Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Childhood's End - Chapter 2

As it went, Rowena's experience with alcohol in the vodka bar was decidedly bipolar: After being brought up with, at most, a glass of mild wine for dinner, knocking back a shot of liquor was a new and not very pleasant experience. On the other hand, Rowena had the guts (and responsibility) to switch her next order to a coke - which, in turn elicited a very contradictory reaction from Trish, who at once egged her on about not cutting loose while simultanously congratulating her responsibility.

Once Rowena noticed that Trish was now standing behind the bar with an apron tied over her clothes, the whole situation made slightly more sense.

"You work here, too?" Rowena asked.
"I own it."
"You dragged me to your own bar? Shameless," Rowena said, then took another sip from her coke. "Shameless," she repeated.
"That's me, girl. I'm the Don of the district," Trish said, grinning from ear to ear.
"You got any orange peels?"
"No Corleonin' in my house."
"Fair enough," Rowena said. Her look swept the bar, taking in the clientel - or lack thereof. "Bit early, innit?"
"Yeah, I guess. I don't usually open up until 9."
"And the piano?"
"If you can figure out how to get it down from that pedestal, take it. It was here when I bought the place."
"Does it work?"
"It makes sounds when you bang on the keys."

Rowena shot her that look.

"Can I try?"
"You play?"
"A bit."

Trish soon realized that her definition of "a bit" differed markedly from Rowena's. Even if "Fuer Elise" was about as cliche as they came, Rowena proved her chops by playing on after the intro and actually finishing without major stops. After her finish, she rose from the seat and returned to the bar, where Trish was still standing with that deer in the headlights look.

"I'm a bit rusty," Rowena said. "Oh, and the soft pedal is busted, just, you know, if you want to get that fixed."
"Faye," she said, making Rowena's eyelids flutter until she recalled her impromptu cover, "do you need a job?"
"Why, do you need a pianist?"
"I need someone to help me run the place, and you're already on top of my 'responsible' list. Piano skills are a plus, certainly..."
"If you need help, why didn't you hire someone else?"
"Tried. You know what kinda people apply? Endless streams of burned-out potheads who think working a bar is cool. You're already more mature than the whole lot of them."
"I'm just a kid."
"That's not what your ID says."
"...debate club?"
"Nope," Trish said, smiling. "Just a hobby of mine."

The door creaked open, admitting Mark into the bar. Rowena had one look at him and then tried her hardest to be captivated by her beverage.

"Your stuff's still caught in traffic," he said, taking in the surroundings.

Mark walked towards the bar, his boots summoning groans from the wooden floorboards.

"Any particular reason you two are hanging out here?"
"Quite the funny story there, Mr. Rollins..." Trish began, but Mark cut her off.
"I don't do funny. What's the score?"
"I was...I was offering your niece a job. Uh, provided you're okay with that."
"It's your time, Faye. You can work evenings, just don't start skipping class."
"I'm, well, I'm kinda home-schooled, you know," Rowena cut in for Trish's benefit.
"That's great! Do you...want another cola, Faye? On the house. Do you want anything, Mr. Rollins?"
"Are you letting that vodka breathe?"

Bus-ted! thought Rowena, while Trish scrambled to make the bottle disappear without explicitly acknowledging its presence.

"I'll have one," Mark finally said, defusing the ackward situation before it had a chance to settle down by itself. The way he slammed back that shot suggested that he was on friendly terms with the entire ethnically diverse cast of hard liquor found in a well-stocked bar. "Well, it's been fun, but we need to move. You coming?"

Rowena drank the last of her coke, then followed Mark to the door, sending a silent "We'll talk later" gesture to Trish. Mark held open the door for his student. Outside, he silently guided Rowena towards his car, and she was not surprised in the least that it was a Dodge Charger. He didn't exactly force her into the car, but with his big frame in the way, the direction "backwards" had temporarily lost all meaning.

The engine roared, and soon they were on their way south. Even to the geographically challenged (read: Rowena), the destination was clear: Staten Island.

"Making friends?" Mark asked, his voice detached and calm.
"I'm just rolling with it for now."
"Good call."
"I'm not a monk, and I don't go for that bullshit. If you don't live, you're only gonna snap one day. Just keep it away from your day job."
"Okay...can you stop scaring my landlord, then?"
"Maybe, when it stops being fun."
"Did you see her squirm? You just can't pay for that kinda entertainment."

Rowena rolled her eyes, and she had the sneaking suspicion that it wouldn't be the last time in her tenure here, but the destination of their trip showed some promise.

The first lesson loomed on the horizon.


Anonymous said...

Your writing style is awesome for short story/serial work. I have liked every one you have written so far. Keep it up.

Hida Reju

Valentina said...

I like Mark's taste in creating awkward tension.
A bit sadistic, and very proper thuggish.