After Brit’s birthday party with her family, which was just the cutest, I headed to the tea room for pearl family dinner. I, naturally, was running late and found Michelle, Mara, and Rachel waiting.
At the martini bar I knew what I wanted to try, the candy cane martini! The description sounded just so delicious! Rachel and Mara felt the same way, but Michelle went rogue with some sort of tropical concoction. Oh, my regrets! As the waitress delivered our drinks the first red flag was that the candy cane martini was completely clear, from the description I had expected it to be, well, red. Or at least have red sugar on the rim! Second red flag was that the stentch of stark mint liquor that was radiating away from our glasses,
“Oh, those smell great!” Michelle sipped her tropical paradise with great bemusement.
We three leaned into our drinks and gingerly sipped the concoction. Choking coughs exploded. We flagged down our waitress,
“Hi, um, these aren’t very good.”
“Yeah, people don’t really seem to like them.”
“Really? Because they taste just like listerine.”
“That’s what I’ve heard.”
“Well, we’d like something else.”
“I’ll try and see if I can get them taken off. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll see.” She walked away, indifferent to our collective dismay.
“You know you’d think she may have mentioned that when we were ordering…” I began.
“Well, I’ve got news for her, I’m not paying for that drink.” Racheal stated.
We simmered at the ghastly thought of paying ten dollars for an acid de menthe martini while Michelle joyously drank her paradise tropical heaven. Life was so unfair! Luckily for everyone involved the waitress reported that we did not have to pay for our drinks. Mara and Racheal both have had the occasional temper, so the waitress really dodged a bullet there whether she knew it or not. Little did we expect that it was my temper that would flare as the evening progressed.
Rach retired for the evening and the rest of us trudged on to none other than Altos! Brit and Chris arrived, my college parents, Erica and Carbone joined us! My lucky stars! I had so much to brag about to them. Guess how early I get up in the morning now Mom and Dad? Before noon! Guess who is clean and sober now? My son, Merlin! Guess who hasn’t over drafted their bank account in months? NATTY! It was a gleeful reunion.
Things did, however, take a turn. There was a certain bartender we’ll call Andy, whom used to be a lowly patron like the rest of us but in my absence has become a bartender. One of the many mysteries of the world given his disrepute among some in the bar’s inner circle. Nevertheless, he was now an employee at the altar of Altos at which I worshipped and when he pointed out I had not paid my eleven dollar tab the night before (I had left in a whirlwind), I was more than happy to have it added to my current tab. No, Andy wanted cash. Why would Andy want cash? I have every reason to believe Andy wanted to put that cash in his pocket, especially since he was whispering.
I refused, I said, “It will have to be added to my current tab.” I wanted no part in defrauding my favorite dive bar with that Judus! The rest of the night when I ordered “Tall Jack and Coke” I received a glass of ice with two drops of Jack and a splash of coke. I wish I was exaggerating, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed this gross travesty.
Simultaneously, a situation erupted at our home table. A giant man, being around seven feet tall, has inserted himself at our table. He was blonde. He had a shrunken head. I wish there was a more politically correct, medical term I knew to describe his appearance, but the best way I know how is to say this man had a shrunken head. I would later learn that when he joined our table he had asked Chris which one of us women folk was “his”. When Chris claimed Brit he unknowingly threw Michelle and I to the wolves.
He sat down between us. I’m unsure how the conversation started but before I knew it, he was talking about doing drugs in his van in the parking lot. How tempting!
“Oh really? You have drugs in your van? What kind?” These are the kinds of things I say that further conversation with crazy people when I should be running away.
“Dro. I got purple weed.”
“Oh, I can’t smoke weed. I’m job hunting, sorry.” I shrugged.
“What do you do, girrrrrrrl?” He smiled, and his little eyes in his little head seemed to get even smaller.
“Do you have any fentanyl lollipops?” I couldn’t resist. This could be my chance to finally try them!
“Whaaaa?” He looked baffled. This was not my chance. Which is probably good, given he was a weirdo with a van in the parking lot. I went back to the bar for more whiskey water. When I returned there was a dispute between shrunken head and Michelle.
“No, no, I’m a scorpion! You’re a toad! It’s in my nature! I will hurt you!” Michelle was emphatically gesturing as if she had a stinger.
“I’m a scorpo.” he replied with a smile, as if this was the only thing separating them from a night of bliss in the van.
“Scorpion,” I interjected,”with a stinger,” I hooked my arm over my head erratically.
“I’m a scorpo!”
“You’re a TOAD!” I had lost my patience, “She’s a scorpion! You’re a TOAD!”
Michelle joined in, “You’re a TOAD, a TOAD!”
The man began shaking his head, clearly thinking to himself, these stupid stupid drunk broads, and fished out his driver’s license. He showed us his birthday, “I’m a scorpo.”
Michelle and I blinked and looked at each other. We realized what he meant. The age-old fable of the scorpion and the toad was lost on him. He thought we were talking astrological signs. He was a scorpio. Clearly, it was time to close my tab. I wrestled back into the bar line. Andy handed me my tab. Fifty-one dollars. Eleven from last night and forty for my four whiskey waters? At a normal bar, I admit, this would not be unheard of, but at Altos? I was outraged! I could not believe I was paying this much at Altos when I could still walk in a straight line unassisted! I did not put up with shrunken heads to pay normal prices! It was robbery!
I went back to my table and announced what had transpired on my receipt. Immediately my friends bubbled with unflattering antecdotes and defamations of Andy’s character.
“I’m a sister wife! I just can’t!” Michelle shrieked, I turned and realized she was still battling her toad at the end of the table. Not to be distracted, I continued scribbling my letter to Andy on the back of my receipt,
Andy, you are manipulative and untrustworthy and no one trusts you. You make terrible drinks. You tell lies. I don’t trust you.
I waved my receipt in the air, “I wrote it! I wrote it!”
“You don’t know what my husband is like! I could never be with another man! The sisters would never allow it!”
“You’re right! We wouldn’t!”
“He’ll kill her for sure!” Sometimes the lies we tell at Altos become more of a game. Bar improv, if you will.
“Wives? Your husband got wives?” We had lost shrunken head in translation again.
“Polygamy! I’m a polygamist! I have a husband who has lots of wives! I have no rights! I can’t do drugs in your van! I’m a scorpion!” Michelle was throwing everything she had in protest.
“Go give Andy your letter!” Brit encouraged.
“Absolutely!” I walked toward the bar, rereading my defiant masterpiece, but then… I changed my mind. I ran to the jukebox, I looked over my shoulder, I slid the letter/receipt onto the top of the jukebox ever so slightly and ran outside. The following day I would be exposed to many of Michelle’s impersonations of this action.
I’m sure that my receipt and my message are still on the top of that jukebox for the taking. Just as I’m also certain, the man with the shrunken head will forever remember Michelle as the polygamist scorpo who got away.