"Thanks, Tony," we said, holding up our glass and clinking them against his coffee mug. I blocked the ice cubes with my lips and pulled a gulp off the top. WOW! My jaw clenched and my eyes shut as though I were trying to chew my own head off from the inside. Bang! Rocket fuel. "You're doing a fine job, Tony!" I wheezed through fuming breath.
After that drink, I figured I'd better use the Gents while I still knew how. Not wanting to touch the aged and grimy restroom door, I kicked the chrome plate attached to the bottom to let myself in. "YOW!" someone screamed from the other side.
"Sorry!" I yelled back through the door and shoved it open a little more. Inside was a shirtless man scrubbing his pits with the crumbly, white powdered soap from the dispenser above the sink. "Didn't know you were here. Sorry for the kick."
"Just freshening up," he said. "It's been a long night." He was either homeless or one step closer than the rest of us. His skin was pocked and drawn, and he was missing a few front teeth. He wet down and combed back his greasy hair and vanished from the room. The door swished behind him and caught up his ragged jacket. When the door closed, the brown stench of BO and stale pee cleared. What I had assumed was the rotting odor of a well-worn dive-bar bathroom was really just the man standing at the sink. I stood looking at the hand-painted tiles in a fairly fresh, clean bathroom. There was even ice in the urinal. I could see why he wanted to clean up in here.
Heading back to the bar from the men's room, before I could grab my drink, Kip said to me, "Only in the Arizona bar on a Sunday morning are you going to kick a homeless guy taking a whore's bath in the crapper."
"You heard about that already?" I asked.
"Yeah, he came out and complained to Tony. Tony had to throw him out of here."
"Why, that no good..." I trailed off. I was starting to fade into blackout. I knew if I drank any more I wouldn't remember what happened afterwards. I would wind up in some strange bed on the other side of town six hours later and the time in between would be a void. I knew it was going to happen, and I let it. While gulping down a mouthful of liquor, feeling the cold condensation against my fingertips, and holding my breath against the gasoline fumes of straight alcohol, I saw a dark figure appear in the doorway. She was a little over five feet tall, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and dark round sunglasses.
Just before the booze made me lose cognition, I yelled out, "MEL!"