Recap: When we last met Lyle, he had just come home from losing his job to discover his girlfriend, Annabelle, in bed with his best friend, Brent. After chasing Brent out of the apartment (Spiderman underwear and all), Lyle decides to go downstairs to the neighborhood bar.
Lyle walked from his apartment complex to the shopping center next door. He aimed straight for the Silver Tavern, his favorite after-hours (and now, during-normal-business-hours) hangout.
The place was small, dim and musty, with wood finishing on the walls and neon signs casting rainbow colors across the darkness. A big-screen TV blared from one wall, while pool tables clacked along the other. It was a community man cave: a hub of rugged masculinity where men could loaf around, throw back a few drinks and discuss manly subjects with their manly brethren (when their wives and girlfriends let them, that is).
Except for a couple of older guys in a corner, the bar was deserted. Lyle sauntered inside and perched himself upon a stool at the center of the bar.
“Hey, Charlie,” he said to the mustached man behind the counter. “Get me the usual, will you? In fact, bring me two of the usual to get started. I don’t usually start with two, but I had an unusually hard morning.”
“Sure thing,” Charlie said. “What can I get you?”
Lyle looked at him, blinking. “What else? The usual.”
Charlie looked back at him, unblinking. “And what might that be?”
“You mean you don’t know by now?” Lyle asked, frowning. “I come in here at least a few times a week. I’m always here on Friday nights. I live right here in the neighborhood.”
Charlie shrugged. “Sorry, I wouldn’t know. I commute from Sparks … and I stopped working Fridays.”
Lyle glared. “I thought this was one of those places where everyone’s supposed to know your name?”
“Hey,” Charlie said, “try seeing things from my side of the counter. I don’t get paid well enough to know your name. Besides, my job consists of memorizing hundreds of different cocktails. Know what a Moscow Mule is? Or an Orange Tundra? Do you? I have to know that kind of stuff off the top of my head. Customers aren’t impressed if you have to stop and Google their orders. They expect me to have it all filed away, here.” He tapped the side of his skull. “I, my friend, am a veritable walking, talking, falking encyclopedia of adult beverages.”
“Yeah,” Lyle said, “but–”
“So what you’re telling me,” Charlie continued, cutting him off, “is that in addition to knowing all those drinks, you want me to memorize the name and face of every joe that walks in here? And not only that, but you want me to know what their favorite drink is, in addition to what days of the week they show up? Are you serious? What kind of mind power do you think I got? If I had that kind of memory, I sure as hell wouldn’t be serving drinks for a living.”
“What would you be doing?” Lyle asked.
“I … I don’t know.” Charlie shrugged. “I’d be driving a London cab, I guess.”
“Can I just get a vodka and cranberry juice?” Lyle asked. “Two of them, to get started?”
“You mean a Cape Cod?”
Lyle frowned. “Cape Cod? I thought you were talking about London.”
“We don’t have London,” Charlie said. “We got Grey Goose. Or Ketel One. Which would you like?”
“Wait,” Lyle said. “Huh?”
“You can’t have London with your Cape Cod,” Charlie said. “You got to pick something else.”
“I don’t know anything about London or Cape Cod,” Lyle said. “I just want two vodka and cranberry juices. Please.”
Charlie looked at him, his eyes squinted. Finally, he turned and grabbed a couple of glasses. “Grey Goose it is.”
“I don’t know why you’re making this so hard,” Lyle said. “You know what happened to me this morning? I lost my job. No warning or nothing. I didn’t even get to pack my desk; they had already thrown my stuff in the Dumpster. So now I got no job, no money, no income — no foundation to ground me or a sense of direction to move forward.”
Charlie paused, holding a vodka and cranberry juice in each hand. “On that note, I’ll need to see some money up front. That’ll be $14 even.”
Lyle counted out a ten and a five and laid them on the counter. “I’ll just take fifty cents back. You can keep the rest.”
“Thanks.” Charlie set down the drinks. “Next time, you get Popov.”
Lyle sipped from one of the glasses. “So my saga doesn’t end there, you know.”
Charlie sighed. “It doesn’t?”
“Nope. Then I come home and find my girlfriend in bed with another man. But not just any man. You want to know who? Take a guess.”
“We already discussed my trouble with names,” Charlie said.
“My best friend, Brent. We’ve been pals since journalism school. And you know what the funny thing is? Brent’s always been nervous when it comes to women and dating. I’m the one who encouraged him to get out there and find the woman of his dreams. I just didn’t realize his tastes were so similar to mine.”
“Yeah.” Charlie turned toward the big-screen TV.
Lyle took another sip. “I don’t know why I’m so upset about losing my job. I hated it. I hated it more than life itself. It was just this tedious, demeaning, do-nothing, know-nothing, go-nowhere, no-promotion, no-nothing, never-ending merry-go-round of mediocrity. But it was all I had, and if I was going to get fired, I wanted it to be on my terms.”
“Uh-huh.” Charlie continued watching the TV.
“And I don’t know why I’m so upset about losing Annabelle,” Lyle said. “We’ve been having problems for a while. She says I don’t pay attention to her unless she repeats herself — but she’s always saying that. We just don’t seem to have anything in common anymore. It’s like we both want different things out of life. I want a woman who listens to me, who respects me and wants to have fun. And I’m not sure if Annabelle wants any of that.”
Lyle drained his first glass and started on the second. “My life wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he continued. “I had dreams, you know. By this age I was going to have a wife and a house and a car and kids and an amazing, well-paying job where I actually could use the skills I acquired in college. I never thought I’d end up here, in the Silver Tavern before noon on a Monday morning, alone and broke and jobless with nothing to look forward to, and nowhere else to go.”
“By the way, we’re going to be closing in ten minutes,” Charlie said. “We’re having the place steam-cleaned before happy hour tonight.”
“What do I do, Charlie?” Lyle asked. “Where can I go from here? Is this it for me? Is it too late to start over?”
“Have you considered seeing a psychiatrist?” Charlie asked. “They don’t have beer mugs to polish, so they can focus more on listening.”
“Fine,” Lyle said. “Forget it. You don’t have to bother listening to me anymore; I won’t ask you for anything.”
“I appreciate that,” Charlie said.
After a moment, Lyle said, “Can I get another drink?”
Charlie frowned. “I thought you weren’t going to ask me for anything?”
“I’m not asking for your counsel. I’m asking for a drink.”
“Another Cape Cod?”
“What is it with you and geography?” Lyle asked. “I thought you had a hard enough time memorizing cocktails?”
“I’ll need to see more money up front,” Charlie said.
“Why?” Lyle asked. “You know who I am. You see me in here every day.”
“Let me get it.” Someone sat down next to Lyle and laid some bills on the counter.
Lyle closed his eyes and sighed.