Loss of the FatherExcerpt
I found a seat at the bar and just as I was settling into some conversation with the female bartender, I overheard some commotion behind me. It came from a couple of pro ball players, who'd found a live one. Both men were tall; one was Aryan and the other was a giant Aztec. The white guy was taking it easy in a white polo beneath a double-breasted navy blazer, with the full array of brassy buttons all up and down. As for the Latino, he was wearing a fishnet tank and no less than five heavy gold chains, each weighed down with equally heavy Catholic pendants. The Hispanic was working his way through rapid bursts of nervous laughter that were clearly cocaine-related, but it wasn't the laughter of a madman. He had an object of focus and I had to twist all the way around to get a look at it. He was laughing at his white amigo. That gringo was trying to push a dark-haired women's head down toward his groin.
"Come on baby, just a quick one,” he was pleading with a huge, all-in-good-fun grin on his face. Unlike his actions, his tone was polite and easy. I looked back at the bartender. I expected her to be on the phone with hotel security, but she just shook her head and smirked as if to say that more than likely this little dark-haired beauty, well, she was just getting what she had coming to her, one way or another.
"Ball-players,” she said matter-of-factly, under her breath.
And frankly, I was merely annoyed by the commotion as I was trying to enjoy four or five martinis in relative peace. Still, I didn't like the fat bartender's tone and it was, after all, her professional responsibility to step in as I was a very regular customer. Every night I'd been down there drinking, and my father was, at that very moment, upstairs dying in the presidential suite. So, I felt, to some degree, entitled to a relatively quiet martini. I needed to step-in, but just as I was about to speak up on the prostitute’s behalf with a "Hey this is a family place" or "I'm just trying to enjoy a drink why don't you leave her alone," the Latino pulled out a flashy semi-automatic, one of these gold and diamond plated cartel style pistols. He pointed it right into her ear, and you might think this sounds outrageous or unlikely but in the hotel bars around the stadium where the Texas Rangers play—a ball club once run by George W himself—if you're affiliated with a ball club, flashing a piece at a hooker just for giggles is standard behavior. So, to be clear, nobody batted an eye when that giant Latino whipped out that beautiful 24k semi-automatic and shoved it in that hooker's ear. But frankly, for me, it was a bit much. So, I spoke my truth:
"Hey if you don't mind. I'm just trying to have a quite drink here. My father's dying upstairs in the Presidential, and I just need a moment to enjoy my Martin-I."
It all came down to that phonetical pronunciation of Martini. If I'd gone with the gay/non-phonetical version, martini, I'm not saying he would have pistol-whipped me or lined me up beside the high-grade hooker and demanded I take those tight/waspy-Santa Barbara balls into the mouth while she took the shaft whole-hog to the back of the throat, but by not pronouncing martini like a self-important queer with a state college liberal arts degree and instead pronouncing it with that hard I at the end I was saying that I had the utmost respect for the way he was handling that gold-plated semi-automatic and normally, had my father not been slowly dying upstairs I would have been nodding with approval at the way he was, repeatedly, and with great force, pushing the business end of that Colt Pistol, clearly a military-issued weapon reworked for the job at hand. That weapon, was, first and foremost, a show piece hand-tooled by the best and the brightest out of Sinaloa.
And the ball players got it. The white guy even put his hand on my shoulder and made a good-faith attempt, his eyes were watering up: "I've been their brother. Lost my old man last month."
I could tell he really loved his father. And I could tell, that unlike me, he didn't want the man dead for some ambiguous reason that he could never quite articulate. Then he offered me a toot of the powder. It looked sticky and pure. As for the Mexican in the fishnet top, upon hearing about my father, he was too upset to speak. You could tell the Mexican only had one speed when it came to grieving so he had to hold it all in because once he got started with the tears and the sobs, he wouldn't be able to turn it off, and he had a game tomorrow. That's what makes Catholics different than WASPS. His white, Ventura County teammate, was able to turn it off and on. That's why the Mexican was so quick to reach for the powder. He needed to fixate on something else. His Aryan brother knew what he was reaching for, so he held out his giant closed, dry fist—the perfect surface for that jungle powder—and he brought that fist, slow and steady, like a waiter with a tray, up to my nose, and I took down three short and thick ones, finished my Martin-I and walked out of the hotel sports bar.
That's when I spotted the hooker. She'd managed to escape a long night of getting passed around The Bullpen. She was sitting beside the lobby fountain, getting eyed by hotel security; they were about to move in and drag her out by her hair, and to be clear, I wasn't trying to save her from anything, but my jaw was starting to work, and I needed an ear and a face, and I knew she'd be the perfect captive audience to whatever bullshit, dying daddy stuff I needed to sort out.
Calvin Atwood has published stories at Expat Press as well as other places and has a story coming out soon in Misery Tourism. He's also written two novels: Banned from Laguna Beach & Louis Armstrong Cured my Sex Addiction.