Uncle Moon’s Public House was a pit, a filthy den with wood floors scraped raw and walls scarred with cigarette stains. Kelly decided she could get past the look of the place. It was the smell that hurt. Forget the stale beer smell and body odor pitch of your average dive bar. Uncle Moon’s carried a stench that torched her nose hairs and made her sinuses itch.
She tried holding her breath. When that failed she sniffed under the bar mats and behind the cash register. At one point, she burned off half the ice, convinced something had come up through the drain. Finally, after poking her nose into every filthy corner, she determined the smell was coming from underneath the soda machine.
The bar regulars watched with what seemed to be amusement.
“It’ll decay,” Jack and Coke said.
“Ahh, poor, little mousey-poo,” Scotch Rocks chimed in when Kelly scrunched her nose.
“It’s just a dead mouse.” They all may have said in unison. Kelly couldn’t be sure. At 38 years old—twenty full years into adulthood—she was stuck eating a shift meal complimented by the smell of rot. What she could not understand was what they rest of them were doing here. The customers could go home. They could eat with their families. They could all get up together and go on to a restaurant that didn’t reek of mouse guts.
Instead, they stayed. In the four days Kelly had worked there, she’d seen most of the bar patrons more than once. The tables were a hodgepodge of repeat faces and new ones. Although, Kelly expected in a town like this the table faces would soon be familiar to her too. She suspected most of them knew who she was being that she was the favorite niece of Uncle Moon.
“Did you ever think about getting an exterminator in here?”
“I’ve got mouse traps all over the place. They’re too smart. They love the dumpster in the alley,” her uncle poured half a cup of sugar into his decaf.
“It’s tough when mice can outsmart you.”
“I’ve been outsmarted by worse. At least, they work for it. Climbing into the dumpster and running around working for their food. I try to give the mice a hand out. I put it out on a little platter for them and they don’t take it. Unlike the rest of our country.”
In the eight years since she’d last seen her uncle, he’d become addicted to the Fox news.
“If only we could snap a limb of anyone looking for food in this country.”
“If only,” he said, calling her bluff.
The bar jutted out in a U-shape off the wall. Her uncle sat next to the wait station which was also the only place to enter or exit the bar. While he never claimed to be on the health department’s model restaurant list, he maintained that the pub was more comfortable than most anyone’s living room. And that’s where he had succeeded more than the fancy places that served two bites of food per course on expensive plate and garnered rave reviews, but never lasted more than a few years.
Kelly could smirk at her uncle’s politics all day, but she couldn’t deny his business sense. He’d owned the pub for close to thirty-five years. And as far as she knew, it turned a profit early on and never stopped.
The after work crowd was picking up now. Most of them would eat at tables, unless the tables filled up. The bar was for those who drank their dinner. Luckily, everybody in the place agreed that Uncle Moon’s was the kind of place you ordered simple drinks. There were no drinks with disgusting names that could be made of anything. No Sex in a Dirty Bathroom shots or Watermelon Sex kittens or Dirty Sanchez Stingers The one thing she truly liked about bartending was the zen-like moments of business. On a busy night, all you can do is make the tickets in front of you. You can’t think about who you hate or your credit card bill or the fact that you haven’t been to the dentist in years and your toothaches. You can only think about the task at hand. It’s easier to get into that state when the drink names are all in the drink: Jack and coke, Gin and tonic, Chardonnay, Beer. She never had to stop and think about anything. She could stay in this mode for hours and at the end of the rush sit back and feel a sense of relaxation.
Unless something or someone broke her rhythm.