At the Keg

At the Keg

Don’t tell your mother we were here. Always sit at the bar. Tables don’t get drinks fast enough. Always tip fifty percent or more. The bartender will remember you. You’ll never have to wait for a drink. Don’t shout at the bartender, don’t slap your money down unless you are very good friends with the bartender. Leave a good tip and you can do all of that. Have an easy order. Only domestic bottles or cans. Don’t fuck with drafts or imports. Take a shot of whiskey if somebody else is paying. Don’t rely on that, though. I didn’t raise a moocher. Try a drink of this and grow some hair on your chest. Don’t cough it up. Don’t waste it. That’s my hard-earned money right there. Have a water. Have an orange juice. Have a Shirley Temple. Have a virgin anything. Sit at the same seat every time. Get a picture of yourself on the wall. See that man smiling with ten empties in front of him? That used to be me. Raise a glass in my memory here when I’m dead and buried. Never bring your girlfriend or wife here. This is a bad bar. This is a good bar. Come here when you’re tired. Drag your lifeless body here after a long day of installing cable, after fixing other people’s cars, after pouring concrete, after cutting grass for the city in one-hundred-degree heat, after cleaning toilets at the local high school. Keep Listerine and mint gum stocked in your car. Bring enough one-dollar bills for the jukebox. Know your audience. Play Willie. Play Hank Williams. Play Patsy Cline. Play Springsteen and hum along. Cry into your drink. Try to feel happy. Five drinks in and you will start to feel happy. Talk to the bartender. Try not to look at yourself in the mirror behind the bar. Drink until you can’t feel the pain in your lower back. Drink until your cash is gone. Bring just enough cash so that you stay long enough, but not too long so people think you have a problem. Don’t get kicked out. I love you. Want an orange juice? A cherry Coke? Have another sip of mine. I’ll order another round. Don’t get into barfights. Keep your head down. If you have to fight, fight, but don’t use an empty bottle. That’s attempted manslaughter. Fight dirty. Tip the bartender extra after a fight. Don’t gamble on pool, or darts, or the game on TV. Don’t drink the hard stuff too much. Come here after arguing with your wife. Learn how to use words that cut. This is how you hurt a woman you love without touching them. You will keep hurting them. Why? Because you’re my son. Don’t you fucking look at me like that. Have another sip. Grab some Listerine when we get to the car. Don’t tell your mother we were here.

After Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”


About the Author

Colin Brightwell is a Kansas City, Missouri native. His work has appeared in BULL, Reckon Review, Flyover Country Literary Magazine, Guilty Crime Story Magazine, PastTen, and Cowboy Jamboree. His is a graduate of the MFA program in fiction at the University of Mississippi. He currently resides in Oxford, MS.


Photo by Steve Allison on Unsplash