Ani coughed into her hand and looked over at Ed who only shook his head and pretended to look busy. Up on stage the drummer gave a drumroll and suddenly the stage lights came on and Wayne Mack leaned into the microphone and started to sing.
‘Kiss an Angel Good Morning’ was the first song the band played and Ani watched the patrons as they bobbed their heads a bit and smiled at one another. The dance floor remained empty as Wayne briefly chatted up the room before launching into ‘Hello Darlin’ by Conway Twitty. It was obvious that Wayne thought he was the next best thing to sliced bread and Ani felt her shoulders clench; a sure sign the man was slimy.
Behind the bar Jan leaned on the counter with a happy grin plastered on his face. The grin slowly left his face when the phone rang and Ed handed it over to him, and a definite scowl had taken the grin’s place as he slammed down the receiver and came around the bar. His cowboy boots rang on the cement as he hurried up the landing and out of the bar and Ani turned back to Ed who just shrugged.
When Wayne started singing ‘Wings of a Dove’, many tables emptied as the customers headed to the dance floor and shuffled around clutching at each other. With most of the patrons up dancing, Pete and Hank sat on the railing again and watched. Ani noted that all three women had been asked to dance, and she watched as each of them stared off into space over their partner’s shoulders.
As the evening progressed, the dancers got thirstier and all three of them hustled around with drinks. Ani joined the rest of the staff who heaved a sigh of relief when Wayne Mack and His Trucks took their break. Jan appeared out of nowhere and immediately put on a country and western tape and the distinctive beat filled the room giving Ani a headache. Jan didn’t even notice when she threw him a look of pain. Instead he settled happily back against the counter again and lit up a cigarette.
By the time the clock showed 11pm, Ani felt like she had been there for 16 hours instead of five and her head was pounding. She had been bored for most of the night because there were so few customers, and listening to the band for their next 2 sets had almost done her in. Her back and legs ached and all she wanted to do was go home.
When Jan came back into the room, Hank smiled apologetically at her as Ed rang him off and he prepared to leave early. Having been sent home early for her first 2 nights, she realized that she had expected it again this evening. She didn’t begrudge Hank an early night, but she groaned inwardly with the pain in her body.
At midnight Wayne belted out ‘For the Good Times’ and everyone still in the room was up on the floor pressing their bodies against each other and mashing their slobbering lips together. Ani watched as the sweaty bodies ground together and the three of them rolled their eyes at the number of men whose pants hung on their hips, their butt cracks bobbing to the beat of the music.
When the reverberation ended from the last note, the band started packing up immediately and so did the drinkers. By 12:30 the room was nearly empty except for the few people playing pool. Intent on winning the ‘pot’, the players had barely noticed the band and the dancers all evening. Now Pete went around and told them all to wrap it up. When they groaned and complained, he suggested the local pool halls before ignoring them again.
Pete showed Ani how to clean up at the end of the night. Tables had to be wiped and all the ashtrays washed and stacked. Pete offered to clean her tables if she washed all the ashtrays. She soon found out why he had when she bent over the little sink and started. The smell and the grunge that covered her hands as she washed a sink full of ashtrays almost made her gag.
At 1am Ed rang them both off and Ani gave Ed his 10% of her tips. When she stepped out into the night, a light misting rain fell on her and she tilted her face up to the dark sky and let the water wash away the stench of the bar. Taking her time, she walked down the Avenue, keeping well clear of the figures she saw around her, even crossing the street to avoid any encounters. When she got home she pulled out her shoebox and added that night’s meager tips.
Biting her lip, she penciled in $21.60 for her nights wages and then totaled up the three nights of tips and drew an arrow and put in $109.65. She had been thinking she would make a lot more than that when she had done her calculations after her first night of work. But all in all, it wasn’t too bad for three days work. It was far more than she had made at the fur store, and all she had to do was try to adjust to ‘Western Saturdays’ and calculate accordingly.