Bills and Beers


The bar was empty, except for the bartender and one man slumped in a worn stool looking down at his whiskey. The copper bell above the door rang sharply, announcing a burly man who stepped in from the cold.

“Hey, Georgie,” the man said, walking casually up to the bar top.

“Evening, Francis,” the bartender said. “The usual?”

“Yeah.” Francis stared at the man sitting in the worn stool. “Who’s this guy?”

“He’s a customer, who pays.” The bartender handed Franics a dark pint of foaming Guinness.

“I guess he doesn’t know he’s in my seat.” Francis took a slow draw from his drink.

The man in the stool downed his whiskey and signaled for another, checking his watch.

“Hey, guy,” Francis set his beer down in front of the man. “That’s my seat.”

“Well, I’m sitting in it.” The man knocked back the second whiskey and set the glass onto the bar top.

“Get a load of this guy, Georgie. Who do you think you are?”

“I’m Tim,” the man said.

“Smartass, huh?” Francis grabbed Tim by his leather jacket, spinning him round on the bar stool.

“It’s Francis, right?” Tim stared up at the man’s goateed face.

“Do I know you?” Francis tightened his grip on Tim’s collar.

“No,” Tim said. “No, you wouldn’t know me. You might know my boss though. Mr. Callahan.”

“Mr. Calla- Oh, fuck.” Francis released Tim’s jacket and smoothed it down. “Jesus, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Sit down, Francis.” Tim turned back to face the bar and Francis clambered into the stool next to him.

“Listen, buddy. I-I’m sorry for grabbing you like that. I had no idea that you-”

“Here.” Tim slid the Guinness to Francis. “Drink.”

Francis paused for a moment then grabbed the cold pint and chugged half before taking a breath, spilling some beer down his chin.

“Now, pay the man,” Tim said.

“What? No, it’s ok, I got a tab here.” Francis wiped his goatee with his sleeve.

“What’s his tab sitting at?” Tim’s unwavering eyes bore through Francis’ skull.

“One hundred and thirty.” The bartender said, examining a dirty mug.

“Planning on paying that anytime soon?” Tim asked.

“Shit,” Francis muttered, reaching into his pocket. “I-I don’t got any cash on me.”

Tim pulled a fat roll of bills from his jacket.

Francis eyed the money, swallowing hard. “Listen, I know Mr. Callahan is pissed at me right now bu-”

Tim held up a finger and then unrolled his bills, counting out several hundreds and twenties which he dropped onto the bar top and slid towards the bartender. “I’d appreciate a few minutes alone with Francis here. I’ve some business to discuss with him.”

“Whoa. Wait a second.” Francis raised his hands in protest. “Georgie?”

The bartender looked at Tim, then at Francis, before grabbing the cash and heading to a backroom past some swinging doors.

Tim rerolled his money and stuffed it back into his jacket.

“I was gonna pay my tab. I just don’t have any cash on me.”

“That seems to be a recurring problem for you.” Tim checked his watch.

“I’ll pay him back. He’s gotta know that, right?”

“Mr. Callahan already extended your loan closure date once.”

Francis rubbed his face, inhaling through his teeth. “Fuck, man.”

“You owe him a lot of money.”

“I know. I’m gonna get it back though. I’ll pay him. I still got time.”

“Yeah, you do.”

“Oh, fuck me.” Francis exhaled, chuckling nervously. “You gave me a start just then.”

Tim nodded to the half-empty Guinness pint in front of Francis. “Relax. Finish your drink.”

Francis grabbed the sweaty glass and slowly gulped the remaining beer. “Whew. Oh, man. You scared the shit out of me.”

“Yeah,” Tim said. “That’s why Mr. Callahan hired me.”

“Well, message received, you know? Loud and clear.” Francis chuckled setting his empty down. “I got till the first of the month, right? What’s today, the 25th? No, the 28th?”

Tim stood up from his stool, raising his arm to read his watch. “It’s the 31st, Francis. And…” With his free hand, Tim flicked open his switchblade. “Midnight.”

~ fin ~

Nicolas Frame is an author of short fiction, nonfiction articles, and some poetry.