Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik
Midway through July, the second summer semester was in session and Scott had a regular schedule again. He biked to campus. Worked out, hit the library to study, attended class, and either headed back to the hotel suite or visited the Black Horse.
He'd had a crazy notion to drop the second summer semester and try to get hired on as a day laborer, working on his own building. When he mentioned the idea to Everett Wahl in passing, the private banker had laughed. Scott had to be content with frequent visits to the job site, usually at night when the workers were gone.
Parking near the Black Horse was full. As problems went, it was a good one to have, Scott observed as he wheeled his mountain bike into the small employee lot. Shirl Gibson's expanded menu and steady improvements were showing distinct results.
A beer distributor truck was idling in the alley and the deliveryman was wrestling replacement kegs into the walk-in cooler. Scott exchanged quick greetings with the man and poked his head inside the bar.
The transformation of the interior space was dramatic. Cleaning the place helped, but the new lighting scheme made the biggest difference. Shirl returned most of the neon signage to the vendors, and replaced them with tasteful fixtures. The dark corners were gone and you could appreciate the classic wood paneling.
Scott liked the look and Shirl was thrilled about the business's trend lines. According to her, their biggest challenge was changing the bar's reputation. The packed lunch crowd was proof that her plan was starting to work.
The bartenders noticed him. "Hey, can you bring up two cases of Bud and one of Bud Light?"
"Sure thing," he replied. The employees had gotten used to seeing him around, and he liked to help when he could. At his request, there had been no formal announcement about the ownership change because he felt Shirl was a better face for the business.
He carried the cases from the walk-in and threaded his way behind the bar to the bottle cooler. He slid the top open and spotted a piece of broken bottle at the bottom. He leaned in to fish it out.
"I need two longneck Buds and an amaretto sour," one of the servers said from the other side of the bar.
Scott looked up. An attractive brunette with healthy cleavage was impatiently cleaning her bar tray. "Two Buds coming up," he said.
"I know you," the girl said.
Once his eyes got past her chest, the face did look familiar. "You're in my Economics of Foreign Trade lecture," he said. "I'm Scott."
"Amanda," she replied. "You sit in back and never ask any questions."
"That's because the group you sit with asks them all." He handed her two bottles.
"What about the amaretto sour?"
The bartender was busy hashing something out with the beer vendor.
"You know how to make one?" he asked.
Amanda pointed, "Shaker, add ice."
He did as instructed.
He hunted through the plastic bottles in the chiller rack. "How much?" he asked.
She showed him a measure with her fingers. "Okay, now a generous shot of amaretto. Cover and shake. Strain it into a lowball glass."
"You should be doing this," he grumbled as he shook the metal container.
"I put my name on the list," Amanda said. "Shirl says I might get a shot at the upstairs bar when it opens."
Scott poured the liquid concoction into a glass.
"Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry."
"I hope that's okay," he said as he handed the glass to her.
"You did great. Nice meeting you," she said.
"See you around," he replied. He enjoyed watching her walk away, but he had the thought that Shirl might not appreciate him poaching from the staff. He turned his attention back to the bottle cooler and finished stocking. He closed the cooler lid and grabbed the empty beer boxes.
He turned to see Amanda looking at him, hands on hips.
"One of the other girls says you're like one of the owners or something."
"Don't believe everything you hear," he said.
Amanda squinted at him before walking away.
He knew he probably wouldn't stay anonymous forever, but he wasn't going to wave his bank balance around for all to see either. He stopped the bartender on the way out, "Where's Shirl?"
"Ran to the bank."
"Tell her I stopped by."
Scott walked through the rear door and right into Shirl.
"Looking for me?" she asked.
"Stopped to see how things were going," he replied.
"I was at the bank arranging delivery of a new credit-card machine for upstairs."
"Nope. The new machine should be here tomorrow. You get my e-mail about the occupancy inspection?"
The city inspectors were finally going to sign off on the second-floor expansion – if they passed.
"I'll be in class, but you'll be fine. If they flag something, we'll deal with it. You're not worried are you?"
"How can I not be?" Shirl said. "The contractor's confident, if that means anything."
"There you go," he said. "Listen, while I've got you. How many employees know about the ownership situation?"
Shirl looked at him and smiled. "You mean how many know that you're the owner?"
"Scott, it's the worst-kept secret in the bar."
Shirl touched his arm, "Embrace it. I would. Don't you want to be the big man on campus, a bar owner in a college town?"
He shook his head.
"A good looking guy like you? You should be hearing panties hit the floor as you walk by."
Scott snorted, "You have a way with words."
"Now get out of here," Shirl said. "Some of us have work to do."
He opened the door and ushered her through it. For a moment, he pictured Shirl addressing one of the women's studies classes at NTSU and the resulting riot. The thought made him smile. He unlocked his bike and decided to walk through the park.