Tom Kaplan, Bar Back at the Round Up

Tom Kaplan was glad to be working, glad to be at the Round Up, and glad to have a place to be on a stormy night.

On this night he was particularly glad to be there because his older brother had come in with his pals from the ROTC; they came all the way from Pig’s Eye and the University of St. Thomas with money in their pockets and they were making him feel like a star.

Tom was busy, the room was crowded and he would have done anything to be finished with his duties so he could join his brother for a pint of beer, but he was having the best night of his life seeing his brother with his college friends, watching them sing songs and tell stories. He was determined to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

Tom was busy pouring drinks and clearing tables when the giant, Karl Thorrson, came into the room. Tom thought it was funny, the giant stood at the bar right where a little man who couldn’t have been more than three and half feet tall had been sitting minutes earlier.

He didn’t know who the giant was but his boss did, and Tom could tell that the huge man made him nervous. Tom couldn’t hear what they were talking about but they seemed to be arguing. Then big man ordered a round of Aquavit for the house.         

His employer, Mr. Holmes snapped his fingers and nodded his head at Tom, and Tom got busy pouring, he even had to go into the basement for extra bottles.

Tom served the drinks and poured one for himself, then he joined in with the room while the giant raised his glass and silently toasted everyone.

As soon as the moment was over the big man and his boss appeared to resume their quarrel. Then the giant’s hand shot out like lightning, he appeared to barely flick his boss on the shoulder with two of his fingers, it was enough to send Holmes flying backward into the wall.

Everybody saw it.

His brother and his brother’s friends came to their feet and began to push the giant out the door, it took all of them to do it. Tom got the feeling that if the big man had not let them, he would not have been moved.

Tom was determined not to be the only guy standing around doing nothing. He tabulated the man’s bill, grabbed the bowler that had fallen off his giant head and onto the floor, and went outside to make sure that the bill was paid.

It was the right thing to do.

When he got outside the big man was coming to his feet. Tom had a hard time believing that anyone or anything could have knocked him over, but apparently his brother’s friends had suceeded.

The heavy rain felt good to Tom especially after the adrenalin that had been surging through his body when he was watching the struggle inside.

He approached the gargantuan, returned his hat and presented the bill. The giant threw his head back and laughed.

Tom looked at his meaty face, at the lifeless black glass set in his eye socket, he saw the jagged lightning bolt inlaid there, then he saw the rainbows jumping off it as he was consumes by heat and light.

Joe Samuelson (A Round-Up Regular)

Joe Samuelson sat at the end of the bar near the place station where the waiter picked up drinks, to carry to the tables.

The Round Up was the third bar he stopped in on his walk home. At each place he had a pint and a shot, talked for a little bit with whoever would listen before moving on.

There were two more bars along the way  he would stop at before getting home, but with the rain pouring down like it was Noah’s flood, Joe decided to stay in place and enjoy the company of the strangers he counted among his friends.

He sat on his stool next to a little man, barely three feet tall, they talked a bit about the numbers game, and the man offered to take a bet for him. Joe had talked to him before, though he could not remember his name, and he declined to place any bets because he wasn’t a gambling man.

The bright-eyed dwarf turned away from him and moved into the shadows then.

There was a group from the ROTC singing in the room. One of them was the older brother of Tom the barback. The whole group of them were having a lively time drinking with their captain at the center of it all, encouraging them to have a good time.

It was a welcome change of mood, Joe thought, compared to the atmosphere of desperation and fear that had fallen over Lake Street in recent years.

He ordered another beer and hummed along with them.

Joe had his nose in his pint and his head in his hand when there was a sudden commotion at the door.

A dark-haired giant walked in, and with him a murmur swept the room touching everyone but the gang of boys in uniform.

The giant went to the bar and ordered a round of Aquavit for everyone.

Joe had no idea who the giant was, but Gary Holmes did, the man who owned the bar, and he approached the juggernaut with hesitation, trembling, but not showing any sign of deference to him as he helped Tom pour the round of shots.

Joe watched as they spoke in low tones for a minute.

They appeared to be having some kind of argument, Gary shaking his head telling the big-man something the giant did not want to hear.

He was threatening as he encroached on Gary’s space.

Gary’s voice grew louder. His trembling and shook. His face reddened, as his body surged with adrenaline.

There was shouting.

Gary stomped his foot and ordered the man to leave, pointing at the door, his arm outstretched.

The giant’s hand shout out with blinding speed, he tapped Gary on the chest with two fingers, sending him flying backward into the wall of liquor bottles.

And with that mayhem broke loose.