The potato skins are as tough as the waitress who served them. The drive-by busboy is as punctual and effective as the teenager he is. The bartender, sandwiched between his mahogany bar and trophy wall of statuesque liquor bottles, is a veteran midway carny manning a game you’re sure to lose. The tiny joint is thick with smoke, heavy with oil, thin with good lighting. Never mind why you hobbled in, you can’t help but question what makes such hardened folk in soiled places throw tight-lipped and unsolicited niceties your way.
You take your bill to the end of the bar, to the register where a plastic pint cup scrawled with tips in red Sharpie sits baited with a few folded bills, parading in front of the cashier and the evening’s only toothy smile. Plenty of tips come to mind as you settle up, yet you’re compelled to give the clink of some hard change, the rustle of paper currency in exchange for the promise of a “thanks, hon” with an ever-widening grin, which somehow makes things right.
Thad DeVassie is a lifelong Ohioan who writes and paints from the outskirts of Columbus. His work has appeared recently in Nurture, Pensive, 433, Autofocus, Miracle Monocle, and others. He is a recipient of the 2020 James Tate International Poetry Prize for his manuscript Splendid Irrationalities. His chapbook, This Side of Utopia, will arrive in 2021 from Cervena Barva Press. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram at @thaddevassie.
Image: “70 North Lake Avenue and 68 North” by Daniel Nester