It was a busy, busy night at Floggin’ Brews yesterday. There were two munches back-to-back in the loft, and a private party used the Theatre. The place was shaping up nicely as a neighborhood watering hole as well, and I was gratified to learn that we had just a bit of the Callahan touch to the place — we had good patrons, and drunk assholes never seem to show up.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that the few unpleasant folk that did show didn’t seem to get very good service, or were pretty much turned away by groups that met here.
Brita was working out pretty well as a barback. She kept the clean glasses coming, the floor behind the bar was always clean and dry, and I rarely had to ask for more ice — every time I began to run low, the bin got filled. I showed her how to pour properly from the soda gun, and showed her how to stock soft drink bottle so that they were easily gotten to.
It was getting pretty late into the evening, and as it slowed down I told Brita she could knock off after emptying the big trash bin behind the bar.
“How come the water here tastes so good? Most of the town tastes a little . . . I dunno, funny?”
“Filters,” I fibbed.
“Huh. I like the water here.”
“Good. Good water makes good coffee, and way better ice.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“You just did.”
“Uh, yeah, well, how do you do all this?”
“What do you mean?”
“ALL of this. This,” she waved her arms around, “this bar. How many beers do you carry?”
“Hell, I don’t know. I’ve never stopped to count.”
“Every time I come here, the beer pulls are different. I’ve never heard you tell anyone that you don’t carry what they’re looking for. There is never the same sorts of soda in the bottle cooler from one day to the next. The soda gun has different labels whenever I read them. A cat owns this place, and as far as I can tell runs it.
“How do you do it?”
I looked at her for a moment, gauging how much I should say.
“Brita, have you ever belonged to a community that made you feel like you were a part of it?”
She blinked at the swerve. “A few friends, maybe. But, no. What does that have to d–”
“I have the advantage of experience that you haven’t had time to gather. I know a lot of people and have done favors for them that they gladly repay. But most important of all, I am a member of a big community of good people.
“You’ve noticed the Theatre, I’m sure.”
She cast her eyes down to the floor. “Yeah,” she mumbled.
“The Theatre is a place where people who have common interests in kink and BDSM play and share with each other.”
“Yeah. Ret told me to stay out of there. My case worker would have a cow.”
“Exactly. It’s not a place where under-aged folk should go. I have a hard-and-fast rule with groups that you have to be street legal outside those doors, and they’re all pretty good about that. I am a member of that community.”
“I figured. Aren’t you afraid stuck-up assholes will report you?”
“Are you afraid that you will have to deal with a drunk asshole?”
“No, not in the place.” Brita looked thoughtful, and then realized. “Huh, no, not at Floggin’ Brews.”
“Exactly. The groups that play in the Theatre, and the groups who meet and share drinks and experiences with each other, the folks like you and your friend Dani who need a safe place to gather — that’s all part of my community. And it’s the community that makes this place the way it is.”
Brita looked thoughtful, and then smiled. “Thanks, Mikhel, for . . . everything. You gave Dani and me a place to be ourselves.”
“Nothing but net with that remark. I want my place to be the sort of place where people can get what they need, and hopefully what they want as well.
“That’s how the place works. If you hear about a new cream soda from somewhere and you want to try it, I’ll have it. When a tired old man comes looking for a bit of his youth in the form of a bourbon he remembers from decades ago, I have a half-bottle of it on the shelves somewhere. When someone needs a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to bend with a tale, or Boss’s head to scratch, or a good joke to share — here’s where you can get it.”
I looked around, and most of those who were left in the place were listening intently, quiet smiles and gentle nods all the way around. I smiled and nodded back. Then I turned to Brita who was staring at me, and I saw tears form in her eyes. I opened my arms to see if she wanted a hug, and that was just the thing that we both needed right then. I looked up and saw Boss quietly sleeping in her perch over the door.
All we have is each other.