"I want you to try this," she says to me, pouring the amber liquid into a glass. "It's whiskey, rock candy, and citrus peal. Supposedly, it was a formula for cough syrup."
"It's vile," I say taking a sip. "You better just give me that bottle for proper disposal."
"I think we'll put it back on the shelf now," she giggles, toasting me. "But I have another new whiskey for you to try."
After five months, she's started to figure me out. Good or ill. I do appreciate a bartender who drinks, even and especially with her customers. Otherwise, I might fear I was being poisoned.
She looks very much like a flapper girl, and, even though I know her given name, I'm tempted to call her Miss Parker. I don't, because Miss Parker was a cat of the gypsy's that turned out to be a boy. Of course the gypsy's pussy-cat!-would be male with a female name. That's just how things like this play out.
It's a Friday night down at the local watering hole. We talk about the week that's passed since we last all saw one another. There's musing of whether or not it'll snow. The weather seems to be an often-visited topic in the mountains.
Familiar faces come and go. It's because I brought a book. If I didn't, it'd have been quieter, and I'd have been staring blankly out the window, watching the lengthening twilight shadows. All in the name of a shot and a beer, I catch myself being social.
At some point, it gets brought up I'm Buddhist. One neighbor asks if that means facing Mecca, and I have to correct him. Another neighbor, a schoolteacher for money, eyes me oddly.
"I never said I was a good Buddhist," I say taking a sip of beer.
"It's just I never imagined you identifying with a major cult," the schoolteacher muses.
"Closest thing to my beliefs," I reply with a shrug, the cult thing not being insulting. After all, they have some great songs. Besides, a cult is merely the church down the lane from yours.
The man from Minnesota, who lives in the old hotel in town, comes in to do some open stage. His accent reminds me of the gypsy, and I want to ask him about finding me the culinary rarity of Canadian bacon. Again, I resist temptation. It's pointless to ask someone from Minnesota about Canadian bacon no matter how Canadian he sounds.
He starts up with a Neil Young song, the Canadian motif continues, though I'm the only one who notices. I turn to for my beer and notice a fresh tumbler of whiskey waiting for me. The bartender shoots me an innocent smirk.
"It's magic," she says.
"Praises be!" I take on my father's accent. "A miracle!"
I listen to a few songs and share a few conversations. It's only seven at night, but it's dark far too early these days, and it feels so much later. I tab out, say my good nights, promising to show up in a week. Outside, a few soft flakes of snow have started to fall.