Tag Archives: fishermen

Night Life in Happy Jack’s: ‘Two-Beer’

IMG_6070by Dell Franklin

Bob ‘Two-Beer’ Bullnair refuses to listen to reason, especially if he’s into his third beer. Two-Beer works exclusively for Rafe Monk. He is around my height, six feet, but at least 200 beans of non-defined farm-boy strength that is the awe of fellow fishermen, for Two-Beer will outwork, outlift and outlast anybody on the waterfront. His Midwestern pie-face owns tiny black eyes that are pathetically sincere, especially when he hits on women before his second beer. He is totally honest, trustworthy and earnest, will do anything for anybody, is intelligent and has a degree in engineering from the University of Iowa, and yet here he is, a deckhand in Morro Bay, California, living in a windowless shack and unable to get laid and avoid beatings.

On this Sunday evening Two-Beer’s button eyes are pinpricks inviting disaster. He wants a beer but I know we’ll all be in big trouble if I serve him one, and so, for the twentieth time, to distract him, I ask him why he ended up fishing in Morro Bay when he could be a serious person with a high-paying job in the grown-up tech world.

“I don’t wanna be like other people and do what other people do,” he tells me. “I do what I wanna do. And don’t you go mentioning my college degree again. Fuck the degree! I want people to think I’m stupid, but you know I’m not. You probly think you’re smarter than me, ‘cuz you’re a wise-ass, and you write for that shitty paper, but you’re not as smart as me. All you can do is tend bar and write shit. Otherwise, you’re good for nothin’.”

“I drove a cab.”

“Anybody can drive a cab.”

“Not everybody can drive a cab. It’s a harder job than you think.”

“Bullshit. If you can do it, anybody can do it.”

“You couldn’t do it. You couldn’t tend bar, either.”

“I could so. Anybody can tend bar.”

“Not you. A bartender needs diplomatic skills. You argue with everybody. You have no social amenities. You can’t be around booze without drinking, and you’re an idiot of a drunk. And you can’t fight.”

“Bullshit. I’ll kick your ass. I was on the high school wrestling team and won my matches, went to the state championships. The Midwest is wrestling country. I’d squeeze you into a pretzel.”

“You only fight when you’re drunk. Two beers and you’re helpless. You have no idea how many times I’ve saved you from a beating, but you never remember, because three beers and you black out. Rafe, Farraday…, they all have to watch you like hawks when you go up the coast. You go in bars like this, where nobody knows you, somebody’s gonna beat your ass into a bloody pulp.”

“I’ll have my second beer now, Mr. Know-it-all.”

“I’m not gonna serve you a second beer. Know why? There’s women in here, and women are always your natural enemy. Especially after two beers. I mean, you might even get laid in this dive if you had just one beer, or smoked a little weed.”

“Who are you? My social director? My shrink?”

“I’m your bartender, an important person in your milieu. I’m also your friend. I look out for you. I’m sick of seeing you get beaten senseless by people who have no business beating you senseless, and I’m sick of hearing about people beating you senseless. Somebody’s got to protect you from yourself. I care.”

“I know you do, but that doesn’t mean I hafta accept your protection or you caring about me. I’m my own man. I’m not a boy. I’m thirty-two years old. Besides, I’m unimpaired, and indestructible. I can take more punishment than you’d ever take, Mr. Know-it-all-tell-everybody-their-business bartender. Now gimme that beer, if you don’t mind, sir!”

“What are you gonna do if I don’t give it to you?”

He cracks his innocent Howdy Doody/Alfred E. Newman grin. “You know I’d never hurt you. You know the second beer I’m okay. It’s the third one I run into trouble.”

“My guess is you’ve had more than one in your dump or in other bars before coming down here.”

“I want my second beer, Franklin!” He’s becoming angry, pushing.

“I saw you coming out of Legend’s.”

“They wouldn’t serve me. I’m eighty-sixed.”

“I’m absolutely positive you’ve been nipping.”

“Fuck you! Gimme my fucking beer, man!”

“Go away, Two-Beer!”

“Don’t call me Two-Beer! I hate that name. It demeans me. I’m an educated person and I deserve dignity, you arrogant fucker. My name’s Bob Bullnair. Serve me!”

I walk away. Two-Beer looks especially persecuted, tells Homer Carp and Joe Farraday, who are sitting nearby, he’s being picked on because he’s a proud Native American. (He’s only ¼ Osage). Finally, he’s at the front door. He hisses at me, scrooches up his face to show his revulsion at the mere sight of me, and gives me the finger in a very exaggerated, menacing manner, and shouts, “I’m goin’ down to the wharf where they respect me, asshole. Fuck YOU-U-U-U!” He storms out through the swinging doors. Homer, at the end of the bar, flashes his grin, which looks like his teeth are a bunch of misshapen nails protruding from his lips. Farraday, who sits beside Weasel Frazier, displays his grin, which resembles a dog sneering.

Beer Can Bessie shows up and takes her usual stool up front and as far away from the crowd as possible and orders a bottle of beer and we exchange the usual hugs. I light her cigarette with our bar matches, which have no logo on the cover. It’s raining hard outside and she has on her overcoat and hat and doesn’t bother to remove them. She just got off work as an RN at the emergency room at a hospital in San Luis Obispo. Vera, Carp’s live-in woman, diminutive but known for her ferocious manner as “The Wolverine,” comes in through the back door, walks around Homer without acknowledging him or his friends and sits beside Bessie as I draw her a beer and light her cigarette. I sip a shot of top-shelf vodka while they talk. I fetch and devour a burrito from down the street. I’m savoring a cup of coffee with Kahlua when John, who manages the Pizza Palace two blocks down, calls.

The Pizza Palace has a rustic dining room and an enclosed patio with tables and serves pitchers of beer, and evidently Two-Beer came in claiming I’d sent him down. John served him a pitcher of beer and he began bothering some gal who was with a framer called Ortho, and when Two-Beer hissed and insulted his girl and got his pitcher dumped on his head and then got slaughtered before a few regulars pulled Ortho away, John and the crew threw him into the street.

Bessie and the Wolverine turn to see Two-Beer stagger through the front doors looking like he stuck his face in a garbage disposal. His T-shirt is torn half off his body and his hair is soggy with beer as he sidles up to the bar while I hold the phone, his eyes little nasty lasers.

“Do me a favor, Franklin,” says John, on whose Pizza Palace sponsored basketball team I once played point guard and helped lead them to their only city league championship and lone trophy. “Don’t ever send that mongoloid lunatic down here again, okay?”

“I didn’t send him down there, John. I wouldn’t sick the crazy bastard on my worst enemy.”

“He said you told him I’d serve him because we’re big hoop buddies.”

“I never said any of that, John. I’d never pawn the puke off on you.”

Two-Beer yells at me, “GIMME A BEER, YOU GODDAMN BUNION!”

“Oh, I see you got the moron now, huh? He ran everybody out of here. I’m talking families with kids. Thanks a lot, pal. Maybe I’ll send one of my blacked-out drunks to your place, huh?”

“That’s all I got, John.”


“He called one of my waitresses, a high school girl, a wart, a bunion, and a cunt, and hissed at her, and she ran out of here crying hysterically.”

“I’m sorry, John, I really am, but I’m telling yah, man, I NEVER sent the puke down there.”

“I gotta go, Dell. I got a mess to clean up. Thanks for sending that crazy person to my establishment and ruining our good name, I really appreciate it.”

After hanging up, Two-Beer is sort of draped over the bar, eyeing me up with persecuted malevolence, blood dripping from his nose and swollen, cut lips, face slack. “How about some coffee, Bob?” I say to him.

“How about some cawww-fee?” he mocks sneeringly. “Don’t try an’ schmooze me. Don’t try an’ outsmart me, cuz yah can’t, yah bunion.”

“Why you calling me, of all things, a bunion, Bob?”

“A boil, a wart, a …pus-tule.”

“Why you callin’ me those awful names, Bob? I’m on your side. I’m your friend.” I pour myself out a vodka, sniff it.

“Fuck you, I got no frenz…damn you, pus-face, I want my fuckin’ BEER!”

“You settle your dumb, sorry ass down,” Bessie says quietly.

Still draped over the bar, his head turns like a turtle’s toward Bessie. “Who the fuck are you?”

“You don’t wanna know, dipshit.”

“Who you callin’ a dipshit?” he says defensively.

Bessie calmly appraises him. “When’s the last time you got laid, stupid?”

Two-Beer’s trying to focus now. “None-a yer bizness, bitch.”

“You haven’t been laid in years. You gotta pay for it, like a beggar, though I doubt even the most desperate, drug-ridden hooker’d have you. You’re uncouth. A loser.” She takes out a new cigarette and I light it. She blows out smoke. “Poor stupid fisherman. Eat your poor lonely heart out.” She takes a slug of her beer. Turns back to me. “Give him a beer. I’ll take charge.” Two-Beer gazes at me, mouth agape, horribly bloodshot eyes terribly confused. I draw him a draft. He looks at it.

“Go ahead, drink your beer, stupid ape,” Bessie says. “Dig your own grave. You’re just about the stupidest, lamest male hide and pair of balls in creation, goddamn drooling, slobbering yokel, you’re like somebody’s abandoned goddamn St. Bernard.”

Two-Beer mutters, “My name’s Bob Bullnair and you can kiss my white ass.”

“Oh, that’s real intelligent. You’re a scholar as well as a boor.”

Two-Beer takes a swig of his beer—half of it trickles down his throat. Everybody’s looking on. I turn down the jukebox. Freshen up my shot. Lean back against the bar. These are golden moments, make the job worthwhile.

“Intelligent? I got a diploma from the University of Iowa, white-trash bitch. Whatta you got? Look like a homeless wench t’ me.”

Bessie looks him over. “So you’re gay, huh? A homo?”

“I ain’t a damn queer! Fuck you! I’m a man!”

Bessie snuffs out her cigarette. Finishes off half a bottle of beer, puts it down, studies Two-Beer, who gapes at her, licking his bloody, sliced, swollen lips. “I guess we’ll have to see about that,” she says. She tosses some bills on the bar, squeezes the Wolverine’s arm, stands and walks over to Two-Beer. She withdraws a hanky from her purse and dabs at his face. Two-Beer watches her, half standing now. She looks him up and down. Puts her hanky away. “Look,” she says “if you just shut your trap and follow me out the door like a good dog trying to please his master, you might just get lucky. You up to it, dipshit?”

Two-Beer straightens, teeters. He nods. He swigs his beer, most of it streaming down his neck. He flashes his Howdy Doody/Alfred E. Newman grin. Bessie snags him by his torn T-shirt and tows him lurching out the door while everybody cheers and claps. I lift my shot and bolt it. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his mate, Wilbur, a very needy chocolate lab he rescued from the animal shelter. He is the founding publisher of The Rogue Voice and is currently working on a book about his dad, The Ball Player’s Son.


Night Life in Happy Jack’s: Moolyaks

IMG_6070by Dell Franklin

Jessi, my fellow bartender, pulls me aside on a busy Friday night around 10, the band on a break. She points at the two men sitting on my end of the bar, up front. “Dell,” she says, stressing, “those guys gimme the creeps. They scare me.”

For a woman as blustery, foul-mouthed and often intimidating and confrontational as Jessie, she is easily spooked. Blond Amazon ex-nude stripper and biker moll from down south, her sensing of danger leads to immediate panic; one minute cloyingly needy, the next she has physically attacked men and women in this bar. I see her point with these two guys—the way they stare at women—but so far I have managed to build a sort of rapport with them, if that is possible.

“They’re from Crescent City, Jess,” I explain. “They’re commercial fishermen and loggers. They’re down here for the albacore run.”

“But all the boys are out fishin’,” she says. “Even my Bruce, with his bad back, he’s fishin’.” She stares at the men. She’s got a voice like a meat-grinder from booze, smokes and drugs. “Dell, they look like those apes they showed us in high school.”

“You mean, Neanderthals.”

“Yeh! Like…gorillas. They got weird, slitty eyes. They don’t look like other people. They don’t even look like Rafe Monk. I wish Rafe was here. Those guys give me the willies.”

Fact is, these two are giving a few folks up front a case of the heebie-jeebies. There are crude wooden booths adjacent the tables ringing the dance floor, and sitting in one closest to the door, directly behind the Neanderthals, are two slumming yuppie couples I’d guess are in their thirties. They sip foofoo drinks and left me two quarters instead of a dollar or two as tip, which immediately places them on my shit list.

The man who ordered the drinks has perm-frizzed hair and eyeglasses and keeps gazing over at me as if to get my attention as one of the thugs turns in their direction and says something to the table. Both men are around thirty-five, probably stand 5 feet 9 inches, and their squat, thick trunks hold block heads on no-neck shoulders. In Levi’s and tank-tops, heavily tattooed, their eyes possess a challenging surliness

The women in the booth are attractively presented and well endowed, and when I ask Jessi if she thinks their boobs are real, she says with decisive defiance, “They’re phony. Mine are real, baby. I’m thirty-six and my titties still stand tall and proud.” She grins at me. She wears a red skin-tight mini-skirt and halter top exposing cleavage. “Those high-end bitches think their shit don’t stink. They oughta be down on the embarcadero in the fancy joints. Let’s do a shot, honey.”

We do shots of Crown Royal, her preference. The thugs leer at me. I mosey over to them after mixing some drinks. One of them has short blond hair and blunt, snubbed features, while the other has long greasy black hair and could be part Indian. The blond says, “That’s yer wife, huh? You own this joint?”

“Nah, don’t own anything, pal.”

“She yer woman?”

“Nah. Just work together.”

“That’s some woman. Reminds me of the barmaid at the Bear Flag in Moss Landing.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

“Them two fags in the booth behind us, they mouth off t’ me one more time I’m gonna kick ass. Me and Shep, we don’t take no shit from no man.”

Shep adds, “Them bitches, they give us the come-on, man.”

I offer my hand to Jed, the blond, and then shake with Shep. Jessi, mixing highballs, watches. “Welcome to Morro Bay,” I say, my hand still feeling their crushing grips, which I matched. “Try and ignore those folks.”

I get busy. The frizzy-haired yuppie comes up for another round. Makes sure to wedge in at the middle of the bar, places his order. I fill it. He pays, leaving fifty cents. Then he leans forward, peers down the bar at my new friends, who are eyeing us, and says, “Those two sub-humans, you shouldn’t be serving them; they’re really too drunk. Isn’t there a policy on cutting people off these days?”

I fold my arms. “I have my own policy. This is Happy Jack’s.”

“The blond bozo, he flicked his tongue at my lady and grabbed his crotch. They’re bad news. You’re the bartender here. If this were my bar, I’d have those two out of here before they start big trouble. Don’t you have a bouncer?”

“No. Sometimes the fishermen help, but they’re all out to sea.”

“Well, I’m an attorney in San Luis Obispo, and my advice right now is to get the cops in here and get those two out of here for lewd behavior.” He hands me a business card from his wallet. “This is your responsibility. I’m holding you to that. Those two are beyond offensive. They’re downright…ghoulish.” He issues me a look of disappointment and takes his drinks back to his table.

The thugs, who’ve watched our conversation, motion me over. “What’d that faggot tell yah?” Jed asks.

I fold my arms. “He thinks you’re making a pass at his wife.”

Shep almost comes off his stool. “She done made a pass at US!”

“She give us the goo-goo eye,” Jed adds.

“She wants it,” Shep maintains. “Them girly boys ain’t givin’ her no play. They starvin’ for real men.”

Jed grins at me. “Where we come from, them punks be fucked over already.”

I place my palms wide apart on the bar and lean forward. “Look, best thing to do, if those babes really got the hots for you, is wait for them to make THEIR move. Right now you can’t be horning in on ‘em if they’re sitting with those stiffs.”

“We gotcha.” Jed says. “We don’t aim to make no trouble for YOU. We just wanna get laid, and if we can’t do that, we wanna get in a good fight.”

Shep grins. He’s missing two teeth on the side and his nose is dented. “We rather fuck than fight.”

They order another round. I mix it, bring it over. The band starts up. Now the lawyer comes to the middle of the bar. “You’ve lost control of your bar, mister. Those two apes are taking over, and you’re allowing it. They are blatantly sticking their tongues out and grabbing their crotches and making obscene comments to our girl friends. If YOU can’t get rid if them, I’LL call the cops.”

“You’ll sit your ass back down and do nothing of the sort,” I tell him. “You don’t tell me how to run my bar, motherfucker.”

“Oh that’s cool, calling me a ‘motherfucker.’ Lots of class. Look, anything happens to us with those bozos, we’ll sue this bar and you, especially.” He issues me a withering you’d better-believe-I-can fuck-up-your-life look, and adds. “You’re afraid to stand up to those apes and protect your clientele.” He walks back to the booth with his drinks.

Jessi is beside me. My hands are shaking. My stomach flip-flops and roils with heat. “Dell, I feel big trouble comin’, honey. Let’s do a shot.”

We do shots. Jed is now at the booth asking the girl with the lawyer to dance, I would guess. I quickly move past Jessi and out from behind the bar and push through the crowd to the booth, where Shep stands beside Jed as they have words with the lawyer and his friend while their women shrink in mortal fear. I get between them. Frizzy hair stands and starts in on me about taking charge.

“Sit the fuck down!” I roar at him.

He sits down.

“This is my bar! I’m bartender! You keep to your profession and shut your hole, mister, this is MY turf!” I turn to Jed and Shep. “Let’s go outside a minute, guys, we need to talk.”

“We ain’t got no beef with you,” Jed says.

“I know you don’t, Jed.”

The lawyer rises. “You’re kissin’ their asses,” he whines.

“Sit down, motherfucker! Now!”

He sits down.

I gently place my hands on the wrecking-ball shoulders of the two moolyaks and lead them toward the front door while the band roars on and the crowd of wild dancers parts. It is warm and balmy outside.

I stand before Jed and Shep on the sidewalk. “Look, guys, you gotta help me here. Those geeks are lawyers and they’re tryna get me in a position to sue me and my boss, who’s a Marine veteran of the Second World War.”

“We win’t got no beef with you, man,” Jed says. “Do we, Shep?”

“Fuck no, we ain’t got no beef with you.”

“But we got a beef with them punks,” says Jed.

“They’re not worth having a beef with,” I tell Jed.

“We’re gonna kick their asses and take their fuckin’ bitches, cuz they been fuckin’ with us.”

“We ain’t backin’ down from no man,” Shep adds.

“Look, as a favor, guys, I don’t want you fighting in my bar.”

They look at each other. They’re pretty wobbly. Jed grins at me. “But we drove alla way down here cuz we wanna get in a fight.”

“We come a long way to get in a fight in Happy Jack’s,” Shep explains.

“We been in fights in every fisherman’s bar on the coast, clear from Alaska, but we ain’t been in a fight in Happy Jack’s.”

“Look, if you get in a fight in my bar, you’ll end up in jail. I don’t wanna see you guys in jail. I consider you guests of mine to look out for.”

“We ‘preciate that,” Jed says. “But we don’t mind goin’ t’ jail. We been thrown in jail in every port on the coast.”

“Nobody fucks with us in jail,” Shep grins.

“Look,” I say, “there’s nobody in the bar worth fighting. Those lawyers, you can’t fight them—they’re sissies. You won’t get no satisfaction beating up sissies, will yah?”

“Well,” Jed says. “We got to fight somebody in there if them sissy boys won’t fight us.”

“But that’s all we got in the bar tonight. You guys came down at the very worst time to get in a fight. All the tough guys, they’re on the albacore run, won’t be back for a day or two.”

Jed and Shep look at each other. “Shit,” Jed says.

“Fuck,” Shep says.

“Look,” I say. “You guys, you look like you been at it for a long time. How long you been drinking?”

“We been drinkin’ for two days, since we left Moss Landing.” Jed says proudly.

“When’s the last time you ate?”

“Well, we didn’t have no breakfast, did we, Shep?”

“Nah, don’t think so. Just chips and stuff.”

“Well, dammit, guys, since there’s nobody worth a shit to fight in the goddamn bar, and you ain’t eaten all day, why don’t you go on down the street to the Fisherman’s Roost. Serve breakfast day and night. And you get a real steak and eggs, not a runty little thing. All the fisherman in town eat breakfast there before they go out in the morning. You go on down there and tell ‘em Jessi and Dell from Happy Jack’s sent you. They’ll give you the royal treatment.”

Jed glances at Shep. “Well, I’m starvin’, Shep.”

“Yeh, me, too. Best to eat, I guess.” He’s dispirited.

“You guys get a good meal in yah, come on back and see me. Look, around the corner from the diner’s the Anchor Motel; it’s real cheap and clean, get a good night’s sleep. You guys’ve put in a long day.”

They discuss the situation. I fold my arms. They nod. “Guess we’ll eat,” Jed says. “Thanks for the tip, bro’. We ain’t got no beef with you. You been real fair, and we ‘preciate it.”

“Far as I’m concerned, you’re my guest’s in Happy Jack’s, and I aim to look out for you, just like you’d do for me if I was in Crescent City and drank in your bar.”

“Any time you come to Crescent City, we got yer back, bro’.”

We shake hands all around and I watch them wobble down the sidewalk. I take a big breath, exhale. Re-entering the steaming cauldron, as I pass the first booth, frizzy hair stands.

“I don’t appreciate being insulted by you and cursed by you in front of our ladies,” he states, issuing me an official look of reprimand and possible threat.

“I just kept you and your friend from getting beaten to death.”

“That’s your job. You did a lousy job. I’m contacting the owner of this establishment and inform him of what an incompetent jerk you are, and I’m going to make it a point to get your job.”

I pound the table with my fist, shaking their drinks. The girls shrink back as the lawyer jumps. “You want my job, you piss-ant, take it! Get behind the bar! You wanna talk to my boss? He’s a combat vet from the Great War and I’m a vet and we stick together like fucking brothers. Now you get the fuck out of here! You and your trashy bitches are eighty-sixed.” I toss a bill on the table and grab their drinks and walk over and place them on the bar. Jessi grins at me as I shake a fist at the lawyer, who starts to protest. “Get the fuck out! You’re banned for life on the grounds you’re a weasel and a puke, now move OUT!” I’m waving my arms wildly, frothing at the mouth, and they rise, the women grabbing purses, and scurry out the front door.

I receive a standing ovation from the crowd and a toot from the band. Behind the bar, Jessi has two shots of Crown Royal waiting for us. Before we down them, still grinning, she high-fives me.§

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his mate, Wilbur, a very needy chocolate lab he rescued from the animal shelter. He is the founding publisher of The Rogue Voice and is currently working on a book about his dad, The Ball Player’s Son.

Night Life in Happy Jack’s: El Niño’s coming! El Niño’s coming!

IMG_6070by Dell Franklin

Monday evening happy hour in notorious Happy Jack’s in Morro Bay and the usual crew along the bar—detached from the poolroom regulars and those scattered up front—and the topic of discussion is “El Niño,” the storm that pounded the area with a touch of disaster a few years back.

“No use stickin’ around here when El Niño hits,” states Eugene, a fisherman, “Cuz there ain’t gonna be no fishing. Might as well take a vacation—or go work at somethin’ else.”

“This El Niño’s supposed to be three times worse than the one in ’83,” claims Maggie, a 50ish woman with excess heft in her ass and bosom. “And IT damn near wiped us out.”

Chubby Estelle, Maggie’s fellow chain-smoker and best friend, says, “Don’t I remember! It rained 58 straight days, didn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” says Ed Stone, who lives with Estelle and has been on the wagon for months due to almost dying of alcohol poisoning and sips soda with lime and gazes at the Keno screen even though he’s a broke gambling addict helping to pay rent collecting cans. “I believe it wiped out the Cayucos pier and damaged some piers up and down the coast. I believe Cayucos was flooded, if I remember.”

Maggie nods. “Main drag was closed off, businesses flooded out.”

“I might go to Florida, try and fish there,” Eugene muses, holding up his empty mug. “Maybe try the Keys.”

“The Keys is nothin’ but a buncha goddamn queers,” offers Rafe Monk, known as One-eyed Pitbull, who hunkers over his chain of numerous keys, cigarettes, ash tray, change from a hundred dollar-bill, and a Stoli driver in a bucket.

“You can’t escape El Niño in Flor-uh-duh,” says Estelle. “El Niño’s got the whole world by the balls.”

You got that right,” Maggie says sourly.

Estelle giggles, grins, holds up her empty shot glass. She’s already survived a bout with cancer and started breeding at around 14 back in some hollow in Kentucky. Her kids are institutional parasites.

“I’ll tell yah one thing,” says Eugene, a strapping, rumpled man with swollen, enflamed eyes. “Fishin’s all haywire. Water’s so damn warm the albacore are only a mile off shore. Half the fleet’s down from Oregon and Washington pullin’ ‘em out like minnows. Hell, they’re half jumpin’ into yer boat. All those tuna fisherman out in the middle of the Pacific, they’re scrapin’ to survive.”

“Whole world’s cock-eyed,” agrees Maggie, squashing out another butt. I light her a new one. She coughs. “Goddamn pollution and the ozone layer,” she mutters, and coughs.

Estelle nods gravely. “Global warmin’, they call it, love.”

Stone nods, too, filling out a Keno card. “We’re gettin’ our comeuppance, it seems. Maybe we destroyed the goose laid the golden egg. Bad karma after hoggin’ all the resources on the planet and attacking dirt-poor, third-world countries.”

“Awh bullshit,” grouses Monk, a shrimper. Lacking front teeth, his incisors are formidable and his one eye flashes like a laser in a thick, mash-nosed mug topped off by a watch cap. “All them little bastards been leeching off us for years. Fuck ‘em.”

“I’ll tell yah one thing about tuna,” says Eugene. “That is one gnarly fish. You pull one of ‘em up and he’ll look yah right in the eye and tell yah it ain’t gonna be no picnic, he’ll kick yer ass. I gotta lotta respect for that fish.”

“There ain’t gonna be many of the poor fishies left the way this El Niño is going,” laments Estelle.

“Water’s so warm,” nods Maggie. “It’s killin’ ‘em all off.”

“I feel sorry for them poor people live up north on the Russian River, the way THEY get flooded out every year, with just a little bitty rain. They might be run out to sea.”

“Serves “em right,” says Walt, a fisherman at the corner of the bar, hunched over a draft. “There’s just a bunch-a queers up there anyhow. All them Frisco fags got the AIDS. It’s God’s way at getting’ back at ‘em for doin’ things ass-backwards and spreadin’ disease to normal folks.”

Monk, on perhaps his third pack of non-filter Camels, spits tobacco shreds off his tongue, and nods. “I laugh my ass off every time those butt-stuffers get flooded out.”

“You catchin’ any fish lately, Walt?” asks Eugene.

“Hell no. Boat’s down. I’m just drinkin.’”

Sheila, around 30, and only a little jiggly and nubile and fair-skinned like a Botticeli painting, always broke and looking for a job but picky about taking one, says, “I remember El Niño. It rained so hard every day we got washed out of our house. We got evacuated and had to live with my aunt in Atascadero.” She makes a glum face. “Atascadero sucks.”

“I’ll tell yah one thing,” Eugene says, holding up his empty beer mug and glancing down at Walt. “There’s no rush like hookin’ onto a 30-pound tuna and fightin’ that sonofabitch. He’ll come right out of the water and half onto your boat and look you in the eyeball and tell yah it’s gonna be hell to pay. He’ll tear you apart.”

Walt grunts. “Yeh yeh.”

“Whyn’t yah come out with me and do some real work and make some real bank, Eugene? I’m about fed up to the gills with One-Trip Dick and Weasel Frazier and his so-called shot-off dick. Been lookin’ for both of ‘em for two days. I can’t pay ‘em more than half their wages or I won’t see ‘em for a week, they might end up in jail.”

“I’m doin’ okay down at Virgil’s, Rafe. Make decent tips baiting up the tourists. Plus, I score a woman time to time.”

“Suit yourself.”

“I hear El Niño’s bobbing on the equator and takes up a third of the world,” Maggie states. “It’s like this monster jellyfish of hot gas, just comin’ at us!”

“I bet we get washed out,” Sheila says, appearing personally aggrieved. She loves drama. She had a relationship with this maggot named Jerome who sat in with certain bands as some sort of guitarist and tried to get on here as a bartender before I sabotaged his chances with the owner. He dealt drugs, was one minute deeply in love with Sheila and the next being a playboy, so she broke up with him and paraded this dullard named Marvin in front of him, reportedly the first guy Sheila dated in ages with a real job. This dork never had a woman devour him like Sheila, and when Jerome got jealous and wooed her back, this dork went crazy, broke into the pad Sheila and Jerome shared and beat Jerome up and set his long precious curly hair on fire and disappeared from Morro Bay. The whole ordeal was on the local TV news, with Sheila putting on a good show of emotion. “I hope I don’t hafta move back to Atascadero. They only got two bars and thirty-five churches.”

I keep mixing drinks and pouring beer and pushing Keno cards and emptying ash trays and mopping down the bar. “And the waves!” spouts Estelle, gloomy. “They’ll be like…tidal waves.”

“Tsunamis,” Stone corrects.

“…They’ll wash all our itty bitty houses off the beach. If it flooded Cayucos in ’83, how’s it gonna be if it’s three times worse?”

“What I hear is it’s five to ten times worse,” Eugene says. “It’ll be so rough at sea, nobody’ll try and fish.”

“Who gives a shit,” Walt says. “Christ, I’ve survived worse. It’s only a goddamn storm.”

“We had three feet of water in our house,” Sheila is telling Estelle and Maggie, who sort of look after her, though Maggie, unlike Estelle, will not loan her money or buy her a drink or put her up for a night and castigates Estelle in private for doing so. Sheila, after more ups and downs with the maggot Jerome, actually married a Mexican immigrant who held three jobs and ran off with him to Las Vegas and came back a year later skinny as a rail and claiming she had a mysterious disease no doctor had ever heard of or cured. “Everything I owned was ruined or destroyed. I had to start all over.”

“I hope it’s not like what you see on TV when all them rivers overflow, like the Mississippi,” Estelle says. “All them doggies and kitties on rooftops and volunteers savin’ the poor, scared little things, and everybody’s house underwater and all their treasures ruined. That’s so sad.” Near tears, she holds up her empty shot glass, and I fill it with her usual—cinnamon Schnapps. I pat her hand. “Wouldn’t that be terrible if it happened to US? It always happens to THEM, but I don’t want it to happen to us, because we’re all friends and we LOVE each other.”

“Them goddamn queers up in Frisco gonna be scurryin’ like a pack of rats,” says Walt, managing his first corroded smile. “I got a good notion to go on up there and pick a few of ‘em off with my Remington. Damn El Niño’s probly gonna cost me huntin’ season anyhow. Shit.”

“I’ll tell yah another thing,” says Eugene. “You go up to Alaska and fish salmon, those big bastards’ll pull yer ass right on outta the goddamn boat! They’ll come right on outta the water and give you the evil eye like that goddamn man-eating monster in that movie, JAWS. I ain’t bullshittin’ about that.”

“Settle down for Chrissake,” Monk grouses out of the side of his mouth. “That goddamn movie was bullshit anyway.”

“Hollywood faggots don’t know doodly squat about the goddamn fishin’ industry,” Walt tells Monk. Before getting his own boat, Walt worked for Monk but couldn’t take it, joining a long list of deck hands who couldn’t deal with Rafe’s hard-bitten and tyrannical ways. He lifts his empty mug and scratches the ears of his majestic and powerful Chesapeake who is beloved on the waterfront and known to dive to the deepest of depths to fetch anything Walt desires. “Movies are bullshit anyway. I ain’t gone to one in thirty years.”

Monk motions to Sheila, who’s a few stools down. “Come on over here, doll.” Sheila raises off her stool and wiggles that tender ass and places her hands across her ample chest like a helpless little girl. He hands her a sawbuck. “Get me another pack of Camels and have one yourself.” She pecks him on the cheek, takes the bill and heads for the cigarette machine beside the video games. “Give her a shot and a beer,” Monk tells me. “And gimme a refill.” I mix his drink, pour out a shot of Jack and a beer for Sheila, and when she returns with his cigarettes, monk hands her another sawbuck. “Go play somethin’ on the juke, somethin’ to drown out the bullshit in this shit-hole.” He flashes his incisors. She bolts her shot like a longshoreman and heads to the juke.

While Sheila pumps the juke, an apparition materializes through the back door in the person of long, lanky, heavy-bearded Joe Farraday, in his usual pea coat and watch cap. Monk glances at him with venom, sips his drink, turns away as Farraday sidles up beside Walt, who motions me to give Farraday a beer. Farraday pets Hugo, the Chesapeake, who’s up on his hind legs licking his face, and flashes me a smile that’s more like a dog either sneering or growling before attacking. He has worked on and off for Monk for years, been fired at least twenty times, has actually fought Monk here in Happy Jack’s and on his boat.

After I serve Farraday, who shakes my hand and addresses me as “honey,” I wander down to Monk, who’s waved me over.

“Give the worthless rotten prick a shot of Jack,” he says, still not looking in his direction. “Think he’s been in jail. Probly the best accommodations he’s had in years.” He puffs his cigarette. “He’ll end up eating his own shit.”

I lean against the bar holding a shot of chilled vodka and watch Estelle and Sheila fairly swoon as they attached themselves to Farraday with huge, warm hugs. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his mate, Wilbur, a very needy chocolate lab he rescued from the animal shelter. He is the founding publisher of The Rogue Voice and is currently working on a book about his dad, The Ball Player’s Son.