Club 200


day of the dead

She liked to drink beer in a snifter, Bud Lite with a tequila shooter. She knew cognac was the real drill, but they didn’t stock cognac at the Club 200. Got a free drink at closing time every night, Epi threw in the shooter out of good nature, she guessed. Epi liked Mercedes as long as the lights were down low and the room was smoky. One night they stayed at the bar after hours and drank and sang songs he had learned as a baby –  he remembered standing in his crib, shaking the bars and howling to get out and dance. La Bamba, Surf City USA. Mercy was a young woman then, he knew, and he could see it in her face, so happy and fresh singing those oldies like no time had passed.

That one night was the best, both of them loose and laughing. Behind the bar, he was an old young man, serious and full of sorrow. That night, though, after closing –  friendly and dancing like a big happy pup. Mercedes liked him and his free drinks, and she sang him anything he wanted to hear. When the sun came up, though, and snuck in through the dirty grey windows, he turned like a pumpkin back into a sour young man, and she – makeup smeared, face blotchy with tequila – looked more like a gargoyle than a faded lounge singer still pretty in spite of all. Epi kissed her on the cheek, and they said goodbye the way strangers who’ve shared a seat on a long bus ride do, embarrassed by the stories the highway drew out of them.

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