03
Jan
2013

IN MARTY TIME, by Jim Meirose

Jim Meirose’ short work has appeared in numerous venues. Two collections have been published, and two novels, Claire and Monkey, are likewise available.

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Just one customer sat in the shadowy bar, late afternoon.

So what’s new, said the bartender. You still working?

Tina gripped her beer. Nope, she said. I’m retired. You know what that means?

He smiled as he wiped dry a glass. No I don’t — what does it mean.

It means death — no, I’m only kidding –

He smiled as he picked up the next glass.

Good. You had me worried there.

Yeah — this is good beer.

We try, he said.

How come you never ask me what kind of beer I want?

Because I know what you want, he said.

But I’ve forgotten.

I haven’t.

Tell me what brand of beer this is.

You should know. You ordered it years ago.

I’ve forgotten, I told you.

You don’t need to know.

She smiled and took a drink. Oh — hey listen, she said, resting her chin on her hand. What are your plans for today?

I’ll be here.

No. I mean after that?

After that I’ll be going home. Marty is taking over from me at five.

Marty? I don’t think I’ve ever met Marty.

Oh! He’s quite a guy. You’d like him.

Think so?

Yes.

In what way?

I don’t know. That would be up to you –

She waved a hand. Please!

But really — you ought to stay long enough to meet Marty. You ought to stay until five. It’s four already.

She looked at her watch. It’s five after four, actually.

So it is – anyway — Marty’s got a speedboat. You ought to go out with him on it.

He must have money –

Yeah and he drives a Mercedes convertible — a flashy sporty one.

What color is it?

It’s red.

That sounds cute –

It is — Marty’s got a plane too — he keeps it out at Kupper airport.

God — a speedboat, a Mercedes, a plane — how’s he do it on this salary?

Oh this is just a side job for Marty. He’s got several businesses.

What kind of businesses?

I’m not sure. He never really explained — but he rakes in the dough. He just works as a bartender to decompress.

Is he married?

Nope. Single.

What’s he look like?

Oh, handsome — very very handsome. Tall, built well, nice hair. He wears expensive clothes too. You should meet him. He used to work for an escort service — lord god he’s got the looks for it.

An escort service?

Yeah. And — he’s a skydiver — he jumps out of planes. Has been doing that for years.

And you say he’s single?

Oh yeah — and I’ve seen him with women — he pours on the charm — he really knows how to treat a woman — money is no object. I’ve seen him buy thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and other gifts — he bought one woman a Mercedes like his. For cash.

Get out!

Nope — it’s true.

Were these just — women that he met here?

Yeah. Pretty much. I could see him going for you though.

Think so?

Yes — hang around until five. I’ll introduce you.

What’s Marty’s last name?

I’m not quite sure.

What do you mean you’re not quite sure — you know everything else about him.

You get to know all about people who come in here — but you don’t always know their last names.

But he works here. He’s not just a customer. He works here, and you don’t know his last name? Isn’t this your place? Didn’t you hire him?

He shook his head and pushed out an arm.

No, no, no, look — I’ll be honest with you. I know his last name. He just wouldn’t want it shared.

Wouldn’t want it shared?

Right. He values his privacy. After all, when you’ve got that kind of money — you’ve got to be careful.

Why?

Because people will try and take advantage of you. I’ll tell you what — when you meet him, ask him his last name. If he wants you to know it, he’ll tell you. Like I said, hang around. It’s four thirty now.

OK — say what are your plans for tonight? Anything special?

Nope. Home to the wife, and kid — and a big dinner.

What’re you having for dinner?

Oh it’s a surprise — my wife always surprises me.

Is she a good cook?

Oh yeah — and as a matter of fact, so is Marty — he’s a real gourmet.

Really?

Yes. Cooks all kind of exotic dishes — squab, and like that.

Squab.

Yeah. That’s a little bird.

Are you sure?

Oh yeah. Perfectly sure. Maybe Marty will cook a dinner for you. He’s done that for other ladies he’s met here. He’s had them over, had some wine, a good dinner –

And what else?

Oh nothing else. Marty is a perfect gentleman. He would never impose himself on a lady. And believe me — there are plenty of ladies who wish he would. I mean, with his looks, his clothes, his body, his way of speaking — oh when you meet him you’ll be impressed.

Sounds like you’re pretty impressed with him yourself.

I am. He’s someone a man can look up to. A good example. You should see how they’ll flock in here after he takes over — everybody will try and be near Marty — he’s got that — that charisma. And as a bartender, he’s superb — he knows every drink there is. Nobody’s stumped him yet. Wait until you meet him you’ll see — try and stump him.

I don’t usually go for exotic drinks –

Oh, but here’s something else — he’ll talk to you a little bit, size up your personality, then make you a special drink mixed just for you. He does that for all the ladies. Those are usually on the house.

On the house? How do you feel about that?

Oh, it’s fine — he draws such a crowd that in the end it’s all worth it. And here’s something else many people don’t know — he’s a war hero.

War hero? What war –

Gulf war. Silver Star. I tell you, he’s an interesting guy, worth meeting — oh look, it’s quarter to five. He could show up any minute. I tell you, when he comes in the whole place will light up.

I — I can’t wait to meet him.

I figured — and wait until you hear the way he talks — he knows how to talk to a lady — trust me, you’ll never have felt so much like a lady as Marty will make you feel.

How do you know all this? How the ladies feel –

They tell me how he makes them feel. They can’t help but want to talk about Marty. There’s never been another guy like him.

I’m a little bit nervous.

Here’s a fresh beer.

Thanks.

It’s eight to five — he will be here any time now. Oh — and you know what else?

No. What?

He’s a great dancer. He’s won several dancing competitions. You ought to get to know him and get him to take you out dancing — why, I’ve heard that out at the Willows, when he goes there dancing, the people just gather around in a big circle and watch him and his partner dance, that’s how good he is. Are you a good dancer?

Well — I think so.

Dancing with him will make you twice the dancer you already are — take it from me — I’ve seen him. He’s like a Fred Astaire — hey look — it’s four to five. He will be here any time now. Be ready, though. Sometimes he comes in a little bit early. Likes to freshen up in the men’s room before he starts his shift — he always looks fresh pressed and sharp, hair perfect — and you ought to see his posture — it’s better than a Marine’s. He carries himself like a king.

Wow — you really think a lot of him, don’t you –

Why do you say?

You go on and on like this –

I can’t help it but go on and on about Marty — hey — it’s two minutes to five. That door might open any second –

What kind of cologne does he wear? That’s about the only thing you haven’t told me –

It’s a minute to five. Watch the door.

My God. You –

It’s thirty seconds to five. Look — Marty’s always on time, on the dot.

Really –

It’s 15 seconds to five.

I –

It’s eight seconds to five –

She drank from her beer.

It’s four seconds –

Two –

One –

It’s half a second to five.

It’s a quarter of a second to five –

An eighth –

A sixteenth –

She sat open-mouthed.

A thirty-second.

A sixty-fourth –

A one hundred twenty-eighth –

A two hundred sixty-fifth –

And they sat frozen waiting forever in the dim-lit late afternoon bar for Marty, because the time turned out to be always half of a half of a half of a half of the time until five. They waited and they waited and five o’clock never came — and the closer it got to five o’clock the less time there was to speak, to think, to act, about Marty. The less time there was for their hearts to pump and their blood to flow. So they ceased to exist. They froze. They shrank to nothing — trapped in Marty time.

 

 

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