When the Ginger Beer is All Drunk Up.

Perry was showered and ready for a Montana Cowboy Saturday Night of wild women, sweet liquor and the usual paraphernalia of a Montana Cowboy Saturday night. Unfortunately, Perry’s idea of what a Cowboy Saturday Night should consist of and his execution of that idea never seemed to coincide. Much to Perry’s frustration, one beer was all he needed to drink in order to see a ridiculously inebriated fool in the mirror, which squelched any need for more beer.

Truth be told, Perry did not belong among this barroom Saturday night crowd. It was something he understood intuitively, the way an alcoholic understands whiskey is his worst enemy. But what else was there? Just as there will always be Saturday night barrooms for lonesome cowboys, so there will always be whiskey for drunks. A universe is not made where what should be is what is.

On this particular Saturday night, Perry was sitting on a stool with his usual sixteen ounces of liquid malted barley on the bar in front of him, contemplating the image of a freshly showered, lonesome and uninebriated short guy in a battered and stained white hat that stared back at him. He was thinking that for once, he should let go, just slug back the bottle of Blue Moone Ale and then another and then another. He was thinking he should just reach over and pat the fanny of the rather too-tall blonde sitting on the stool next to him, slip his drunken arms around her slender, silken waist and say foolish drunken things. The sadness of the fact that he knew this would never happen prompted him to lift the bottle and take a good solid swallow.

“I been wondering if you was gonna drink that or not,” the too-tall blonde said. She was looking in the mirror at a stout, muscle-shouldered fellow wearing a battered and work-soiled white hat.

“Whut?” Perry said to the mirror. The woman looking back at him from it had a long face with a nose that hooked down toward thin flat-line lips that almost could not cover a pair of beaver incisors. The eyes were china blue and a bit too intense.

“Just sayin,’ She said. “You been mooning that Blue Moone since you got here; and I was just wondering if it was an ornamentation or if you was gonna drink ‘er.”

Perry lifted the bottle, looked at it, and tipped another swallow as he tried to think of a good line to set the hook on this conversation.

The best he could think of was, “Well, what’s your poison?”

The hungry blue eyes closed and turned from the mirror. Then they were looking down at him from a mere two feet away. And Perry was the proverbial jackrabbit in the spotlight. He was stunned, all defenses down, all thoughts gaggling into nothing.

“Ginger Beer, neat,” the thin, pale lips said. And they quirked a lopsided smile.

There were probably a quite few things the slender, hook nosed blond could have said that would have released the jackrabbit. But as it happened, saying, “Ginger Beer, neat,” was one of them—that and the quirky, lopsided, toothy but toothsome grin were all that was needed as antidote to those intense, almost predatory, blue eyes.

“Well,” Perry said, “I don’t really like beer. I mean I like it, but. You ever seen yourself after a beer or two? Me, it aint a pretty sight.”

“Me too,” the beaver toothed grin said. “Which,” she went on, “Is why I don’t drink it.”

“Seems kind of a waste if you come into a Saturday night bar and not drink beer,” Perry said.

“Says the greatest beer imbiber of the century,” the lips quirked another grin. It was ironic but kind. Sweet.

Perry chuckled. “Got me there,” he said.

And then they sat, brown eyes into blue eyes into brown eyes. Both thinking, there’s got to be something else to say that will keep this going. And both realizing at the same instant there was something else needed saying and so both said it; “Sandy/Perry” and put their right hand out.

“You know,” Perry said, “Maybe we should get us a six-pack of ginger beer and go someplace where . . . .”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Sandy said.

Much later that night Perry and Sandy leaned, warm shoulder to warm shoulder, against the hood of Perry’s pickup truck, sipping the last of the ginger beer neat, its sweetness now a bit cloy, and watched the white grin of morning begin to leer over the white teeth of the Last Lost Mountain Range. The lake lay flat and still and gray in front of them; a few robins began to yell into the dawn.

“You know, Perry,” Sandy said, “I known you, what, a whole night,”

“Seems like seven seconds, seems like seven years,” Perry said.

“Yeah, well, six or seven hours anyway. And here’s the thing.” She stopped. She sipped her cloyingly sweet and nearly flat ginger ale.

“Here’s the thing, Perry, I don’t get it.

“Here’s the thing. Most guys pick you up in a bar, they have their hands on your fanny before you make their car and groping into your pants before they have the key in the ignition.”

“You sound disappointed.” He could feel the stun of her eyes again on him, predatory and accusing.

“Well, yes and no,” Sandy said. She tilted the last of her ginger beer down her throat. “I don’t know. It’s just the way they are. A homely girl gets to expect it. And then of course the night is over and you’re walking up the walk to your apartment and just as lonely as ever.”

“You ain’t homely,” Perry said.

“Hmm.” Sandy said. It was a doubtful but hopeful “Hmm”.

“Well, you’re not,” Perry went on. Then he too, tipped the last of this cloying ginger beer down his throat.

“I been thinking all night about doing just what you’re talking about. But then we started talking about your sister and her X. And then we were talking about making friends with ground squirrels, which, by the way, I do NOT think is silly. And then we were watching the lake get lighter and lighter and then we were just leaning here and watching the east get light. And I was wanting this night to go on forever.”

“Which it won’t,” Sandy said.

“No, I guess not.” Perry looked at his empty ginger beer bottle, shook it. “We’re even out of ginger beer,” he said.

“You drink it, it goes,” Sandy said.

“Yup,” Perry said. “That’s about the truth of it.”

They leaned there, shoulder to shoulder the against the cold hood of Perry’s truck until the sun was dancing its hot June glory across the blue lake and squinting it into their eyes.

“Well, there’ll be other nights,” Perry said.

“I hope so.” Sandy leaned against him and then smiled that quirky bucktoothed grin.

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