He was approaching Chicago from 30 in Merrillville. Soon the old man would be on 80. Then The Skyway taking him into the heart of the city. Leaving Gary, Blue Island, the Southside behind. Skin and Bones was heading North. Goin’ back to his Lakeview neighborhood of old. Back to the old bars and joints he used to frequent as a kid in his twenties. Long nights of drinking and carousing back then amongst pushers and pimps, whores and junkies, narcotic officers and beggars with signs reading, Feed The Poor. He always gave a buck or two when he could.
The old man was clean shaven for this trip. Got his haircut earlier that day by a big blonde who gave him a shave as well. He liked it when she grabbed his head and held it close to her chest as she cut. It was the closest he’d been to a woman in years. Some things just don’t work out.
So he drove up Clark Street. Passed Division, North, Fullerton, Diversey, and sped onto Broadway. Drove by Friar Tuck’s bar, the adult bookstore, deep dish pizza joints, Halsted to the West of him and Belmont to the North.
It was one in the morning. The drag queens and leather boys were out in full force. They were heading into the same place he was, the Lakeview Lounge, a smorgasbord of various drunks. He checked his look in the mirror, slicked his gray hair straight back and locked his Nova. Looked one more time at himself in the car window and saw his reflection, tall and skinny he remained while the others got fat.
It was a warm breeze blowin’ down Broadway and the front door was open with a fat bouncer checkin’ id’s as sailors walked in and toxins from the night walked out. On the jukebox Monkey Man by the Stones played as he made his way to the bar. Sat down and ordered a Gin and tonic, extra lime.
Seated next to him was a tranny whore named Vicki. She was drinking beer from a plastic cup, lipstick smeared on the sides. She looked over at the old man. Said, haven’t seen you in here before, and scooted closer to him.
No, I guess not, the senior said. Used to come in here all the time. ‘Fore you was born.
Yeah, took a swig of his drink.
You look good for your age. How old are you?
Yeah honey you look good. Hey Charlene, she poked her friend sitting on the other side, don’t he look good?, the old man smiled.
He sure do, the black tranny said. He sure do.
Thanks ladies. Now if you’ll excuse me, he got up and walked a slow jaunt back to the pool tables. Couple of bikers were playin’ eight ball. He put his money on the side to take on the winner. Grabbed a pool que and took a seat at the end of the bar. He tried to look important, like he was some kind of royalty. The one biker waved him over.
Eight ball cool, the tall, husky biker said to him. The old man nodded his head. You break, he barked, And make it a good one alright. Skinny grinned.
The different colored balls flew all over the green table. A couple went in, a stripe and a solid. I’ll take solids the biker said. And with that, he ran the table, hitting everything in the pockets as if he were a two time champ. He approached the old man who sat at the bar and just watched in amazement.
What do I owe ya?
It’s a fin for a game.
He took out two twenties and a ten and handed it over to the biker’s greasy paw. And, just like that, he was back at square one. No money to his name and a quarter tank of gas. It felt normal.