1 UNHAPPY HOUR
Mora Sinclair sat on an orange-covered vinyl bar stool in an out-of-the-way Memphis, Tennessee business. The floor was an old pine wood plank affair as was the wooden and well-worn bar. The bartender watched as her friend arrived.
He came over and asked the young woman in a business suit what she wanted to drink.
“Tomato juice with pepper,” said Rei Anne.
The bartender scratched his head and disappeared.
Rei Anne looked at her friend’s sad face. Mora was stirring a lemon in her cola. There were two shot glasses of vodka sitting on the counter.
“Since when do you drink vodka? Like, never!”
Mora pointed to the cowboy sitting in the corner with his boots on a chair.
“The white hat and clean boots should be a clue.”
Rei Anne looked.
“We’ve seen those items before. He probably has a large mirror at home.”
The bartender brought her the cold juice with a celery stalk and a small plate of sliced jalapeno peppers and green olives. He put a container of kosher salt on top of the bar. Rei Anne stared at the peppers and rubbed the olive on the rim of her glass. She popped the olive into her mouth. She looked at Mora’s small plate of condiments.
“I couldn’t decide if I wanted oranges, lemon slices, peels, or cherries. I think we are the only women in this place wearing business suits and heels. I’m glad you were able to find this joint. I stopped because of the sign. I was feeling blue and the sign appeared to perfectly fit my funky mood.”
Rei Anne put a jalapeno slice in her juice and poured one of the shots into the mix. She opened the salt container and poured a large amount in her hand.
Daintily rubbing the rim with another olive for good measure, she put a small pinch of salt around the glass rim, she threw the rest of the salt behind her. She took a sip.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this place has an excellent cook who uses good salt, vegetables, and fruits. However, this is now a heavily spiced tomato juice. The jalapeno is interesting.”
She offered Mora a taste. She shook her head.
“I wonder how many calories one shot of vodka and a slice of jalapeno would be? The salt is free. Zero calories in a gram of salt. However, there is someone who lives around here that is a joker regarding the bar sign. They used a black grease pencil to add the letters Un in front of the words, happy hour. Maybe the cook was experimenting with the clientele,” said Rei Anne.
“I’d say the cook was clever because there is a chance of rain and we stopped because of the funny sign. The grease pencil won’t blur. We are better by far than the rest of the clientele or should I say lack of clientele. The service is spot on because we arrived early,” offered Mora.
Rei Anne Green looked around the inside of the place. She noticed the foggy mirror and bar signs. There was an old jukebox in the corner.
“There must be a country store where they buy the same stuff. Got a few quarters?”
Mora dug out some from the bottom of her purse.
Rei Anne selected some country songs from a female singer they both liked.
“The music is up-to-date. This bar should serve tacos and the place would be jumping.”
She motioned to the bartender and whispered her recommendation for this evening’s food preference. The bartender disappeared into the kitchen.
“Tell me what happened between you and Samuel. I thought you were perfect for each other. Four years of college dating and now you break up with him.”
The bartender came over with another shot of vodka. Mora turned around and raised her glass at the young cowboy as a thank you.
“We should probably tell him to stop.”
“Rei Anne, let him have some fun. Samuel took a job in New York even though he knows I don’t want to go there. I called his mom to find out more information, like his new address which he forgot to tell me in his text message.”
Her friend moved her chair slightly and saw a good-looking highway patrolman enter the place.
“We’re going to have to put the vodka in a baggie to take home. There’s an officer of the law in the house. Or we can call a towing company to take our cars back. The cad sent you a text message?”
Mora looked at her friend.
“I’m not drinking. However, you’ve drunk one shot. My bet is the officer of the law will talk to you first because you wore an exciting red suit today. Officers select red every time. My black suit says adios.”
“You’re on for the bet! If I lose, I’m turning in my new white swimsuit with the gold bar and deep plunge in the front. What did Samuel’s mom say that upset you so much that you drove ten miles out of the city?”
“I’ll take the new swimsuit. His mother thought I was his other girlfriend, Judith.”
“No, he has someone else. Well, shoot the villain.”
Mora put a cherry in her mouth and chewed. She spits out the stem and parked it on top of the orange and lemon rind pile.
“Remember when we used to stop by this café near the college and eat French fries and colas with lemon. We did have fun because no one knew who we were. We could be ourselves.”
“I drank cherry cokes and you always chose lemon. We talked about carousels and that’s when you told me about your father. Too bad you saw the disaster part when the police took him away. Is it dark in here?” asked Rei Anne.
“It’s getting dark outside because of impending rain. The yellow sign is throwing off colors due to the raindrops plus the orange tables in this bar cast an eerie light.”
The highway patrolman came over to Rei Anne.
“Hello, ladies. I hope you are staying out of trouble today. You must be the lovely persons with the shiny clean cars out front. Usually, the lot gets filled with dusty trucks because this is a country bar.”
His foot slipped on the salt and he grabbed onto the two women.
Rei Anne couldn’t resist.
“Today we are staying out of trouble because the jails are full of pretty women and men with octopus-hands. Tomorrow is highly suspect. Then there’s the day after. The jukebox music in here is great. How about you officer?”
The officer took his hands off the two women’s shoulders immediately and smiled. He looked at the empty shot glass and the two full ones.
“The salt is a nice trick to catch someone unawares. However, I’m fine. Yes, Rosemary loves her jukebox. Her son, Louie, and the new cook run this place. We don’t get your type here in this bar or anywhere else in this state.”
Rei Anne liked being different and when people noticed her. She turned and held out her hand, “I’m Rei Anne Green and this is my friend Mora Sinclair. She got lost and I’m here to help. We didn’t count on meeting a stranger doing his job. However, I mentioned to the establishment that their cook should cook tacos tonight.”
The patrolman looked at the strange mix of condiments on the bar plates. He wasn’t sure the combinations worked. The officer handed his card to Rei Anne.
“If you ladies need anything, please call. I wouldn’t trust the cowboy in the corner. He thinks vodka is a lady’s downfall. He always arrives early to get a jump on the other men. The real cowboys arrive around eight. They usually wear dark-colored hats. I personally think tequila works better with women. I’ll check back on the tacos. Have a good day.”
Rei Anne took the small paper and parked the business card in her pocket. He tipped his hat and left.
The two women finished their drinks. Mora took the filled shot glasses and walked over to the cowboy. She put the glasses on his table.
Mora went back to the bar.
“I might have a job offer near Lexington, Kentucky, at one of the ranch estates as a librarian. The grandmother who owned the ranch has passed away. There are three rooms filled with books they are donating to an independent library. The librarian's job is for cataloging books. The assignment is expected to last a year and if the librarian gets done sooner, all the better. Payment is every month and the fee will be a lump sum amount of seventy-five thousand dollars. This includes room and board on the ranch.”
Rei Anne stirred in another jalapeno. Mora frowned at her friend. Rei Anne looked up the calories for a jalapeno slice on the internet. She asked the bartender for a spoon and fished out the jalapeno. The caloric item was parked on Mora’s discard pile.
“I can’t trust this slice. It looks to be one calorie. This little slice is fifty sit-ups.”
“Good decision to toss the thing,” said Mora.
“Do I know them?”
Mora needed to inform her friend.
“The mother is Ms. Shannon DuBois who now owns the ranch from a trust. Her two sons run the ranch. You might have heard about Rodney DuBois as he is the playboy. The other one is from her previous marriage. His name is Scott Raggett and is older. He handles the retired horses and the business.”
Rei Anne nodded.
“I know about the family as does my father. I do like Kentucky. I’ll come to visit if you get the job. There are some cool inns in the area. My dad gets the local newspaper. Both men are in the society section. They currently are dating very glamourous women who have generations of families in the racing business which is fine with me.”
Mora paid the bill and the two women left the place. Mora took a black grease pencil out of her pocket and wrote Tacos in large letters on the sign. Her friend threw her a look.
“What? The cook told me to make the change. He said I could keep the grease pencil. He bought a dozen.”
They walked to their cars.
“You’ll get the librarian job. I’m sure of it.”
Pausing, she told her friend her feelings.
“Rei Anne, I want to get this job on my own. Leave your dad out of it.”
Rei Anne waved and drove away. Mora shook her head. She knew her friend would talk with her father who was a horse racing buff. She sighed.
“I shouldn’t have mentioned the job.”
As she was driving, a call came in over her car computer. Mora punched the answer button.
“Hello, this is Mora Sinclair.”
The man’s deep voice came across loud and clear.
“This is Scott Raggett. My secretary is out ill today. Can you meet with me this Friday at ten in the morning for the job interview for the librarian? My mother can’t make the interview and called me a few minutes ago. An excellent horseracing friend told her that you are a good candidate for the job. Therefore, I’m your person to talk with on Friday.”
“Wait a second.”
Mora pulled over and checked her calendar.
“My mother is anxious to find the librarian for this position. She hates the old books being in the house, complains about the dusty smell, and has left the ranch for Miami.”
“Yes, I appreciate your interest in me and look forward to the interview. Do I meet you at the ranch or the office downtown?”
“I’ll send the details via email.”
Mora heard the click from Mr. Raggett’s phone as she started driving. Two exits away, she turned off the freeway. She drove home to her apartment. She sent Rei Anne a text.
“I’m sending you my grease pencil because I’m leaving town.”
Rei Anne was dancing in her father’s house. Her father came through once again. Mora lost her father at age seven. She was willing to share hers. She was immensely proud of her best friend and gave a glowing report to the boss of the ranch.
“They need Mora to handle old books. She’ll make quick work of the mess. Then we can party in a horseracing state. More fun!”