Duane Eddy’s twangy guitar rakes the smoke-filled air as my eyes adjust to the dim light. The jukebox is playing his hit from ten years earlier, “Rebel Rouser,” but nobody in the Alibi at 3 o’clock on a beautiful Florida afternoon looks like much of a rebel rouser. I spot the broad, square back of my father’s plaid cotton shirt hunched over the bar. I hear him, of course, from across the room, and I can tell by the tone of his voice that he’s repeating himself, his pointed finger punching out the words.
“Hey Buck,” the bartender jerks his head toward me, an almost eighteen-year-old in short-shorts and matching top trimmed in the same polka dots. My usually humid-frizzy hair has been ironed into a smooth helmet against my head, the sides curving like the letter “C” by my cheekbones. My father lets go of the bar long enough to turn toward the door.
“Lee-Lee,” he says in semi-ironic joy, calling me by the nickname that no one else uses. I roll my eyes but still feel warmly acknowledged.
Almost a year has passed since the divorce went through—irreconcilable differences—and my mother has remarried. I’m leaving for college in a few weeks thanks to my new stepfather’s financial contribution, and I want to see my father before I go.
I never heard of the Alibi before; never called here asking for him at dinnertime. I had started my search at Bernard’s Surf, the more upscale place where the Cape Canaveral rocket engineers hang out. My father hasn’t been a rocket engineer for a while, though, not since he lost his government Security Clearance. I heard he was now working as a day laborer laying cement block, but, I laugh to myself, this must be his day off.
I walk toward him as he gets off the bar stool to introduce me around, his arm draped across my shoulder. “She’s going to college in a few weeks,” he repeats with every intro.
“Hi honey,” growls the one woman at the bar. The introductions finish about the same time as the two minutes and twenty-one seconds of “Rebel Rouser.”
But one guy, Tinch, straightens himself up a bit to shake my hand and slur into the sudden silence, “Your dad talks about you all the time.” It will be later I learn that his daughter is the young woman Mimi my father is shacking up with, a secretary at the Cape six years older than me.
The next song up is a rhythm-and-blues, the kind you’d expect to hear on a bar jukebox anytime during the fifties or sixties, bumper pool in the background and a Schlitz sign illuminating the scene. The kids would be sitting at a table sipping Shirley Temples with the mother, who would be probably nursing something.
Copyright, 2016, Linda S. Buckmaster