It’s a hell of a ride, kid… Let me tell you that!
The old man hit the wooden counter with his empty glass, making his intentions clear. The place wasn’t what you’d call fancy, but it had a soul, and the beer was cheap. Not the kind of bar where the hip hung out, so his favorite stool was always available when he stopped by. No loud annoying pop music either. There was always an ear to talk to.
Steven wasn’t voluble, and that was just perfect. He did most of the chatting, while the young bartender came back and forth, doing his chores.
I have a daughter, you know? Well, a step daughter… Linda and I… Let’s just say it was better this way. I wasn’t the push-the-stroller, change-the-diaper kind of guy anyway…
Steven put a new beer on the bar, and Jack picked it right away, downing a long sip of the ambery beverage. He and the honey brown lager were pretty much alike. A touch of sweetness drowned by a bitter aftertaste.
Did I tell you about that time I was sent to Holland to work? There was this bar just across the hotel where we stayed, and me and the guys would meet there in the evening…
Bringing back the memory called for another long sip.
The bartender there, I remember he was called Daan. Not Dan, nuh-uh. Daaaaaaan! Well Daaaan, he always left about two inches of foam on top of the beer. I think that’s just how they did it. But I mean, who drinks beer through two fucking inches of foam??
Jack chuckled, mumbled something about Daan, drank some more and continued.
Now, people didn’t tip in Holland back then, and I started slipping a couple of bucks, or Dutch guiler, or whatever the currency was, telling Daaaaan how we were used to have our beers filled to the top. By the end of the trip, Daaaaan was welcoming me with a full beer, while my fellows still got their foam towers.
Steven sort of pretended to be surprised and Jack leaned back on his stool, spreading his arms in a very ”Tadaaah” kind of way. He seemed content with his anecdote and concluded.
And this is proof, young man, that a little tipping goes a long way!
Jack’s speach didn’t suffer just yet, but Steven knew this was his last beer for the night. The old man reached in his pocket, pushed two twenty dollar bills on the counter and got up to tip toe his way to the bathroom.
Waiting for the door to close behind him, Steven reached over the bar and discreetly slipped back the money in Jack’s coat. The guy always overtipped him at the end of a drinking night.
The barman was cleaning around when Jack sat back and downed what was left of his beer. Putting his coat on, Steven noticed the serious look on the old man’s face.
Time for me to go… But one last thing!
Jack leaned over the bar, staring at Steven.
You listen to me, son… You know, I once was where you are. Your youth, and your good looks, and good money and all. And I lost it all now. Julia left me, then Colleen, even Linda. I lost my job, drove my friends away, I live in a shit hole. Hell, why do you think I keep coming here to rant about it all over a good ale? ‘Cause you can’t run away, young friend… You are lucky, Steven! Don’t fuck it all up, like I did! You hear me?
Then Jack turned around, and stormed out of the empty bar, but not before adressing Steven one last time.
You’re fucking lucky, don’t forget it!
The young barman clenched his teeth, as the door closed.
Fucking lucky… Easy for you to say!