There were three bartenders at the Hole when I started going there: Brown Hair; Black Hair; and Blonde.
Brown Hair didn’t like me. She had her reasons, and although they weren’t fair, I understand them. But in my defense: How the hell was I supposed to know? I was a new squirrel in that particular Dog park, if you know what I’m saying (which most of you won’t, but she will, if she reads this, and I hope it makes her laugh), and as a friend of mine likes to say: even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while. Anyway, that was sixteen Dog-years ago. She doesn’t work there anymore, but she still comes in sometimes, and we have mutual friends. I think she can at least tolerate me now.
Black Hair did like me, apparently, although I didn’t think so at the time. She was friends with Brown Hair, so it took me a good while to trust her motives when she was nice. But when she invited me to a cookout at her house last spring, I finally let my guard down, and we’ve been in-the-Hole friends ever since. She does still work there, and the other night, when I first heard the rumor that I’d fucked her husband in the parking lot way back when, she told me “You know how you can tell I never believed that rumor? Because you’ve still got a set of eyeballs in your head.” Yeah. So she and I are cool. I still don’t understand why it’s always the squirrel who gets her eyes ripped out when the dog slips the leash, but Black Hair’s dog never did, and so we’re cool.
But the Blonde (who I'll call Red from now on, because that's what color her hair is now) has become my Best Friend Up Here, and it all started on my first night at the Hole. I’ve written about that night before (here’s a link to it – link – for those of you who weren’t with me then), but I didn’t mention in that story about how I hadn’t had a cigarette in eight months at that point, and how I decided I wanted one that night, and how when I asked Red where the nearest store was, she asked me to pick up a six-pack of Twisted Tea Half & Half for after work. She was very specific when she said it, then wrote it down for me and everything, just in case. The note looked like this:
Half & Half
Well, I’d never heard of Twisted Tea at that point, let alone Twisted Tea Half & Half. So I came back with a six-pack of regular-old Twisted Tea and a pint of ½&½, which of course cost more than what she’d given me for the six-pack alone. But when she offered to give me the difference I told her not to worry about it, the price of the pint was the cost of a lesson learned.
And that’s when Red decided I was cool.
Then there was the night a few weeks later when we sat out at the picnic table for hours after closing, talking and smoking and generally becoming friends. By the time we were leaving I was very, very tired and still the tiniest bit drunk, and she wanted to follow me home to make sure I got there safe. I didn’t let her, because it was three in the morning and she lived just down the road – my house would’ve taken her an hour out of her way (I’m telling you: I live at the ass end of nowhere; it was months before anyone besides the Kid ever came out to my house). But that’s the night we traded phone numbers, because she was insistent that I at least text when I got home. Like I said: she lived two minutes away, but she stayed up and waited till I did.
And then her car died just when I lost my driver’s license, so I let her borrow mine for a couple months. She would pick me up sometimes to run errands, or take me to lunch, or bring me to work with her so I could hang out and shoot pool, or drop me off at the Kid’s house for a couple hours in the afternoon while she went to do laundry. And that’s when I started talking to her about him. Which at that point it’d been almost six months since I’d met him and I hadn’t talked to anyone about it (here’s a link –link – to the story of how I met the Kid, by the way, for those of you who haven’t read that yet). I’m ready to admit now that I cried a little when I finally talked about it, but when we parted company that afternoon I said I’d kill her if she ever told. And right up to this day, even though I’ve been writing about it on the internet for seven months now, she never has. This girl keeps a secret, I tell you what. I mean, if anyone ever calls her up and asks her a direct question, she won’t lie. But until you turn that key her lips are sealed.
Red and I joke, now, that she shares custody of my dog. We go out and have fun and get bored and come home and stay up all night talking about things I won’t get into here (and if I won’t get into them, you know they’re nasty). She catches me when I fall, and I try to do the same for her – although I think she’s stronger than me, or just has better balance, because even though her life’s harder than mine she doesn’t fall anywhere near as often. I even babysit her son now, he's the first non-related kid I’ve been trusted alone with in 25 years – the Kid doesn’t count; and I can’t be trusted alone with him, anyway. And she might be the only one who really understands why, eighteen months into the game, I still don’t blame that Dog for all his squirrels.
But Red doesn’t work at the Hole anymore, and she won’t be there for the closing party Saturday night. Because since June or so, she hasn’t been allowed inside the door. Officially, she’s barred because she was in there as a patron one night after she quit (yes, quit – not fired for stealing, as certain stories go), and she was overheard saying the place sucked.
Now, I know a business has the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, blah-de-blah. But I hope they'll change their minds and let her in. Because if that's the only reason, well, the Hole did suck at the time she said it. Everybody said so – hell, I said it to the owner’s face and no one ever refused service to me. They were going through some Issues, and you could feel it in the air. But they got past them, and we all came back. Except Red, who's not allowed, despite the fact that she worked there for more than a third of their existence, and everyone who ever went there loves her ass (by which I mean loves her, but yeah, her derriere is generally beloved, too).
So if it's not the only reason –– well, there's a chance I won't be let in Saturday, myself, if I say what I really think. But I've managed to rise above a Canine Confrontation or two of my own at the Hole these past few months, just by being the Grown-Ass Woman that I am. And this Grown-Ass Woman won't be told to shut the fuck up, not even by the owner at the pool table.
So here goes [heavily edited after post-workout second thoughts, for reasons more related to Red's well-being than my own]:
While some think it's okay to blame the squirrel for the dog that slips the leash…
...blaming the dogcatcher is just nuts.