Suddenly, the tavern door is wrenched open, revealing a surreal moonlit landscape outside. A disembodied voice calls, "Sheriff, you might want to attend Range War III. It's about to erupt in the parking lot."
The door slams shut.
The sheriff jumps up with alacrity, covering the space between their table and the door in gigantic strides, while appearing to walk, not run. Before he gets there, the door mysteriously opens again.
Taking a firm grip on it, the sheriff peeks his head around, then pulls it back in. "Bradley, come on in." His pleasure on seeing Bradleyis obvious from his tone. He steps aside, holding the door firmly open, his bulk clear of the doorway.
A wizened old codger slowly eases his way through, holding the door in one hand, and a cane in the other. His shoulders appear permanently hunched forward, leaving a severe hump in his back. His knees are obviously painful, and his outstretched arm jitters as it supports part of his weight on the cane. He shuffles slowly into, then through, the portal while Mickey beams at him.
Nodding his head toward Despina, he commands, "Watch her for me, will you, Brad?" The sheriff ducks through the portal as soon as Bradley clears it, letting the door slam with a thunderous bang.
Despina continues to watch it, then switches to Bradley's crawling advance. His knees creak as he eases himself into the sheriff's chair.
The ever-observant Óscar appears magically with a water glass, a shot glass and a nearly empty bottle of Gold Schlauger. "Feliz cumpleaños, Brad. Theenk you can still navigate if you keell this bottle for me?" He sets the water glass down, emptying the pitcher into it with the same tidy motion he used before, then carts the pitcher off for a refill.
"I don't believe I've had the pleasure of your acquaintance," Bradley croaks. He extends his gnarled hand shakily across the top of his glasses, which are in danger of being knocked over any second.
Quickly moving them out of harm's way, she says, "I'm Despina MacKenzie, the new elementary teacher at the Stone Circles Reservation."
A male hand reaches over her shoulder, taking Brad's the instant she releases it. "And I'm Paul Peter Sorensen, the secondary English teacher at the Stone Circles Reservation, he announces loudly so Brad, who is evidently a bit hard of hearing, can understand.
Smiling reassuringly at Brad, he hooks one toe under Genio's former chair and tips it toward her as he hisses in her ear, "Whatever are you thinking being alone in a place like this at this time of night? And don't tell me you really expected HIM to be able to protect you when the sheriff couldn't even keep that lecher's hands off you!"
"I see you've donned your Sir Lancelotarmor again. Are you sure you're sober enough to handle a broadsword, pike, cudgel, and chain mail without drowning in the moat? I know how you disdain water in the face, much less consuming gallons of it."
Plopping his empty glass on the table, he decants his 6' plus frame into the chair, disdainfully pushing Genio's water glass away. "Óscar, set me up again."
"One steaming mug of black coffee coming rright up," Óscar tosses over his shoulder with an impish tinge to his voice. Reaching the bar, in clear line of sight of Paul Peter, he sets out an oversized mug, then cupping the coffee pot loosely in his bar towel, pours the piping hot java into it.
Grumbling in his non-existent beard, Paul Peter fishes a handful of things out of his pocket, picking through his keys, a few screws, some roofing nails, a pair of finger nail clippers, a clip of bills, a pen, and a tiny spiral notebook, carefully separating 50¢ in change from the rest and setting it in clear view of the bar, then stuffing all the rest back into his pocket. "Change gets so heavy when it accumulates."
With a startled laugh, Despina quips, "Don't ask to use MY washer and dryer with all that junk in your jeans!"
"What washer and dryer?"
Eyes widening, she says, "No washer and dryer?"
Raucous laughter bursts from Paul Peter. "Well, I suppose they could set you up with your own private rock in the river..."
"But at least you are SAFE. In case you haven't noticed, the vultures are circling.
Óscar reappears, setting a pitcher on the table. "On thee house," Óscar addresses Despina, breaking in when she starts to fumble in her coin purse. "The sheeriff ees about to do some of that "hot and theersty" work. We take care of our own around here. The heat goes, but..." Earnestly, he looks into her red-flushed face as he pours her water, looking for some sign that the crisis has passed.
Sipping the water, she calms as she watches him set the huge mug down in front of Paul Peter. In one smooth motion, he sweeps Paul Peter's money into his hand and starts to return to his station.
"Reached my limit, huh?"
"Sí, about 1:30 this afternoon, I'd guess, from the length of your siesta, señor."
"Ouch!" Paul Peter barks. "That hurt. You know I can hold my own."
Silently, Óscar walks off.
Studiously ignoring Paul Peter, Despina focuses on Bradley, nearly shouting. "So, today's your birthday, huh?"
"No, actually, it is tomorrow, I think." His face becomes puzzled.
"And how old will you be?"
"Eighty-three, no..." he holds up his twisted, calloused hands and counts on his gnarled fingers. "I lose track. Eighty-four sometime this month."
"Well, you do very well for yourself at your age."
Giving her a clearly I'm-a-dirty-old-man look, he confides, "At my age, I can say anything. The trouble is," he leans forward, indicating the cane he leans heavily on, "I just can't do anything any more, if you get my drift." Making a horrid face, he winks. Something is wrong with one of his eyes.
"Where's your patch tonight, Pirate Pete?" Paul Peter shouts, breaking in.
"Oh, don't tease him!"
Ignoring the interruption, Bradley continues, "I walked a half a mile to get here, and look at me," he points to his rapidly rising and falling chest, "I'm winded."
"Where do you live?"
Leaning back, he fumbles a fist into his pocket.
Horrified, Despina blurts, "You can't remember? You have to look it UP?"
He withdraws his hand with a packet of business cards in them, offering her the top one.
Last updated 2/4/02.