The streets were empty this night in the small coastal community where two women and a man were walking down the sidewalk headed towards the local bar. A faint reddish pink glow emanated from the small faded neon OPEN sign which sat over a large wood sign proclaiming the establishment’s name. They were attached to an old building sporting a log cabin façade which had palm trees painted on it. The bar was called THE OASIS but it looked like anything but that. The neon flickered bright and dim atop its perch and the wood sign was covered with flaking green and gold paint that had seen its better days many years ago.
The front door was ajar and a colorful group of men and women could be seen through the crack. The patrons were clad in varying styles of apparel ranging from hippie to cowboy to work clothes. The band blasted out punk rock and they wore leather and studs with tight tank tops. Most of the crowd was attempting to dance to a good song that was being performed way too loudly.
The two women and man entered and sat down near the dance floor. They appeared to be in their mid-thirties. The women had dark blonde hair and were attractive with shapely figures. All three of them were wearing tee shirts and jeans, two of them had on sweatshirt jackets and one of the women wore a glittery jacket along with a lot of makeup. The man looked older than the women and he had a sour look on his face.
“This band is pretty good. I saw them play at a bar in Eugene a couple of months ago.” The flashily dressed woman remarked.
“I recognize their name but I haven’t seen them play before. You’re right about their being good. Do you like the band Aaron?”
“I like them though the songs are going to be hard to dance to.” He didn’t sound very enthusiastic.
“Way to have a good time! We are going to have to find some other men to dance with if you are going to be such a drip.”
“We are going to have to wait until the dance floor clears to see who’s available. It looks like we are going to have to go to the bar and get our own drinks. They are pretty slammed right now.” The woman wearing the sweatshirt jacket remarked.
“I’ll go get us some drinks. What do you want Michele?”
“I would like a Tequila Driver please. I can go up and help you with the drinks.”
“This is what I do for a living. I can handle it. Aaron?”
“I’d like Bombay and tonic.”
“I’ll be right back.” Since Annette worked at a bar she was used to carrying several cocktails at a time. She liked working in a bar, most of her clientele were men and they tipped her well.
Annette came back with their drinks. There were a couple of guys sitting at the next table and she started up a flirtatious conversation with them. They both had on loud western style shirts and flashy cowboy hats, though they didn’t look like cowboys.
Michele and Aaron watched Annette behaving in her normal flirtatious manner with the men at the next table. Michele wanted to dance so she walked over to the dark haired man with brown eyes. He had a very muscular build and was handsome.
“So are you a real cowboy or do you just like to dress up like one?” She teasingly inquired.
“I can ride a horse,” replied the attractive stranger.
“Can you dance as well?” Michele was standing next to his chair by this time.
“Let’s go do it.” He jumped up and grabbed her hand and led her to the dance floor.
Michele felt lucky because the band had just broken into an old rock and roll classic by Bad Company. It had a good beat and was easy to dance to. After the dance she sat down at a table and visited with her dance partner.
“My name is Michele. Where are you from?”
“My name is Marty and I live in Eugene. Jerry and I came over her to go salmon fishing this morning. Where are you from?”
“It’s a small world. I am from Eugene also. I am over here visiting my parents. My dad owns a fishing boat and he and my mother just bought a place and moved over here last month. I used to go out salmon fishing on my dad’s boat a lot but now that they live here I can just come over and visit. I work at Mansell’s American Tire and Brake. Where do you work?”
“I used to work with one of the owners of that place, Randy. He was the manager at the Les Schwab store I used to work at in Portland.”
“I heard that is where he was before he became a partner at Mansell’s. I also heard there was some kind of scandal up there and that he was fired. You say you used to work there?”
“Yes, I quit last month, we had a disagreement on the way the place treats its employees. So I moved to Eugene on a piece of property I have owned for several years. There was a rumor going around that Randy embezzled some money, but I don’t know if it was true or not.”
They spent the evening dancing with each other and visiting. Annette spent the evening flirting and dancing with his friend. Aaron found a couple of local girls to dance with and the three of them had a fun evening, or at least it seemed that way. When it came to closing time Marty asked Michele if she wanted to see the 30 pound salmon he caught earlier. His truck and boat were parked in front of the bar so Michele went out in the parking lot to look at the salmon he had in the icebox.
Annette and Aaron showed up at the boat and Michele could hear Aaron talking loudly to Marty’s friend Jerry. Michele got out of the boat and walked over to where they were standing.
“You shouldn’t disappear like you did. We looked all over the bar for you. I was getting worried.” Annette was yelling at Michele. Then Aaron walked up and got in Marty’s face.
“You should leave. Michele has more class than to hang out with a loser like you.”
“Knock it off Aaron. Marty was just showing me the nice salmon he caught today.”
“Are you sure that’s all he wanted to show you?”
Michele was getting embarrassed by Aaron’s behavior. “It was nice to meet you Marty. Come by and see me at the tire shop sometime.” She walked away with Annette and Aaron and they walked to the women’s parents’ house a few blocks away. Aaron was going to go out fishing the next day with the women’s father.
Frequently when Aaron got drunk he took on another persona, a drunken asshole with a belligerent attitude. Because he was so different than he was when he was sober his friends started calling him Skippy, after George Bush’s evil twin character created by Gary Truedeau in his cartoon strip.
The next week Marty showed up at the tire shop Michele worked at. Her boss that he said he used to work with did indeed know him and greeted him warmly. Michele thought that was a good sign. He asked her if she would like to have drinks with him after work and then maybe go out to dinner. She said yes.
Marty arrived at the house that Michele shared with her roommate Aaron. Aaron answered the door.
“I remember you from the bar in Winchester Bay.”
“I remember you also. Michele is getting ready. Come on in the house. Can I get you a drink while you wait for her?” Aaron was very friendly and nothing like Marty remembered him from the coast.
Marty accepted the offer of a drink and after finishing a couple with both Michele and Aaron he invited Aaron to go out to dinner with him and Michele. It was a casual date and it seemed like the polite thing to do Marty thought.
Aaron pulled Michele aside and asked her if it was alright with her for him to go to dinner with her and Marty. She had just started to get to know Marty and if he wanted to invite Aaron it was fine with her. She wasn’t planning doing anything that Aaron couldn’t be around for.
Aaron and Michele suggested that they go to one of their favorite restaurants called Original Joe’s. It was an Italian restaurant which had the grill set up in the front part of the restaurant so that the customers could watch the cooks as they made the orders. Sometimes it could be pretty entertaining, especially if a customer wanted to change a menu item. The cooks had all worked there a long time and didn’t like customers who wanted special meals. Afterwards they went to a somewhat pretentious bar that was just around the corner called Oregon Electric Station.
Michele was driving and Marty and Aaron seemed to be having a bit of a contest to see who could drink the most. Aaron was a friend and not a romantic interest but it seemed like some kind of a macho pissing contest was going on. Maybe Marty didn’t realize this or maybe Aaron was just screwing with him for some reason.
Aaron and Marty were both getting drunk and obnoxious so Michele suggested they leave. Marty suggested they stop at a western themed bar that was close to Aaron and Michele’s house and on the way back so she agreed to do so and got them started on the way back to the house.
The place was called Bliss’s Steak Ranch and Michele used to go there quite a lot a several years before when she worked at a sign shop located next to it. She discovered that she still knew a lot of the customer’s that frequented the place and also that many of them also knew Marty. Aaron was starting to get pretty drunk and was beginning to turn into Skippy.
One of the bar maids came up to their table and told them someone was complaining about Aaron’s attitude. Just as Michele was getting ready to say that they should leave Aaron got mad and said he was going to go to the stripper place behind the bar.
“I am going back to the Silver Dollar. You can come pick me up when you finish your drinks.”
“Fine, we will be done in about fifteen minutes.” Michele didn’t feel like fighting with him.
She and Marty finished their drinks and then went out to her car. They sat in the car and visited a little while and then Marty went to the stripper bar to get Aaron so they could go home. After about 5 minutes he came out to the car and said he had looked all over but he couldn’t find Aaron. The doorman told him someone fitting the description had come in but when he found out they didn’t serve alcohol he left and said he was going to the bar across the street.
Michele drove then to the bar across the street. Marty and Michele both went in to look for Aaron. They were told that there was a guy in there that could have been him. He was really drunk and another customer said he would help him get home and they both left. Michele thought maybe Aaron had walked back to their house on the bike path. She drove to the house, keeping an eye out for Aaron, but they saw no one on the way and no one was at the house.
They waited a little while and then they drove down to the bar he was possibly seen leaving and Marty walked the bike path that Aaron would have taken to walk home. Michele met him in the car at the other end of the bike path and Marty hadn’t found Aaron. She was starting to get worried.
They went back to the house and when they walked in this time Aaron was sitting there with a strange looking man. He looked startled when she and Marty walked in. Michele thought he looked somewhat familiar but she was unsure why that would be. There was a palpable uneasy air in the room and she also felt Aaron was pretty uncomfortable with the situation.
“What the hell went on tonight? Marty and I looked all over for you. What were you thinking?” She was really mad.
“Obviously I wasn’t thinking too clearly.” Aaron said sheepishly
Michele looked at the stranger on the couch. He started talking, “I was just getting ready to leave the Eldorado when I saw this guy stumble in and he sat next to me at the bar. He was really drunk. I had the bartender bring him a cup of coffee. He got up and said he was going to walk home so I offered to help him get home. It was really cold outside and I was afraid if he passed out along the way he might freeze.”
“Thanks for helping Aaron get home. What’s your name? Can we give you a ride home?”
“I live in the Shamrock apartments a few blocks from the bar. I’m glad I got him home safely. My name is Jim. I can walk home.” He was a pretty husky man with a flashy tattoo coming out of his shirt collar showing on his neck. He had a scar on one cheek and looked like a pretty rough character. He avoided direct eye contact.
“Nonsense, I will drive you home. It is about a half mile from here and it is freezing out.” Marty quickly offered.
Michele noticed Aaron’s wallet was lying on the kitchen counter and it was open and empty. She wondered if they had interrupted a robbery in progress and that his help might not have been that innocently offered. The man accepted Marty’s offer of ride and they went out to his car.
Michele quizzed Aaron as soon as the two men walked out the front door.
“That guy gives me the creeps, he is scary.”
“I know. He followed me out of the bar and I was afraid he was going to mug me. I told him I didn’t have any money with me but I would give him some if he helped me get home. I was hoping that you and Marty would be there. I was pretty freaked out when you weren’t. I went in the bathroom and when I came out I could see he had gone through my wallet on the counter. I sat down on the couch and he came and sat down next to me and then you and Marty walked in.”
“You better quit drinking, you have a problem. You get drunk and turn into someone that is not cool. Besides you being an asshole it’s dangerous when you black out like that. I hope this teaches you a lesson.”
“Don’t worry it did.I think he was planning to rob me. I was getting sober by the time we walked here. He is a pretty big guy and he scared me. I was happy when you and Marty showed up here.”
Marty walked in the door. “That guy looks like he just got out jail. He had me drop him off at the front of the apartments. I don’t think he wanted me to know where he lived.”
The next day Michele stopped at a gas station near her house. She recognized that the attendant was the guy who was at the house and that was why he looked familiar. It was a gas station she occasionally stopped at on her way home from work. He hesitated when Michele told him she remembered him from that night at the house. She got weird vibes off of him.
That night she was watching the news and there was a story about a guy getting mugged and attacked on the bike path behind their house. Then they flashed a picture of Jim and it said he was a person of interest in the case. The next morning the news reported Jim had been arrested for robbing and beating up a guy the same night he walked Aaron home. It also said there were other cases they were investigating. Skippy never came out to play again. Aaron realized how close he had come to getting mugged.