The Tick Tuck Bar had the tired look of a place that couldn’t be bothered. Crisp when new, but now tattered around the edges. A row of eight by ten photos almost covered the water stains on the bamboo-patterned wallpaper. Each showed the same bearded man next to somebody mildly famous a decade or two ago. A bit actor, a small-time politician, a short-term news reporter.
The bartender glanced up from the register. The same man as in the photos, but now his eyebags sagged like opera curtains and his expression was one of wary defeat. I ordered a gin and tonic, then slid into a booth at the back corner.
Before long, a woman sidled into the booth with me, clutching a blue lagoon cocktail. Like the bar, she had once been upscale, but was now tattered around the edges. She’d tried to do something lofty with her hair but it had settled like old Jiffy Pop foil. Her out-of-fashion blouse cuff displayed a designer logo. Her air was proud, though her shoulders slumped.
“Find yourself somebody,” she said. “Don’t end up like me, coming to this bar every day just to talk to a human being. Name’s Maggie.”
And there it was. Trouble finds me. At least once a day. I try to fix it. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.
The bartender’s gaze roamed the room like a searchlight until it found Maggie. A hint of an expression played across his face. Maybe warmth with a touch of desire.
“What about you and the bartender?” I asked. “Is he taken?” I thought I saw a flash of hope in her eyes. “Anton? he’s not interested in me. He would have said something a long time ago.”
I sauntered to the counter. “Seems a shame,” I told Anton. “You’re alone. This lady’s alone. Why don’t you two compare tan lines sometime?”
Anton scratched under his toupee, smiling as if I were a child asking for a trip to the moon. “She’s out of my league,” he drawled.
“What league is that?”
“The great big one. She’s too classy to want me.”
I returned to the booth, but didn’t sit. “Maggie, seems Anton has a thing for you, but he thinks you’re too classy for him.”
“Maybe I am.”
“Yeah,” I said, nonchalantly. “Every heartwarming movie you’ve ever seen about people being all the same underneath, all needing love. Must not be true.” Maggie looked past me with the distracted air of a woman working through the plot of When Harry Met Sally.
I left my gin and tonic untouched. At the door I took a last look at the Tick Tuck Room. Anton stuffing himself into the booth with Maggie. Shy smiles playing across both their faces.
Trouble found me. This time, I sent it packing.