is it morning or is it night
The front window was shattered by a padlock—taken off the patio’s gate and thrown by a man in a salmon-colored polo shirt. His bar tab for the night, his buddy, last name McNaughton, tugged him across the street, behind the Speedy Check Cashing building, before we could catch them.
“I could find them,” Ryan said, rag hanging out of his back pocket. And he probably could. Only a DUI stood between him and Ranger school, but that’s enough to keep him taking a weekend off every month for drill.
“How are we supposed to close now?” Becky asked, tequila shot in hand.
And the customers that remained, you wouldn’t believe how many get out of their seats to cross the window’s threshold—chunks of tempered glass still hanging loose--for a photo-op. Can you blame them? It was the most interesting thing that’d happened all night beside the drunk couple sucking face near the jukebox, oblivious to their main event status.
We warned anybody wearing sandals, but most people were wearing boots. And The Kid was already working a broom and dustpan over the floor. The yellow Slippery When Wet sign set up next to the damage.
Somebody we’d never seen in the bar before said, “You’re not calling the police?”
“Cops are bad for business,” I said.
“So,” Becky said. “Can we do these shots?”
The customers that had bought her the shot raised their glasses, too.
On the way to the diner the sky couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. Deep purples mixed with gunmetal greys. For a mile down High Street the traffics lights blinked in unison. Everybody packed into my car. After a few minutes, Becky passed out with her head on The Kid’s shoulder.
“Is it morning or is it night?” Ryan asked.
“Sometimes it feels like I dreamed working,” The Kid said.
Our server left her lit cigarette on a ledge out front. She knew what we were going to order before we ordered. It happens to people like this: you work these kind of hours long enough that every surprise has to be earned. We ask how her nights been, but we already know by the way the tables look. A communion takes place in these exchanges. People that have never lived like this have a hard time understanding that.
We pushed eggs and hash browns around our plates, ripped pieces of bacon with our hands, anticipating waking up to our other lives, the ones we lived in the daylight. Becky with her school lunch program, The Kid with his death metal band, Ryan with his ranger runs. And me, still wondering if getting to watch the sunset and sunrise every day is a privilege or a burden.
Almost a decade ago, a successful man, drunk, on the other side of a different bar looked at me and said, “The things you like are on one side, the things you’re good at are on the other.”
Terrance Wedin's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Esquire, Fourth Genre, Ninth Letter, New World Writing, Hobart, and other publications.