Oregon Tavern Age: Failure

An OTA woman pushed her way into OTA country. “I’m wet,” she said.

Everyone at the bar turned toward her and nodded. She ordered a beer and jello shot and paid in change.

Rain was stapling the Oregon Coast and everyone was speaking in hushed revered tones. Rain had flummoxed their schedules and, thus, they ended up in the bar drinking at one in the afternoon. They gave thanks for rain.

Golf in Mexico played on television. An OTA man sipped a well whiskey.

I wrote a letter at a table with a dead house plant and porter as my companions.

An OTA man in a motorized wheelchair emerged from the gambling area. He navigated with his left hand on the stick while his right held a can of Hamm’s.

He steered to the bar and ordered a Hamm’s. The bartender produced one and announced the joint was out of Hamm’s. Out of Hamm’s! Ohhhhh, the humanity.

The man grasped the Hamm’s and began driving straight at me. He was coming my way.

What did he want? Money? Beer? A ride?

Shit, I didn’t want to deal with it.

He halted three feet away.

“Can I help you sir?” I said.

He fist bumped me and said, “hello.”

I’d never been fist bumped in OTA country before.

He was balding, hunched over, wearing tattered, soiled clothing, and had green and black teeth. He extended his fist again and opened his hand. It was full of quarters.

He said something but his words came out garbled.

I thought he might need assistance to play the jukebox or the slots. A magic trick?

He spoke and this time I was able to make it out. “It’s like reading a dirty book by yourself.”

“I don’t follow,” I said.

“Pool,” he said, “Will you play pool with me?”

I didn’t hesitate. “I’m sorry sir, I don’t play pool.”

He didn’t say anything, but stated at me, shook his head slowly, and started crying.

Then he motored away and plotted a course toward the far end of the bar, where several OTA men congregated and shot the shit.

In turn, he was turned down three times for pool.

He approached a man wearing a black leather jacket from the 1990s and a red Trump ball cap.

“Sure! I’ll bet your a pool shark and will kick my ass!” the man said.

They both laughed. The wheelchair man plugged the table with quarters and the balls crashed down. The Trump man racked and the wheelchair man veered around the table and took up break position. He was left handed and executed a near perfect break that sent a crack ricocheting around the joint.

Their game was on. I sipped my porter and watched them knowing I had executed the greatest failure of kindness in my life. It was right there. It was free. It would have taken ten minutes. It was supposed to be what I stand for.

What was wrong with me?

I stood up with the intent of apologizing and buying the wheelchair man a beer as penance.

Then I sat down. I knew my proper place.