The joint was a log-built affair that sat just beyond the hi-way in amongst some scrawny pines. You came at it usually at a run, crossed a rough patch of gravel then slowed things down pretty quick.
At the peak of the roof, on the facing the road side of the building, there was attached for as long as I can remember a neon martini glass with a woman plopped into it. Bottom to bottom. Her legs dangled out over the rim. She wore only red heels. Breasts jutted up toward the stars, or sun, depending on what time of day or night or both, you swung in.
Hank and I were working a field just down the road. We rolled things up about sundown. We shot across the lot and parked next to a blue station-wagon. The breasts in the glass had just begun to glow, but the stars weren’t out yet. There were two kids sitting in the backseat of the wagon. A boy and girl I supposed. The car was not familiar.
Hank is a big fella with a snoose can worn pretty well thru his back pocket. It was his truck. I’ve been haying with Hank since high-school. We played foot-ball together. I owned a Firebird. It wasn’t much good in the stubble, but we cruised it, Hank and I pretty hard.
Hank keeps the truck full of gas, and I spring for the beers. It seems to work. Even with gas at a buck a gallon.
“Evening boys,” the Bar-Keep says.
“Hello Mattie,” I say, Hank heads to the can.
“Cooling off,” she says. Says she hasn’t run the fans all day.
“It’s quieter this way,” I say.
“Be burning the wood-stove for long,” she says. “Couple a beers?”
Mattie and I, well we have this thing. We keep the thing pretty low-key on account of her ex-boyfriend, Darby Cole.
Darby works at the Seed Plant. Hank and I are down there often enough, at the seed plant. And I guess he gives me that look. You know. But Hank works as a kind of buffer what with his size and all. And then there’s the time he handed Darby his hat on the field at school. She’d 86’d Darby from the bar, Mattie did, a few weeks ago. So things seem pretty cozy and whatnot.
“Beer Hank?” Mattie says.
“Hello Matt,” Hank says.
“Cooling off,” she says.
“First frost soon,” he says.
“Whatcha been up to?” she says.
“Just wearing out pairs of gloves,” he says.
“He earns his keep,” I say.
Mattie has the lights down in the place. She wears denim well. Her hair is knotted at the back of a ball cap. Something about tractors, the logo on the cap. She appears comfortable. You can see a lot in the mirror behind the bar.
“Fork-n-Spoon for a bite, after work?” I say.
“Looks like an early night,” she says. “I don’t see why not.” Says she’ll hafta toss us out sooner or later.
The only other customers, a couple, are speaking in hushed terse tones at the end of the bar. The man has a cowboy hat on, and has a hold of the gals arm. The man in the hat has a grimace screwed onto his face. The gal is trying to have her arm back. I can see Mattie has an eye on these two. The gal is wearing white go-go boots and a pink skirt. Pretty short skirt for a bar stool.
“Something to consider?” I say. “That…”
“I have my eye on them,” she says. “Been here most the afternoon.”
“Her kids in the car?” I say.
“Kids in what car?” she says.
“Two kids,” I say. “In the station wagon out front.”
It was then we heard the arm snap.