The guy and girl stepped in. On first appearance, the joint was as described. The owner, also tending bar that afternoon, had never seen the couple before.
The guy and girl, both young, were heavily tattooed. The girl was short haired, bleached platinum blonde with a streak of pink through the bangs. Her large glasses had made the complete 30 year trek from fashionable to unfashionable back to retro-fashionable. The young man was bearded and jeaned, with boots made more for fairies than workmen. To the owner, it was a pretense – an inauthenticity – he’d seen before, much like the high-roller wannabees in their mall kiosk jewelry and 15 years old BMW’s.
The owner asked them, “Can I help you?”
The young man said, “Is this where the writer comes?”
The owner said, “You mean Nanner?”
The boy said, “I don’t know.”
The owner said, “We got a guy hangs around here. Told a few of us he writes stuff that nobody much cares about. Every now and then somebody asks about him. We call him Nanner.”
“Why Nanner?” the boys asked.
“Everybody in here goes by something else. It’s sort of an unspoken rule. You can’t handle the name we stick on you, well, maybe this isn’t the place for you.”
The young man looked to his girlfriend.
“Must be him,” she said.
They looked back to the bartender.
“So he’s not here? We were hoping to catch him in his natural habitat.”
“He comes here sometimes,” the bar owner said. “But he’s got a job too. And I think he hangs out in the park a lot. And sometimes he just stays at home. I imagine he stays at home a lot, probably writing that stuff that nobody reads. So I’m not sure which of those is his true natural habitat.”
“We read his stuff,” the girl said. “And like it.”
“That’s what I hear,” the owner said. “That a few do.”
The young man asked, “So you don’t know where he is? Does he come here on a regular schedule?”
“Sometimes Sundays when football’s on and we got the free grub out. But I supposed he could be any of those other place now,” the owner said.
The girl said, “We’d like to buy him a drink. For the next time he comes in. And we’ll leave him a note. Would that be okay?”
The owner scoffed.
“Won’t be necessary. In fact, have yourselves a seat.”
“Why’s it unncessary?” she asked. “He doesn’t come here to drink? Was he lying?”
She looked at her boyfriend with alarm.
“Oh, he comes here to drink,” the owner said. “A bit too much sometimes. And mooch cigarettes of other folks, though he usually returns the favor with a drink.”
“Then what?” the girl asked.
“He wants to buy you a drink.”
“How’s that?” she asked.
“He’s said if anybody comes in here asking about him, buy them a drink and put it on his tab. He’s got an okay job, so it’s no big deal.”
The young woman and her boyfriend were perplexed.
“That’s not expensive?” the girl asked.
“Drinks here are cheap, you’ll notice. And not many people come around asking for Nanner anyway,” the owner said.
The boy and girl waited for the other to say something.
“Well, you gonna take a seat?” the owner asked.
“Sure,” the young woman said.
Each grabbed a scruffy vinyl barstool.
“So what’ll you have?”
“What’s he have?” the girl asked.
There were only two taps.
“Not much of a selection,” the owner said. “And we’re out of light. Only regular until the truck comes in Tuesday.”
“Then two drafts,” the boy said. “Whatever you’ve got.”
“Beggars can’t be chooser,” the barkeep said, grabbing two glasses from the freezer.
The owner poured while the kids had a look around. It was a very slow pour.
“Only thing Nanner asks is that you sit for a spell, enjoy the drinks, and try to take things in. Really take things in.”
“That’s what he says?” the young woman asked.
“That’s how he’s told me to tell it. And he always pays his tab, so it’s the least I can do. Sounds kind of silly, I know. But they say he’s a writer, so what the hell. I hear way dumber stuff every hour of every night anyway,”
The owner finished pouring, gave the kids their drinks and told them to enjoy.