Local Brew: Part 2
Read PART 1 here.
The room he walked into was warmly lit with entirely wood furnishings. In the far corner was an old-school looking jukebox that droned out some tuneless grunge song Trevor couldn’t place. A long bar stretched from one end of the room to the other with stools spaced out along it. Behind it were countless bottles of deep green, amber, and blue backlit against a mirror. Two men sat hunched at one end of the bar, and a third stood on the other side, presumably the tender. All three turned as Trevor entered. They regarded him with an annoyed indifference and then returned to their quiet conversation.
As Trevor made his way to one of the seats, he noticed a large plaque above the bar that read, “IN THE LAND OF PLENTY, MEN DRINK OF THEIR WORK”. He sat four seats from the huddled men, not wanting to impose, but also hoping the tender would notice. His wedding ring made a sharp clack against the polished finish of the bar.
You really oughtta put that thing away, Bruce had told him before the trip. Trevor agreed that it might send the wrong message to Rita upon his arrival, but he found himself feeling vulnerable without it; naked almost.
After surmising the tender had no intention of breaking his conversation off, Trevor cleared his throat. Again, the three men turned to look at him. The tender looked more annoyed as if they had expected him to have just turned around and left. The two other men at the bar fell back into silence. The one furthest from Trevor wore a vest, undone, over top of a white button-down shirt. The other, who sported fingerless gloves and a hat that looked like it had never seen better days, sagged a bit in his chair and squinted at Trevor. He pointed a wavering finger at him.
Feeling the awkwardness fill the room, Trevor held up his hands. “Just want a drink is all.”
The tender shot a look to the more lucid of the two at the bar and then trudged over like a child being told to clean their room. “What can I git ya?” he asked and raised his eyebrows impatiently.
Probably hates anyone who doesn’t look like they worked every day of their lives in the sun. “Came to try out your local stuff. Got a sign that claims you have the best bourbon in the state.”
The tender snorted a humorous chuckle. “Used to.”
What a shitty salesman. Trevor could help but laugh himself. “Well let’s see what you got. Give me a single of the local stuff, clean.”
He stared at Trevor a moment. “Sure thing,” he finally offered. The man turned and grabbed a labelless brown bottle with symbols beveled into the glass Trevor couldn’t quite make out. He produced a smelling glass and poured a shot. After replacing the bottle to its spot on the shelf, the tender slid the glass towards him unceremoniously. “Twelve even.”
Trevor didn’t move. “Seems pretty steep for something that isn’t the best anymore.”
“Still takes work to make. Work costs time. Time costs money.”
“Can I open a tab? I’m not really in a hurry.”
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
Trevor nodded and threw a 20 onto the bar top. “Keep the change.”
The tender slid the cash into his pocket and returned to the other two men without comment.
Trevor didn’t actually plan on spending any more money there, but he couldn’t resist poking the bear a little. Something Rita had hated.
To stop his mind from wandering down that road once more, he picked up the glass. He was no sommelier, but he enjoyed the act of holding a solid glass and being forced to slow down while letting the drink express itself. This particular drink smelled sweet for a moment and then dipped into something darker once it hit the back of his nose. He took a sip, and it pricked his tongue with a spiciness that melted away into something a bit smoother and warm.
He cleared his throat and held his glass up to the three men. “Maybe not the best anymore, but it’s a damn fine glass just the same.”
The tender and the sober man on his side of the bar both chuckled and shook their heads. The drunkard remained silent and simply stared.
Trevor raised his eyebrows at him, but the man did not turn away. “Can I help you with something, bud?”
The drunk man grunted as he stood. “Oy, you from ‘round here?”
Startled by the sudden movement, Trevor coughed up a bit of the drink he had begun to sip. “Um, no sir, I can’t say that I am.”
“I can tell,” the man uttered as he stumbled towards Trevor. One hand kept him upright on the bar while still grasping a half-full mug of beer, and the other pointed with a gnarled finger. “Yer full of disrespek.”
“I assure you, sir, none was meant.”
The drunkard came to a stop and landed on the stool next to Trevor and let out a sigh. “I tell ye, son, the world has no room for he who can’t hold his manners.”
Trevor noted the irony in what the man had said and then tipped his glass towards him. “I can drink to that.” He took another sip and gritted his teeth. “You have a bit of an odd accent for these parts. You from around here?”
The jukebox quieted for a moment as the song ended, and the room fell into an uncomfortable silence. “We’re all travelers ‘ere.” The man stared ahead and took a slow sip from his beer. “Been years since this place bustled about.” A long grinding chord slid from the jukebox as another song picked up. “I remember when they came from miles on to taste the fruit of our fields.” In a sudden flash of movement, the man stood and grabbed Trevor by the shirt. Beer and bourbon sloshed onto the bar top. The man pulled him close enough to feel the stubbled chin against his ear and whispered. “The machines stopped, and then we lost ‘em. Lost ‘em in the corn.”
The commotion caught the attention of the other two men who rushed over. The drunk’s friend grabbed him. “Goddammit, Rory, leave the man alone and keep your mouth shut.” Rory stumbled back and fell to the floor
The man turned to the tender. “Callum, can you please get him out of here. He’s speakin’ out of turn about holdin’ manners.”
Rory’s friend looked back at Trevor. “Name’s Arthur.” He extended his hand to shake, and Trevor took it awkwardly. “Sorry ‘bout that. Local drunk who likes to ramble on ‘bout nonsense. Don’t pay him any mind.”
Trevor glanced at Rory, who was now being helped to his feet by Callum. “Sure.” Callum placed a firm hand behind Rory’s neck as he led him off into the back of the brewery. “What exactly did he mean by machines? Like combines or something?”
Arthur chuckled and rubbed at his bearded chin. “It’s really just an old wive’s tale. People like to make more of something so’s to keep themselves entertained, I suppose.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“This town really was famous, at least locally, for its brewed drinks. Older folks liked to tell stories of special machines that gave the brew its taste here. But when people stopped buying the drinks, older folks claimed it was the loss of the machines. I think they meant more the care behind the brewing got lost. Like a…what do you call that?”
“Yes! That’s it.” Arthur gave another good-natured chuckle. “We’re an old town with old traditions baked in. But best leave the tales of whimsy to the women, right?” He gave Trevor a hearty slap to the shoulder and hopped up so that he was seated on top of the bar.
Trevor returned to his seat. “That seems a bit regressive, don’t you think?”
Arthur swung his legs over and landed on the other side. He swiped the local bourbon back off of the shelf. “Mayhaps. What’s your name, pal?”
For a moment, Trevor hesitated. The man seemed far too eager to become friendly. He decided to give his middle name instead. “It’s Dillon.”
Arthur’s eyes twitched as he stared. “Dillon, then. Have another on me.”
Trevor gave a shrug and passed the glass to him.
“Now I do have to agree that this used to be better, but it’s still got its charm underneath.” He poured the amber liquid halfway up the glass.
“Careful, now, he seemed a little protective of this stuff.” Trevor offered a smile and took the glass.
“Well I’m the mayor so I think it’ll be ok.”
Trevor raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Oh!” He felt the sudden need to pull at his shirt for fear of wrinkles and to sit up straight.
Arthur held up his hands. “Please, no need to be so put out. Rickledge isn’t quite the spectacle it once was” He poured himself a glass and tilted it forward.
Trevor lightly tapped his against it, and they both drank.
“So tell me, Dillon; what brings you to these parts?”
“Well, I’m actually headed out to North Carolina on a bit of a road trip.” Not entirely a lie, but still devoid of the details that Trevor felt uncomfortable sharing with a stranger.
A warm smile spread across Arthur’s bearded face. “A man of adventure! Nothing like the open road to get the blood pumping. Where’s your wife?”
The question took him off balance. “Ah,” should’ve taken this off. “She’s actually waiting for me there.”
Arthur nodded and took another drink. “Yes, well…it sounds as though your destination isn’t going to be the happiest of welcomes.”
Trevor was taken aback. “I…I’m sorry. What gives you that idea?”
“Don’t get worked up Dillon, I’m no mind reader. But it doesn’t take one to know a man driving ‘cross the country alone who stops at random, out of the way bars to prolong meeting his wife has reason to do so.”
Trevor found himself unsure if one could deduce something so specific with only the given information. “Yeah, well…who doesn’t have a little trouble now and then.”
“None worth trustin’ I reckon.” Arthur poured himself another double and did the same for Trevor, unprompted. “Lemme guess, she gets bored o’ you and so leaves you wanting more?”
Trevor chuckled. “I mean that’s pretty presumptuous, and I don’t know if I should imbibe anymore.”
“Nonsense! Visitors are a rare sort here so we should celebrate.”
“Seems to be the case.” He took another, fuller drink. “And it’s nobody’s fault really, people just…grow apart, ya know?”
“Aye. Can’t keep an adventurous man down to just one woman anyhow’s how I look at it.” Arthur winked.
Trevor stared at him for a moment and could feel a film of cold sweat steal over his back. You sure he can’t read minds? He broke from Arthur’s cold stare and glanced at his watch, which now read 7:30. “Holy shit, I’ve lost some time here.” He stood up, and a wave of lightheadedness washed over him. His arm shot out and caught him on the bar.
Arthur hopped back over the bar and helped him stand up straight. “Well, it looks like you’ll be putting off your troubles a little longer then. You can stay at the Aisling Inn across the way. My wife runs the establishment, so I’ll be sure we get you a good deal.”
Trevor didn’t necessarily like the idea of being waylayed in this odd town longer than he needed to be. The idea of spinning his car out into a field of corn in the middle of Nowhere, Idaho was far less appealing. “Sure, why not.”
“Good,” Arthur said as he began to guide him towards the door. “It’s our own little slice of paradise out here.”