All the tables in the Bleu Saloon were full when the black man opened the door. It creaked loudly. For a brief moment, everyone stopped and focused their attention on him. He waved and slowly everyone resumed their normal commotion. In the corner there stood two or three men playing darts. A group in tattered clothing leaned over an old piano, some trading stories, others pounding or stomping a beat to the bouncy rhythm. Everyone held a glass in their hand, some more full than others.
Along the bar, men sat like gapped teeth. The black man walked over to a free stool and lifted his heels until his ass cleared the seat. He settled his thin frame and waved to the man behind the bar. The bartender grabbed an open bottle and walked over. He set a small glass on the counter, poured the liquid and slid it towards his customer. The black man set a coin on the counter in return and downed his drink in one swallow.
“Got any gin?” he asked.
“We look like the kind of place serves gin?” said the bartender.
He put another coin on the counter. The bartender repeated his previous motions, as did the black man.
The man sitting next to him let out a sharp sigh.
“I don’t want no niggers sittin next to me,” he said.
The black man smiled at him and turned to the bartender.
“Mind if I start a tab?” he asked.
The bartender nodded and asked for his name. He wrote it on a small piece of paper and then poured another drink.
The black man flicked his head back and his drink was gone, a smile on his face for the white man. He pursed his lips at him.
“Can’t you get him out of here?” the white man asked.
The bartender turned to the black man.
“How much money you got?” he asked.
“Enough to buy a couple more drinks,” he replied and pulled out more coins.
The bartender turned to the white man.
“I got no problem. Settle your dispute yourself.”
“Maybe I will,” he said.
He pulled out a Colt six-shooter and pressed the blue gray muzzle to the black man’s head.
“No good nigger,” he said through clinched teeth. He only became aware of the shotgun when he heard the clicking in his ear. It could have been there all night for as much he noticed it. The noise in the bar halted.
“You plan on blowing his brains out, you better plan on scrubbing up the fucking mess,” the bartender said. He pressed the gun harder against the white man’s temple. “After you settle his tab,” he added.
“Got no intention of dirtying up your bar.”
Stiffly, he began walking the black man outside. The only sounds in the bar were the cold, hollow footsteps and the creak of the door opening and closing.
Slowly, the men in the bar began talking again. A few moments later, the piano cranked out another melody. Drinks were ordered. Darts were thrown. The bartender set his gun under the counter and let out a small sigh at the sight of his business returning to normal.
When the shot rang out, all sound and movement in the bar froze once more. The bartender reached for his shotgun.
The door creaked open again and the black man walked in, the barrel of the Colt six-shooter pissing smoke. He walked to the bar and set the gun on the counter.
“What you think that’ll get me?” he asked the bartender.
“Get you told to fuck off,” he replied.
The black man smiled and pulled out a small satchel of coins. It had fresh blood on it. He opened it, pulled out a pinch of coins, and set them on the counter next to the gun.
“That cover the man’s tab?”
“Yeah,” he began. “You know you was real lucky tonight?”
“I know. I was worried I wasn’t gonna have enough money to pay my tab at the end of the night.”
He winked and smiled. The bartender poured another drink.