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Marty’s Half Dozen Chapter 4: Part 1 — By Jill

Think I'm getting the hang of it.

Think I’m getting the hang of it.

The crash, as it turned out, was ruled the woman’s fault. Time had passed and I was starting to feel like myself for the first time since moving back to Seattle.  At Wild Child Wings, I could now handle the main bar on a Saturday night by myself without writing a single order down. And if anyone gave me shit, I had a line of regulars ready to throw the bum out.

There was Eddie a lanky Irish banquet server from up the street. Carolyn, an actress who was in the “inner circle” of Seattle Equity actors. She had the cutest Hello Kitty backpack even though she must have been 34. Thomas and Stanley, two newly weds. I always thought it was funny that they came all the way down to drink at Wild Child in Pioneer Square rather than staying in the much more gay-centric Capital Hill. And Solomon. Solomon had a sheepish quality. He didn’t like to come when the place was busy and he often stuttered when it was.  Someone told me that he took care of his mother, but others said that he lived with her because he had had a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know which and I didn’t care. He also used to tip me in half dollars. And I love half dollars. They’re the perfect size.

The only one I didn’t see often was Marty. Something was different now. He had been there for me in the bleakest of moments and instead of that making us closer, I had started to avoid him. Marty always used to come in on Tuesdays and I had told Gus I couldn’t work them anymore. When Marty did come in, I put up a wall.

When he came in on a Friday, I did my best to play it cool.

“And how is the night treating you?”

“Good.” I replied as I turned away to restock the lowboy.

When I came back a few moments later, I dryly asked “So what’ll it be? The usual?”

He looked at me, maybe deciphering, maybe interpreting, and maybe just thinking. Then he answered, “Sure. Sounds good,” Giving me a smile as if to say, ‘It’s okay, do what you’ve got to do.’

He ate his wings with a contented smile as he turned to Solomon.

Meanwhile, Carolyn argued Stanley about Pride week.

“How can you say that?” Carolyn exclaimed.

“I’m sorry, I’m just over it.” Stanley matter-of-factly retorted.

Thomas, with his arms hugging Stanley’s waist silently mouthed “He’s not.”

Stanley instantly responded with a playful slap to Thomas’s face. “I am, it’s become too commercial. I mean, there’s corporate sponsorship.”

Carolyn interjected, “Jill! Tell Stanley he’s full of it, then cut him off!”

“What makes you think I give two shits about Stanley’s Pride participation? All I care about is if he wants another Goose on the rocks.”

“As it should be! And I do!”

On the other side of the bar, Solomon looked deep into his Strongbow. “Are…yo–you sure?” Marty wiped his hands and took cash out of his wallet placing it on the counter. “Solomon, I’m not 100% sure of anything. But you have needs too and there comes a point when you’ve done all you can for someone.”

“You’re going? B–but what if–“

“Solomon, if it does…there’s nothing I can say to stop it from happening. And I would hate to think that your anticipation of it stopped you from living the life I know you deserve.” With that Solomon gazed back into his Strongbow. Marty put his hand on his shoulder. “Have a good night, Sol.

Marty put on his coat and headed towards the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched to see if Marty would look back and give me some sort glance or wave goodbye.  

“But it’s not. It’s about expression, right Eddie!”

“Carolyn, are you talking about football?”

“No, we’re talking abo–“

“Then I don’t give a flying fauck!”

With that the entire group erupted with laughter. The clamor obstructed my view of the door.  When the group died down, Marty was long gone.

The night died down and one by one Wild Child Wings emptied out and I started to get ready to close. The only one at the bar top was Solomon, still staring into his Strongbow Cider.

“Hey Jill, I have one table left. Just one guy over in booth 3. Can I transfer him to you and get out of here?” On weekend nights we have a server or two to take some of the tables. Lindsey was always antsy about making the last bus.

“Yea, just let him know, it’s last call in 15 minutes.”

“Thanks, Jill.”

I went over to Solomon. “You’ve been nursing that cider for like 2 hours now. You okay?”

“Yeah. I think so. But…” Solomon lingered with his thought, as if he was about to ask a question that would ruin his whole outlook on life. Like a kid asking this parents if Santa Claus is real or a wife asking her husband why his office didn’t know he was going on his “business trip.”

“But what?”

“You and Marty used to be really close right?” I was afraid that I was going to have to confront Marty and my estrangement sooner or later. I just didn’t expect it to be with Solomon.

“Yes. Yes we were.”

“Then you were in that accident. And then…nothing. What happened?”

That very question I had spent dozens of 3 am mornings trying to figure out. Notions of my own sense of vulnerability that Marty had managed to penetrate deeper than anyone before. He was there when I was my weakest and most desperate and I couldn’t stand that. There were questions I was afraid to ask. What was he doing there the night I had crashed? Had he been watching me? Had I simply out grown him? Too many feelings and I just found it easier not to address.

“Nothing happened, Solomon. We just grew apart.”  

“Hmm…” He took another moment. “Do you trust him?”

Now it was my turn to take a moment.  I wanted to say yes. To say no would call into question all the wonderful things he had done for me, and all the other people I’ve seen him help night after night. Sorting though their problems with an uncanny sage-like wisdom. His ability to pierce though a person’s exterior and almost instantly know their inner thoughts and fears…helping these people see what they’ve been running from. A gift like that, it must come from an altruistic and giving person. Because otherwise…it would mean that…well that was something I simply couldn’t think about. And so, in avoidance of that possibility I started to answer.

“The thing you have to understand about Marty–“

“She doesn’t.” A voice from booth 3 interrupted.

“Excuse me?” I inquired.

“She doesn’t trust him.” The voice continued.

Then the patron stood up from the booth. It was Ralph. “And I’ll tell you why…how about a Negroni?”

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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in By Jill, Marty's Half Dozen

 

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Marty’s Half Dozen Chapter 3: Part 2 — By Jill

I sit silently in the emergency room chair. Marty talks to the cop. The woman I hit was wheeled in a hospital bed to a curtain drawn space twenty feet from me. I don’t know any details so my imagination goes all over the place. What if, because of me, she’ll never walk again? What if, because of me, she never gets married? What if she has nerve damage and can never feel an orgasm again. I make no effort to censor my thoughts. I take a deep breath and an incredible sharp pain pierces my lungs. This send me into a coughing fit that hurts even more. The X-ray showed two ribs were fractured, but not broken.

Marty comes back over to me. I still have no idea why he’s here. Part of me is afraid to ask. But the bigger part is glad he’s here. My parents are out of town and being alone right now would be so beyond terrifying I’m pretty sure I’d shut the whole world out.

“Try not to take so deep of breaths. Want me to get you more water?” Marty inquires.

I look down. My cup has three ice chips. No matter how much I push at them with the straw, all they will do is slide along the bottom rim of the plastic.

“No. That’s okay… What did the officer say?”

Marty sits down next to me.

“Don’t worry about that now.”

“People don’t say ‘don’t worry’ about good news.”

“No, it’s just that–“

“Fuck you, and fuck your stupid hospital!” A woman who can’t be much younger than me,  wearing all black and dyed pink hair with blond roots showing, screams as she stumbles out of her curtained room.

“I’ve been here for four fuckin’ hours and I know you fuck heads are laughin’ at me.”

The police officer approaches her and directs her to sit down.

“You can’t keep me! I know my rights.”

She stumbles off. On her way out she knocks over a suture cart. The metallic crash echos in the hallway.

“Things could be worse.” Marty points out.

“Not knowing is worse.” I choke up while saying.

“Hey. Listen. You weren’t drinking, were you?”

I don’t reply.

“Jill? ”

I look down at my shoes.

“Okay, well I’m a lawyer. I can–“

“You’re a tax lawyer, Marty.” I say sharply.

“I have friends.”

“I wasn’t drinking.” But I still shouldn’t have been driving.

“Well, good. So you don’t have to worry about that. Even if it is your fault–“

“That what the cop said?”

“No. They don’t know yet. It’s snowing. It’s probably going to be a no fault accident.”

“But if they do find that it was my fault?”

“Well…you’re insured right?”

“Right now I am.”

“What does that mean?”

I look down at my shoes, again.

“I uh…” I rub my hands over my forehead then brush the hair out of my face. I feel doomed. But until the words come out of my mouth, I can still linger in that denial. I think I understand, for the first time in my life, what it means to ‘face reality.’

“I’m not supposed to be driving. I’m an epileptic.”

Marty’s reassuring demeanor vanishes as he takes in the new information. His mind is chewing it. Thinking. He is determined to find an answer. To save me. Then he lets out a breath and, for a split second, I can see defeat in him. It’s a deflation in his character. In the way he holds himself. Then a mask goes up.

“Well, that doesn’t mean…”

He wants to make it okay. He wants me so badly to be safe that he’ll lie to me.

“Please Marty, don’t. I’ve lived my whole life of people lying to me. Not you too.”

He starts to refute my accusation but then stops.

“I’m sorry.”

For the first time, the ER is quiet. Then two women in high heels and very short leopard print skirts walk in. The first one sings ♫”I got glass in my foot”♪ and her friend sings back up ♫”She’s got glass in her… foot!” ♪

“Did you have a seizure?”

“I don’t know. I really can’t remember…which makes me think…” I can’t finish the sentence. A golf ball swells in my throat. It feels like cancer. I wish it was.

“It’s impossible to know what to do or what to think when you’re in that oblivion of guilt. You’re not a bad person, you didn’t want to hurt anyone, but here you are with someone hooked up to a beeping machine.

It’s hard enough to trust yourself with your own problems. But now someone else’s fate is on you because of a mistake, not even consciously made. How could you ever live with yourself?

You’re not the only one to walk away from an accident terrified that someone’s blood might be on your hands. Twenty-three years ago, I sat in a waiting room. Only it was an ICU, not an ER.  And it wasn’t a stranger. Those moments of not knowing…they’re the seventh circle of hell. But they’re nothing compared to the torture you endure from a guilty imagination.”

I look over at Marty. Until now, he had always struck me as a man free of worry, embodying a perpetual calm. But here was a man sentenced to a remorse so profound, so crippling it was as if the despair wore him like a cheap suit and a weathered mask.

He doesn’t say anything for a moment. I almost ask him something, but before I can–

“My son pulled through. I thank God every day for that. Two things never happened after that night. I never drank again. And my wife never spoke to me as her husband.”

Another long silence. Maybe the two girls were still singing and maybe the man in the room down the hall is still demanding more Percoset. Maybe the girl in black is being cuffed and dragged back. I wouldn’t know. Everything was so beyond my awareness at that moment. Everything but me and Marty.

“But I smiled again. It did happen. And good days followed once I did.” 

I sat back in my chair and took stock of everything I was until this moment, bracing for all that was about to change.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in By Jill, Marty's Half Dozen

 

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Marty’s Half Dozen Chapter 1 — By Jill

This one’s next to the bathrooms.

Well almost a week passed by and I had figured that my dreams of working at Wild Child Wings were never going to be more than dreams. Then, yesterday I get a call. It’s Gus.

“Jill? You wanna come in tonight?”

No second interview, no background check, no come down for an orientation and to fill out some paper work. Apparently, I’m on the schedule now.

“We’ll need you at 5:30.” Click. It was already 4:45. I rushed down to the secret Eden of Pioneer Square getting there just in time. When I opened the door Gus was on a ladder fixing one of the ceiling’s hanging fan/lamps.

“Finally, you’re here. Go get changed and I’ll show you the ins and outs real quick.” Changed? He didn’t say anything about a uniform. Maybe there were shirts in the back. I took off my leather jacket throwing it on a nearby bar stool. Doing so revealed my naked arms as I was only wearing a tank top. I was about to head to the back when Gus exclaimed, “Great, you’re changed!” He scuttled down the ladder and led me around the bar top.  “Wells are down here, top shelf up here, everything in between is everywhere in between.”

He squatted down and unlocked the coolers. “Domestic beers and white wine are in these low boys. European and Russian beers are in the far one. Ciders, sparkling water, and non-alcoholic beer are in the behind the breakage bucket.” He pointed to a bright red bucket.

As I tried to quickly develop a mnemonic device, he sprung up and continued his rapid fire explanation of locations. Simple syrup here, fresh mint there, old mint for mojitos in the grocery bag, lemons, cherries, olive juice, etc… “You’re familiar with Aloha, right?” he said pointing to the touch screen computer. “Umm…” I started to reply. But then he cut me off, “It’s pretty much like any other computer system. Just don’t run anyone’s debit card twice by accident. We open in 10, but it won’t get busy for another hour or so. I’ll be in the back fixing an air duct. Training number is 123, if you wanna practice ringing stuff in.” He picked up and collapsed the ladder. “Oh one last thing. The owner might stop in tonight.” He smiled, gave me a playful salute, then was gone.

The owner? Fuck.

From this…

I pulled out my iPhone and downloaded a cocktail mixing app and tested making a few drinks. People steadily started to come in one by one. Luckily they mostly wanted the beers on tap. Then just as it started to get busy this one guy came in. He was an oaf of a man. Could easily play the disgruntled neighbor on any 90’s sitcom. He elbowed his way into a bar stool and snapped at me. I was worried he might be the mysterious owner.

to this.

Even though I was pouring three beers, he snapped three or four more times for me. “Honey, I’ll have a Negroni on the rocks. And make it strong.” If he was the owner I didn’t want him to see me cheat on my iPhone and I was pretty sure I had made one earlier. I figured I’d fish for some information.

“What whiskey do you want?”

To which he replied, “Whiskey? Really? Does Mike know he’s employing bimbos who don’t know their drinks?” I didn’t know how to reply. My heart was beating like crazy. He wasn’t the owner, but I was sure he’d be telling him. Before I could calm myself down he snapped again, “I asked you a question, tuts!”

More and more people were coming in and crowding around the bar. I couldn’t remember which beer I had poured in which glass before the oaf started talking me. I couldn’t remember whose debit card I had just taken or if I’d even run it already. Hell, I couldn’t even remember my code to enter drinks on the computer. It was my worse than my worst waitmare.

“I’m sorry. What tequila did you want?” I guessed again.

He leaned back slapping both hands on the bar. “Wow, who’d you blow to get this job?” The world around me started to go silent. I could hardly breath. The oaf continued to lambaste me. “You know how long I’ve known Mike? I helped him build this place. When he hears that flat chested stoner chicks are running this place into the ground–”

Suddenly just before I was about to collapse, a soft spoken phrase from a bar fly on the 3 stools down cut through all the clamor and ravings of the busy bar silencing the asshole oaf’s rant.

The Stranger I would come to know as Marty.

“I think you mean Mitch. Not Mike. And he didn’t build this place. He bought. And just because the guy comped you a plate of wings opening weekend doesn’t mean you’re friends.  Now stop trying to scare the girl into giving you a free drink, let her get back to work.”

The man was soft spoken, late 40s or early 50s. He wore a light brown trench coat, glasses, and had long-ish white hair. Like how Jack’s hair is. He had a calm and confident ease and a troubled smile. And bore a slight resemblance to the actor Bruce Davison.

At this point, Gus had returned and noticed something was amiss. “Is there a problem here?” he inquired. The oaf starred locking eyes with the stranger. Then the oaf glanced at me and finally turned to Gus. “Yea, this yutz in bartender’s clothing–” but the stranger wouldn’t let him finish.

“Ralph’s had a few too many again. He’s bothering me and he’s kept this lovely creature from making drinks for anyone else.”

The oaf, Ralph, started to defend him self, “Where the hell do you get off? You think you’re so much better than the rest of us?” But Gus put his hand on Ralph’s shoulder. “Is this going to be a repeat of Cinco de Mayo?” At that, Ralph finally relented. “You know, this place has gone to hell since you took over, Gus.”  He got off this bar stool and headed out with Gus following him out.

“It’s okay. Take a breath. It’ll all come back.”

He was right. I remembered which beer was which, and served them. I went back to the computer to find a credit card receipt printed ready to be torn off and delivered. The rush died down and everything calmed.

“Sweet vermouth, Campari, and gin.”

“Huh?”

“A Negroni is equal parts sweet vermouth, Campari, gin. And an orange slice. But even if you’d have known that, Ralph’d still have told you, you made it wrong. He does that to all the new bartenders. Then he trumpets he knows the owner. Word of advice. If anyone says they know Mike or Mitch, they’re full of it. Mitch’s friends call him The Pearl.”

“Thanks for your help back there. How about a Negroni? On me of course. You can tell me if I make it right.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. Just a half dozen of the hot buffalo wings. Less cooked. I don’t like them crispy. And a club soda with lime.”

“You sure?”

“Absolutely.”

“What’s your name stranger?”

“People call me Marty.”

“Well Marty, Jill. Pleased to meet you. Maybe I can get you a couple of extra wings.”

—And that’s how we got the term Marty’s Half Dozen.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in By Jill, Marty's Half Dozen, Restaurants

 

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