It’s another night at the Shamrock Bar. A dark dive bar on a dark street in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.
Strip malls and giant, decrepit apartment buildings surround it with an alley separating it from a seedy-looking 70s-era self car wash lot where drug and other interesting transactions take place day and night.
It’s only 9:30 pm. The regulars are at the bar, but only two booths are occupied,
“Oh wow. Look at him, he’s so cute. The two of you look cute together. You’ll make fucking cute babies. How did you get THAT lucky, you bitch?!”
In a booth closest to the only working neon sign, two women are busy gossiping about their friends. They live in a nicer enclave of the Valley and go to dive bars because they think it makes their selfies look really cool. They’ll leave soon and Uber over to a nicer place to finish out their night on the town.
In the other booth at the back, set in the darkest part of the bar, is Timothy, late twenties, who is looking at his phone with several empty shot glasses beside him and a tallboy of Schlitz, his father’s favorite, and one of the few bars west of the Mississippi that carries it.
The owner is originally from Chicago and has several Midwestern favorites at the bar and on his menu. This is the excuse Tim uses to continue ending up in the darkest booth in the back of the darkest bar in the South Valley.
Sitting at the bar, four regulars have been hard at work getting shitfaced for some time.
The neighborhood rogues’ gallery consists of Johnny, an elderly veteran wearing a black Vietnam War Army cap with his platoon and service dates stitched in yellow across the front, flag and POW pins on the side.
He is nursing his Pabst Blue Ribbon and picking out the cashews and almonds in the mixed nuts bowl while watching a baseball game on one of the old tube-style TVs barely clinging to life, it’s yellowing white plastic cabinet adds to its retro charm.
A few stools down, a twenty-something man is hunched over, looking into his glass of Jameson and talking to Mike, the bartender, who continues to wash glasses and prep for the night while occasionally saying “yup” or “uh-huh.”
At the furthest end of the bar, two sixty-something women who look like they’ve been ridden hard and put up wet are nursing an Old Fashioned and Tom Collins while occasionally laughing about their husbands for one ridiculous thing or another and intermittently snickering about what they’d do to the young man a few stools down.
The first thing that starts easing Tim’s anxiety as he gets ready to leave work is the thought of opening the Shamrock’s heavy front door and being confronted with the smell of sixty years of booze and desperation.
The air that escapes the dingy pub reminds him of waiting for his father on just about any day of the week at Birch’s Pub in Michigan City, Indiana, minus all the cigarette smoke.
On some level, he understands the real reason he comes here is that practically no one in his life frequents the place. He can sink into the comfortably deep cushion of his favorite booth by himself and all of the shit in his life disappears for just a little bit.
Tim finishes his beer, sends the email he was typing and gets up to go to the bar for a refill. He decides to approach Johnny tonight. It’s hit or miss whether Johnny is in the right mood to socialize with anyone.
Tim has learned the hard way there’s a 50/50 chance of getting yelled at for daring to interrupt his baseball game or that you’ll find yourself speaking with a very gregarious and friendly senior citizen.
Of course, how many beers he’s had factors into the equation along with who’s currently winning.
“Heyyyy, Johnny. How’s it going?” Tim said, from an arm’s length.
“Ahh. Not bad. Not bad. If Mister three hundred million dollar, three-time Cy Young winner here can keep his shit together, we’ll have a chance.”
Timothy can tell Johnny is still in a good mood, sporting a little smirk as he bitches about his favorite topic: LA Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
“I’ll never forget game five last year of the NLDS. The Nationals?! “ Timothy said with a big smile.
Johnny stopped lining up his cashews and almonds on his napkins in front of him, pushes up his cap a little and looks up at Timothy shaking his head.
“Oh, you wanna get me going, do you, you little smartass?!”
“No. No. No. Just can’t get over it is all.”
Mike, the bartender looks up from his glass cleaning to intervene.
“Hey, Tim. Don’t poke the old bastid, I don’t feel like dealing with his bellyaching over that goddamned team. He’s doing fine tonight.”
Johnny picks up a cashew and points it at both of them.
“Ahhh. You and You, I’ll take ya’s both in the fucking alley right now.”
Timothy pats Johnny on the back as he puts the cashew in his mouth and takes a swig of beer.
“Sure thing, Johnny, but I think your blowjob days are long over.” Mike says.
“Shit. I don’t have to take this abuse from you guys, I could get it at home from the missus.”
“How IS your wife, Johnny?” Timothy asked.
“Ahhh. Doing good. Doing good. She’s working on this generational quilt for my daughter and granddaughter. Keeping her occupied and out of my hair for the time being.”
Timothy shakes his head in approval and moves over to where Mike is standing.
“Another round?” Mike asks with a smirk at Timothy.
“Alright, I’ll bring it over in a few minutes.”
As Timothy returns to his spot in the back, he receives a text message.
Hey. Can’t make it. I’m getting lucky. Ttyl.
Timothy stares off at the men’s room far at the back of the bar, deflated and quickly sinking into his hole as another beer is slid in front of him.
Looking down at the glass bottle, Timothy tells the bartender to bring him some shots and another beer in a few minutes.
“Your friend isn’t coming?”
Shaking his head at Mike, he types a return text.
After years of friendship and an emotional bond he’s never had with anyone else, tonight was going to be the night Tim came out to his good friend as a bisexual.
Instead, another night alone, feeling like the outsider, the freak while his best friend found a woman for the night.
He swigs each shot consecutively and wipes away a tear.
“HEY! Tim! Get up here…”
He grabs his beer and walks up to the bar, already planning the excuse he’ll use to leave early so he can get home to his tiny apartment and hold his pillow as he sleeps.