( kate's birthday, part one, part two continues it)
"How hot is?" Kathleen asks.
The bar is empty except for O Malley, Paul Keater, and a man and a woman.
"About 98.6," says Jack, the beads of sweat roll down his cheeks. He walks into the pool room to stand in front the big floor fan. Kathleen follows him.
"Let's go to the boardwalk," Kathleen suggests.
"When it's hot like this it's hot all over."
"We can go on the rides."
"I don't like the rides."
"It might be fun. You promised me we'd go on the rides."
"I've got the next pool game." Jack says, and then he glances at Paul Keater who is playing pool.
Paul takes his shot. The eight ball drops. Keater slides the brim of his baseball cap back and fourth across his sweat soaked forehead.
"Ah ****," Keater murmurs.
"Jack, how do I look to you?" She is wearing a too short skirt, black nylon stockings, and a tight blue t-shirt.
"Beautiful as always."
" Then why do you pay more attention to Paul than you do to me? A man you despise. You're not ******* Keater, are you?"
"Kate," he tells her, "you're drunk again."
"Why do you hate Paul?"
"He lives above the bar. He's a drug addict. Tells everyone he served in Irag. You don't lie about a thing like that."
" Your in the bar just about every night."
"There's a difference between coming to the bar and living above it."
Jack just be honest with me?"
Maybe it is the heat or alcohol or frustration.
Jack tells Kate." My dad sobered up and left me and my mom. Apparently, the old ******* was quite a nice man when he stopped drinking. Took Keater to baseball games and places. Keater is my half brother. The half I don't like."
Kathleen is silent for several minutes and then she says to Jack, " I'm not drunk yet, but I'm sure as hell going to be. It's my birthday."
"I bought you flowers."
"Yeah, carnations," She turns a mirthless smile towards Jack, "You don't care."
"Ah come on. All I wanna do is play one lousy game of pool, and then we'll go down to the boardwalk. I promise." Delleto grips her gently by the shoulders and steers her towards the bar.
Kathleen sits down on a bar stool. She watches Jack play pool and when he wins, she turns towards the bar to face O' Malley who is standing behind the bar, arms folded, watching a horse race on TV.
"It's my birthday, " Kathleen tells O' Malley. She crosses her long legs and when she turns from the horse race, he notices.
"Hey, happy birthday Kate, at least twenty-one, I hope, " Bob says playfully, and he takes two shot glasses from the shelf. He puts a glass in front of Kathleen. "Jack Daniels?"
"Fine," She tells him.
O" Malley fills the glasses. They touch glasses. "Happy birthday Kate." Bob smiles.
"Thanks, " She pouts, " at least someone cares." They throw down the shots.
"Hope Jack won't mind," O' Malley says, but before Kate can answer he leans over the bar and kisses her on the lips.
Kathleen looks over her shoulder at Delleto. Jack is playing pool with a thin woman wearing a black leather halter top. The woman comes over to Jack, says something and when she smiles at Delleto her teeth sparkle like tombstones after a hard rain.
Jack smiles and says something to the woman. The boyfriend stares angrily at Delleto.
When Kathleen turns back O' Malley is filling her shot glass.
Jack wins that game, too.
A big yellow moon hangs above the decaying Casino Amusements that extends across the boardwalk. " I'm through waiting for Jack." Kathleen looks up at the flashing marque sign that proclaims games, prizes and fun. Kathleen staggers into the great hall into the smell of pop corn, and the clack, clack of the game wheels.
It is one in the morning and as she totters pass the water guns and over to the ticket booth beside the merry-go-round she sees the arcade is almost empty.
Inside the ticket booth the man stares down at Kathleen as the sweat rolls down his bulbos nose collecting a tiny pool on the counter.
"What do ya want?" He asks curtly, tries to relight the stub of his cigar. He points to the blue and white sign nailed to the top of the booth. With the unlit cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth he impatiently recites the sign to the drunken lady, "House of Mirrors, The Whip, Bumper cars, Merry-go- round."
"Jack would never go on that. He'd think it was too silly," Kathleen mutters. "The merry-go -round," She tells him, pushing a ten dollar bill across the pitted wooden counter.
The man takes the bill, tears five tickets off the big roll of tickets, and pushes them through the opening at the bottom of the bars.
"Hey, I only want one ticket," she slurs.
"Closing time, Babe, closing time," The weasel faced man says hanging up the Closed Sign from the window.
Kathleen takes the tickets, "Hey, wait a min."
"BOOM!" a balloon explodes from the water gun game. Kathleen jumps. She takes the tickets from her shirt pocket, lights up a cigarette, and the makes her way over to the carousel.
Kathleen stares at it. It is such a fantastic machine. There are mirrors on the inside walls of the ride and pulsating red and blue lights along the perimeter of its fluted roof. She thinks the horses themselves are the most beautiful creatures. There are white, black, brown and even red ponies. All the horses have intricately painted saddles of coordinated colors and long cascading manes. There faces are alive with fear and passion as if a spirit has been molded into their plastic skin.
(Kate's birthday will continue)