I was a few hours north of Kansas City in a small riverfront town called Dedham. There was a bar there that had once been called "Bootlegger's" until some young idealists stole the first three and final five letters so that the sign looked like: "...tle......" and people started calling it the T.L.E. Over the years those letters stopped shining and by then people didn't call the bar anything at all.
I was sitting on one of the only barstools remaining, the less desirable one near the door. I caught every draft as the door opened, and was in a position such that people saw me before I could duck my head. I was watching an old woman in heavy makeup and a maid's uniform walk a one-legged dog. This feat was achieved by her having strapped a roller skate to the beast's chest and he propelled himself by kicking off with his one good leg, the right hindleg. Although the scene may sound pitiful, I sincerely believe I have never seen a more joyful creature in my life. It took all of the maid's strength pulling at the leash to prevent the dog from launching himself back onto the street where he had lost legs one through three.
The barkeep was a slow but steady man. He had been the bouncer before the owner got a knife in him and our man was promoted to behind the bar. Back then the bar had needed a bouncer. These days it had, as my friend described it, a "self-regulating clientele."
A new fellow sat down near me in a three-legged chair, a metal folding chair. I had earlier made a joke to the old maid about combining that chair and her dog in order to create some sort of thing that would be both a terrible dog and a terrible chair. I had intended to make a point about the benefit of leaving certain things be, but no one laughed at my joke and I saw no purpose in continuing with the larger, more abstract concept.
My drink was about half empty and I leaned in for a smell. To slow myself down I had made a point of ordering the most foul concoction the barkeep could mix. Our man was evidently a master, for I held a truly sinister beverage in my hand. My glass was the only one in the place that the flies chose to leave alone.
I was in this position, of leaning into my glass, when the new fellow made a parallel gesture, leaning toward the bar in order to place an order with our bartender. However, given the nature of the missing chair leg, both the chair and the man began to tumble forward and he clutched at the shoulder of my jacket to correct his position. This jostling perturbed my grip on my glass and although I managed to hold firm, a full swallowsworth of the beverage splashed into my face and onto my shirt.
Blinking against the stinging liquid, I sought aid in the form of a napkin or some other absorbent object, although I had already decided I would not wipe my face with the filthy towel the bartender had tucked into his apron, colored as it was with hundreds of other people's stain and accidents. I looked toward the maid, assuming she must have some cleaning materiel, but she just scowled at me, still sore about my joke about the dog.
The new fellow managed to right himself and apologized repeatedly. He located some paper napkins and did his best to mop up. His best was not very good, but I was grateful for the gesture and I waved him off, making a joke about how my mother used to put menthol on my chest when I was sick as a boy, and that this incident was having a similarly therapeutic effect.
He introduced himself as "Green". I didn't catch the first name and I'm not too sure about the last one either except that it rhymed with "Green" and I couldn't think of another name that sounded like that.
He offered to buy me another drink to replace the one he had spilled and I agreed without hesitating. The bartender could not quite recall the recipe and the new batch was not quite as foul as the first, although my perceptions may have been dulled by the odor of the first one still wafting off my shirt. The new fellow had ordered one for himself as well, which I regarded as a friendly gesture, as though he wanted to fit in. He took a sniff and winced then turned to smile at me, said, "Down the hatch.", tilted his head back and drained the glass.
Within twenty seconds he was vomiting on our collective shoes, beginning with mine. I helped him to the bathroom, wiped down my shoes as well as I could and returned to my seat. After a while, I required the services of the local restroom and thought I would check on Mr. Green. However he wasn't in the bathroom any more, and after a minimal but adequate search, I realized he was nowhere in the place. I ended up paying for his drink, the one still emanating from my feet. As I got up to leave I tried to pet the little dog who snapped at me and then the maid spat on the floor next to me.
I left and have not returned to Dedham since.