Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gunpowder Tea, Chapter One, Part One

Chapter One

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

New York City, the last summer of the millennium.

The setting sun shed its last golden rays on the little Statue of Liberty far, far below, out in the harbor. Big black ships and little white boats, both as tiny as matches, crisscrossed its waters with their wake trails. Beyond the harbor and the twin black blotches of Liberty and Ellis Islands, the as black flatlands of New Jersey, intersected by inlets and waterways, stretched into a golden infinity.

On the other side, a vast rectangle of sun-gilded silvery columns stretched out and down until they too blurred into rows of matches. Atop Tower Two the tourists' cameras started to flash, and would not cease until the observation decks closed for the night. There sure was a reason why the southeastern quadrant of the one acre of Manhattan real estate that was the 107th floor of One World Trade Center was called The Greatest Bar on Earth and why it was Kevin Traynor's favorite hangout in all New York.

This side of the narrow floor-to-ceiling windows was pandemonium. Actually, it wasn't really pandemonium. Even on this Friday night, the bar was only moderately busy at this early hour. There were still some seats and barstools available, and only a couple junior investment bankers released from their cubicles were doing their antics on the small dance floor. It only felt like pandemonium to a Traynor who did not feel like dealing with people tonight. But like the game was safest below the barrel of the hunter's rifle, the multitude of the eight million constituted the best guarantee of anonymity for Traynor. Give or take a cougar or two to be dodged.

Tonight, a tequila sunrise and Traynor were celebrating the night his high school had closed for the summer. As far as he was concerned, it ought to be closed down and burned down for good. He raised his glass to its eternal burning in the hell of nasty institutions.

Yet for Traynor, favorite spot or not, The Greatest Bar on Earth was no safe bet, either. He constituted a decidedly endangered species up here. While the tourists atop the tower's twin continued to flash their cameras across the canyon, Traynor flashed the fake ID his dad had given him in recognition of passing grades.

"You don't look twenty-five." The waitress frowned formidably under her frizzy black hair tied into something midway between a sloppy bun and a severe pony tail.

"Not the first time I hear that, not the last." Traynor looked at the ID. He found it quite convincing and would almost have believed he was an adult.

She stormed off in a huff. Fortunately, the tower had been designed to withstand hurricanes, so there was little damage she could do.

But to Traynor she could cause no end of trouble: She returned without his second drink, but with a little something or rather someone else. "I'm sorry, but my supervisor has to examine your ID."

Supervisor. In a fucking bar. Even if it was, in name and in fact, the greatest bar on earth. A fucking bartender. The fucking bartender following on the fucking heels of the fucking tequila dolly held out his fucking hand, demanding Traynor's fucking ID.

Traynor cocked his head. "What?"

"Could I see your ID?"

"I showed it to your little friend."

"You'll have to show it to me, too, and good, if you want another drink. After all, you don't look twenty-one, much less twenty-five."

Traynor flashed the waitress a grin. "Hey, I told you it wouldn't be the last time."

Now the bartender frowned forebodingly as well. "Please?"

"I can't."

"You just showed it to me."

Shut up, dolly, I'm talking to your "supervisor," thought Traynor. "Uh, I swallowed it. I don't believe in IDs. It's an un-American concept."

"Then I believe your next drink will be orange juice straight. You swallow your ID, you don't swallow alcohol. Underage drinking is un-American, too. "

"No. It's America's number one teen sport. It's just un-puritan. Puritan is un-American."

The bar boss looked at Traynor like he was not sure whether to call the pigs to have him arrested for un-underage activities or the men in white coats to have him hauled off to a nice, safe padded cell. Public order was sure to collapse once Traynor's views took hold.

Traynor shook his head. "Maybe you can't see Boston from here, but you sure can smell it."


"Don't bother. The check, please."

Read on…

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