“Sometimes the truth can be
Chapter 19…The Final Chapter…
Franny shouted the name out so loud, two guys sitting at the bar near us turned around.
Franny composed herself and in a normal, sane voice…continued…
“Shelley…meet Stanley…the nicest bartender in the city of Minneapolis…and the lousiest bumper pool player. I’ve made a fortune off of him!“
I finally found the courage to actually look up at Stanley and I tried very hard to appear casual and…you know…over 21.
“Hey. Nice to meet you, Stanley.”
“Same…uh, it’s Shelley…right?” He said laughing.
“Yup.” I said confidently as I noticed him getting ready to take our order. Maybe he wouldn’t even ask to see my ID…could I get that lucky?
Franny ordered first.
“I’ll have a small tap beer and a small cheese pizza.”
Stanley looked over at me. I wanted to say, “I’ll have a Coke…” but I really did want a beer…so…in for a penny in for a pound…
“You know…I’ll have the same…and an order of onion rings, please.” I am so very polite.
“Okay, ladies, I will place your order and get your beers for you.” He ripped off the order slip and turned to walk away…but then…but then…
He turned back to us…
“Oh hey…we’ve got a new owner as of last month and he’s pretty careful about underage drinking here, so he’ll be over to check ID’s in a couple of seconds. I’ll be back soon with your drinks.” And then he left.
“Dammit! I thought you were good to go.” said Franny.
“That’s it, I’m leaving. I can’t do this, Franny. I’m a nervous wreck. I just want to go home…I’ll call a cab. No problem.” I made a motion to get up.
“Cooper, don’t worry! You’ll be fine. Your ID looks almost just like you…and you really do look twenty-three…especially in this light.”
“Just be cool…” Franny reached across the table and patted my hand.
“Hey…do you want to hear something funny? Bob asked me on the way back here if you had a ‘drinking problem’ since you made such a big deal out of ordering a Coke at the restaurant.”
“Oh, yeah?” I said…half listening to her as I was digging in my purse for my wallet…and… my fake driver’s license.
“So, what did you say?” I said.
“Oh, I just told him the truth…that you weren’t twenty-one.”
My head flew up and I reached across the table to put my hand over Franny’s mouth.
“Franny!! Quiet!!” I whispered loudly and looked around but Franny just ignored me, batted my hand down and kept talking…
“Oh, stop…no one heard me.” she said giggling. “I wonder what time Roger and his friends will show up…”
Nothing ever bothered Franny…she was always so happy and positive. It’s what I loved about her. It’s why she was my best friend.
I relaxed a little…glanced down at my ‘fake license’…I guess it did look kind of like me. And then I looked up to agree with Franny…
But her mouth had fallen open and her eyes had widened in horror as she gasped…
“OH MY GOD!! I’ll be damned!!”
I didn’t think twice. Whatever was going to happen next was not going to happen to me…I was completely done with this day.
I grabbed my purse, slid across the leather seat of the booth and started for the door. But just as I reached for the handle, a hand grabbed my arm.
“Excuse me, young lady. Are you even old enough to be in here? Let’s see some ID.” The voice was loud and angry.
Oh. Fuck!! I wrestled my arm free and without looking back I yanked open the door.
“I’m leaving! I’m leaving!” I yelled to the guy over my shoulder and I almost ran outside.
“Not before you give me your phone number!” he said and followed me out.
What was going on? Was this guy some kind of psycho?
In the dancing Fall shadows of a late September afternoon…and feeling safely ‘legal’ now that I stood on a street in Minneapolis and not in some bar that required me to be something I was not, I angrily whirled around.
I found myself looking into the very intense, laughing blue eyes of the new owner of The Friendly Inn.
Or…as I had come to know him just a short time ago…’Hank’…who was now wearing a white chef’s apron that said, “Yes, I AM the cook” over his raggedy white tee shirt and jeans.
Stunned…I, of course, swore madly.
“What the hell is going on? Who are you anyway?” I shouted at him, not enjoying the smirk on his face one bit.
“Well,” he said and pointed to his apron…
“I’m Hank Sullivan. And as of two and a half weeks ago…the new cook and owner of The Friendly Inn.”
He reached up to block the sun’s rays from hitting his eyes and I noticed his left hand where there was now a simple gold wedding band resting on his third finger.
“And…I guess you’re also still somebody’s “faithful” husband as well…” I said accusingly.
I knew who had the upper hand right now…and it was not Mr. Married Guy…no matter how cute he was when he grinned…and he was grinning now…from ear to ear.
“Cheating on your wife is not funny.” I said indignantly. “How would you feel if she was biking all afternoon with a strange young man?”
I was on a roll. When you’re right…you’re right. And I was definitely right!
“Plus…it’s not fair to women like me who…who…trust that you’re not married if you ask them to go for a ride on their motorcycle…”
I knew I was on shaky ground here since I had sort of instigated the whole “going for a ride idea” by kind of flirting with him in the first place…but still…
“Really? That’s the best you can do?” he laughed. “You’re trying to drink illegally in my bar which could cost me my license, a ton of money…which I don’t have right now…and possibly destroy me.”
I looked at him questioningly…”How do you know I’m not…”
Before I could finish…he said. “Bob called me.”
“Oh…” Well. He had me there. We were both wrong.
“Okay,” I said grudgingly…looking down at the sidewalk. “I guess we were both wrong.”
“Nope. Just you. You’re the only one who is wrong. I’m completely innocent…of all wrong doing.” he said smugly.
My head popped up.
“What! What the fuck do you mean?” I said totally dumbfounded.
“Well,” he said. “I’m actually not married. I only wear the ring to keep young women from hanging around the bar area and costing me business.”
“The previous owner suggested it…he was single when he bought this place 40 years ago…and it really does work.”
“Only I keep forgetting that it’s on when I leave here. It doesn’t take long to get a tan line when you ride a motorcycle.”
He slipped off the ring to reveal the tell-tale white band.
“I tried to explain that to you a couple of times back at the restaurant,” Hank continued, “but then you seemed kind of angry and not that interested in me so I thought what the hell.”
“I see…” I said softly…looking down. Feeling a little stupid…I was at a loss for words.
Hank, however, was not.
“So. How old are you, Cooper?”
“You mean today?” I said a little flippantly…”Or in December…when I will be twenty-one?”
I looked up at him…Oh…those eyes…
He gave me a huge grin…slowly shaking his head from side to side. Then he came over and threw his arm around my shoulders…pulling me next to him.
“C’mon back in, Cooper. You can hang out with your friend as long as you don’t order any beer…I’ve got an in with the ‘owner.'”
As we started walking back toward the entrance to The Friendly, Hank said, “It’s Sunday tomorrow and we’re closed. I hear it’s supposed to be another great day…”
“Want to go for a ride?” he asked.
I stopped for a moment and then said…looking up at him…
“Do I need an ID?”