To Pack A Punch
The bartender turned out to be very understanding. I'd asked for water first, but she didn't make a face - she glanced at the coins I put on the bar instead, swept them up and poured me a glass. I took my time with it. Then I ordered a coke, slipping the money over the counter. Again, I got service. She even put a straw with a tiny paper umbrella stabbed through in my glass. I started a thin smile.
I can't have been the first reluctant customer she's ever had, though. Perhaps she figured I'd go for something more expensive if she happened to say the magic words. "It's been a bit nippy today, hasn't it?" she asked as she wiped off a mug.
"Hm?" I took another sip and scratched the tip of my nose with the edge of the umbrella.
She put the mug down, brushed the cloth over the counter. "You aren't having chills, are you?"
Truth was I felt closer to dead cold inside.
The cloth paused. "Because if you are, I have water that would warm you up instantly."
I gave her a glare of annoyance. Firewater, obviously. I wasn't a naive Indian - but I was plenty stupid, and easy to convince. Lingering for only a moment, I raised an index finger and nodded.
A shot-glass and a bottle crashed against the counter before my palm was down again. Taking a firm hold of both, I poured myself a drink and chucked it back; felt invigorated by the good, quick burn in my throat - and after that, I couldn't stop. I completely lost track of time - of most things.
I'm not really a loud or violent drunk, I prefer to booze off in peace - but then some middle-aged idiot crashed the stool next to me, ordered a series of drinks, all the while complaining to the absentminded barkeep about his wife and how she'd just left him. He was sobbing, unable to understand why she had. It didn't take long for him to be further gone than me, but my mind wasn't quite where it should be, either. "...because you're a drunk," I snapped at him. "That's why she left you, that's why he can't stand you anymore!"
I didn't track back to my slip of pronouns until the barkeep flagged a brow. I took that to mean I wouldn't get more service - she probably concluded I'd had enough for one night.
Worse, I didn't notice how the face of divorcee-to-be had turned like a sour grape, and only meticulously bred - if sluggish - reflexes made me dodge the swing he took at me.
"She's not like that!" he snarled, preparing for another go at me. On instinct, I punched him in the gut - just hard enough to knock the wind out of him, but too soft to burst internals.
That's when the barkeep called the bouncer and tossed me out. I can't say I blame her, but I clutched the half bottle I had left in a death-grip, so she gave me a brown paper bag for it to go.
I pulled my jeans jacket closer together against the slight chill of colony night, glanced at the paper bag and shuffled off to the nearest twilighted alley, intent on finishing my drink in peace.