Pete’s

Pete’s was a squat box of yellow bricks and twitchy neon. The door was always open in the summer, and you could smell the dry tobacco and the yeasty drinks that stained the bar. Depending on the time of day, you could hear the thump of the juke playing old honky-tonk. If you walked by on your way to anyplace else, the darkness grabbed your attention; daylight made it too bright to see anything inside. You couldn’t pick out any one shape. Everything was a smudge, or a trick of the shadows. You’d hear loose voices in the background, or mushy coughs, and the brattle of glass and ice.

Sometimes Dad would take me into Pete’s if he couldn’t find a babysitter.

The air felt like steam, even with the air conditioner pumping out all that wet noise, and the glasses were sweaty. Mario the bartender always brought me a glass of Coke that was half filled with chunked ice. He’d set ’em up as I knocked ’em down. It amused the hell out of him for some reason. Dad drank draft beer, smoked a lot of cigarettes, and talked to his pals, mostly about work and baseball scores. No one minded that I was taking up a stool. I knew how to keep quiet and had my hair ruffled enough times that I could feel greasy palm prints on my scalp by the time we went home. We never stayed for more than a couple of hours. There was an old TV propped up in the far corner, but the volume was down and the picture bumped around like a heart monitor.

It was a special time that became not so special the older I got. It never changed much in the twenty or so years since I first stepped inside. Even the men were the same. I was just another nobody to fall into its maw. After awhile,  you forget that you don’t notice the darkness.

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