“Sam you have to work with the prosecution, this is never going to go away if you don’t.”
“I won’t sit there and tell them what they want to hear, Mercy. I’m not sorry and I never will be. He deserved what he got, no one puts their hands on you and gets away with it. No one.”
*earlier that night*
As the last notes fade from her lips, the small crowd in the bar starts applauding wildly and Mercedes is filled with the wonderful sensation that singing continues to bring to her time and time again. Sure, she wants to be a star and make music that touches people’s lives; be a household name someday. But as long as she’s singing somewhere, be it at the bar, driving to the store, or on a stage to a sold-out crowd, she’s happy. So as the applause dies down and she replaces the mike in it’s stand, she walks off the tiny karaoke stage feeding on the emotions only her passion can bring her. Well, that and a certain blonde she knows. “But that’s just passion of a different sort” she thinks to herself, retrieving her apron from behind the bar where it was stashed before her number. A blonde who happens to be uncharacteristically late she realizes. But before she can ponder too much on that she hears a voice speaking to her,
“Ya knocked it outta the park as usual, kid, well done!” Jack, the bartender and owner of Scag’s shouts over to her as he pours another shot with pinpoint precision.
She smiles at him and says for what must be the hundredth time, “Thanks Jack, but you don’t have to say that every time. I just appreciate the chance to sing.”
“And I appreciate the boost in sales on karaoke nights since you started. Those used to be our slowest nights, and now they’re hopping. Plus I have my eye on one of those fancy autographed headshots for the wall after you’ve been discovered in my bar.”, he replies with a chuckle and a wink.
“You got it, Jack.” Mercedes says as she loads up her tray with his various concoctions and goes about her waitress duties, smiling to herself as she thinks about the path that brought her here.
It’s been almost five months since she first walked into Scag’s, named after the proprietor himself, and boy is she ever glad she did. She’d come to LA filled with hope and bounding with excitement over her newly minted back-up singer contract at SMS Records. What she didn’t realize however, was that because SMS was a small and independent (not to mention fairly new itself) studio, she wasn’t the only one struggling to get her name known. And they just didn’t have the reputation and subsequent revenue to keep her financial status in the black, as she expected. A notion she now realizes was perhaps a bit naive.
So after the most thrilling three months of her life in which she spent multiple days a week crammed between an amp and alongside the other contracted back-up singer, Kat, laying down vocals for hours on end, she was informed that though they were nuts about her sound, they just couldn’t afford to draw up a new contract after her probationary period ended.
Mercedes was obviously heartbroken, thinking she was on her way to getting all the recognition and spotlight she’d been denied during high school. But she left with her head held high and the promise from SMS that they would definitely call her on a free-lance basis for work when possible and that if and when they became more of a force in the music world her contract would most assuredly be among the first printed, given she wasn’t already a star in her own right by that point. Mercedes may have been disappointed, but she knew in her heart it wasn’t the end for her, and that if her road to stardom wasn’t at least a little bumpy that writing her autobiography years from now may be a bit dull. So having been raised to know the benefits of hard work and determination, she set out to find herself a job to pay the bills, while she continued pursuing her musical career on the side.
Mercedes had never paid much attention to the tiny corner bar with the green door whose paint had long ago started to fade and chip away. It was only minutes from the apartment she shared with Kat, whom she’d become fast friends with, but not being much of a drinker it had never occurred to her to go in. Her poison was lattes, and plenty of them.
It was this green door she was walking by after a particularly dismal job interview, when she noticed it tacked up against the window:
“Help Wanted: Assholes Need Not Apply”
After smiling for the first time all day she pushed the door open with an audible creak and came face to face with the most beautiful pair of green eyes she’d ever seen.
“Um, isn’t it a little early to be drinking? I think Sesame Street’s still on somewhere. I mean I’m a champ beer pong player myself, but it’s not even noon yet.”, the attractive stranger says over his shoulder as he hauls a crate of liquor behind the huge bar just to the right of the entrance.
“Isn’t it a little stupid to discourage people from spending money at your bar?” Mercedes fires back, because even though she’s not here to drown any sorrows, to each their own and this guy shouldn’t judge.
“Yeah maybe, but it’s not my bar and it just seems a bit hasty to give up on the day already. Everyone’s got troubles, but you won’t find the answer at the bottom of a shot glass.”, he replies, and as he pushes his shaggy, flaxen hair out of his eyes a voice comes from a door in the back, belonging to an older man, also carrying a crate, though this one filled with darker liquid in squat bottles.
“Sam, you’re here to help, not to offend my customers. Especially ones as lovely as this young lady here.”
Mercedes feels her cheeks warm from not only the compliment, but also from Sam’s eyes, as it seems he finally takes her presence in and proceeds to run them over her before shrugging and saying a sheepish, “Sorry, this place just gets depressing during the day sometimes. My bad.” then, “Look I gotta get going anyway, Call-of-Duty tournament to get to. I brought the rest of the vodka up so you should be good for tonight.”
And after a brief glance and half wave in Mercedes’ direction, he heads for the exit, shouting a quick, “Later, Uncle Jack!” as he disappears, the green door creaking shut behind him.
She was now left with a man the family resemblance was not lost on. Handsome to be sure, somewhere in his 40’s, with equally shaggy hair, though a bit lighter than Sam’s. A small silver hoop hung from his left ear lobe and she spotted a war insignia tattoo near his wrist as well as what looked like a Jessica Rabbit one peaking out from under his sleeve. He gave off the vibe that he wouldn’t stand for any bullshit but that he clearly had a quirky and softer side as well.
“Sorry ‘bout my nephew, he goes to Taft Community College and pops in from time to time to help me out. That is when i can pull him away from his comic books or xbox or whatever he’s into at the moment. He’s a good kid, but he’s just more familiar with the ‘keg-stand-for-end-of-finals’ kind of drinking than the ‘mid-life-crisis-daytime’ kind of drinking, so I think being here during off hours makes him a might uncomfortable sometimes.” Jack explains, mirroring Sam’s shrug from moments before.
Mercedes nods, her bangs tickling her eyelashes. “It’s alright, really, no harm done.”
”Okay then. So, Sweets, what can i getcha?”, Jack asks with a smile as he walks around the back of the bar’s countertop, his reflection jumping from bottle to bottle as he passes the extensive liquor collection resting on the shelves behind the bar.
“How about a job? I saw your sign in the window, and it took me a minute to double-check, but I’m pretty sure I’m not an asshole, so I figured I’d put my name in.”, she replied with a small smirk. She knows it’s not fair to judge a person based on their looks, and first impressions can often be deceiving, but from what she’s seen in the last few minutes, she thinks being herself instead of the expected hyper-professionalism normally associated with applying for jobs might just give her a slight advantage.
Mercedes decided as soon as she heard Jack laugh that not only was her intuition probably spot on, but that she liked him instantly. He was one of those people that laughed like they’d never heard a joke before, just giving in completely to the joy of the moment, which was something she could appreciate.
“You’ve got spunk, kid! I like that! What can ya do?”
“I can sing. And clearly I’m a fierce dresser, but when it comes to specific waitress or bar skills I have to admit I’m fresh out. Fortunately though, I’m a quick study and think fast on my feet. Plus I live close-by so I can get here whenever you need me, no problem.”, Mercedes answered honestly, quickly, and with earnest.
Jack looked at her for a moment, tapping a finger against his chin, reminding Mercedes of many a super villain right before they gave away their whole evil scheme. Though, if he gave her a job she’d be happy to hear him plot how he’d like to take over the world if he so desired. She’d even make refreshments.
He brought his hand down to rest on the dark wood of the bar, severely scratched from years of glasses being passed back and forth, no doubt. When he spoke again his demeanor and tone suggested that her assumptions might have been inaccurate after all and she braced herself for the standard, “well you seem capable, but just not quite the fit we’re looking for.” speech she’d been given many times lately and once already that very same day.
“Well Miss..”, Jack began.
She let out the breath she didn’t realize she was holding, however, when a smile started to creep across his face as he continued,
”..it just so happens I am a slow teacher and not as fast on my feet as I once was, so if you think you can handle listening to me go on and on about the fundamentals of liqour-ology without wanting to revolt then the job’s all yours.”
“Really?! Thank you so much! You won’t regret it!”, she exclaimed.
He held his hand out across the bar, “Jack Scags, pleased to meet ya.”
She shook it gratefully and replied, “Mercedes Jones, and likewise.”
Then with a glint in his eye, Jack motioned to the door he had previously come through in the back and said, “Now, let’s go talk about our karaoke nights.”
to be continued…