Quinn set his glass down and stared at the rows of bottles on the other side of the bar. There was something mesmerizing about the promises each bottle offered glimmering in the half-light of the bar. How easy would it be to just sail away again?
“You want something else, Quinn?”
Quinn tore his gaze away from the bottles. Of course I want something else. I want to forget everything the way I used to. I want to be the life of the party. I want the last three years to never have happened. “No, no thanks, Chance. Just another ginger ale.”
The music from the dance floor downstairs had taken a turn for the worse. Quinn swirled the ice in his glass and looked over the railing. Chance’s place, aptly named “Second Chance’s” after Chance’s first bar burned down in a grease fire six years earlier, was a cavernous two story affair, dance floor and stage downstairs, bar upstairs. Quinn came because he liked Chance. They went way back, and Chance was the one person who didn’t constantly beg him to be ‘his old self.’ But Quinn didn’t like Chance’s place. Not when the live music sounded like cats in heat. “What the hell is this, Chance?”
“Ginger ale, what you asked for. I know it’s not the special brand of ginger ale your pampered ass is used to, but it’s what I’ve got.” Chance didn’t look away from the television screen above the bar. Quinn was the only patron sitting at the bar, everyone else was the responsibility of the downstairs bar tender, and Chance, Quinn knew, was a man who didn’t like to step in and take on more responsibility than he had to.
“It’s called Vernors’, and that’s not what I’m talking about. What is that infernal noise down there?”
“That, my friend, is rock and roll.”
“That, my friend, is not rock and roll. That’s not even pop music.”
Chance threw a glance over his shoulder. “I know, you’re a purist. But that’s what puts butts on bar stools right now.”
“Underage butts from the look of it.”
“Everyone of them’s got proper ID. You know we check.”
Quinn nodded and drained his glass. “I know you check.” Not that you care what the dates say or if the picture matches the person holding the card, but you check. “So what’s the name of the fine entertainers gracing your stage tonight?”
Chance waved his stubby hand as if brushing away a fly. “I don’t know. ‘Hell’s Angels’ or some damn thing. Jimmy books the talent.”
Quinn grimaced as the vocal gyrations reached orgasmic levels. “I’d fire Jimmy. That’s not talent. That’s a vocal pole dance.”
“You need to get out more, Quinn.”
“More? I’m here almost every night.”
“This isn’t out. I mean out, out where there are people. Then you’d know that that,” he pointed at the railing, “is what passes for talent these days.”
“That’s not talent. That’s just sex. And it’s not even good sex. It’s like teenager sex. Unsatisfying, clumsy, over quickly, and forgotten almost as quickly.”
Chance grinned, revealing an uneven row of yellowed teeth. “There’s a whole industry based on just that sort of talent.”
“Well it’s a terrible industry if that’s what passes for talent.”
Chance whipped the bar towel he was holding over his shoulder. “Are you going off on that again? Geez, Quinn, it is what it is. The Stones said, ‘It’s only rock and roll, but I like it.’ People said they didn’t have talent.”
“No one said The Stones didn’t have talent.” Quinn glanced at the rows of bottles again. The din downstairs didn’t silence the siren song of the amber colored fluids.
“Old farts said they didn’t have talent.”
“What are you saying, Chance? I’ve become and old fart?” Quinn was glad to pick an argument with Chance, anything to silence siren song of the bottles.
“I’m sayin’ that you and I may think that what’s happening downstairs is crap. But we’re old farts. What the hell do we know?”
“Ya know, when disco came around, you weren’t this complacent.”
“When disco came around everyone was high and they weren’t getting that way from my drinks. After disco came that techno stuff, and then hair metal. There’s always been bad music that’s all the rage. Right now, that is it.”
Quinn held up his glass for a refill. “You can’t be serious.”
“Of course I am. Music has always been the thing that got us laid. That’s all these kids are doing. Music that will get them laid.”
“Chance, that’s where you’re wrong. Come on, our parents got laid to the Stones and the Beatles because it was poetry, it was classic language. It was the Shakespeare of their time and they passed it to us. Even the bands that were big in our day, in the 80’s, they had that sense of poetry.”
“I am not going to debate 80’s music with you, Quinn.” Chance glanced back at the TV. “Not if there’s a baseball game on. I’m not getting into that pit of an argument.”
“Come on Chance, think about it. You remember that song, Foreigner sang it, ‘Waiting for a Girl like You?’”
Chance picked up a dirty glass and started wiping it with the equally dirty bar towel. A dreamy expression crossed his face. “Remember it? Man, do you have any idea how often I got lucky when that song came on? That song shoulda come with a condom and a pack of cigarettes.”
Quinn slapped the bar with his hand. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. That song was living, breathing, sex. But it was also poetry, it meant something. It wasn’t…” he glanced over the railing again at the howling, gyrating mass below, “it wasn’t a five dollar hooker, which is what you’ve got going on down there.”
“Okay, Quinn,” Chance handed him another glass of ginger ale. “Tell you what. You think you can do better?”
“With my eyes shut.”
“Fine. So put something together and let Jimmy know when you want to play.”
“What, play your stage?” Quinn took the glass and drained it in one swallow.
Quinn shook his head and grinned. “Not hardly. I can outplay that. Even the college kids will love it.”
“Good, I’ll tell Jimmy to leave a spot open for Saturday night.”
This is probably a bad idea. But what the hell? Quinn got off the bar stool and looked around. It might get me out of an evening with Serena. “Fine, Chance, you’re on. Saturday night.”