Working behind the stick has gone as well as any other method for trading your life for 15/hr and you’ve just flipped the door sign to Closed at the little corner pseudo-pub. The Merry Hart, named after some trilingual pun the owner insists is worthwhile and completely not a reference at all to Entertainment Tonight, is a well-established little edge-of-downtown local and the clientele are alright. Not too handsy, not too eyesy either, for that matter. It has been snowing steadily all day, and the few who made it in through the poorly done sidewalks (let’s be honest, they barely scraped the roads) had left hours ago. On top of that, the rest of the staff had begged off, what with it being just too nasty or there being a final tomorrow or just not wanting to come in in the first place. It was one of the many burdens of a college town, these kids playing at slinging gin, but it was a living. Usually. But tonight, the tip jar is low, and even though it’s all yours, you can’t help but wish it were warmer out so the jocks and their rape-dates could spend more time outdoors getting hammered and leaving an overripe amount of Mom and Dad’s credit on the tip line. Three-deep will be nice when it comes ’round again. Two-deep would’ve worked. Hell, on a night like this, you were lucky with the handful of regulars that rolled in to escape the cabin fever.
The floor is mopped in record time, you’ve done the burn, and all the stools are flipped in their tidy little patterns. You look around and wrinkle your nose at the heavy stink of lemon and pine rising from the polished tables and well-scrubbed tile. All that’s left are the bathrooms, and those shouldn’t take too long. You scoot the yellow bucket and its sloshing grey water to the gents. As you go to prop the door open with a spare chair, you hear some sort of commotion coming from behind you. It sounded like a cough, or a sneeze, maybe a hiccup. And it was definitely in the ladies’. As quietly as you can you tip-toe behind the dented, copper bar and retrieve the nail-studded bat you keep around for just such an emergency. With the weather as bad as it is, the cops probably won’t make it for a bit, but you go ahead and hit the speed dial anyway. A voice answers, and you hang up. They’re faster if they think there’s more trouble than there might be, anyhow.
Cautiously, you begin moving toward the ladies’ room, the bat slung under your forearm like a very streetwise tonfa. With a shout and a laugh, out bursts a woman, slamming the door against the cheap wood paneling. She’s five foot nothing, a good hundred fifty, and you absolutely know that face. You swear, loudly, and throw the bat to the floor. In the distance, you can hear through the clear night air that there is some sort of emergency vehicle en route to downtown. The phone rings, and keeps ringing, and you glare at the woman you’d had over the night before. She has the good sense to look startled and sheepish, which, come to think of it, is a damn hard expression to pull off. Growling a litany of curses under your breath, you grab her by the forearm and forcibly drag her to the side door. It’s unlocked, and she’s tossed out into the driving snow and the cold and out of your contacts list. You slam the door as she tries to speak and lock it back.
She slams her fist against the glass, shouting something you don’t bother to listen to, but she’s soon gone as the patrol car pulls up out front, its fender scraping over a low berm. You grab the portable phone and answer the concerned operator as you move to the front to let the officer in. You explain to them both that it was a false alarm, some kids playing tricks outside, you thought it was a stalker you knew who had been following you lately, etc. etc. etc. You’re a tiny little thing, and you look tired enough to the responding officer that he lets you off with a warning about following through on emergency calls. He lingers a bit too long for comfort, his eyes scanning the liquor shelves, and you get the hint.
He wants top shelf scotch; Glenlivet Nàdurra. Something expensive for his trouble. You grimace on the inside when he asks for ice, but oblige, and pour the pig his ruined glass. He gives you a nod and knocks it back in one, and the frown actually appears on your face this time, albeit very, very briefly. He clearly isn’t one to take his time. He hisses through his teeth as he hands you the empty glass and gives you a nod. Then it’s back out into the night, and letting in a blast of freezing ass air with it. You make short work of the last bit of wares cleaning and return to the johns. Slow night, easy mopping. Most of them even managed to hit the urinals this time around too. A quick splat around the floor with the foamy mop head and it’s as good as done. You don’t remember any ladies coming in tonight, but considering the ambush, you decide to give it a check. And oh, oh, oh, what a good thing you did, eh?
There, as soon as you open the door, in vibrant ice-blue lipstick, smeared across the wall for God and all of Her angels to see, “Be Mine. Valentine.” There’s a crude heart scrawled around it that peters off before the lines even connect. Either she’s a terrible artist (and there’s proof enough of that) or she ran out of lipstick. Either way, you swear as loudly and as creatively as you’ve ever learned how, and stomp off to go get the Magic Eraser from the storage room. If you ever see that little black bitch again, she’s going to lose an eye. Or at least the use of it. Or at least have it swollen shut for a week or two. You’ll figure it out later. Right now, you’re hungry, you’re tired, and you’ve got a good half-hour of scrubbing ahead of you before you’re going to make it to the late-night pizza joint down the block. You make a silent prayer to the Dark Lord Satan that they didn’t close early, and get to work making a massive light blue blur of the graffiti.
Fuck it. Just fuck everything.