the short walk to the basque restaurant was uneventful. however, by this time the small establishment was very busy. the staff was having a hard time keeping up with all the food and drink orders. eddie caught the eye of the lady he’d spoken to earlier and raised one finger. then he pointed to the bar. she nodded back at him.
he made his way through a large party waiting for a table and found an empty chair at the bar. eddie ordered a picon as he placed a twenty on the bar top. the usc stanford game had already started. eddie turned to watch it on one of the TV’s. he also further checked the room and things seemed to be normal.
the bartender sat eddie’s basque drink in front of him and took the twenty to make change. eddie turned back to the bar and sipped his drink. liquid ambrosia even after the vodka. he was going to need another one of these. the crowd in the bar cheered.
eddie turned back to the game to discover stanford had scored a touchdown. unless you were from southern california most folks didn’t care for usc very much. oh well. at this point in the day the only thing eddie catalina cared about was the final score and did he win his bet or not.
on the ensuing kickoff usc fumbled the ball after a hard hit at the twenty five yard line. stanford recovered the fumble. the way things were going didn’t bode well for eddie or his bet. especially after he noticed on the score crawl at the bottom of the screen that boise st had already scored 21 points in the first quarter. good-bye $3,200. or so it seemed. he finished his drink in one gulp and raised the empty glass to the bartender. who then set about making eddie another picon.
the sinking feeling of his $3,200 flying out the window made eddie think about his predicament again. he’d killed two mob boys in his apartment down in los angeles. the l.a. cops were more than likely looking for him so they could ask him a few questions. so, eddie, what’s up with the two dead guys on your kitchen floor? eddie shuddered involuntarily.
you ok, mister?
yeah, i’m fine. just a chill.
here’s your drink.
thanks. you can keep what’s left.
sipping his drink eddie knew the mob wasn’t going to be anywhere near as polite as the lapd would be. the problem being eddie catalina was screwed if either of them found him. though he doubted the cops would be looking for him in northern nevada. not just yet anyway. the mob? they weren’t going away either but it was probably even money they were closer than the cops. eddie shuddered again. then he noticed the waitress beckoning him.
he picked up his drink and made his way back to the dinning room. the place was even busier. loud as well. filled with happy diners.
the waitress led him to a table with four chairs. there were already two ladies sitting in two of the seats. eddie knew that most basque places sat you family style. it wasn’t a problem. the two women turned out to be a mother and daughter from boise who were on a road trip and had stopped in elko on the way home for some basque food.
eddie ordered one of the specials. oven roasted lamb neck bones. along with a half liter of the house red. the dinner came with the usual sides. soup, salad, tongue, a vegetable or two, french fries, spaghetti, and sourdough bread. enough food for 4 or 5 people. the ladies ordered an extra side of a delicious blue cheese which they shared with eddie. the fine meal was accompanied by pleasant dinner conversation. or as pleasant as eddie could muster under the circumstances.
the roasted neck bones turned out to be outstanding. eddie was glad he had ordered them. he learned long ago to order off the specials board in a basque restaurant. even better was getting to know the owner who would throw in extras or let you request something off the menu or specials board. eddie was stuffed. the ladies declined dessert. though when eddie heard they served bread pudding, which the waitress said was to die for, he groaned and ordered one. the serving was huge and delicious.
the ladies said goodnight and eddie ate his dessert alone. when he finished he went back to the bar and ordered a frangelico and soda to help with his digestion. it would also serve to help ease the pain of his misguided football bets. by that time in the evening it was obvious he had lost his $3,200. the only thing that could save the money would be divine intervention. which was something that rarely happened. at least with eddie.
sated he somewhat stumbled from the restaurant and out into the street. it was noticeably colder now and there were fewer people out and about. eddie pulled his jacket tighter around himself and started walking. the last place he wanted to be was in one of the cat houses a block or so from the basque restaurant. but that’s where he found himself, several minutes later, in one of the houses. he sighed and mumbled to himself that he was pretty well fucked up and he had fucked up big time by wandering into the joint. he almost turned around but didn’t. instead he went to the bar. at least it was warm inside. the bartender spoke.
what’ll ya have?
ah, yes. ah…um…brandy rocks.
the place was empty save for eddie and the bartender. as the bartender turned from eddie to make him his drink he rang a bell. crap. eddie thought, here they come. not long after that 3 or 4 ladies showed up. eddie wasn’t sure just how many there were. it may have only been two and he was seeing double. at any rate, he told the ladies thanks but no thanks. he was just having a drink then he’d be on his way. and no he didn’t want to buy any of them a drink. the ladies cleared out pronto.
eddie sipped his drink and talked college football with the bartender. one of the ladies came out again and sat at the bar. eddie ignored her. already drunk he at least knew compounding mistakes wasn’t going to do any good. he finished his drink. dropped a jackson on the bar and somehow or another made his way back to the hotel and his room. tomorrow or more to the point today was another day.
this originally appeared here in july of 2014.