Chapter 19


i was quite close with Ace. altho he had not so many years on my dad, he was less a father-figure to me than he was a favorite friend. Sundays, after we closed the bar, hed drive me to his apartment, which was a few blocks walk from my house. wed go in and sit listening to ‘Blues Before Sunrise,’ a radio show i believe came out of Chicago, that played any and all sort of blues and jazz. wed drink beer from small glasses and listen in turns or talk the night. the only thing that was sure was we neither of us had a guard up or any airs.

sometimes id talk at length on my childhood or strange affairs and scrapes id had, learning-lessons, surreal states. hed reciprocate. his stock of strange encounters through the decades matched the likes of Maugham and Greene. he had a story for every nick-nack, every painting that lined his walls and baseboards, and i drank them in long drags. at some point wed call it quits, and i would walk home singing or smiling at the always-the-same trees looking new in different light. in this way Ace and i grew an intimacy that led to some rather troublesome nights.

when i bartended Ace encouraged me to drink. in fact, if i hadnt a buzz on, he might ask me, whats with you tonight? as if being sober was an affront to him or the bar. on rare nights, he or i (or the both of us) would drink what can only be called ‘too much.’ and (if it was the both of us) we might cross hairs.

wed argue.

and all of those intimate things Ace gleaned about me on those Sunday nights were fair game.

“haha—i am not your MOTHER!” Ace screamed over his shoulder at me, one night.

a fine insult, he knew. he was mid-way up the stairs to the office, balancing his weight on the stair, the cash box dangling.

i stood down in the open door of the cooler, “well you ARE one serious MOTHER fucker!”

i put away the beer angrily. i lifted case by case, stacking them anywhere flat so i could get the newer beer beneath. i threw the empty boxes carelessly into the next room while i carefully rotated. some boxes i only managed to land inside the doorway, for the time-being.

Ace came back down, “look at you. gross. so careless with the boxes.”

i ignored him. when i was done stocking i would, as always, break down each box and stack them neat behind the ice machine. in the morning Artie would take them out with the bottles, and other rubbish.

“you got DRUNK tonight,” Ace started, laughing, he shook a finger in the air and ended with a fit of coughing.

“im not drunk,” i lied, taking a last inventory of the front of the house.

“did you stock up front, drunky?” he asked.

i nodded my head which made me dizzy. i was too soused to answer.

Ace grabbed his scarf from off the bar, pivoted, got a leg stuck between the bar stools and actually fell down.

“at least i have a leg to stand on!” i proclaimed.

i was triumphant.

he laughed.

“ok, baby, ok.”

he gathered himself up from the floor with my held-out hand. then he pulled that hand in, and smothered me in an enormous bear hug and we smiled, fast friends again, rocking, laughing low, holding on to one another, so to speak on equal footing.


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