Man at Bar with Notebook

Man at Bar with Notebook

By David Daniel

She watched him walk in. Medium height, ruddy skin. Suit coat, tie loose. She angled herself slightly on the barstool. She knew before he did.

He saw her. Tawny hair, like the pale wine in her glass. Nice curve of lower leg showing. An empty stool to her left. A few other patrons strung along the bar, inconsequential.

“Is this seat taken?”

“No. It’s all yours.”

He slid onto the stool. “Mind?” he said, pinching the lapels of his suit coat.

“Not at all. It’s warm in here.”

He hung the coat over the back of the stool.

She turned partway toward him, opening up some space.

“Who’s winning?” The ballgame on the TV he meant.

“I haven’t the slightest idea.”

“You don’t come for the sports, huh?” A sidelong smile.

“Can people really watch baseball in a bar?” she asked. “I mean, concentrate enough?”

“Right? It’s not a national pastime. It’s like a national malaise. D’you think there’s a bar in America tonight that doesn’t have some game on?” he said. “And this music—”

“What ever happened to the quiet neighborhood bar?”

“Where people could hear themselves and each other. Did it ever exist, or . . . ?”

“It’s definitely not like England,” she said.

“Oh?”

“There you can sit in a pub, have a drink, and converse.”

“You’ve been there?”

“Long time ago,” she said.

“It’s not like we’re doing here.” He had turned more fully to her. “Talking over the noise. What, do they think we wouldn’t be able to carry on conversation? Have something intelligent to say to one another?”

“Do we?” she asked.

“I like to think so. I’m Brian, by the way. Another glass of wine?”

“Nice to meet you. I’m okay.”

“That’s your name?”

She laughed. “Celeste.”

“Come on, Celeste. I’m Brian and I’m buyin’.”

“Well, all right. Riesling.”

“That’s the spirit.” He ordered the drinks.

“You here on business, Brian?”

“It show?”

“A little. The tie. That’s coat’s gonna get wrinkled, by the way.”

“Yeah. . . I don’t know where else to put it.”

“Fold it gently and hold it on your lap.”

“I might spill.”

“Not if you’re careful.”

He folded his suitcoat.

“So?” she asked. “On business from . . . ?”

“Wilmington, Delaware. In for a conference. You?”

“From here.”

“You don’t sound thrilled by it.”

“Would you be?”

“Well, it’s small but . . . anyplace can be interesting.”

“Not really. Not like Wilmington probably, or being at a conference. That must be interesting.”

“I don’t know, maybe.”

“What kind?”

“Of conference? Plant safety.”

“Be careful around poison ivy?”

“Cute.”

“No, I know. You mean like wearing hardhats . . . going careful on wet floors.”

“Mostly about being around machinery. But don’t let’s talk about that. I’ve had a day of it. New laws, regulations.”

“An ocean of OSHA.”

He laughed. “Here’s to you. Us.” He finished his drink, signaled for another. To the bartender he said, “Can you turn this down, just a smidgen? I left my earplugs up in the room.”

The bartender lowered the volume then went to pour the drink.

“It doesn’t sound any softer,” the man said to the woman. “Sound softer to you?”

“The music maybe, but the TV seems louder.”

They laughed and clinked glasses.

“Why dontcha come up to my room and we can talk better,” he said. “Hear each other, at least.”

“I don’t think so . . .”

“Seriously, just talk.”

“Aren’t we talking here?”

“We’re shouting over the noise. I’m catching every third word. Celeste, right?”

“And, Brian from Delaware, I can hear you okay.”

“I’m loud.”

“I’ll speak louder.”

“Another drink then.”

“I’m half buzzed now. You get one, though. On me.”

When it came he raised the glass. “To new friends.” He took a big knock.

“This is gonna sound silly,” she said, “but is it past time or pastime?”

“Huh?

“Baseball. National, you know.”

“Could be both, huh? Never really thought about it.”

“I just wondered.”

“Thought you didn’t like baseball.”

“My dad did. It’d be on the radio, summer nights. He’d listen.”

“Does anybody listen anymore?”

“My dad did.”

He laughed. “Bezball been berry good to me.”

“You’re half buzzed, too.”

“Sober as a judge, your honor. Anyway, I’m off the clock.”

“That why you’re not wearing a hardhat?”

“I’m not?”

More grins.

“C’mon. The room’s nice. Got a mini bar, good city view.”

“There are no good views of this town.”

“Hmm . . . I didn’t notice. C’mon up anyway.”

“That’s okay. B’sides, I can’t really leave right now.”

“What, are you on a tame tible?”

She laughed. “Who’s not buzzed?”

“We can’t talk here. C’mon,” he said, “I’ll pay for ’nother round and we can—”

“Not necessary. He’s got mine.”

“Who?”

“Him.” She nodded.

Sitting to his left was a guy with a notebook, jotting in it with a pen.

“What’s he doing?”

“Writin’.”

“Writin’?”

“He’s an author.”

“You’re with him?”

“Not really. We’re both just here.”

“He there the whole time?”

“The whole time.”

“I didn’t see him.”

“He’s kinda invisible.”

“Huh. What’s the son’bitch writin’ about? Hey, sir. What’re you writin’?”

The man on the stool kept jotting away.

Brian turned back. “Is he, deaf?”

“His hearing’s fine.”

“What he writin’?”

“Probably everything,” she said.

“Wait. Eavesdropping?”

“Mostly. Yeah.”

“On us?”

“It’s what he does. He’s an author, he says.”

“Jeezus. An author, for crissakes.”

“He writes stories and gossipy little articles for the newspaper.”

“The newspaper?”

“It’s a weekly. Small town, right?”

“Jeezus.”

“And don’t quote me, I think he’s got a blog.”

“Jeezus. He’s buyin’ your drinks?”

“He always has. Just bought that one for you.”

“Holy shit.”

“Careful, don’t let your suit coat fall.”

“No. What’s he gonna write about? He gonna write about us?”

She leaned and squinted at the man’s notebook. “I think he just has.”

6 Responses to Man at Bar with Notebook

  1. Tim Trask says:

    Beware the guy with the notebook! Interesting that Buyin’ Brian doesn’t even notice him.

  2. James Byrd says:

    Oh, crap! Trust a writer to write. Jeez, what happens when there are only two at the bar and they’re both writers? Good read, Dave.

  3. Amy says:

    That was a great surprise–and the story pulls the reader right in so the title is forgotten until the twist. The way the conversation goes from there just enhances the circular Escher/Drawing Hands effect.

  4. Jim Provencher says:

    A man walks into a bar, classic set-up, complete w/femme fatale trap, ‘she knew before he did…opening up space,’ the usual pick-up come-on barroom banter, potboiler repartee, undercut by writer’s MO, & down comes 4th wall, maybe some disclaimers warranted, this story’s fictional and does not refer to…joke’s on you, Mister Brian from Delaware. Writers, they got a nerve…

  5. Tim Coats says:

    We think we’ve come to the end of new possibilities for stories of traveling salesmen trying to pick up someone in a bar, and along comes Dave.

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