The Jug O' Nails
Inspired By The Music of Tom Waits
She struts into the smoky bar, with her blonde hair and high graces, taking her place on the usual barstool at the usual time…
Every Saturday night, where the night jazz howls and the bourbon drips in the cavern of the Jug O’ Nails, she sits nursing her seven and seven, smiling like a cougar at the faceless strangers across the bar that have become her drinking acquaintances. Ol’ Danny Boy doesn’t have to ask, he slides her drink to her and takes the money, smiling coyly from the corner of his mouth, all seeing and all knowing, as quiet as a Buddhist monk, while the animals around him bay for his alcohol and his attention… he is the centre of his own universe.
And there’s blind Joe on the piano, tinkling on ivories as white as his teeth, smelling her sweet scent as she walks in through the door, beaming a bright light as she passes him and cracking into a love number that could melt a block of ice, and make a grown man weep in his drunken sorrow.
One night she wore a white dress that clung to every fold of her white, creamy, sensual skin, her blues eyes were like moonbeams shimmering in a pool, a portal into another world, with a glint that makes you think like a hungry wolf in the snow filled alley outside, as you stumble home to your one roomed castle above the bowling alley, lying in bed next to your old lady as the red neon lights make the room an unholy red, you wake her up and think of blondes in white dresses with red roses pinned to their bosom, that red rose... with colour as deep as her lips…she fixes it and smells it, prods and smiles at it, coos at it in such a way it drives you crazy.
Oh what a change from the first night she walked into the bar, like a cougar in sheep’s clothing, clutching to her purse like it was her lover’s hand, meekly sitting on the stool like she thought it belonged to somebody else. A sailor picked her up that night, one of those kids on leave that come into drinking holes to become a man, especially holes like the Jug O’ Nails, where you drink yourself into a stupor and get into fights, you take a pounding and give a pounding, walking home with broken teeth and swollen eyes, and then pissing your fair share of blood and bourbon on an early Sunday afternoon while the football game crackles on the radio. After that first night she came back, like clockwork, getting picked up, businessmen, wise guys, sailors, all different shapes and sizes…she must know what inner beauty is…
I watch her every Saturday night, sitting in the shadowy corner at the counter, next to the cigarette machine, under the bright buzzing Budweiser sign, with my bottle of bourbon, shot glass and camel lights. Lusting over every moment and wanting to cloak myself over her loneliness, but backing down because my ol’ lady would kill me. I just sit and drink and let the music carry me off into the night sky, thinking about my younger days, when I could make a girl wet with just a wail of my guitar, before Crazy Eddie cut my finger off in a card game, right here in the ol’ Jug O’ Nails. My insurance is sweet Bourbon, a bottle on the house every Saturday night, with friends surrounding me; we just sit in our shadows and tap our fingers to the beats, aint nothing like peace and quiet in a room full of people… and the foxy blonde smiling in my direction. I just tip my hat and smile back, buying her a drink if the mood hits me…
I still buy her a drink…every now and again, but age is an old son of a bitch that creeps up on you and kicks you straight in the ass.
She stumbles into the Jug O’ Nails, with her peroxide hair and her low graces, missing her usual barstool at the usual time…and then climbing back on it again. She doesn’t smile, she sips from her seven and seven and talks about the good ol’ days, and then hawks up phlegm like a cat coughing up a furball, as a cigarette hangs out the yellow stained corner of her mouth. The businessmen, sailors and wise guys ignore her, except me, I smile at her and she smiles right back, in all the years drinking together we’ve never spoken once…strange…that’s the thing about the Ol’ Jug O’ Nails, they take your money and they take your youth, and you just keep on giving.