It was after six o-clock and Jenner was a couple beers past finishing his burger. Somewhat past his general state of paranoia as to the unexpected events that had transpired earlier in the day. Whatever had occasioned his being questioned that morning by the police was now no longer seeming so nefarious. “A lot of people get questioned on a daily basis.“, he reckoned out loud to himself. It was no different than every once in a while getting a speeding ticket or a parking violation. Sooner or later your luck would fall short and you’d receive a citation. Just your tough luck! He grabbed at the morsel of a tiny cold French fry on his plate. It was the bit about the old record player that was the part that was bugging him. Was it stolen? Taken out the back door in the night from one of the sixth street antique stores? Or maybe some little old ladies garage? It certainly didn’t rate as the crime of the century! There hadn’t been much crime of a serious nature in this town since he lived here, if any at all? Sure, the usual stuff like shoplifting or theft when some holiday vacation residents went back home. Maybe a fist fight that occasionally got out of hand? Or domestic dispute that ended up with an abused wife going off to a shelter? Murders? Not more than the two that he had read about in the Kenosha News had written about in a poorer part of town. At least not since nineteen-eighty one by ‘murder alley’ by 65th street. But that was really something! Four murders almost in a row at housed on either side ore a period of a couple of weeks. Each with no convincing explanation? They finally found someone to pin it on some months later. But he was already in jail. Overall not the sort of statistic that one would expect of a backwater Wisconsin minor metropolis like Kenosha! Something more in the line of what one would expect from that big neighboring city to the south.
The area in general had suffered some hard blows since Chrysler Corporation had filed bankruptcy ten years previous. The old Rambler factory that had been making engines for AMC had finally run out of gas as far as the foreign accountants of that international mega-corporation were concerned. A lot of people had pulled in their belts an extra notch. Some of the younger residents had moved their families further north to Milwaukee. Better job prospects. There were of course worse places to be. Thank heavens he wan’t living in Zion on the opposite side of the state line down in Illinois. It had become a haven for big trouble. Drugs, gangs, assaults on the street, you name it. Jenner took another swig from his mostly emptied glass. It was warm now and had lost all its flavor. Its ‘Zazz’ as his father used to say when he used to go along with his younger brother to Hogan’s Goat, one of the old local taps in Delavan. his face seemed to sour. That was something he didn’t like to recall a lot. His brother Luke. Jenner had gone to the community college straight out from Delavan Darien High School. Their old man had worked for years making auto clocks at the Borg plant just a mile or two down where they lived just outside of town. Somehow he had expected that both of two sons would come up with something better than he had in terms of a career? Luke had joined the army that first year but had been killed unexpectedly in what they had been told was an accident overseas just below the 33rd parallel in South Korea. Bad rotten luck to have as a rookie on his first deployment. The resultant pall of his brother’s death casting a shadow over everything. Jenner had made the daily drive to the shores of Lake Michigan to earn a college degree at Carthage College. But due to low grades in too many of his classes he had dropped out much to the consternation of his emotionally father. Now he was part time as a pizza driver on the weekends picking up any odd job that he could. Ten years of drifting through life hadn’t left him very optimistic. The future of the family as one might say was a total loss?
The door swung open just behind him as Gabby hurriedly pushed through. “For Christsakes Gabby!“, Jim carped, “It’s already a quarter after!” “How long do I have to hold down the fort?” Gabby’s heels clattered upon the hard linoleum in the direction of the gap leading to behind the bar. She pushed by the old sour puss giving him her best casual smile. “Why Jim, you’re such a sugarplum today, aren’t you sweetheart?”, she smiled as she bumped him a bit with her hip. “That and everyday!“, another boozy voice rang out from an anonymous local down at the other end of the bar. Gabby picking up the small knife used to cut bar fruit shaking her head at the empty tray. “Leave our poor sugarplum alone!“, she mockingly cooed back to the shadows. Jim looking back past her in the direction of the comment growling, “So everyone is a comedian today!” “See ay all later I’m out of here!” Gabby still at the center of the bar’s back aisle with her hands on her hips looking down, “You better run mon ami, you didn’t bother to finish the setups for tonight!” Jenner couldn’t help letting out a snicker at the floorshow that was lit up by the ‘stagelights‘ illuminating the bar. “Mind your manners, I see you over there darling!”, Gabby said in her usual playfully disparaging tone. At five foot five inches tall, cutting an extraordinary female figure even for a movie star, Gabby had the ability to direct traffic from across the room with simple look back in one’s direction. The impression she left was part old French film star Brigit Bardot pleasantly mixed with a somewhat “Desperado” movie Mexican version of Selma Hyack. Small, beautiful but sassy and tough. She was the type of lady bartender that expected her customers to mid their manners. And woe betide those who did not. Rumor had it that she carried a .32 cal hidden somewhere nobody could see or would be allowed to unless they got really violent. An ’86’ in her book was a hard stare and no more drinks coming your way until she announced closing time by turning up the house’s work light. Since it was a regular stop by the local constabulary who would simply park outside the portholes with a flashing Mar’s light thrown in for good measure not one ever thought to object. Gabby knew everyone.
Jim had gone out the back and Jenner watched Gabby catching up on the chores that the afternoon Milwaukee Journal news edition had precluded Jim from completing. She wielded the knife chopping limes and oranges like an iron chef. “Don’t worry honey pie!, she tossed over to Jenner between cuts,”I’ll attend to you an a second!” Jenner was one of her favorites. Probably because when he first started hanging here two years back he was one of the few that ignored her. Not staring down her cleavage like so many others. Or watching her pear shaped ass as she traversed back and forth up and down the old wooden trellis never hitting an in-between empty spot with her medium set of high heels. “That girl’s got gravity all figured out!“, one of he customers declared one night some months back. He didn’t last long at the bar. She seemed to like Jenner as someone to roll around that general level of mundane conversation that regular people had stored up during a day’s existence to share with someone that they could trust. Someone who didn’t carry it around to others behind her back and twist it into something dirty and mean spirited. Sure she occasionally caught Jenner looking admiringly at her now and again. But in a polite kind of way that didn’t make her feel like an object. That was OK. Jenner got up from the table carrying the empty plate and beer glass and setting them down on the side of the bar. “Thanks honey.“, she said as she pumped some dirty beer glasses over the soapy sponge device in the sink. “Anything new with you?”, she added after a couple of fresh ones sat upon the rack drying. “Not really.“, Jenner lied really wanting to say exactly the opposite. It seemed to be disrespectful and sort of dumb to be asking what she new about a dumb old record player down at Police headquarters. She brought over a fresh glass of beer from the tap and looked at him. “Something on your mind besides crime?“, she chuckled innocently. “Now why do you say that?“, Jenner said defensively somewhat startled. He never figured her for a mind reader but he played on like he was innocent. “No reason!“, she turned and casually walked over to a customer who had just newly arrived. What in the hell was going on, Jenner thought to himself? Is this my day to play the most guilty looking party.