Miranda Sutter is a vegan, a bartender, and a writer – not necessarily in that order. She knows that the next Great American Novel is rolling around inside her head, if she can just find the right inspiration… The solution? Consult with one very dead writer by the name of Ernest Hemingway. When a handsome stranger saves a choking woman, Miranda knows she’s found a hero she can base her book on, but when she begins stalking him to learn more about his life, she’s in for more than she bargained for. Along the way, she will have to deal with long-buried grief and fear, a crisis of faith, an unwelcome housemate, a clingy gothic poet, the hero’s ex-wife, and a very hairy dog. Her crazy antics are sure to land her in jail… or in love!
If you're new, read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 , and part 5 first.
Tuesday, April 17 (continued)
I am always amazed at the number of men who will hit on a girl while wearing a wedding ring. I mean, do they really think we don't notice? My audience for the evening is seated at the long bar in various stages of sobriety. A couple of regulars, but tonight has brought a group of middle-aged men who, no doubt, come here because it's close to the university and rumored to be full of succulent college-aged girls, ripe for the picking.
"So, tell me, Miranda," Mr. Screwdriver reads from the bottom of his check, "are you Italian? Hispanic? Indian? That olive complexion has to be something exotic." He looks me up and down, approvingly.
"I prefer the term 'ethnically ambiguous,' actually." I'm rolling my eyes in annoyance as I look in the well for the rotgut vodka he's ordered.
You can often tell what kind of a tip you are going to get from a man by the way he orders his drink. If he orders top-shelf liquor and watches you make the drink without much chatter, he is likely a man who appreciates a good drink and the good bartender who pours it for him. He will tip you well. If, on the other hand, a man orders a generic drink like a screwdriver or a rum and coke, doesn't specify his liquor and tells you that the "well" liquor is fine when you ask, he will likely leave you a shitty tip. Double that likelihood if he tries to hit on you while you pour his nasty drink.
"Wherever your family came from, you are one hot tamale, Mamacita!" He can't possibly be serious.
Instead of telling him off, I put on my prettiest sweetheart smile and gently shake my head at him. "Oh, stop. You're only saying that because… it's true." I bat my eyelashes at him.
Mr. Screwdriver's friends burst into roaring laughter. "I think you just got put in your place, buddy," Mr. Whiskey-Coke points out. "She's heard it all. You ain't dealing with no amateur here."
Gwen seems to be having a better night and is being really helpful. Suspiciously so, in fact, considering she got called in at the last minute to cover for another cocktail waitress, who phoned in sick. She's been filling my ice bin before it gets even close to empty and has been behind the bar unloading the dishwasher for me before I get low on glassware. When she steps up to the service rail, I decide to corner her. "Okay, spill it," I order, leveling my gaze at her.
"Uh, well, I need two Black Butte Porters, a Budweiser in a bottle and three shots of Jägermeister." Gwen smiles at me innocently.
"That's not what I mean and you know it. What are you up to? You're being über-helpful and I want to know why. You must want something. I'll tell you right now, Gwen, I am not covering another shift for you." I cross my arms across my chest to show her I mean it.
"No, no. It's nothing like that. I wouldn't ask you to do that again. You covered shifts for me three Sundays in a row. I really appreciated it, too. I don't remember if I told you that before, but I did." She's still smiling that little smile.
"Okay, so spit it out, Gwen. What do you want?"
"Well, my parents are coming to visit for a bit and… Well, remember how I told you that they found out about Chad living with me? I sort of told them he moved out. But he didn't. And now my parents are coming to stay, and if they find Chad there, they'll freak. So… I was wondering if he could maybe stay with you and Aiden for a couple of days? It would be the biggest favor ever, and I'd owe you eternally." Now she's batting her eyelashes. Good grief.
"Why doesn't he stay in a hotel, Gwen? I really think that would be best. Don't you?" I am nodding my head at her, giving her direct affirmation of my suggestion.
"Oh, no. I couldn't do that. If I charged a room for him, it would show up on my parents' American Express bill and I wouldn’t be able to explain it." She really thinks this is a valid reason for not sending Chad to a hotel for a couple of nights. Why wouldn't she? Her parents pay for her school and housing and give her a credit card for other major expenditures, and her part-time job covers food, clothing and entertainment. I forget sometimes how unreal Gwen's life seems to me.
"Um, Gwen? Why doesn't Chad pay for his own hotel room? Hmm, Gwen?" I notice that I use people's names when I am irritated with them. I use their names a lot.
"Well, Chad's band has been going through a… restructuring period. They're looking for a new bass player, so they haven't been playing any gigs lately. So he's sort of broke."
"Well, that makes perfect sense, doesn't it?" I don't try to hide my sarcasm. "Gwen, let me tell you from a long, broad span of experiencedon't date artists, musicians, writers, poets or any of those terribly seductive, creative types. They always end up unemployed and wanting to live with you. And then they cheat on you. They cheat on you because they are unemployed and have nothing else to do with their time and being so terribly emotive and passionate and all just leads them to someone else's bed." I slam down the Jäger shots a little too hard on the counter.
"Jesus, Miranda. Cynical much? Besides, aren't you a writer? They aren't all bad, right?" She's blinking in surprise at my outburst.
"Yes, Gwen, I am a writer. An employed writer. A writer who is paying her own bills and her own way. See the difference?"
Gwen gives an uncomfortable little laugh. "Okay, Miranda. Next time I want to date someone passionate and creative, I'll see if you're available. In the meantime, I've got to find a place for Chad. Will you just think about it?"
Sighing, I nod. She perks up right away and dances her little behind across the room to her tables. Why am I such a pushover?
Mr. Screwdriver beckons to me from up the bar. "Hey, Mandy! Just thought I'd let you know I'm an accountant and not at all creative, if you're looking for your next conquest…" he laughs, looking at his friends to see if he's actually being funny. They're chuckling, so he laughs a little harder.
Doing my best Scarlett O'Hara, I respond, "Why, I thank you for the offer, kind sir, but I can see already we are going to have irreconcilable differences."
"What? Why is that?" Mr. Screwdriver looks at his friends, bewildered.
"I'm not into threesomes, dear," I tell him flatly, picking up his left hand and fingering his wedding band. "Oh, and don't call me 'Mandy,' okay?" At least I'm not blowing a huge tip. Cheapskate. Lecherous toad. I flash him my prettiest sweetheart smile.
PART 7 HERE.