Chapter 9

On and on we go.  Where we are going to stop not even I know… because I haven’t written the ending yet.  I should probably get on that.

If you need to catch up here are the previous chapters.

…..

More than anything, he didn’t want to fail on his first day, and that desire finally allowed him to overpower all of his other urges, he located the required bottle of scotch whiskey and returned to the front to continue restocking the alcohol supplies at the bar.  Over the next hour, or so, he made several trips back and forth to the supply room to replace what needed replacing.  He was tempted less on each subsequent trip and by the fifth trip, to grab a bottle of Kentucky bourbon, he was so involved in his task that he didn’t even stop to ponder the possibility of taking a drink. 

Nearing the end of his current task, Reilly made his way out of his room and up to the bar to see the work that had been completed so far.  He was pleased with how clean the floor looked, surprised to see that the tables and chairs had been cleaned up as well, and also surprised that Jack had passed the test he had given him.

The barkeep had given Jack the job of restocking the bar supplies to see if he would be able to resist the call of the surplus booze.  He hadn’t expected el borracho to pass the test but was happy the man had.  It meant, along with seeing how well the place had been cleaned up, that he could get some extra sleep going forward.  He wouldn’t need to check on jack again.  I just need to see how he handles the customers that come in this morning and if he does that okay I should be able to sleep until noon from now on.  Well, from now until he either screws up or moves on.

I guess we should discuss pay too.  Dan was conflicted on that subject.  He didn’t feel like he needed to pay Jack the same rate as he would pay his more experienced help, but he also knew that Cole would give him hell if he didn’t pay his newest assistant a fair wage.  But what is a fair wage?

With the final replacement bottle acquired and stacked neatly in place Jack presented himself to Dan for the next task.  “What else needs to get done?” 

“Nothing at the moment, Jack,” Reilly responded.  He was a man of large girth and he hoisted himself onto one of the bar stools.  You would have thought it would creek under his weight, such was his size, but he had specifically brought in the highest quality stools so he could sit at his own bar when he felt like it without fear he’d snap any of his stools.

“You’ve done a good job this morning, even cleaned up the tables and chairs without me having to ask, that was good.  The floor, the furniture, and the alcohol, those are the three tasks that you’ll need to get done first every morning.  Though, of course, if customers walk in while you are cleaning up they should be your first priority and then you can get back to work once you’ve served them.

“You probably won’t get much in the way of customers that early though.  It does happen from time to time but it is a rare occurrence.  Oh, and if any of the few who have fallen asleep at the counter from the night before haven’t woken and shoved off by the time you are getting ready to restock the whiskey then wake them and show them to the door before you start the inventory, got it?”

“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Jack said while nodding in his head in the affirmative.

He had his hands behind his back, standing up straight, feet spread, standing in the “at ease” position.  He is former military, Dan thought.  Sure he’s let himself go a bit, the drinking always helps with that, but I’d stake my claim that he has served our country in one branch or another.  That’s very interesting.  I wonder what happened that led him to hiding in the bottle…

Dan was even more conflicted about the pay than he had been before.  He would certainly get good, reliable, work out of Jack if he was a former military man.  Well, as long as el borracho could remain ‘Jack’ and stay away from the booze.  What to do, what to do?

“I’m currently paying my other staff around $30 a month.  I’d like to start you off at $25 a month and as you prove your usefulness that number can go up to be in line with the rest of them.  How does that sound?”

“It’s a number I can certainly live with, and probably more than I deserve,” Jack offered his hand and the two men shook on it.  “Thank you, I’ll make sure you get your money’s worth out of me.”

On the outside Jack was calm, reserved, steady, showing no hint of the turmoil going on inside.  $25 dollars!  That’s almost double what I was making when I was working on that ranch outside Denver last year.  I managed to get myself into trouble enough on those meager wages to eventually be forced off the ranch.  How am I going to keep myself out of trouble when I’m making even more?

“Well, until we get some customers,” Dan said, “you might as well kick your boots up and get some rest.”

Jack eased into the stool next to Dan and they spent the next hour or so chatting about Gunnison.  Since he had the promise of income, at least until he was no longer able to resist the booze and went back to drinking, Jack needed to learn a little more about the town so he knew where to look for a place to rent, a temporary place he could call home.

After getting a good breakdown of the town from Dan, Jack filed away the information he needed so he could go on the search for a place after his shift and he marveled at how well his mind was functioning two weeks out from his last real drink.  Eventually the conversation turned to the other places the two men had lived and they swapped humorous stories of some of the situations they had each found themselves in.  Jack deftly steered the conversation away from topics he wanted to avoid: his days in the military, most of his “jobs” in the last few years, and other sensitive specifics about his past.  Drunks seem to have a knack for manipulating conversations away from things they don’t want to discuss, and el borracho was no exception.

The first customers of the day started drifting in just before noon.   Some were there to get a stiff drink before they started their shifts in the silver and coal mines in the mountains north of town.   Even the bravest of men could use a little liquid courage to get them to earn their living working underground.  Those patrons took a few quick drinks and then caught the wagons making the long trek up into the hills.  Some of the patrons were headed home from their shifts in the mines and they tended to order more than a few drinks and stay awhile, spending a portion of their pay in the Gunnison Inn to help them re-connect with the society they’d been missing while working in the dark depths of the mines. 

After handling the first few customers, Dan turned over the pouring and cash handling responsibilities to Jack.  El borracho handled himself well, had a steady hand when pouring drinks, was amiable with the customers and had no problem taking, exchanging, and returning the cash coins for each drink. 

Not too bad, Dan thought, this may just work out after all.

Once again, I know what you are thinking.  If Jack had been so close to taking a drink upon seeing the stockpile of bottles in the storage room, wouldn’t the sight and smell of the drinks he was pouring send him over the edge?  He’d have poured drinks in his hand.  All he would have to do is bring it to his lips and tip it back rather than sliding it across the counter. 

He may be a drunk, but he is no thief, and shame on you for thinking that of him.  He wasn’t tempted by the drinks he was pouring because he made sure he took payment for each drink before he poured it.  Once the money exchanged hands those drinks were the rightful property of the man who had paid for them, the thought of taking one for himself never even crossed his mind. 

You could, of course, argue that the bottles upon bottles in the supply room were paid for by Dan Reilly and should therefore have been off limits as well.  I’ll grant you it is a fine line, but he would have wanted to repay Dan for any drinks he had consumed, if he had given in to his urges.  His free train ride into town and his free drink the morning after were paid for by his time in jail and the work he did for the sheriff.

Yep, el borracho was many things, but he was no thief.  I’m glad we got that settled.