By Fus Yvhikv
The Recovery Room bar was living up to its name. It provided much-needed recovery from sheltering in place for months. Social isolation was causing many people to go stir crazy. Especially Yahola, Tarpalechee, Fixico, and myself.
We hadn’t seen each other since the sad night that the NBA canceled their season. Yahola wasn’t torn up about that as he is a harsh critic of the NBA. College basketball is his thing. Nevertheless, when Harjo, the proprietor, and bartender, announced a phased reopening, Indian boys jumped at the chance to socialize and argue once again.
Upon arrival, Harjo, short and squat, was behind the bar carefully cleaning beer glasses with a towel. His ever-present stub of a cigar was hanging out the side of his mouth. I often wondered if he slept that way. And since I had never seen him actually smoke the cigar, I also wondered if he kept that cigar for months on end. He is a well-known cheapskate.
“Hello boys,” Harjo welcomed us. “Sit anywhere you’d like. Except for the roped off areas, of course”. We looked around and didn’t see any rope. Instead, we noticed that Harjo had put duct tape on the back of various chairs. The tape formed an “X”. Rezzy to be sure but effective.
We all bellied up to the bar. Every other seat was sporting Harjo’s battleship gray duct tape. Yahola was the first to speak. “You know Harjo, I never thought I’d say this but I’ve really come to miss that rotgut that you call beer.” Tarpalechee chimed in, “Your beer is so bad that no virus could possibly stand up to it. Maybe you could market it as a cure? You might finally get some customers in here.”
“I’d love that,” Harjo replied. “Maybe then I wouldn’t have to look at you sad sacks and your ugly mugs!” We responded with hearty belly laughs. Despite the male insults, or perhaps because of the insults, it was clear that we had missed each other’s company. It was good to feel some sense of the familiar, of the old normal.
Harjo began to fill our beer glasses at the tap. He then slid the frosty, foamy beverage across the bar top to each of us, one by one. He was remarkably accurate with his beer slinging as each glass stopped right in front of us. We all raised our glasses high and in unison proclaimed “Vfvcketv!” (“to be happy”).
We quickly choked down his foul beer which tasted like a combination of Dimetapp and Nyquil with overtones of Castor Oil. Each of us immediately begins to pantomime coughs, wheezes, and sneezes with Tarpalechee dramatically faking a guttural puke. Fixico theatrically fell to the floor and begin thrashing about like a hammerhead shark on the deck of a fishing vessel. He was even baring his pearly whites. “Catch and release!” I screamed.
“Alright, you half-breeds! Get the hell outta my bar!” Harjo gruffly barked. “I haven’t seen you, clowns, in two months and after ten minutes I’m already sick of you!”.
Harjo’s combination of command and insult elicited riotous laughter in our small, close-knit group. We had gotten under his skin. But it was our rezzy way of saying that we had missed him. And his dystopian bar. In turn, his gruff demeanor towards us only underlined that he too had missed us.
We started to high five one another in joint appreciation of our theatrical Tony award-winning performance. But viral prudence would not allow that. Instead, we bumped elbows and exchanged smiles and laugher.
The group returned to our bar stools and the conversation, or argument quickly turned to whether there would be a football season in 2020. Harjo, Fixico, Yahola, and Tarpalechee all were engaged in verbal thrust and parry. I sat in felicitous silence, taking in the moment. It felt good to be out socializing again. It felt good to be amongst friends again. Very good. Vfvcketv!