Out of the Nite
By Trudy Cusella
It began on a chilly autumn night in South Buffalo. The red-headed skirt slipped through the door of Felong’s at 11:08 saloon time, and he slid behind the bar, abandoning the barstool and the beer he was nursing.
“I’ve got this one, Fitz,” he said to the bartender.
She was looking for a job or so she alleged.
“Odd time of day to be seeking employment,” he said, taking note of long legs wrapped in black net stockings. A purple plaid mini skirt was barely up to the task. Her face was soft, almost tender, a rare sight after six o’clock in this joint. It was the freckles, he decided, that made her look so defenseless; the freckles that sprinkled across her nose and cheekbones like a dash of nutmeg, and the fact that a tear threatened to drop at any second from those neon green orbs. She wasn’t drunk or high from what he could tell. A good sign. The more naïve and less complicated, the easier the pickings.
“I need a job,” she said in a husky voice. “I mean, I really need a job. The sign says you need a bartender and I need a job. It’s perfect. Fate, if you know what I mean.”
Was she flirting or just trying to make him laugh? Hell if he knew.
“No, not fate. I need a nite bartender,” he said. “NITE in big bold letters because I want a big bold bouncer-type, not a skinny little thing like you that’ll shatter like the mirror behind the bar during a Saturday night free-for-all.”
“I’m tougher than I look,” she said. “I can handle myself. I can handle nasty drunks too”
“I’ve got nothing for you,” he said.
“But the sign…please,” she said.
We’d both be damn lucky if she’d marked her fifteenth birthday, he thought. He shook his head.
A tear squeezed out. She brushed it away. “Please,” she said again. “I have no money and nowhere to go. I don’t want…I can’t….”
She caved easily. Malleability. Another good sign.
Suddenly, he was weary. Nights like this, kids like this—sometimes his life took more out of him than it should, more than he wanted to give. He pulled a roll of bills from his pocket.
“Here’s an advance. Buy yourself a meal. Be back tomorrow at noon and we’ll talk about hours and pay. I could use a dishwasher.”
Her smile lit up the place. “I’ll be here,” she said.
The promise of a job attracted them. They showed up after their money was gone, their dreams shattered but with hope still alive if on life support. The mean, angry ones seldom took the bait. The final stages of desperation provided their only motivation. They had to fall into a hole deep enough to bury them. She was looking down into that hole but she hadn’t descended yet. The money he gave her would get her hopes airborne. She’d be dreaming about that roll of bills tonight.
“What do you think, Fitz?”
“She’ll be back alright. And fifty-fifty says she’ll get with the program. She’s got the look.”
“Yeah, and fifty-fifty says she’ll be willing to come to the Youth Center for more than a week.” He sighed. “Not the best odds.”
He pulled off his turtleneck sweater and tugged at the Roman collar underneath. It chafed and a welt had spread across his clavicle. To supplement the pulpit down the street, he had added Felong’s tavern to his ministry.
“Calling it a night, Father?” Fitz asked.
A short walk and Holy Family rectory and a good night’s sleep awaited. Whatever happened tomorrow, it was another day—another beginning. And beginnings were the tools of his trade.
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Trudy Cusella is a retired psychiatric nurse, grandmother and semi-published writer. The first of which she is grateful for, the second, over the moon about and she is working on the third.