The guy sitting at the other end of the bar looked familiar, somehow. As I stared at his frizzy red hair, he smoothed out his front cowlick and let out a belligerent belch.
“Whatcha lookin’ at, asshole?”
I shrugged. “Sorry. I thought I knew you.”
“Gawd! Not this again. Can’t you people ever leave me alone?” His bloodshot blue eyes met mine above the rim of his over-sized mug of green-tinted beer.
“Hey, you’re the one drinking green beer. Paddy’s Day is over, man.” I turned away to check the football scores, but a commercial was playing instead. Suddenly it all clicked in my head. “Oh, you’re. . .”
“Don’t announce it to the entire bar, ya wanker,” the red-headed drunk snapped.
“Nobody in here but you, me, and the bartender.” I looked around the dingy interior.
“And that hobo in the corner booth, but he’s passed out.”
“Sez you. Can’t you just leave me alone?” He slammed down the last of his beer and signaled for another. The bartender brought more green beer, snickering under his breath as he set it down.
“There you go, little guy!”
“Watch it with the personal remarks or no tip for you!” He pulled a real gold coin out of his pocket along with a five spot.
“Yeah, yeah. Keep the change.”
“Did you just mean to give that guy a $1300 tip?”
“What’s it to ya?”
“Look, I don’t want any trouble. You just seem like you’ve been knocking back that green piss for a while, and I wouldn’t want to see you get taken advantage of.”
The redhead stared over his head at an aging St. Paulie Girl sign, then his gaze meandered to a flickering Bud Light neon. Finally, he turned his full attention my way, and I found myself riveted to my seat.
“Whoa, there, little guy! I’m a friend.”
“Taken advantage of? TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF? You wanna hear about being taken advantage of? I came to this stinkin’ country on a work visa in 1964. Nobody could do what I can do, see? They needed me. And I did it. I sure did. I sold the HELL out of their devil-spawn marshmallow abomination. I pretended to be happy for the camera, every damned day, while arsewipes like you call me “little guy” and “shorty” and these days, “dude”. Dude. Really? I was a GOD in my homeland.”
I looked at him skeptically and took a long drink of my thankfully not green beer.
“Okay, a Demi-god.”
The Bud Light sign gave off a tinny buzzing in the silence.
“All right, All right! A magical, mythical creature with amazing powers, revered by all! Are you happy now?”
“Mostly,” I admitted as I finished my second beer.
“I’ll never be free of my corporate overlords. My home country is ashamed of me. They won’t even let me back in on holiday.” He started sobbing. The barkeep brought him a wet bar towel to wipe his face.
“Well, see, that’s where I come in,” I said, sliding off the cracked vinyl barstool and approaching him with all the caution due to a very drunk, magical creature. “You know the Keebler Elves?”
One blue eye peered up from his bar towel. “Yeah, we used to play horseshoes. I haven’t seen them around in a while.”
I put a hand on his shoulder. “We’ve got a fine magical person protection program. We can help.” I dropped my WDC business card next to his empty beer coaster. “Give me a call when you sober up. I’m sure we can find a place for you in the Small World Exhibit.”