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Dave's Place (prologue)

Short stories inspired by life.

"Welcome to Dave's Place," I said from behind the bar. I can always recognize someone with a story. She walked through the door glancing around like she wasn't supposed to be here. Yet, she couldn't have arrived by accident. This place was very obvious from the outside. You know what you're going to find. It was much bigger than the surrounding buildings and the sign had my name. There were oversized glass doors to the entrance. Inside, there's a grand piano and a big mahogany bar. I didn't build it with any subtlety or surprises. That's just the way I was.

I offered her a seat at the bar. Singles don't ask for a table this time of the afternoon. It's always a drink and a story to tell. She accepted and slid her chair right up to the bar while placing her purse in the seat next to her. "What can I get you?"

"Hendricks on the rocks with three olives," she replied confidently. She intrigued me. Any customer ordering Hendricks by name is deserving of appreciation. Scotch and bourbon drinkers know what they like, but I remember every person who hasn't ordered a "gin and tonic."

I appraised her as I poured her drink. She was smartly dressed with dark curly hair and gorgeous brown eyes. I admired the tone of her arms and the way she sat upright waiting for her drink. She watched me start her drink but pulled her phone from her bag and went to work. It was a simple pour, of course, but I carefully selected nice olives for her in hopes I could get her story.

As I presented the glass across the bar, she gave me the most gorgeous smile I'd ever seen. My eyes furrowed in surprise. Her eyes seemed to laugh. Clearly she had seen this reaction in men before, but she took the bait. "That's an odd expression to have when you're serving someone a drink."

I shrugged. "Reading people is part of the job. I need to know who wants to talk; who wants left alone. Who needs another and who needs to go home."

"Doesn't it take more than one drink?" She took a sip. She teased me a little by rolling the liquor around her tongue.

"Only with the good ones," I replied. That elicited another smile. I lingered for a bit, but she went back to her phone. As much as I'd have liked to explore further, you can't run a business by flirting with all the clientele so I went back prepping for the evening. I made sure the bottles were stocked. I pulled backups for the ones that were low and checked all the inventory. I needed to cut the garnishes and polish the glassware.

"Tell me about the good ones." She startled me with those words. I looked up with surprise as she gave me a little smirk.

"So that's how it's going to be?" She was non-committal and just looked at me expectantly.

I said, "I'm Dave," extending my hand across the bar.

"Susan," she replied. "Nice place." She took it on faith that I was the namesake, and gave the room a good look-over. She lingered on the artwork.

"Thank you. It was something I had always wanted to do, and it really surpassed my expectations." The look on her face made me want to continue. "I worked in the restaurant business when I was young. Mostly waiting tables, but some bartending. It's that intense stress from immediacy, but once the door is closed, it's all over. Then you go party with your friends, and start the next as if the previous never happened." She didn't fill the pause. "I would have continued, but it's no way to raise a family. Long hours. The weekends are more important than weekdays. so I did some tech work for many years. It was lucrative and so once the kids graduated, I figured I should go back to what I Ioved."

She smiled, and said, "That's a good story."

"Thank you." I paused briefly. "Typically I get your story, not vice versa."

"The customer is always right." She clearly enjoyed toying with me.

"Only the best ones," I replied. "Only the best ones."

"Tell me another," she said. And so I did.

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