KELSO'S SWING, CHAPTER 13
Kaycee O’Connor hopped up the three brick steps to the entrance of Murphy’s Pub at the north end of Manhattan Beach and was greeted with hugs from two boulder-shouldered bouncers, Skip and Ray. She wore calf-clinging sandals, tight black nylon shorts, and a black leather vest. She’d walked the two blocks from the 2 bedroom walk-up a block from the Strand that she shared with her 14 year old daughter, who, like her mom at such a precocious age, was already steady on a surfboard and as skilled in 2-man beach volleyball as most of the experienced grown-ups.
Kaycee pushed into a bar packed even on a week night and observed the crowd—a few dudes in shorts and T shirts at the dartboard to her right, and across the rectangular-shaped 4-sided bar, with an island of taps and booze and glasses and bartenders inside, two casually dressed buddies of hers from the softball team, Trudie and Gin. She pushed her way around the corner of the bar to the right, exchanging meaningful hugs with a few men pals, one of whom she took home a year ago on a night her daughter stayed over with her ex, Jasper Perry, one-time surf champion gone to ruin on cocaine but who still managed his surf shop in Hermosa and sent her the occasional alimony check to go with the checks from her other ex, Vince Borelli, a medical equipment salesman and horribly handsome hustler who was a great fuck but so suspicious and controlling she gave him his walking papers one violent night when she discovered he’d paid a private dick to keep tabs on her.
She never cheated. But now she was 31 and free to play the field, the wind in her hair, picking and choosing when the urge felt just right.
The girls greeted her with brief hugs. As usual, they were surrounded by a cluster of local dudes, surfer types working at carpentry, house painting, landscaping. Almost immediately the bartender/manager, Eli Hawkins, was grinning at her, two shots of Schnapps and a glass of white wine on the bar. She pushed in among the crowd to accept a hug and a peck on the cheek from long lanky eagle-beaked Eli, then lifted and tipped her shot glass against his and downed the shot, unleashing a blood-curdling-ready-to-party yowl, slamming her glass on the bar and grinning at Eli, who blew her a kiss and returned to hustle a very hard-drinking week-night beach crowd.
Past the island and the other bartender, big blond Dean in his green polo shirt, she felt two eyes on her, did a double-take; then turned away very quickly from the direct stare of the thick-necked obnoxious lout who coached the Tides sitting on a stool down by the end. He was alone, and after she spent ten minutes talking to John Kirby and Lance Larkin, two super salesmen who always had a little recreational cocaine, she snuck a glance to spot the buffoon doing a shot with Eli.
She turned away and sipped her wine. Kirby whispered in her ear and snuck a vial in the pocket of her vest, and she waited a few minutes before pushing through the crowd along the narrow area between the bar and the wall full of framed color photos of hilarious St. Patrick’s parties and entered the women’s room, snuck into a stall and had a moderate snort, realizing she had a law office to run at 8 in the morning.
Back with the girls, Kirby and Larkin stayed close as more locals lingered near, making eye contact, waiting for their chance. It had always been this way, ever since she grew the first hard buds of her still small hard tits in the 8th grade and the baby fat disappeared miraculously overnight to reveal the ass that had adolescents drooling and fantasizing in class. The boys even then liked hanging around, relishing her cocky attitude and quick tart tongue and the mischievous twinkle in her dazzling green eyes.
Even then she stood for no bullshit, had a ferocious temper inherited from her alcoholic father who died of liver cancer at 45. Her mother, living in a trailer park with a second husband in the desert, called her once a week to check in and touch base with Kelly, the daughter.
Kirby and Larkin and Trudie, the Murphy’s centerfielder, dragged her to the dart board. On the way she glanced across the bar and spotted Kelso, gazing off into space, looking alone and forlorn, cigar in mug, those big meaty hands wrapped around a rock glass. She’d seen that look before—confirmed bachelor sour on women and couldn’t get laid in a million years with that attitude, unless he had a vial in his pocket to lure only the coke-whores and bar-flies at the bottom of the organ-fest pecking order in Manhattan Beach bar society.
Their crew instantly took over the dartboard. Trudie was the best female athlete she’d ever seen and had played college volleyball. Both men had their own cases of tungsten darts she and Trudie shared. Kaycee had a smooth stroke and a good eye, stood sideways, shoulder facing the board, her release effortless and rhythmic. To the left of the base of the bar was a dance floor beside a stage for weekend bands, and a few couples danced to the rock ‘n roll blasting from the juke.
Between shots and sips, Kaycee leaned against Kirby as if for support, and he slipped his arm around her waist as they talked, old friends, a guy she would never date because she hated dating but might sleep with, but not tonight with her daughter Kelly at home, no, never, never ever, she cooked for Kelly and coached her and worshipped her and bragged about her and went to her games and lectured her on the dangers of getting knocked up too young to understand the difference between love and lust--if there was on--when the juices were boiling. She had to admit that Kelly was twice as savvy as she’d been at that precocious age, had her head screwed on tight and level, was just a good kid, and seemed to know how to play the boys and keep them at bay.
In time she brought empty glasses to the bar and waited for Eli and bought a round for the crew and flipped him a sawbuck tip after insisting on paying, and then glanced down at Kelso and leaned forward and whispered in Eli’s ear.
“What’s with the creep with the cigar and the beard?”
Eli issued his face splitting grin. “That’s Rick Kelso, tends bar at the Sunset. He’s a drinking buddy—I love the guy.”
Kaycee returned to her crew. She stood close to Kirby, who was decked out in pleated Docker knee-highs and a Calvin Klein polo shirt. Former male model and men’s clothing wholesaler, he placed his arm around her waist and allowed his hand to drift down and fondle Kaycee’s ass. She offered no resistance. When it was her turn to throw darts, she took her time, aiming, relishing the lime-light, hit a bull, pumped her fist and grabbed her darts. As she unleashed another yowl, she noticed the stool Kelso had occupied had a new owner.