Over on the east end of town, the local watering hole that went by the name of “Daddy O’s” buzzed with activity. The locale was a small building with a wraparound bar, with a vast outdoor area populated with picnic tables and yard games behind it.
Out front, a crowd of men stood near a biker straddling his motorcycle, hollering as the rear tire spun in place, a plume of smoke and dirt flying through the air.
Over at the bar, standing between a pair of empty stools, Bethany leaned against the bartop. Resting on one elbow, her other hand cradling a beer bottle, her gaze washed over the many people sitting at the tables, seeing the couple at the end of the bar making out, the trio of ladies playing horseshoes, the guitarist and singer at the far end of the lot, singing a country song.
Her gaze settled on the bartender walking out on the floor, gathering empty glasses from tables in one arm, making small talk with the patrons as he walked between the tables. His gray hair came down to his shoulders, his leathery skin dark from days spent in the sun, his bright smile a contrast to his tan.
As Tommy walked back behind the bar with the towering array of glasses cradled in one arm, he looked up and saw Bethany smiling at him.
“I’ll be a damned man if that ain’t my baby girl”, Tommy mentioned more to himself than to her. “Bethy, get the hell over here and give your old man a hug, goddammit.”, he said with a smile.
Bethany righted herself, and walked down the length of the bar towards the passthrough, reaching over to put her beer down on the bar. Tommy handed the tall stack of glasses to the other bartender as he rushed to meet his daughter.
“Hi daddy,” she whimpered as Tommy turned back toward her. He leaned down as he wrapped his thick arms around her, lifting her off the ground in a strong embrace.
“Bethy, what are you doing here? You never come to the bar unless– oh, oh my baby, your eyes’ve been crying. Your makeup is all messed.”, Tommy said quietly, as he lowered her to the floor.
“Alright, what’s the bastards name and where’s he live?”, he asked as he reached under the bar to grab a baseball bat out from the low shelf.
Bethany laughed, “Daddy! I’m fine, I promise. Put the damn bat down, you’re going to scare the new bartender!”
Tommy raised an eyebrow and looked over his shoulder, yelling to the other bartender. “Chester, your sorry ass didn’t charge my daughter for this beer, did you? That shit’s coming out of your tips.”
The young bartender looked up from the glass he was pouring whiskey into, looking back and forth between Tommy and Bethany.
“Oh, ah, shit Tommy, I’m sorry man, I didn’t know she was your kid, man.”
Tommy looked at the whiskey that was overflowing from the glass the young man hadn’t ceased pouring into yet, his face semi-frozen in shock.
“Kid, you lost count. Now that shit’s coming out your tips too, and you’re cleaning the girl’s toilet tonight.”
“Ah shit. Sorry Tommy.”, Chester apologized, wiping down the counter with a white rag as he slid the drink across the bartop to the man standing in front of him.
Tommy turned back to face his daughter, looking her up and down, noticing her dress clothes. His brow furrowed as he asked, “Bethy, did you come from work? You never drink after work. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, daddy… I just…”, she trailed off.
“Honey, it’s alright, you can tell me anything. You ain’t never gonna be in trouble with me, you know that.”, Tommy reassured her.
“Oh, daddy… I… they…”, Bethany struggled to get the words out.
“They fired me, daddy. For something stupid as hell, I swear, I didn’t even do nothing wrong, it’s just that damn Ms. Galloway, she’s got such a huge stick up her ass and she pisses off at damn near everybody for any little damn thing, and I don’t mean to be mean, but she can go straight to hell, you know, I mean, she just isn’t a nice person, not at all daddy, not one little bit, and I hate her for it…” Bethany’s voice trailed off as she noticed her country accent starting to flare up, as it usually did when she was riled up about something and began to ramble.
She dabbed at the tears welling up in her eyes with a napkin she grabbed off the counter.
“Aw dang, honey, is that it? I’m real sorry honey, I know you really liked working there. I remember your ma calling me when you got the job at that mechanic shop, she wouldn’t shut up about how proud of you she was. I think she really just took a big jolly out of it, trying to remind me how I didn’t have nothing to do with it.” Tommy sighed. “Is that Willy guy still running the place?”
“It’s a mechanical engineering lab, daddy, not a shop. And his name’s Wayne, daddy. Wayne Welding, and yes he is, he’s the CEO, remember? Though I think even he’s more afraid of Ms. Galloway than most of the other employees. She has to be the worst HR lady on the whole damn planet.”
“I ever tell you I went to school with him?”, Tommy asked.
Bethany’s wide eyes answered his question.
“Yep, the two of us, we went to the grade school together, even played on the same damn baseball team.” Tommy pointed to the bat on the shelf under the bar. “Hell, that’s his bat, if I’m lying I’m dying. He gave it to me after he hit his first home run. Said I’d need to study it to learn his secret, the smartass.” Tommy chuckled.
“But yeah, he went off to the college, and I started working here with your grandmama right before…” Tommy’s voice trailed off, his eyes misting at the memory of his mother. He coughed to clear his throat, and looked back at Bethany.
“So tell me honey, what in the hell are you gonna do now? You need some money?”
“No daddy, I’ll be fine. I saved up a lot of the money I made there. Actually, I wanted to talk to you, and I really meant to stop by before, you know, it’s just been real busy lately and… well…” Bethany’s voice trailed off as her attention was captured by the two men yelling at each other in the patio area.
“You son of a bitch, I know you were hitting on my wife!”, yelled the tall man in the cowboy hat.
The other man, shorter but obviously in better shape and covered in tattoos, took a step forward to the point his chest was touching the tall man’s.
“You skinny pendejo, I wouldn’t do some shit like that, I fucking work here. I was telling your wife how you knocked her purse on the ground when you were getting up to go back to the bar, now, you calling me a liar, cabrón?”, the short man hissed.
A loud bang echoed across the bar grounds.
The sudden sound silenced the band, and all conversation stopped. The biker turned off his motorcycle, as he swung the kickstand out with his boot. All eyes turned to face the bar.
Tommy raised the baseball bat off the bartop, a deep dent in the wood beneath it.
“Ruben and Taylor, you two sons of bitches BETTER SIT THE FUCK DOWN, RIGHT NOW GODDAMMIT, OR I SWEAR TO THE HIGH JESUS I WILL BREAK YOUR ASSES IN HALF! “, Tommy boomed from behind the bar.
“I’m having a moment with my daughter.”, he said with a quieter voice, as he pointed at Bethany.
Ruben turned his gaze back to Taylor. “Alright, seriously man, it wasn’t a thing.”
“Yeah, no problem man, I… I’m sorry for being a dick.”, Taylor muttered to Ruben as he tipped his cowboy hat.
Tommy’s voice rung out again, “Now you two shake each other’s hands like men, and get back to your friends.”
“De nada, man. You go have a good night with your lady.”, Ruben said as he nodded his head towards Taylor’s wife, still sitting at the table, reaching his hand out to meet Taylor’s with a firm grasp and shake.
Tommy watched the two men part ways as the band resumed playing their song, and the bar slowly sprung back to life. He turned back to his daughter, a big grin on his face.
“See, I only work here because these are the only damn people that ever listen to me.”, he said with a wink.
“Oh daddy, shut up.”, Bethany laughed.
“So what was it you were talking about, honey, about wanting to stop by here before?”, Tommy asked as he put the baseball bat back on the shelf under the bar.
“Well, daddy, a couple days ago at the office, I heard some of the senior manager team, the people in charge, I heard them talking about how they’re gonna be building a new office, a real big factory type of place, and they want to build it out here on this side of town. And I’m pretty sure I heard them say they were going to offer to buy your bar out so they could tear it down and use the property to build their building out here…”, Bethany explained.
Tommy stood with his arms outstretched, one hand placed on the back counter on one side and the other planted on the bar, as he leaned down to hear his daughter explain the plans her former company had for his land.
Once she finished telling him what she had heard, and how much money they were willing to pay him for the lot, he held up a hand to pause her.
“Bethy, my baby girl, you know I love you, and I know how much that money would take care of us both. But honestly, your grandmama and granddaddy built this bar from the ground up on their own, and it’s all I’ve got left of them. And if you think I’m gonna make anything on the damn planet easy for the company that fired my baby girl, well, honey, I thought I raised you better than that.”, Tommy said with another wink.
On Monday morning, Tommy O’connor walked through the front door of the tall downtown building, not making eye contact with the secretary behind the front desk. He pressed the button on the elevator call panel, as the woman stood up from her desk, pulling her headset off.
“Sir, you- you need to sign in before you go up there!”
Tommy turned his head to the woman as the elevator doors parted, and winked at her with a smile, walking into the elevator cabin, holding the baseball bat at his side out of view.
With a furrowed brow and a sigh, Lucy muttered under her breath as she placed her headset back on as she dialed the line for security.
“What an asshole.”