Nor A Real Bastard

Here’s a quick little piece I dashed off this afternoon. It’s just for fun, so I figured I’d post it here. Enjoy!

Nor A Real Bastard

“Look, I’ve got the packing slip right here, and it’s plainly spelled out,” the barman growled into the phone. The old man at the bar, napkin tucked into his collar, carefully slurped down the rest of his chili.

“Bar and Grille. G-R-I-L-L-E. There’s two L’s in ‘Grille’, everybody knows that.” He glanced at the old man and tossed down the bill without breaking stride in his rant.

“No, nobody spells it that way. Not the French, nobody.” He picked a coaster out of the box and held it up to the light. He scowled at it again and threw it back. “Look, just admit you screwed up and take them back. No, I don’t want to talk to your manager, just get it — hello? Hello?”

He put the receiver on the counter.

“Excuse me, young man,” the old gentleman said. “I’m terribly sorry, but I seem to have left my wallet at home.”

The barman sighed, but the old man interrupted him by putting a large black case on the bar. He opened it to show off a violin, gleaming warmly in the soft light. “My house isn’t too far, so why don’t I leave this here as collateral, and I’ll go get it. It’ll only be a little while.”

“Yeah,” the barman started, when he heard a noise. He snatched up the phone. “Hello? You the manager?” He turned and nodded at the old man, making a shooing gesture. The old man smiled and ambled out the door.

“Yeah, it’s about these coasters you idiots sent me.”

#

“Look, this isn’t brain surgery. Just come pick up the coasters and bring me the new ones. I don’t see why this is so hard. All right. All right, fine, call me back. I’ve got customers. Customers without coasters. Yeah.” He swore and hung up, then turned to the middle-aged man in the tweed jacket.

“Sorry about that, sir, that’ll be eleven dollars even.”

The man in the tweed jacket handed over the cash, distracted. “Excuse me, that violin there. May I take a closer look at it?”

“Eh? Oh, knock yourself out.” The barman made change and handed it over. “You a musician?”

“That’s amazing,” the man in the tweed jacket said. “Do you know what you have here? That’s a genuine Glimeratti! There are only a hundred or so in the whole world.” He fumbled in his pocket. “How much do you want for it?”

“What? No, I’m not selling it.”

“I’ll give you ten thousand for it.”

“Ten grand? For that?”

“Twenty, then.”

The barman boggled. “Are you kidding?”

“Twenty-five thousand, then.”

The barman shook his head. “Ain’t mine to sell.”

The man in the tweed jacket threw up his hands. “All right. Look, I’ll be back here in an hour with a cashier’s check for twenty-five thousand dollars, and I’ll buy it from whoever it does belong to. Just, just hold it here until then? Please?”

The phone rang again, and the barman pounced on it. The man in the tweed jacket pleaded until he got a nod, then left, satisfied.

#

“No, I’m not going to ship the damn things back. Who the hell wants a box full of misspelled coasters? I tossed them in the recycling, and you’re lucky I’m not charging you for the service.”

The old man coughed politely. The barman looked, held up a finger, and pulled the black case from behind the bar. He placed it on the bar with a thump.

“Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to deliver the new coasters and you’re going to give me half my money back. You got it?”

The old man pulled a plastic bag full of change out of his coat pocket, and laboriously counted out piles of quarters, nickels, and dimes. “There,” he said. “Five dollars and thirty cents.”

He stood expectantly. Then he looked at the violin case and sighed. “I don’t know why I bother lugging that thing around anymore. I hardly play anymore, what with my arthritis and all.”

The barman looked up from the phone and gave him a sympathetic smile.

“I ought to sell it,” the old man continued, “If I polished it up real good, I bet I could get four hundred dollars for it. Maybe five hundred. Do you suppose that’s a good price?”

The barman shrugged, phone still pressed to his ear.

“I could really use five hundred dollars.” The old man stared at the barman a while, then sighed heavily again and heaved the case off the bar. “Thank you, sir. Have a good day.”

#

The man in the tweed jacket waited until the old man had rounded the corner.

“Well, Henry? How much did you — aw, really?”

Henry waggled the violin case with a wistful smile. “Can’t remember the last time that one failed.”

His friend kicked a rock, then chuckled. “Just goes to show, you can’t cheat an honest man.”

#

Henry finished his liver and onions and sat back with a little satisfied belch. He excused himself to nobody in particular, took the napkin from his collar and dabbed at his mouth.

The waitress came back, that teenager with the hungry look to her, and put the bill on the table.

“Never knew anyone to like that liver stuff so much.”

“It was delicious,” he assured her, patting his pockets. His smile faded and he patted more frantically. The waitress gave him a concerned look.

“Oh, miss, I’m terribly sorry. I seem to have forgotten my wallet at home.” He looked around, then pulled his violin case from under the table. “I hate to ask, but do you mind if I go get it? I’ll leave this here as collateral.”

He unlatched the case and opened it toward her.

“Um.” She looked at him, then down at the case, skeptical. She reached into the case and picked out a piece of cardboard. “What the hell’s a ‘Grile’?”

2 thoughts on “Nor A Real Bastard

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