Thursday, September 22, 2016

Corner of Colfax and Dead - Chapter 1

“I always told myself that I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Now that I’m dead it appears there is too much to get done.” The thought crossed my mind again as it always did right around the 5th shot. I slammed the empty glass down on the bar and called for a 6th. Daxx slid a shot down the bar towards me. I lifted it up quickly and downed quickly. It went down as everything else did bland and tasteless. My lack of smell and taste was a side effect of my condition. I didn’t usually waste much drinking but tonight was a good night. I had gotten paid for some work so I waved Daxx towards me.

“I’d like to settle up my tab, got paid today.” I placed a wrinkled 100$ bill on the bar.

“Sure Matt, let me go fetch it.” Daxx walked down the bar towards where the register was located. He reached under the counter and pulled out a ragged little notebook stuffed with old receipts between the pages. The old notebook was held together by a leather cord he wrapped around it. With practiced movements he quickly unwrapped the notebook and opened it up. I’m not sure how he does it but he always opens it to a page or two to where he needs to go. This time he opened directly to my page. He pulled out some receipts, closed the book, rewrapped the leather cord around it, and placed it under the bar.  

Deftly he spent a minute entering numbers into the register and printed a new piece of paper that he torn and held out in front of him as he started walking back over towards me. For a moment I held my breath pondering if I had enough money to pay the tab off in full and cover my rent for the next month. It seemed every other night I was here drinking a few shots while trying to relax. I closed my eyes briefly and pray to whatever gods there were for an amount I could handle. As Daxx got closer I decided I should prepare him incase it was too much.

“Daxx, could I…” I started to say but stopped as Daxx lay a piece of paper onto the bar. The paper read ‘$22.57’ and I stared at it in shock. How could it be so little. I’ve been drinking probably 4-6 shots a night. I looked up in disbelief at Daxx with my mouth slightly open. My confusion and surprise must have been evident. 

“Matt, I’m not sure what happened to you three months ago. None of my business, but I be damned if I let good alcohol go to waste.” Daxx said bringing me up to speed but I was still confused so after a minute of silence he continued. “One night I accidentally gave you some apple juice I keep for the kids. You didn’t notice it. So I tried swapping out your Gin with just tonic water. You still didn’t notice it.” 

“You’ve been cheating me!” I sputtered as my brain finally caught up. 

“Na, I didn’t charge you for the drinks. As you see, I saved ya over 200$.” Daxx replied as he pointed to the long list of drinks. All of the ones that I remembered were there nice and neat with the dates and times next to them. Even the night I tried hitting on a lady by buying her a glass of wine was there. One glass was marked as 5$ the other was 0.00$.

“I had figured you were watering the stuff down to save money.” I laughed as I squeezed my left hand. “Didn’t think it had anything to do with me.”

“Look Matt, you’ve been coming here for years. I like you coming around cause you never cause trouble and when someone gets too drunk, you’re always the guy offering to call a cab.” Daxx replied offering a friendly smile. After a moment of silence Daxx moved his right hand under the bar.

“Whoa, Daxx I’m not looking for trouble. I just… I just… I’m not sure what happened to me and I accepted the lack of taste and smell. I just didn’t realize I couldn’t get drunk. I thought 40 years of drinking finally built up my tolerance.” I gave my best smile, no teeth of course cause never could afford dental work. With both of my hands on the bar palms downwards I waited for Daxx to relax.  It took a moment but his hand came back up from under the bar without the tire iron I know he keeps under there. Every 5 feet or so he had a iron or bat or shotgun in the case of the register hidden under for safety. 

“Look Matt, I’m not interested in your story. I like having you as a customer and I don’t abide screwing my customers.” Daxx smiled back the smile he gives all customers. I pulled my wallet out and removed two twenties and a ten. I then pushed them across the bar. 

“Even if you aren’t gonna charge me, at least take something for tips.” I said as I stood up. “Also thanks for being honest. See ya tomorrow.” I stood up from the warm barstool that by now had a permanent impression of my butt on it and started walking towards the door. Right about the same time as I placed my hand on the door Daxx said goodbye.

“Hey Matt, get some rest you like like shit.” Daxx yelled from behind the bar. I looked back at him and gave a little wave and stepped out of the Drunken Moose. Immediately I was hit with the sounds and smell of Colfax on Saturday night at 10pm. People walking up and down the street, some inebriated and some not. Cars cruising up and down with windows down and bass rattling the side panels. 

Right outside of the bar exactly 20 feet from the door was the usual group of smokers. I reached for my pocket where I normally keep my smokes and it was empty. I walked up to the the one that I knew, Dan who also knew me from when we were roughnecks out by Rifle. “Bum a smoke Dan?” I asked rubbing my hands together out of habit in the cold. 

“Sure man,” Dan replied with a little cloud of condensation as he spoke. I didn’t think it was that cold out but all of the smokers here were alternating between blowing little clouds from smoking or from their breath. Dan held out a cigarette and a lighter. I forgotten that he rolls his own, but since it is Colorado.

“Normal smoke? I gotta work in a bit.” I asked while reaching. A nod from Dan was all I needed as I put it to my lips and flicked the lighter. Few puffs later and I was one of the group blowing little clouds of smoke on a cold street corner. “Thanks man, I owe you.” I said as I handed him back his lighter.

“No problem, hey you know any crews hiring near Parachute?” Dan quickly asked as he always did. Me and the guys figured he had a girl on the side that lived out there. I shook my head in reply to his question.

“Aint been on a crew since the accident.” They all nodded their head in reply to my comment. I guess I’m a popular topic of conversation. “Besides its rough work, getting too old, too tired for it.”

“Meh, you can sleep when you are dead.” Dan joked as he threw the stub of his cigarette to the ground and squashed it with his boot. I wanted to tell him he was wrong but needed to stop at home before I went to work. I thanked him against as I started walking down the sidewalk towards Holly Street. As I walked I pulled my coat tighter around me trying to block out the cold, seemed this winter I was always cold. Maybe it is time for a new jacket. 

At Holly Street and Colfax I turned northward to my house. My mood was getting fouler as I walked. The neighborhood wasn’t designed for every house to have 4 cars. Even if I did still drive I wouldn’t as the streets were tight narrow corridors lined of metal, plastic, glass, and rubber. Again I thanked the cold cause it kept most people indoors so the few parties that were going on stayed within the confines of the house. I passed by the next block shaking my head at the idea of gentrification. This whole street used to be affordable and full of families who took some pride in their street. Now, you get these kids who think it is cool to live in a dump. Then they complain when it is not as clean or pretty as the cookie cutter suburbs. With the cold the sidewalk was mostly clear, I only saw kids who belonged more in Highlands Ranch, Parker, or Vail. Twenty years ago I would have robbed some of them on principal. Give them a story to tell their friends when they meet at Starbucks to compare their BWM’s. 

I got to my place soon enough, built in the 30’s and bought by my parents in the 70’s and then sold in the 80’s. I was able to buy it back with my inheritance in the 90’s. I converted the garage into a little guest house. 

Walking up towards the front door of my place I reached in and snagged the mail. The porch light gave me enough light to figure out which mail was mine and which were my tenants. After taking mine, I placed the remaining letters in the mailbox and went back to the guest house. I unlocked the door and entered quickly, once inside I closed the door and locked it back up; handle, deadbolt, and bar. While the neighborhood has improved it was still as dangerous as when I was younger. 

I turned on a light and threw my mail on the table. It landed with a little slap and slide until it hit some cardboard filing boxes. There would be time later for bills or who ever else was asking me for money. My jacket was removed and hung with care on the back of a chair that went with the table. Then using the chair as support I removed my boots, taking care to not let it wobble too much. Lost one chair a few weeks ago cause the last one wobbled and I fell on it breaking it. With coat and boots off I walked to one of the few other furnishings in my little studio apartment, an old lazy boy chair. While I knew I couldn’t sleep I still found just relaxing in it always made me feel refreshed. Sitting down I reclined and closed my eyes, hoping sleep or something else would finally take me.