you can buy liquor, but you have to do it quickly

I had a craving for whisky and since I just learned that liquor stores qualify as Necessary Businesses, and may therefore remain open during a pandemic, I figured I’d run to Gato Tuerto at the corner for a shooter of Jameson, just pop in and grab it and leave, which, I learned as I approached the building, was the only sort of transaction they cared to make.

A handwritten sign on the door said, “Compre Rapido.”

Shop quickly.

So I took my debit card out of my wallet before even opening the door (which was locked; I had to knock) and once inside I walked to the counter with a burglar’s conviction, pointed to the shelf of shooters behind the purple-gloved and -masked cashier, and said, “Un Yameson, por favor.”

“No tenemos.”

“Um. Crown, then.”

“Cual?”

“Regular.”

“Dos?”

“Uno.”

Then he pointed at my debit card and spoke a whole sentence.

I froze and gave him an apologetic look.

He held up his hand and showed me his palm and splayed his fingers. “Fye doughlars for you buy wheeze a card.”

“Oh. Um.” I looked around. Grabbed a can of Coke from the little fridge beside the register and put it down with the shooter.

He rang up the shooter and the soda. Looked at me, shaking his head. “Four.”

I said, “Ummm,” and looked around again.

I was about to toss some chewing gum in but he threw up his hands, agitated, and made some weird noise and said, “Fine, ees fine,” and he smacked some buttons on his tablet harder than necessary and traversed whatever barrier there is for credit card transactions under five dollars. When it was done he pushed the Coke and shooter across the counter toward me without a bag and gestured at the door, stepping back from me.

Collecting my wares with a nod and a gracias, receiving another and less-patient gesture toward the door, I stepped out into the sunset, the empty sidewalk, the quiet intersection.

It was 6 p.m. on 8th street, a temperate Friday night in the middle of March.

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