By Jerry McGinley
I was reading Ellery Queen in a coffee shop when I noticed an old man, bib-overalls, flannel shirt, stocking cap, watching me. I nodded a greeting. He smiled and said, “Don’t live it up so much you can never live it down,” and returned to his sports page.
“Sounds like you’ve been there,” I said.
“Damn right. Got scars to prove it.”
“Life can be tough.” I don’t know why I said it.
“You’re telling me. One time I was drinking beer in a smoky pub minding my own business. Woman with smeared lipstick and too much cleavage sits down next to me. ‘Hey, Mack, what’s a girl gotta do to get a drink around here?’ Said I’d buy her one. ‘Double Jack and a splash of water,’ she says. Bartender obliged. When the drink arrives she doesn’t sip for flavor—hell no, she gulps it down and waves for another. I tell the bartender to put another round on my tab. Then outta the latrine comes this gorilla in leather biker jacket and backwards cap. ‘What the hell’s this?’ he says and drags me off my stool. ‘Woman wanted a drink,’ I say. Quick as shit he draws a blade outta his boot. Gashes open my gut—took a hundred stitches to zip me back together. As I’m lying there bleeding out, I see her polish off the second drink, then gives me a wink and a one-finger wave, and says, “Thanks for the Jack, Mack.’
“Tough broad,” I said, though I never talk like that.
“I got a hundred stories like that.”
“I’d stick around to hear more, but I gotta meet a guy about a used boat.”
“Just remember what I told, kid.”
As I headed for the door, I heard the old man speak to the young chap claiming the table I just vacated: “Don’t live it up so much you can never live it down.”