Oliver of the Adirondacks

by Dashiell Walraven

Chapter 46

You might think that having Neal at my side nearly all the time might eventually drive us apart, but that simply wasn't the case for us. I'm fairly certain that if Neal hadn't moved with his Mom from West Hartford, to live with us on the lake, we would have drifted apart eventually. But that's not what happened. Neal and I fell into that easy comradery that comes from being best friends, going through life shoulder to shoulder.

Pretty much everybody that knew us, knew we were a couple, paddling through life like a pair of mallards. If anything, our closeness strengthened our connection to one another. Nothing was ever said about it. I'm not sure if it was because of the Peter Gilbert incidents, or, as I hope to think, we just became so much a part of the normal landscape, that nobody gave a damn.

The year of the national bicentennial celebrations, we both turned 16. Garrett had purchased himself a newer truck, and gifted me his old crasher. By that time, it wasn't good for much, but it was still mine, which meant that it belonged to both Neal and I. As soon as I got my license, that truck took us fishing, brought us to the foot of the mountain for hikes to our favorite cave (you know the one), and helped us to get our first jobs.

Neal and I were both hired as bus-boys/dishwashers at a local restaurant on the lake. It was a very nice place, the sort of establishment that was a bit too pricey for our families to go on a regular basis. The owner liked us both, and hired us on the spot when we came in to apply. It worked out very well, Neal and I traded duties, he'd clear tables one day, while I washed, and vice versa.

I actually enjoyed the work, while Neal, not so much. He did cut a dashing figure in the black bus-boy uniform, and we both quickly moved into backing up the servers when it got busy. Very naturally, we both graduated into server roles, and we soon came to understand the relationship between good service and good tips. The owner, Phillip Cress, and his wife Ethel, came to view us as almost better than their own sons, neither of which had any interest in the family business.

One evening, during the mid-summer rush, I was polishing glasses at the bar, and there was a particularly noisy man there. He had come in with a woman, but she seemed to have left without him. The bar was busy, and this fellow was loudly asking for another drink. Being underage, I wasn't allowed to serve him alcohol, but I offered to get him a soda until the bartender could make his way back.

"Okay, fine," he grumbled, "Two-cents plain then."

I filled a tumbler with ice and some seltzer, dropped a cocktail napkin under it and served it to him. He looked at me with red-rimmed eyes and nodded his thanks. Turning back to my task, I saw Neal arriving with two more racks of bar glasses, still steaming, fresh from the sanitizer. I made a big show of rolling my eyes and groaning.

"Thanks Buddy!" I said, "More glasses for me to polish?"

"You're welcome, Sport!" he rejoined brightly. We were always busting on each other like that, all in good fun. Neal placed the two trays on end of the bar, winked, turned on his heel, and went back to the kitchen with a bounce and a wave.

This of course, earned us a "harrumph" sound from our rheumy-eyed friend at the bar. I ignored him, and continued polishing and putting away the glasses. Eventually, the bartender worked his way back to him.

"What can I getcha?" I heard the barkeep say.

"Bourbon, neat, make it a double."

"Coming right up." There was clinking of ice in a rocks glass.

"Hey, I ordered that neat. No ice," the man grumbled.

"Not for you," the bartender said, "I'm making more than one order at the same time, your glass is right here."


"No problems, man." Our bartender, Tom Parker, was a pretty mellow dude. Bar customers can get kind of loutish and I've never seen Tom lose his cool with any of them. I had a feeling about this guy though, it seemed like he was in a bad mood, and looking for an excuse to tangle with somebody. Tom moved back down to the other end of the bar to serve a customer who was signaling for another drink. I completed polishing the glasses, stowed the bar towel, and was about to return the glass racks to the kitchen when the customer grunted and waved at me.

"Hey Red," he whistled me over, "You got guys sell butts?" I walked over and glanced behind the bar.

"We've got Luckys, Marlboro and Larks, but the bartender will have to sell them to you."

"Them Luckys filtered?" he asked. I squinted down at the carton to see.

"Yes sir," I said.

"Fuckin' great," he breathed sourly, "you mean to tell me all you got in this place are cigarettes for faggots and women?" I felt the edges of my ears start to burn, an uneasy feeling formed in my belly.

"I'm sorry sir," I said, "That's all we have."

"No cigars?"

"No sir."

"Geez-fucking-Louise," he sighed with disgust. I wasn't sure what to do, so I waited expectantly, hoping he'd come up with another question, or dismiss me.

"You're a skinny little fucker, aren't you?" he grinned, looking me up and down, "You one of them queers what likes them faggot cigarettes?" I could feel my already crimson tinged face turn hot. I had dealt with a few surly customers by that point, but this was the first guy to call me out like that.

"No sir," I said, trying to follow Tom's example of not letting myself be provoked, "I don't smoke." The guy tilted his head back and roared with laughter, slapping his hand on the bar. This attracted Tom's attention and came back and stood beside me.

"Something you need friend?" There was more ice in Tom's voice than in bin behind the bar.

"Naw," the drunk said, then mumbling under his breath, "Just wanted to know if Red here likes the fellas, that's all."

"I'd say that's none of your business," Tom, pulling bar tab slips from the pocket of his apron and thumbing through them.

"What do you say, Red," the guy pointed to me, "you and your little boyfriend there that brings you the glasses, do you like to pitch or catch?" My mouth dropped open, and I may have attempted to say something, but I don't recall. What I do remember is Tom dropping the guy's tab in front of him.

"I think it's time for you to pony up and be on your way, buddy."

"What?" he asked, innocently, "I just wanna know if he likes up the ass..."

"The only reason you would need to know that is if you wanted to fuck him." Tom leaned over and growled softly, "Is that what you wanna do, man? Fuck a 16 year-old boy in the ass?" The color rose in the guy's face. "You need to go home, pal," Tom continued, "Pay your tab and get out of my bar."

By this time, the normal yadda-yadda of the bar quieted, as people turned their attention to Tom and the troublesome customer.

"Heh, I don't fuckin' think so, Pal," the guy grunted, "I ain't finished drinking yet." Tom reached across the bar and gathered the dude's collar and tie and twisted them up into his fist, pulling the burly man up and nearly across the bar.

"You're done drinking when I say you're done drinking," Tom hissed menacingly, "and mister, you are done drinking. Now pay your tab and get out before I toss you out on your ass." The drunken fool didn't even flinch.

"Heh," he snorted derisively, "I'd like to see you try."

Not one to mince words, or drag a conversation out, Tom tightened his twist on the fellow's collar, and pulled him a little closer. Without any preamble at all, Tom viciously head-butted the guy and let him slip to the floor, knocking his head on the bar as he fell. The guy's arms flailed as he went down, clearing several glasses off the bar, which crashed dramatically around him. The momentary silence in the bar meant that everybody could hear a musical, little fart as it escaped the fallen patron, now slumped, unconscious, in a pile on the floor. Shattered glass and ice surrounded the sorrowful looking clump of clothes and skin.

As you might imagine, this attracted the attention of Phil, Ethel and Neal, who emerged from the kitchen. Ethel ran over to the guy and rolled him out so he lay flat on his back. His shirt and tie were splattered with wetness, he bled from his nose, and one eye looked like it was going to have a decent shiner by morning.

"What the hell happened here?" Phil asked, his voice more bewildered than angry. Tom had already started clearing the bar top, and wiping up the mess, whistling like it was all in a day's work.

"Guy's drunk," Tom said nonchalantly, "Got mouthy when I shut him off. Then he got really clumsy."

"Clumsy?" Phil said, raising a dubious eyebrow at me, "is that what happened, he got clumsy?" I just stood there, stunned; nodding slowly. Phil turned and looked at the other slack-jawed patrons of the bar. "Really? This man 'got clumsy'?"

Phil asked, to no one in particular. To a person, each of the shocked customers nodded in agreement, nobody was going to contradict Tom.

"Clumsy," Tom repeated, "exceptionally clumsy."

"That's just great Tom," Phil said in an exasperated tone, "this guy is probably gonna wake up and sue the pants off-a me..." At that moment, a moan escaped the lips of the fallen guy. Tom picked up his wet bar rag, came around the end of the bar, and knelt down by him. Most gently, he put the folded rag on the guys forehead as his eyes fluttered opened. As soon as he saw Tom he flinched and made a half-hearted attempt at rolling away.

"Easy friend," Tom cooed, "You okay?" The guy blinked and stared back at him, obviously confused.

"Wha...?" the guy's mouth moved a few times before he was able to form words, "Wha' happened?"

"You fell," Tom soothed, pressing the cool rag to the guy's forehead, "I think you may have passed out."

"I did?" he asked, not sounding terribly convinced, "I remember asking for cigarettes and ordering another round...... but then..."

"Shhh, lay still for a minute," Ethel quieted him. "Neal, run along and get the broom and dust-pan, will you?" Neal disappeared through the swinging kitchen doors. "Oliver, throw me down another bar towel please." I stood and stared at her for a moment, still not entirely processing the whole scene yet. A familiar buzzing echoed from what seemed a far-off distance. I recognized it immediately and fervently willed myself to not compound the situation by having a seizure. I hadn't had one of those since my fight with Eddie Parnell.

"Oliver?" Ethel said, a little louder to catch my attention, "Another bar-towel please?" Jolted from my momentary reverie, I pulled a clean towel from the pile and walked it over to her. She dabbed at the wincing man's face, mopping up the blood from his nose and mouth. It looked like he may have done some dental damage during his collision with the bar top on the way to the floor. I wondered what it is with people getting their choppers knocked around because of me, and whether this pattern would persist throughout my life. Seems like I am destined to help more than a few dentists get set up for retirement.

Phil and Ethel eventually got the fellow up onto unsteady feet, and he agreed to let them call him a taxi. After he left, Tom, took the guy's keys and moved his car to an illegal parking spot. Then he quietly dropped a dime to a friend on the Parking Authority. The car was quickly towed, and I imagine, impounded.

That's pretty much when I decided that, even though it was not likely to happen, I was never going to mess with Tom.

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