“Dammit, close that fucking door already!”
I had to force the door shut with my good foot to keep the snow from drifting in. The wind was sled-dog-cold outside; it nipped about your fingers, licked the back of your neck and howled down the back alley by the 7-11. The Earl of Wessex was crowded with late night fish-and-chip drunks and young college kids who’d split pitchers during Armageddon, never mind a typical glacial December night. The snow fell in fat flakes over the road and sent the midnight shift buses gliding and swinging around each other like a Las Vegas dance routine.
“Can I get a rum and Coke?”
“Double?” the bartender questioned. A slender man sporting a beard and ponytail, deftly moving around the liquor bottles, while making eyes at the little bar maid with the strawberry blonde hair and the nice caboose passing out poutines amidst the back booths. They were just another batch of kids, paying their way through school by slinging booze to their best friends and old farts like me after classes. Jesus I envied them; the way they ran and rutted and rocked and rolled like the sun would never dare come up on them.
“Wouldja look at that?” asked the man who sat next to me who could have taken up two stools, the three hundred and twenty rolling pounds of middle age spread that he was. His face was patchy with fishy white jowls and he wore a thick black parka puffed up around his head like he was drinking in an igloo. He was saddled up to the bar like a regular, like they just rolled him into a janitor’s closet at the end of the night and brought him back out again when they opened in the morning. He pointed to the TV screen when it cut from another losing Leaf’s game to a brief news report about a local college campus war protest. Some young girl, with her hair done up in twists like those guys from Jamaica, was behind a megaphone. She was all but drowned out by the eruptions of laughter from a pack of suits-and-ties in one of the booths.
“Young fucks don’t appreciate what’s what anymore now do they?” he nudged me with a fleshy elbow before hollering back to some students leaving the bar as they lit up. “Shut that fucking door! It’s forty-fucking-below out there!” They scampered out and became pin pricks of fire through the frosted windows. “You see what the fuck I mean? You know what we need in this country? The draft, that’s what.”
I coughed and finished my first of what would be many drinks. I signaled the bartender and asked for a double of bourbon. Rum and Coke was a young person’s drink and I didn’t feel like I deserved it anymore.
“You know what used to make men? The army. Now they’ve got school and dope and booze and all this namby-pamby tree hugger horseshit. My old man was as hard as a rock when he came home from the Canadian Navy and he made me the man I am today. Do you think any of these pampered fucks would go to war? Do you think any of them would defend this country against the Nazi’s or would they stay home with the women? I’ve got grandchildren here you know. And if I could, I’d get my ass over there and shoot me every fucking towel head that looked at me cross-eyed.”
I kept clearing my throat and tried to keep pace. “Yeah, my nephew’s over there right now. Infantry.”
“Good on him, good on him! See what I mean now! There is hope for the fuckin’ future. He’ll do us all proud over there won’t he! He’ll show the rest of these pussies what it means to defend one’s fucking country! It’s time we purged all the pinkos and pussies and made this country whole again. AND WILL SOMEONE SHUT THAT FUCKING DOOR.”
Two girls stumbled in from the blizzard; drunk, giggly, and looking face-to-face for someone they might recognize. They wandered through the bar propping each other up, and if it weren’t for their smiles you’d think they were refugees making their way from some great unfolding humanitarian disaster. Like the women in Korea as they ran from their villages, but those women weren’t drunk and they weren’t laughing.
“This country needs more men like your nephew.” He belched under his breath and waved at the bartender. “Not more men like these. Not more dope heads and drunks. This country needs to wake the fuck up!”
I slid off the bar to go and take a piss, the brace biting like ice against the flesh of my leg. When I got home I had to rub it down with motor oil to keep it from rusting. It chaffed against the back of my knee and left a running sore in the summer, so it was better when it was cold and all I had to worry about was dull brown flaking and the fear of it locking up on a slippery batch of concrete stairs.
“Hey, hey buddy! What happened to your leg?” He swiveled on the stool and nearly cracked one of its supports.
“My nephew has it. He needs it more than I do.”