Oregon Tavern Age: Friday Noon Champagne

“After mental poisoning, one needs physical remedies and champagne.”

Stendhal, The Red and The Black


Rain fell outside the Sea Star Lounge. It fell on a Friday at noon. It was a winter rain but it wasn’t winter yet.

In a pick-up truck parked on the street, a large brown poodle stuck its head out the passenger-side window and lapped at the rain.

An OTA man with a breathing apparatus sat at the bar, drinking a Bud, and watching a 25-year old Arnold Schwarzenegger film. Things were getting blown up.

I sat at the corner table next to the lending library. I was writing a love letter and drinking porter, my rain beer. Behind me on the wall hung a poster for a wellness clinic in town—the first such poster I have ever seen in OTA country. I tried imagining anyone ever reading the poster and going to the clinic. An OTA in a yoga class? That I wanted to see.

The lending library had a couple new items since my last visit. I noticed Henry James’ The American and picked up this old, old hardback edition missing the jacket cover. I’d always wanted to read it, and here it was.

I set the book back on the shelf and found a CD: Bruce Willis’ The Return of Bruno. I picked it up and perused. It was hard to believe Motown had produced this record. Marvin Gaye is still rolling over.

For some reason, I took great comfort in knowing that Henry James’ novel would leave the Sea Star long before Bruce Willis’ CD. In fact, the CD would never leave and end up as mere rubble when the Sea Star met its final end, either in fire, a razing, a new national temperance movement, or when cannabis finally took over the culture and put booze out of work for all time.

An OTA woman wearing black lycra pants and a pink hoodie walked in the bar. A few seconds later, I heard the pop of a champagne cork. It unsettled me. One does not hear that sound very often in OTA country. I recalled only one other time in 20 years; someone was celebrating someone’s suicide.

I looked over and the bartender was pouring a class of Andre, the same type I drank in high school with my girlfriend in her Pinto. I miss her and that car.

Ten minutes oozed by. I kept writing the love letter. Rain fell harder. The porter started crawling through me. I thought about how William Blake used to drink porter in the nude with his wife in his back yard and recite her lines from Shakespeare.

I’d like to try that some day, but maybe passages from Sometimes A Great Notion instead.

Another woman, much younger, walked in the bar. She was wearing black lycra pants, black sneakers and a black hoodie. She had long straight black hair. She was definitely not OTA.

She passed my table and I followed her with my gaze. By the time she sat down on a stool next to the other woman clad in lycra, the bartender had her glass of champagne filled. The two women clinked the glasses together and gulped down the Andre. They got a refill, stood up, and went over to the video poker alcove.

The letter could wait. Its recipient would never read it anyway.

I started imagining a story for the two women—a noir story because it was raining outside, my beer was almost black, and I was drinking it alone in a dive bar.

Here was what I imagined:

The two lycra women are both sleeping with the same rich OTA man (yes, a few are rich, pouring concrete is good money) and the women know this because they are friends, perhaps even lovers. The man is oblivious to the relationship between the woman. He thinks he’s in love with both of them. He’s never married before, has no heirs, but he wants to marry before he dies.

It all started as a lark, sex with the same guy without him knowing they knew each other (it was dare of some kind) but then the women decide to murder the man after he proposes to the OTA woman (in the bar, with a bottle of Andre). They want his money, his house, his guns, and his herd of prize goats. The only problem: how to pull it off without raising suspicion.

They drank champagne late into the night and schemed. There was only one way—a menage a trois. It would take three minutes, tops. His heart would explode. The coroner would sign off in seconds and the OTA woman would weep at the funeral, toss a ceremonial can of Rainier into his grave before the gravediggers buried him, and collect the score after a quick run through probate court. She’d then split everything with her friend. They’d keep the house, shoot off the guns and ditch the goats.

It wasn’t even actually a murder.

Hey, I said to myself, that is a hot idea for a story! Dark and kink. I started taking notes. This was way better than writing a still-born love letter!

The two women came back over to the bar and ordered another round of champagne. A cork popped. I wanted a closer look at them together, for the details, the nuances, sounds, the vibe, so I went up to get another porter.

I stood a few feet away from the women and listened.

The younger woman said to the OTA woman: “Mom— ”

Damn! The story just got ten times better.

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