Care for a tasty bite?
“Listen,” he said. “I ain’t trying to find no trouble. Those two ding-bats might not recognize you but I do. I know who you are and I know your name ain’t Al.”
Jonathan felt his skin crawl. He was sure his stomach was about to give and the beer he’d been drinking would come burning back up his windpipe. He only nodded.
The bartender gestured around the bar with a short little wave of his hand. “This place ain’t much but it’s a job. You see, I been in prison a few times myself. Armed robbery. Assault. One more and I’m a three time loser. Cops don’t like my face; they give me a hard time whenever I see them. So your best bet is to pay a visit to the little boy’s room. It’s right down that hall over there. When you’re done, go through the door in the middle. That one will take you through the kitchen and if you go straight, you’ll see the back door. And if you don’t give me no problems, you might find a meatloaf sandwich on a plate. I wouldn’t miss it if it happened to disappear.”
Jonathan took the wad of cash out of his pocket and pulled out a five. He slid it on the bar toward the man. “Thanks.”
The bartender shook his head. “Keep it. You need it more than I do.”
At first, Jonathan felt a little insulted that the bartender wouldn’t accept his money. But then he realized that this man was right. He took it back and stuffed it in his pocket.
“You know a place where I can lay low for a while?”
“Plenty of abandoned houses and boarded up businesses around here,” the bartender said. “Too many for the cops to monitor. Hell, there’s a park not far from here. Plenty of trees to hide behind. Just stay the hell away from people. And keep going south, if you can.”
Jonathan nodded but he didn’t want to leave the bar. It was still early evening and he didn’t feel comfortable exposing himself outside just yet. But he had no choice.
“Thanks, man. I really appreciate it, Mr…?”
“Gauldin,” the bartender said, extending his hand to shake. “Bobby Gauldin.”
They shook. Jonathan took another long pull off the beer bottle in front of him and then stood and headed in the direction of the men’s room. After he finished taking a piss, he went through the door in the middle and found his way into the kitchen. A plastic grocery bag with two meatloaf sandwiches, two Cokes, and a small brown sack stuffed with French fries sat waiting for him on the counter by the sink. At the sight of that bag, Jonathan actually felt a sting of tears. It had been a long time since someone had selflessly helped him out in any way. If asked, he would have said that no such people existed in the world anymore. And he would have believed that. But as he took the bag and opened the back door (he half expected to see pulsing red and blue lights and a team of cops with their guns drawn, waiting for him) he realized that a simple bartender with a checkered past named Bobby Gauldin had proved him wrong.
It was a mad world, indeed.
From Chapter 7 of The Other Sky-Book One-Earth