“You see that stain in the wood over there?” Wade asked. He was pointing to a corner of the slatted floor where the varnish was just a shade or two off from the rest of it. The discolored blob was roughly the size of a small motorcycle.
“Yeah,” I replied “what of it?”
“That’s where you and Jackie puked together, remember that? First you started pukin’, then he caught a whiff of it and started blowin’ chunks on top of yours.”
“I remember the tip we left.”
“That’s not the point. After my customers got drove out by the smell, I took a mop to it. I don’t know if it was his bile or yours, maybe it was the combination, but somthin’ about it ate right through the coloring. I scrubbed and scrubbed but it’s never been the same since.”
“It’s not like anyone can see with how dark you keep it in here.”
“That’s not the point goddamnit. It’s still there. You get me?”
“Yeah Wade, I get you.”
Corban’s wasn’t quite a dive bar. It was just on the edge of town where the forest was allowed to creep in around the houses. It was clean and the people were friendly but there was a persistent air of seediness that you could never quite shake. The dim parlor had shadows. I looked at my incomplete pyramid, just three glasses short, and ordered another.
The oaky burn of cheap whiskey tingled in my nose even after I stopped being able taste. The structure looked lonely without Jackie’s sitting beside it. Pyramids of Giza no more. With shaking hands, I still managed to gently stack the glass with the practiced precision of a surgeon.
The lumberyard wasn’t a safe place, everyone knew that. You couldn’t count how many fingers had been lost there on both hands. Jackie had no right to come to work. Neither of us did. We’d just come off a three-day bender and one night hadn’t been enough to sleep it off. I was recording twenty footers when his arm got caught.
I saw Wade pouring grenadine into some pansy’s Shirley Temple and my stomach turned. I swallowed my distaste and ordered another round. The whiskey chased the sick like a cleansing fire. Jackie preferred gin but he never drank it. Clear liquids were frowned upon.
The leather seat on the stool beside me was cracked and worn. There was an indent reminiscent of the hundreds of asses that warmed it on a given cold night. It didn’t seem the kind of stool that ought to be empty.
“One more?” asked Wade, eyeballing my nearly complete tower. Only one glass was missing from its peak.
Wade raised his eyebrows but didn’t comment. He poured the clear oily liquid into a glass. Something in it swirled like dish soap when it caught the light. I took the shot away from the bar and poured it onto the stain Wade had pointed out. It smelled like medicine. Then I cocked my knee the way me and Jackie used to when the state fair came to town and pitched the glass straight into my pyramid. Shards of melted sand rained down behind the bar. Wade looked like he was about to shit a brick.
I placed a hundred dollar bill on the counter and headed for my car. He’ll get over it. That’s all you can do.