the wooden steps at the base of their stools keeping them from falling to the floor. How many mornings have I woken up to wipe the drool from my face as I tried to remember where I was? Certainly more than I’d like to admit to.
After sweeping around the two sleeping patrons from the previous night, Jack moved behind the bar to collect as much dirt and grime from there as he could and added to his growing pile. Then he worked his way back and forth across the width of the floor, moving chairs and the few scattered tables as needed, constantly shifting his pile closer and closer to the door until he finally got to open the door and push it all across the small wooden walkway and into the dirt street.
On his way back into the bar, he paused in the doorway to survey his accomplishment. He noticed a few spots under some of the larger tables that he missed and set about sweeping up those areas as well. While getting the second large pile of gunk successfully swept out the door the first of the two patrons woke up, stumbled to the door, finally found some solid footing, gave Jack a weak grin and tipped back his hat in a brief “hello and goodbye” and ventured into the daylight. Jack held the door for him and watched his somewhat unsteady progress down the walkway until the man turned a corner and disappeared.
“How many mornings have I looked like that, stumbling and bumbling my way home after drinking myself to sleep the night before?” He was embarrassed for the man, and embarrassed for his own memories of behaving the same way. That embarrassment made him want to drink, but he shook himself free of the notion and distracted himself by throwing his mind and body back into his work. Not going to give in that easy.
He switched out the broom for the bucket and mop, started first with the area behind the bar, and then worked his way slowly towards the front door again. Halfway through the project the second patron woke and quickly made his exit. Jack had to go back and re-clean the section of floor the man had used to make his exit as he left muddy boot prints with each step. Jack didn’t mind though, it wasn’t that much to re-do and it kept him occupied that much longer.
After he had the bar to himself, he decided to clean out the bucket and do the rest of the bar with new soap and water. He dumped the dirty water behind the bar and then made the short trip to the town’s well, drew up some clean water and transferred it to his bucket, made his way back to the bar, only sloshing a little bit of water onto his pants in the process, found some soap in a container under the counter, cut a few shavings into the bucket and used the mop to get it all sudsy again. He finished the rest of the floor and dumped the dirty water outside again.
Dan still had not reemerged from his room and it was still mostly dark outside, though a hint of pink was creeping into the sky from the east. Jack couldn’t see that, he was inside the bar, but it’s okay for you to know that morning was approaching. Anyway, it had been long enough that he knew it was getting close to sunrise without needing to see the pink in the sky.
Before going to wake his employer, he decided to wipe down all the tables and chairs and get them cleaned up a bit too. When that was done the sun had risen enough that he could see light coming through the windows facing the street. It wasn’t morning yet, but it was approaching fast.
Well, guess I should go wake up Dan and see what I need to do next.
Jack made his way down the corridor and gently wrapped on his boss’s door. After a moment of silence, Jack knocked again. “Yes?” Dan’s voice was rough with sleep. “Finished already?”
“Yes, sir,” Jack replied to the closed door.
There were no signs of movement from inside the room but Dan did reply, “Good, good, now go take inventory of the bottle’s out front. There should be three of every kind of whiskey and beer out there. That’s three unopened bottles, so one that still has some in it doesn’t count. If any need to be replaced the storage room is right across from this room, just grab a candle from out front and make the restocks. I’ll be up by the time you are done.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack replied again.
“And I’m no ‘sir,’” Dan called out from his room. “Call me Dan, or Reilly, but I don’t want to hear ‘sir’ again.”
Alright, Jack thought and went to set about his next task. Inventory, this is going to be tough.
The bottles were arranged on shelves behind the counter and under the counter. A large mirror against the back wall that some of the bottles were stacked in front of made it look like there were twice as many bottles as there really were. Jack involuntarily licked his lips as he surveyed the supplies; whiskeys and gins and bourbons, oh my.
He did his best to push back the urge growing inside him and began to ascertain the levels in each of the bottles. This one is half full, but there are 1, 2, 3 full ones behind it. This one is three quarters full and there are 1, 2, … only 2 full ones. Okay, need to grab a new one of these: Flannigans Scotch Whiskey. Holding the bottle in his hand made him feel good. It would be so easy to just take the stopper out and take a swig. No one would know.
He wanted a drink.
No, no I don’t. He shook his head to emphasize the point and shake off the urge but he didn’t put the bottle down.
Yes, yes he did.
I’m in control here and I say I don’t want a drink. He managed to place the bottle back on the shelf, locate a candle and some matches, light the candle and head back to the storage room to try to get a third bottle. He had never seen a storage room for a bar before and the sight that met him when he swung the door open was enough to send him to his knees. It’s beautiful. Row after row of glistening bottles full of booze were visible in the soft flickering glow of the candle.
His eyes went wide. He didn’t even know that he had fallen to his knees. The urge, the desire, the ability to slate his thirst indefinitely was there within touching distance in front of him. All he had to do was reach out and grab one of the bottles, just one, and take a drink. It would taste sweet, wouldn’t it?
No. No. Jack struggled with his addiction. He made it back to his feet but he swayed a little bit. El borracho was a bit unsteady in the presence of so much booze. It called to him. I don’t want to drink.
No? Really? You aren’t fooling anyone.