“Stranger, that’s a topic you should be taking up with Tambourine Tom. He’s got the sex stones, and he should be telling the story.”
I was attempting to get answers about the questions flooding my mind, and the mayor wasn’t being too helpful, but I had to try. “I can’t get him to sit still long enough to ask a question, much less get an answer.”
“Yep. Been that way as long as I’ve known him.”
“Have you known him long?”
The mayor began telling me about Tom and how he wandered into town, and stayed. “I remember sitting right here where we are now when that little guy came blowing through the door. He looked like a wind blown tumbleweed. That red beard of his was all over the place. And that hair. He had to take it right down to the nubs to get all the tangles out it. He looked a mess. He was wearing some faded old blue jeans, and his boots looked like he’d walked the heels off them. I’ll always remember he was wearing a purple shirt. A clean, freshly pressed one. And, a hat that was so beat up it made me wander how it stayed on his head. He’s cleaned up some since that day ten years ago.”
“What’s with the way he dresses?”
“Oh, that. That’s just Tom being Tom. Every once in awhile he likes to honor his Irish ancestors by celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.”
“It’s the middle of July.”
“Doesn’t matter to Tom.”
“You were telling me about the day he walked in here.”
“Walk? I didn’t say anything about walk. That man doesn’t walk anywhere. I said he blew through the door. About took it off the hinges, too. He was dressed like some old, wind blown prospector who had just come in off the trail, except for the shirt. He still wears it every once in awhile. That day I was expecting a rundown old mule to come wandering in behind him. Sometimes, to this day, I still do. Well, Tom levitated himself over to the bar and asked Smitty if he could run a tab. Hell no, says Smitty. Tom says that’s okay, and pulls a wad of bills out of his pocket the size of a grapefruit. He peels off a hundred dollar bill and tells Smitty to set em up for the bar. There was only two of us in here at the time, but we didn’t care. Me and old Harry will drink anytime, especially when someone else is buying. I ordered myself a double. I figured that our good fortune might not hold out too long. Didn’t even know the man’s name at the time, and there was no telling how long he’d stay.”
“Excuse me, gentlemen, but Tamby is buying the house a round. You want the usual, mayor?”
“That would be nice, dear.”
“How about you, stranger? The same?”
“That would be great. Thanks.” Tambourine Tom was back at the other end of the bar. The mayor’s wife was perched on the stool next too him. Those two come and go like no couple I’ve ever known.
“Mayor, what’s with those two? Is she really your wife?”
“Hahahahahahahahaha.” The mayor has this high pitched laugh that is almost a teehee type of thing, but not quite. It’s kind of hard to explain. I just know, though, that it’s a laugh I’ll never forget. “That’s a good one, stranger. She’s not my wife. That’s the mayor’s wife.”
“But, aren’t you the mayor?”
“Here you are, boys.” Tina placed our drinks in front of us. Next to my bottle of cold beer she sits shot glass of brown liquid. “Thought you might need a little something extra.”
“Thanks. The way things are going you might be right.”
Tina wanders back to the her place behind the bar. She smiles our way, then makes her way to the other end where she scoops up Tambourine Tom’s money.
“Mayor. You were telling me about not being the mayor, and how the mayor’s wife is not your wife.”
“That’s correct. I’m not the mayor, and she’s not my wife. I wouldn’t mind being in Tom’s shoes right about now, though.”
“Mayor, you’d never fit into my shoes. They’re too big for you to fill.” How does he do that? Tambourine Tom was standing beside me and I didn’t even hear him approach, or see him until he spoke.
“You know, if Iris ever gave me a chance she wouldn’t give you a second look.”
“Who do you think she’s looking at now—me, not you.”
“You’ve been at it six months now. Getting anywhere?”
“I’ll get there. You just watch. Sometimes those sex stones are a little slow to work, but they’ve never let me down yet.” He was off again. Just like that he just disappeared. He was there, and then he wasn’t.
“You know, this used to be a quiet drinking establishment. That was before Tom. Now there’s no telling what will happen when he shows up. And he shows up everyday.”
Folks, about that time I realized I was thoroughly confused. I picked up the shot glass that sat on the table in front of me, and tossed the amber liquid to the back of my throat. The warmth of the whiskey spread out across my chest in all directions as it dropped towards the empty pit that I seemed to have neglected, except for the beer.
I had to get at least one of the growing number of questions answered. “Mayor, it you’re not the mayor, then who are you?”
“Oh, I’m just the mayor of this little bar. Smitty appointed me to the position back when he owned the place. That must have been, oh about fifteen years ago. Time sure gets away from you when you’re as busy as I am.”
“And, Iris isn’t your wife.”
“No, she’s the mayor’s wife.”
The alcohol was beginning to get to me by then. I don’t think the whiskey helped. “What mayor?”
“The mayor of the town.”
“So, she’s the mayor’s wife.”
“Stranger, either you’re a dense one, or you’ve had a couple too many. Like I said, that woman down there is the mayor’s wife.”
I turned to look to where the mayor was pointing, and spied a lone glass filled with ice and a clear liquid keeping company with a longneck bottle, both sitting on the bar in front of two empty stools, the back door quietly clicking shut.
“That man doesn’t have a chance. He’s just too stubborn to quit while he’s ahead.” The mayor stood and pushed his chair back. “Excuse me, stranger. I’ve got to visit the little boy’s room.”
As the mayor wandered towards the other end of the bar I looked around and pondered my predicament. Should I leave now, or stick around and hope for the best? Looking back on the situation I now realize I should have left when I had the chance, before Tambourine Tom unleashed his sex stones.