The petite redhead sidled up to the man in uniform sitting at the far end of the bar, leaning in to showcase her ample bosum. “Hey, Sailor, buy a thirsty girl a cold drink on a hot day?”
“Sure. What are you drinking, mam?”
“Mam?! What the fuck? I’m not your mama. You can shove your drink up your ass!” she spat at him as she flounced away in a huff.
The bartender, drying glasses at the other end of the bar, gave a hearty laugh. “We got a saying around here, “Class Is As Classy Does.” Don’t mind her. Lola gets pissed off if every stranger doesn’t fall all over her. She’s harmless and decent. Get you another one?”
“Yes, please. I didn’t mean to offend her. Hard to break military habit.”
The sailor turned to survey the room. Neon signs advertising beer blinked in the few windows up high on the wall facing the main drag. The decor was ’70s country meets disco, complete with a mirror ball over the tiny dance floor. A microphone stand held court on the empty stage. While it lacked in interior design, almost every seat was taken with small groups chatting over drinks, equally mixed with men and women of varying ages. It wasn’t noisy, but full of friendly, animated conversation and laughter. And it was clean and obviously well cared for.
The bartender poured a healthy dram of neat whisky in the empty glass and asked, “What brings you to this one-horse town? There ain’t no water in these parts.”
“I lived here a long time ago. Left here in 1982 when I joined the Navy. Wanted as far away from this town as I could get and figured any ocean would fit the bill. Never had a reason to come back.”
“Until now apparently. What gives?”
The sailor took a long, thoughtful drink, then fixed his gaze on the bartender.
“You know old Mr. Tucker?”
“George Tucker? Of course. He’s my grandfather. He owned this place up until he died last month. Now it’s up for sale by some city dude that apparently held the title. Why do you ask?” The bartender looked closer at the sailor’s face. “You look familiar. Who are you?
The sailor hesitated then said, “I take it you’re Drew. I’m Robert Miller. Used to be called Bobby around here.”
The bartender drew in a breath. “Bobby Miller. My father. Holy shit.”
“I didn’t know you’d be bartending. I wanted to do this differently. I thought I’d come in for a drink then look you up.”
“Look me up? You walked out before I was born. What do you want?” Drew crossed his arms over his chest defensively.
“Hold up. I didn’t come to fight. I’m not staying. I just came to give you this.”
Bobby pulled an envelope from inside his uniform jacket and held it out to his son.
“The deed to the bar. Signed over to you. Your grandfather gave it to me under the condition that I leave town before you were born. I figured it was for the best. I had a change of heart and wrote to your mother. Your grandfather found the letter and wrote back, reminding me of my promise.” Bobby took another sip.
“He also threatened to kill me if I ever showed my face in town again. And I didn’t doubt or blame him. I kept my promise. I waited for this day for 25 years.”
He pulled a small gold key out of his trouser pocket and placed it on the bartop. “The key to the safety deposit box with every letter and every dollar that I sent and was sent back. I can’t turn back time, but I can give you what is rightfully yours.”
Drew’s eyes never wavered from Bobby’s face. He flicked the key off the bar onto the floor, took the envelope and tossed the remainder of the whiskey in his father’s face.
“I kept my promise to him, too.”
Written for the To Live & Write in Alameda June 2019 “Flash Lit” Challenge #4. We had three days to write a poem or short story (of 500 words or less) or create a piece of art to the theme “Classy Is As Classy Does” and post the link in our group.
The original piece I submitted was within the 500 word frame; I often go back and add detail that had to be cut before submitting elsewhere or posting here.