The bottle of Ipecac had made it into my pocket during my last break. Blake’s office held the lone first aid kit that wasn’t kept current by OSHA standards. There was still a tiny bottle of Ipecac just a few years past expiration, a quick Google just to be sure I wouldn’t cause permanent damage—it really was for the greater good—and I made my way to the bar. In my own defense, I didn’t think it would be quite so bad.
I stood in my regular position behind the bar and started mixing the Blackberry Collins. I used a giant whisk from the kitchen since I didn’t have a lid—or biceps for that matter—large enough to handle the champagne bucket full of booze, juice, and ice. After a brisk session whisking all the ingredients together I strained it into two clear margarita pitchers topping only the first one with soda water. A quick stir and we were ready.
I moved back to the front of the bar where someone had set a double line of shot glasses stretching from one end to the other. Ah, expecting an epic battle—they were close, just a few vowels and consonants off if they were thinking of my secret weapon. I had to slip a few drops of the oily black syrup into one of the shot glasses far enough down the line so as not to rouse suspicion. Hoping that the monotony of my task, pouring shot glass after shot glass would dull their interest midway through the line, and I was right. Fat Boy was back in his favorite spot at the far end by my station, watching me closely until Nicole squealed and jumped on him, flinging arms around his neck, wishing him luck.
Without missing a beat I tipped the tiny bottle, dripping, what I hoped was, a few drops of the dark syrup into the shot glass, the murky color blending with the blackberry liqueur. Certainly the flavor was strongly sweet to mask the taste. I may have over done the blackberry, offending my inner mixologist. Another splash of alcohol and I was moving on down the line, filling the remaining glasses.
“If you’re done fondling the help…” I lifted a glass in each hand, offering the one from the tainted line to Fat Boy. “May the better man win.” Well at least this man better win, I thought upending the shot glass.
I may have made a key strategic error. It was entirely possible that I wouldn’t be able to keep even the first shot down. Fat Boy smirked, lifting his glass to me in salute before tossing it back, slamming the empty glass upside down on the bar. I saluted him back—though not using anything god hadn’t already provided—and smacked my own empty down. The bet was on.
I really did lose track of the tainted glass. I was struggling just to keep within sight of Fat Boy. He had a good fifty pounds of muscle on me and apparently years of fraternity hazing experience under his belt. Seven shots behind in the challenge and the Blackberry flavor was heavy and cloying in my mouth; I would kill for a plate of fries right about now, but we hadn’t bargained on food ahead of time, so I was out of luck. I lifted the next glass of swirling purple liquid when I noticed him pause.
He spun around with such a look of betrayal I stepped back. It was a good thing, too. He suddenly lurched towards the men’s room clutching his stomach when all hell—and by hell, I mean a combination of Blackberry Collins, Syrup of Ipecac, and one of Marco’s famous bacon mushroom cheese burgers—broke loose over the carpet in front of the bar. A stunned silence fell over our audience until all of the sudden it was like a gun had gone off in the middle of a herd of wildebeests. Blake stood quickly, grabbing his car keys, yelling over his shoulder, “It’s all yours, boys. Clean that up and get the hell out of my bar!”
Within minutes Fat Boy & I were alone. Marco went out the back after handing me a cold, damp bar towel and securing the kitchen for the night. Every bus boy, line cook, server, and manager had scattered like roaches after you flick a light on in the dead of night. It was now just the two of us and Fat Boy, slumping against the bar, wasn’t going anywhere soon.
I wiped his face with the damp towel, cradling his head in my hand. I’d never been this close to him before so I took advantage of the moment, cataloguing his features. His hair was the color of straw, gold and brown strands highlighted by the occasional silky white streak. You could still see the influence of a high and tight military cut he’d let it grow out some. The longer strands around his face were darkened with sweat.
I didn’t like his color, his eyes shadowed more grey than blue.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“I know.” His jaw flexed, then relaxed.
Fat Boy turned away from me, closing his eyes and resting his head against the bar’s oak footboard. I felt like crap. He’d always been so big and smirky. Pestering me whenever we worked together. I always thought of him as a giant pain in the ass. Crap. Now I was the giant ass.
I left him alone after handing him a bottle of water. Sipping carefully he watched as I cleaned up the floor and bar, leaving a note for the cleaning crew at six a.m. It had taken me an hour and by the time I was done, Fat Boy was standing, waiting to lock up.
He didn’t say another word to me, just set the alarm, turned the key and walked out into the night.
“Fuck!” I glanced at my watch, noting the date. Just six more days until Valentine’s.
I hated February.