"What'll ya have?" the old man asked me. I had a hard time seeing his face over his giant Santa beard. Normally it would've made me smile. Not tonight.
"Got any nepenthe?" I asked, then immediately kicked myself for trying to show off my useless trivia knowledge.
"What's your trouble?" he asked without skipping a beat. I was surprised and it caught me for a second, forcing me to study him a bit more closely. He didn't strike me as anything more than on old bartender- large beer gut, working-man hands, crows feet that said he had to fake smiles a lot. But if I forced myself to study his eyes a little more closely there seemed to be some depth there I'd missed the first time. I decided to indulge him partly because it was technically part of his job and mostly because I was feeling sorry for myself.
"Eh, usual, I guess- Job, boss, wife."
"So you wanna bitch about 'em or just shut up and drink?"
He surprised me again and I looked him with suspicion now. Maybe he hadn't read the same job description I had.
"You always this blunt?"
"Just like to know what you're ordering is all." He looked straight at me with no sympathy. It bugged me now that he got the reference, maybe he was too smart to be a good bartender.
"Tequila, straight up" I said.
"Wow, you are tryin' to forget." he said while pouring the shot. He was right, of course. I never drank the stuff straight unless I was aiming for the fastest route of travel between sobriety and inebriation. It bugged me that he knew that, too. I looked at the Santa beard again and figured out that it had nothing to do with being jolly.