Two black dogs pulled an old man in a wheel chair towing a cart. They were mushing him south down a sidewalk, parallel to Highway 101.
I watched this from across the road. A few seconds later, the dogs did a u-turn, crossed the highway, and approached the Sea Star Lounge in Gold Beach. The man reined in the team, said something I didn’t catch, and they all came to a halt in front of the lounge.
The man, clearly Oregon Tavern Age, with long gray hair, detached the cart, hitched the dogs to a utility pole and watered them. While they drank, he took out a vaping device and vaped. A whiff of cannabis drifted my way.
The dogs flopped down on the sidewalk and instantly fell asleep. The man wheeled himself up to the door and maneuvered himself inside. I followed. I had to. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
There was a strong urge to address him, get his story. I suppressed it. I wanted to see this unfold without a nosy writer’s intervention. In OTA country, sheer observation instead of journalism often produces a better story.
He rolled to the bar and angled between a couple of vacant stools. The female bartender asked what he wanted. I didn’t sense he was a regular. He hesitated briefly, then ordered a Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic. After glancing up at the television over the bar, he added, “Calling Dr. Bombay!”
Dr. Bombay! I couldn’t believe he referenced Dr. Bombay from the Bewitched sitcom, which was currently playing on the television, thankfully without sound. Apparently, Samantha had just wiggled her nose and Dr. Bombay magically appeared, holding a martini and riding crop.
I never liked the show all that much in reruns as a kid, but I did like Elizabeth Montgomery’s nose wiggle. Pert is the adjective. Pert. Pert. Pert. I saw a nose wiggle like that once and it haunts me still.
The man put in an order for three hamburgers. One for him. Two for the dogs. He sipped his drink and watched the show.
I ordered an ale and sat at the bar. A few seconds later, a large androgynous-looking man sat down next to me. He ordered a lager and kamikaze. His phone rang and began talking to someone that I quickly deduced was his wife. He told her he was having lunch, all perfectly true. Then he launched into a tirade about his dead beat brother who wasn’t helping out their ailing father.
His drink order arrived. He pounded the kamikaze and the beer. He dropped the phone, picked it up and kept talking.
He ordered another round with a few nods. He was still talking on the phone as he nodded, but now his conversation involved his two tours in Iraq and being blasted against a wall by an IED.
The drinks arrived. He slammed the kamikaze and sipped the beer. He turned his mouth away from the phone and ordered a shot of Rumple Minze. I winced. If you don’t know what it is, you’re better off.
On television, Darin was fixing Dr. Bombay a colossal martini.
The bartender brought over the shot. The vet shot it and kept talking, now something about a busted transmission.
The OTA man’s food order appeared in a white paper sack. He thanked the bartender, drank the last of his gin and tonic, placed the glass on a stool, and wheeled himself out. He never paid.
It was 11:45 in the morning. I looked out the window and saw the dogs devouring the burgers. The man was eating his, too, chasing it with a vape. Three minutes later, the dogs began easing the man off the sidewalk and into the highway. I walked outside to see them off. They disappeared from sight and I went back inside to finish my beer and hope to see Samantha wiggle her nose.
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