Her name was Dominica, but she went by Sunday. Back in the 90’s she’d been part of an all-girl group out of Boston called The Necco Wafers, who had a top-ten hit with “(Let Me Be Your) Candy Girl,” b/w “Forever Yours.” Now she was the Monday and Tuesday night bartender at the upstairs Naughty Pine, a fill-in waitress on the crappy shifts that none of the other staff wanted, and one of the top ten pot distributors in the East Village. Me, I was crazy about her, because when I was a wiseass she was a wiseass right back, and that is the kiss of death for me. And it was the same for her—which is why she told me right up front that she didn’t date regulars, and I told her right back that I didn’t date staff, and everything was fine until New Year’s Eve of 2000, when a bottle of tequila in the upstairs bar turned the two of us into carnal hypocrites.
Fast forward to April of 2001. Sunday is working Sunday mornings downstairs for the entire month, so I do the gentlemanly thing and show up for lunch to keep her company and watch golf with Sal the bartender and the usual Sunday downstairs crew of old guys whose skin is so leathery you can strike a match off it.
Sunday April 1st. I walk in around 11:45 and catch the middle of a conversation between Sal and Johnny the Chip, an old British guy who does odd carpenter jobs around the place for free drinks. As I open the door, I hear Johnny saying, “Because there have always been twelve. Twelve moons, twelve harbors.” “But there are thirteen moons,” Sal says, and he turns to me and goes, “Matt, how many new moons in a calendar year?” and I say, “Thirteen, there’s one about every twenty days.” “See?” says Sal to Johnny. “Thirteen moons. So there should be thirteen—” “Yeah, yeah,” Johnny says, cutting Sal off before he can finish, and it’s only later that I realize he’s doing it because I’m not supposed to know what they’re talking about. Sal knows it too. He grumbles under his breath as he starts building me a Guinness. “Addition,” he says and shakes his head. “Yeah,” I say, “it’s the new subatomic physics.”
Sunday April 8th. I’m having a steak with rice by the service area, so I can chat with Sunday while she goes back and forth to her customers. At exactly two PM this guy in a suit walks in like he owns the place, sits down in front of the taps, says “Hello?” three times before Sal decides to notice him, and then barks out four words: “French Canadian bean soup.” Sal rolls his eyes and sighs and beckons for the guy to lean forward. I don’t hear what they say, but the guy isn’t happy. “I have to stay here for the rest of the day?” he says in that loud voice certain guys use when they want to tell the world that nobody tells them what to do. “The rules," Sal says in a very calm voice, "are the rules." And then they talk for another minute before the guy raises his arms over his head and says, very loudly, “Fine. Fine. We’ll do it your way,” and he stalks over to Booth 103 and sits down. “Give him a special,” Sal says to Sunday, and I say, “A Dutch Schultz special?” because I know the phrase "French Canadian bean soup" from Schultz’s last words. Sal gives me his “Thank God there’s somebody else here with a brain” look, and says another line from the last words, “A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim.” “I dashed a couple of Kims once,” I say, and for the next hour or so we discuss old girlfriends, The Illuminatus Trilogy, and Kim Novak movies.
Sunday April 22nd. It's a week after Easter. Sunday’s pulling a double, so I come in around 7. It’s moderately crowded. There’s a couple of empty stools at the bar, but the four perfume counter tables by the front door are packed solid, and the reason why shows up five minutes after I get my Guinness—Famous Movie Actor, with Famous Movie Actress Girlfriend, swan in together to cheers and applause because he’s just opened in an Off-Broadway play that’s gotten rave reviews from the snob press and she’s about to start filming a movie about one of her heroines.
“I saw that play,” said Jan. “It should have been titled One Hundred Percent Garden Fertilizer.”
Sunday’s working the perfume counters tonight, and she’s good, so Famous Actor Boy barely sits down before she’s right there asking him what he’d like to drink. “You were in that group, weren’t you?” he says, which is one of those things that always pisses Sunday off, but like I say she's good, she says yes, and they start talking music, which pisses off Famous Actress Girlfriend, who stands up, says “Order me a dirty martini,” and stalks off to the little chiquitas room.
“Fiery,” says Sunday.
“Quick, before she gets back,” says Actor Boy. “I want a bowl of French Canadian bean soup.”
Sunday nods and makes a note in her amnesia pad. “We had one left about ten minutes ago; let me check with the kitchen to see if it's still there.”
“There’s something extra in it for you if there is,” Actor Boy says with a smile. He puts his index fingers a foot apart. “A friend of mine who's this big. How’d you like to see someone who's this big?”
Sunday cocks the leg, puts the right hand on the hip, and looks Actor Boy up and down before staring him right in the face. “I’m already looking at someone who's this big,” she says, measuring his height and putting her left hand a couple of inches over her head; and still looking right at him, she says: “And since he's a c__t, I should probably tell you I don’t do same sex.” Whereupon she makes a smooth and perfect pirouette and heads for the service bar.
Meanwhile I’ve heard every word and I can’t believe a syllable of it, although I’m furiously writing it all down in my notebook so I can send it to Page Six as a blind item. As she walks by me, Sunday leans in and says, “Fuck him—you’re getting his bowl of soup.” Then, because she knows Famous Actor Boy is staring at her ass, she does a lingerie-model runway sashay to the far end of the bar and confers with Sal, who turns around and points to me, and then shrugs at her. Sunday gives him a “There you go” spread of the hands, and swivel-hips her way back to Actor Boy to tell him he’s out of luck.
I don’t hear what they say because Sal is putting a fresh Guinness in front of me along with a bowl of what looks like vegetarian chili. He measures me for a moment, comes to a decision, and says: “There's a good chance that little Marlon Brando over there is probably gonna try and buy this from you, because he’s that kind of asshole. Don’t let him do it. And don't tell anyone you're family. We're not supposed to let family know about this. And whatever you do, don't choke on the coin.”
“It was a silver coin with the Roman numeral III on one side and a horse on the other,” I said. “The very same one I got tonight.”
“You mean the actual same coin?” said the author.
“There are only twelve of them in the world,” I said with a nod.
“And did he?” said Jan. “Did Actor Boy try to buy it from you?”
I shook my head. “No, but he did try and get Sunday fired. Sal just laughed at him. Me, I just ate my soup, drank a ton of Guinness, and listened to Sal for the next four hours while he told me everything he knew about the body that was currently in the Naughty Pine’s sub-basement.”
“And I know whose body it is,” said Jan.
The author and I glanced at each other. We both knew what was coming.
“It’s obvious,” Jan continued.
“It is, kind of, isn’t it,” I said.
“And twelve harbors?”
“Just like twelve apostles?” Jan said with a grin.
I grinned back at her. “That’s exactly what I thought. You add it all up and there’s only one answer. The summer treasure has to be the mummified corpse of—”
TO BE CONCLUDED
Copyright 2014 Matthew J Wells