“There’s a bus that turned over on highway 35 killing a surprised cow.”
The news blares through radio 24 hours a day in this bar.
And if it’s not the news, it’s some DJ screaming about how you can be a winner.
My father sits carefully down on a stool at Bear’s Biker Bar and scratches away at some lottery tickets.
“I win,” he says to Bear, the bartender. “look at my winnings!”
“You got nothing. You scratched it all off and nothing matches. You didn’t even win a dollar,” Bear says.
The bar is busy tonight. Someone just finished reading some bad poetry and there’s a kid who’s gonna go on later and do some comedy. Like everybody, he has dreams.
“Give me my dollar,” Dad says. Bear laughs and salutes me.
“We have no idea who’s gonna win these elections but we do know lots of anecdotes about these candidates–” the radio says, before I shut it off.
And for a moment there’s silence in this bar where the mumbling is drunk and stories never end.
“I lost my leg in a war…”
“I lost my wife to a website…”
“I lost my hair…”
“I won, Bear,” says Dad. “Give me my dollar.”
Everyone here wants to be great and winning even in their loss. Except for me. All I can think is all I have is this one moment and I don’t want to look back and say I missed it. And slowly Charlie takes the stage. He’s the town warrior poet, librarian and head of the Weekend Warhammers Motorcycle club. He can barely stand because he spent the last two hours sitting indian style on the bar’s porch reading some Shel Silverstien and Lord of the Rings to a bunch of kids. I know because mine were there.
He clears his throat and says, “Sadie come play?” Not tonight I shake my head and point to Robert McGuiness, my friend and guest.
Charlie starts to play the cords to “Free Fallin.” He’s quick to point out that it’s the Tom Petty version and not the one that John Mayer ripped off.
“You can go sing and play,” says Robert. I shake my head no. Tonight I just want to enjoy it. Robert stands up and grabs my hand. He leads me to the dance floor where several drunks are already trying to dance in a slow clumsy shuffle.
“She’s a good girl. Loves her momma,” sings Charlie.
And so we dance.
“Get off my girl, buddy,” says Dad. He’s walking toward us. “Get off my girl. I’m winning tonight.”
Not sure if Dad knows I’m his daughter or if he thinks I’m his girlfriend again.
Robert takes a step away and bows. Dad cuts in as the chorus goes on “Free fallin…Free fallin” and I think this song is completely inappropriate to be dancing with my father but not as inappropriate as the time he asked me to dance to “I wanna sex you up.” And Dad starts slowly spinning me.
“Did you see I won tonight Sadie?” and he twirls me. “Like the time when you were little and I won that TV in the raffle.”
All we have is right here. All I have is this moment when he knows who I am. And Charlie looks at the twirling and he stops mid free fall. He puts down his acoustic and picks up an electric guitar and starts playing the chords for Hallelujah. “That’s right Sadie we’re winning,” says Dad as he spins me again.
“I heard there was a secret cord that David played and it pleased the lord,” says Charlie.
And we spin. And I look over at my friend Robert. He’s a former journalist and now the local junk man in town. He makes me laugh and he winks.
Then Dad looks over at him. “You wanna cut in for a twirl, buddy?”