The bartender doesn’t bother asking, just pours us both a shot. I’m guessing our sixth but wouldn’t argue over a bill that said eight; who knows for sure about such things. It’s mid-afternoon — hot. Outside, the air does a jig on the two-lane blacktop. No birds stir. Above our heads, a single, bored ceiling fan barely turns a blade. The bar is dark and gloomy, all leather and stained oak.
Priscilla dips a finger into her shot and wipes her lips with it. A lock of fiery red hair falls from her ear, hangs limp over her eye. Any chance of it being sensual is lost to the heat of the day. “What are you thinking,” I ask.
She tilts her head towards me, her chin supported on her hand. One turquoise green eye meets mine, “What would you rather have, time or money?”
I pick up my shot, looking for an answer. I’m too drunk to answer, actually, but that never stopped me before. I down half the shot, it lights up my throat and belly and ignites my half-baked mind. “I don’t know,” I start. “Had a bit of both in my day, I suppose. Problem is, you can’t have ‘em both at the same time.”
She turns away, looks out the window. It’s bright out there. An old black Bellaire flashes by, a wake of road dust chasing it. Out back a dog barks twice. She then swivels her barstool to face me dead on. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“The money comes at a cost. That cost is time. You ever walk a rich folks neighbourhood in the evening? You know, like to gawk at the big mansions and fancy vehicles in the driveways.” She shakes her head and cocks a puzzled eyebrow.
“Those mansions, they all have one thing in common. You know what that is?”
“How would I know. I never walked those streets. All the places I lived in were far from the good side of the tracks.” She gulps back half her shot and shakes off the burn. The bartender, the only other soul in the place, is wiping down glassware but he’s listening in at the same time. Small towns are like that, everyone wants in on everyone else’s business.
“Those big houses are all dark. Not a light to be seen in any of ‘em. Know why?” I don’t wait for the obvious answer, “Because those folks with money are still sitting behind a desk somewhere downtown looking after their business. They don’t have time to be home raising kids or watching Dancing with the Stars. They’re working six, seven days a week making sure they’re making enough to support their luxurious lifestyle.”
She laughs at this, “Yeah, lifestyles of the rich and famous. Serves ‘em right. They’re all nothing but greedy bastards.”
“Greedy bastards with hardly no time to enjoy life,” I add. The bartender’s nodding in agreement. I give him a wink and a nod back.
“The hard part,” I say, “is finding something to do that makes money but also leaves you time to enjoy that money, enjoy life. That’s the point I was making. When I had money I had no time to enjoy it. I worked my ass off seven days a week for years. Now I finally have time but all the money’s gone and I got no ways to make it back.”
Priscilla nods and tucks that lose lock of red hair back behind her ear. “Hmmm…” she says. She downs the last of her shot and I follow suit. About time to blow this popsicle stand anyway, I figure.
“You ready to roll?” I ask.
“Yep. Let’s do this thing.”
At that we both rise from our barstools. The bartender turns to the cash register, fixing to punch up our big bill.
Me and Priscilla, we got something else in mind.
I reach behind my back and pull out a Colt 45, cock the trigger and point it straight in the bartender’s face. He barely has time to register what’s going down.
Ten minutes later we’re back on the highway, a cool 65 bucks in hand, a couple of bottles of booze for the road ahead and that dusty little hole in the wall long behind us. Man it’s hot out. Too hot to be stuck with no air conditioning. “Next town we come to,” I tell Priscilla, “we’re upgrading this shitbox to something with air.”
“Sounds good to me,” she says, arm hanging out the open window.