Did you miss me incur the pudgy-fingered wrath of airport Security?
Did you miss Mary actually get detained at airport Security?
It's not too late to catch up. Go on -- take a click or two! I'll go get a coffee and meet you back here in just a few...
In many ways, it’s a bar like any bar in the United States. A pool table, a juke box, the smallest stuffed deer head I’ve ever seen. It’s Florida, though; and this means that the bartender is 12, maybe 13, and the average age of the clientele is 70.
Mary is seated next to a man in a silk VFW jacket. He is grizzled. Perhaps he drinks a bit. A veteran of the Korean Conflict, Ken has a sparkle in his eye.
“I wasn’t always an old man,” he says to her.
“I’m not sure you’re old now,” she says. “I see ya lookin’ at me.” Ken has the look of the rake about him.
“Ya see that guy over there?” he says. “The one checking you out? I could kick his ass for you, then write a song about it.”
Mary laughs, takes a drink of the Diet 7-Up in front of her. “You’d do that,” she says from around the straw, “for me?”
“Damn right I would,” he says. “That’s the kind of guy I am.”
I have been silent. My ears on Mary and Ken, my eyes on the TV at the end of the bar, the drinks keep piling up in front of me.
If that fluffy headed idiot thinks he can buy me off with drinks…
“Why don’t you just go ahead and drink them?”
I turn away from an episode of King of the Hill. “Because I’ve got my own.”
“Well, I’ll take ‘em,” says Ken. “Mary? You want a couple of these?”
Sober for five years, Mary shakes her head. “Uh-uh,” she says. “But I’ll take your popcorn.”
Ken slides the popcorn over and then stands, places a hand on Mary’s shoulder. “How long you here for?”
“Just a couple more days,” she says.
He nods briskly, removes his hand. “Then I’ll say my good-byes now. And I’ll give you this.” He holds out his hand. In it is a hundred dollar bill.
Mary looks at me; I look at her; and after the briefest of pauses, we nod at each other.
She smiles at him tenderly. “Sorry, Ken,” she says. “We are women of independent means.”
“It would make me happy,” he says, “to know you two had a good time here.”
“Man, meeting you is what makes it a good time. You know that.” And Mary, not one for extravagant displays of affection, puts her hands on his shoulders and kisses him on the cheek.
“You’re a good-lookin’ man, Ken. Don’t you go forgetting me now.”
Ken tips his hat. “Not likely, ma’am.”
Wait. What fluffy headed idiot? Come back tomorrow if you dare..