In the six weeks since steely-eyed retired CEO Charles advised Larry to quit his office job (the nature of which Larry didn’t seem to fully grasp) and follow his dream of working with animals, the transformation in the young man has been remarkable. Once dull to the point of enervating anyone who spent more than 15 seconds talking to him, his joy in his new job at a vet’s office is apparent to Stenny’s bartenders and customers alike, and they are happy for him.
Tonight is Saturday and Larry is sitting at the bar, looking spiffy.
“Who are you meeting?” Melissa asks as she serves him an Amstel.
“How do you know I’m meeting someone?” Larry responds.
“Come on, Larry. You’re all dressed up.”
“Oh, okay.” Larry may talk enthusiastically about his work, but his overall conversation skills have not improved much.
“So who is it?” Melissa prods.
“Oh, right. Jennifer.”
“Hmmm, do I know her?” she asks.
“She’s in here once in a while. First came in when that girl cracked her head open on the floor during Stenny’s double happy hour.”
“Oh, I remember hearing about that, from Tara and Stephen. I wasn’t here that night. Jennifer came in right when that happened? Coincidence?”
“No, she was the responding officer.”
Something clicks for the bright Melissa. “Is her last name O’Neill?”
“Yes,” Larry says.
“You’re dating Officer O’Neill?”
“I guess we’re dating. Been out a few times.”
“Ben is going to fucking kill you,” Melissa says.
“Why? Is she his daughter?”
Melissa cackles. “Oh, that’s funny. No, he likes her. Wants to bed her.”
“I didn’t know that,” Larry says.
“Don’t worry about it,” Melissa says, even though Larry doesn’t look particularly worried. “She’s never shown any interest in him.”
“I don’t want any bad feelings,” Larry says. “He’ll really be mad?”
“Oh yes, definitely, furious, but I’ll take care of it for you, no worries.”
“Thanks,” Larry says.
“How’d you and the good officer hook up?”
“We just started talking one night. She was in with a friend. She said my polenta sticks looked good.”
Melissa laughs again. “I know you mean that literally, but it sounds funny.”
Larry says, “Ok. Anyway, we found out we both love animals. She volunteers for a greyhound rescue and adoption organization. And she seemed really interested in what I do at the vet’s office.”
Melissa sees Crazy Daisy signal her from halfway down the bar. “Sounds like a match made in heaven. Good for you, Larry. I’ll be back when she gets here.” As she heads toward Daisy, she sees Ben come in the side door; he lets his eyes adjust and then goes left, in the direction where Larry is sitting.
“No, no, no, Ben, sit here. Next to Daisy,” she says.
“Why? Is that bitch Mary Ann assigning us seats now?”
Melissa thinks about lying and saying something like, “Yes, that’s it, she’s the worst,” but decides this is one of those occasions where the truth will work best.
“No, it’s just that it looked like you were going to sit next to Larry and he’s saving that seat for a date.”
“Larry has a date? Some dog he met somewhere?” It’s not funny, and certainly misogynist, and Melissa loses any inkling she may have had to be gentle.
“No, it’s Jennifer,” she says. “Sit.”
Ben does. “You say Jennifer like I should know who you’re talking about.”
Melissa anticipated this response and it allows her to finish this part of the conversation with a lay-up.
“Oh, you know. Jennifer O’Neill. Officer O’Neill.”
“Larry is dating Officer O’Neill?” Ben’s face is instantly scrunched, very unattractively. “What the fuck! That guy is a dodo head.”
“She doesn’t seem to think so. She looks at him quite lovingly,” she says, ending her quick sojourn into the truth. “And they have so much in common. They are about the same age and they both love animals.” She leans in close to Ben and whispers in that way that sounds louder than normally-pitched speech. “And you didn’t hear this from me, but they are both into tantric sex.”
“What’s that?” Ben asks.
Daisy interjects. “I can tell you. Or show you, if you want.”
“I’ll leave you two to it,” Melissa says, pouring Ben’s usual Molson’s and whipping up another rum punch for Daisy. Just give Larry and Jennifer their space tonight. Let the lovebirds coo.”
Ben moves his head in a quick, jerky circle, stops for a second, and repeats. Melissa recognizes this as his way of dislodging Officer O’Neill from his brain; she glances down the bar and sees the good officer has arrived.