Steve and Jim stood in front of the Lucky Six Bar, staring at it silently for awhile. It stared back at them, challenging them to go inside. Jim finally broke the silence. “It’s got character, but it needs some fixing up. The wood is faded but still has that cool ‘wild west’ look. You’re lucky you didn’t pay much, because you’re going to need a bundle to fix it up.”
Steve was silent for a few moments more. “Yeah, you’re right. It has potential. Thank god Amanda isn’t here—she’d probably kill me if she saw it like this. C’mon, Jim, let’s go see what I bought.”
The two men sauntered up to the tavern and climbed four wooden steps. The dry wood creaked under their shoes. Steve grabbed the worn brass door handle and pulled open the windowless bar door. A bell clanged. The bright afternoon made the dim bar appear absolutely cave-like. Steve peered inside past the swirling dust that glistened in the sunlight. He handed the door to Jim and walked into the tavern, surveying the interior. He looked around and saw wood everywhere. He noticed a large, U-shaped wooden bar surrounded by wooden bar stools, surrounded by wooden tables that were surrounded by wooden benches and chairs. Steve looked down and examined the wooden floor. He looked up and studied the wooden ceiling. Most of the wood appeared cracked and desperate needed polishing. Small windows stood on opposites of the bar, partially covered by neon signs pitching liquor. Aged beer and sports posters and car memorabilia adorned the wooden walls. Steve saw a couple swing doors leading to the rest rooms, pool room, and manager’s office. This isn’t a tavern, he thought. This is a saloon. The only thing missing is a spittoon. He glanced at the tavern door and found the spittoon sitting next to an ashtray.
The tavern was virtually empty. A lone, gaunt gent at a table jealously guarded his beer, staring blankly at the Joe Namath poster hanging on the wall. Steve walked up to the bar while Jim wandered around. The bar was untended. Steve peered over the counter to make sure the bartender wasn’t prostrate on the floor. He didn’t see a living soul. He looked past the bar at the manager’s office. Light and the muffled sound of a television escaped the slightly open office door. Steve walked over to the door and knocked. “Hello? Is there anyone here who can pour the new owner a drink?”
“Help yourself. Leave the money on the counter.” Steve could not believe what he had just heard. He pushed office door open angrily and gazed indignantly at an older man lying on an orange faux leather couch, watching a syndicated sitcom on the small TV mounted to the ceiling. Steve invited himself into the office and shut the door with a heavy thud. He asked the man crossly, “Pardon me, but is this how you serve your customers?”
“Yep. What’s it to you?”
“I’m Steve Jones, your new boss. And you are…?”
“They call me ‘Slouch.’ I manage this place. You can call me anything you’d like. Boss.” The man’s disinterested eyes briefly flitted towards Steve before settling back on the TV.
“Listen, ‘Slouch,’ I just bought the Lucky Six. This is my place now. And I expect a little better service than this.”
Slouch turned slightly and stared at Steve. His eyes narrowed, and he spoke in a soft grumble. “Yep, I heard about you. The Kirschners told me about you before they left. I’m the manager, not the bartender. The bartender won’t be here until 5 o’clock. Until then customers just help themselves. It’s the way we do it around here. This ain’t California.”
Steve spent years in the Silicon Valley working with difficult people. Getting away from people like Slouch was one of the reasons he bought the Lucky Six. He knew Slouch was a cranky fixture here who needed to go, but the previous owners warned him that it would be disastrous if he fired Slouch. Slouch had been working at the tavern almost as long as the tavern had been open and was beloved by the locals. He recalled the Kirschners’ warning not to change the Lucky Six too dramatically, because if he did, loyal customers would stop coming. He collected his thoughts for a moment and finally told Slouch, “Look, let me break it down for you. This is not the way we’re going to do it from now on. Tomorrow the Lucky Six will close for a few days. I’m bringing in a work crew to refurbish the tavern, and when we reopen we will provide full service while we’re open. Do you understand?”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you. If you do, you’re looking for trouble. They won’t like it one bit. I’m warning you.”
“Who’s ‘they’? The customers?” The laugh track on the TV sitcom howled with laughter.
“Nope. Welcome to the Lucky Six. You’ll find out soon enough.”