Carl Garfield (excerpt)

Let me guess: it was Tanya who told you to ask me? That woman is like a tree, she needs three things to live: air, water, and dirt. Fine, so what do you want to know about him? Well, how about his name, for starters? It isn’t Carlos Garcia. It’s Carl. Carl Garfield. Honestly. Carlos Garcia is the name he gave himself to feel all exotic. Don’t believe me? Check his license next time he’s nodding off at the bar. It’s how I found out he’s 46, not 35. And I know what you’re thinking: Damn, Carlos looks good for his age. Sure, yeah. It’s true, I guess. But a man who lies about his name, who lies about his age. He could be lying about his looks too. Human placenta, or plastic surgery or shark cartilage, you just never know.

    What else. Sloppy kisser. Overdoes the tongue. And not where it counts if you catch my drift. Yeah, I know. You can’t believe I’m admitting it, but big deal: we had one night. It was inevitable if you think about it. A bartender and a regular. It’s just a proximity thing. I’ve been working here a long time. It’s complicated. But I’m not embarrassed. No way! Life is short, you only live once and all that. Besides, great lovers have been locked up in stranger men than Carlos Garcia. Or Carl Garfield, I should say. 

    And I’m assuming you heard about poor Julie? The Amway thing? Let me guess: Tanya told you. Yeah, Tanya loves to tell the story, but I’m the one who was there, watching it all go down. Dumbfounded. So Julie and I are working bar, and she pours him his pint (Moosehead, same as always.) You know how demure she is. Is that the right word, demure? Anyhow, she slides the pint towards him, smiles and says, “Add it to your tab?” And Carl smiles and leans back on his stool like he owns the place. He’s rubbing his chin like Julie’s a couch he’s got to somehow fit into a clown car, you know that look? Like he’s doing big math in his head? I’m behind her and I see even the back of her neck is tomato red. Poor thing, she’s thinking he’s about to hit on her or something. But she’s still smiling, you know how polite she is. I still want to say demure. Is that right? Anyway, out of nowhere he says to her, “You should think about getting your teeth whitened.” Can you believe it? I mean it’s true, sure, but who the hell says that? He takes a long sip after too, like all he did was mention the weather. Julie was like a baby bunny, you know the way they get all tense and quivery? I call Carlos out, and he waves his hand at me like I’m a bad smell. He says, “Oh, come on now, I didn’t mean it like that.” Bullshit he didn’t mean it like that. How else does someone mean something like that? “I think she has a lovely smile,” he says, “it just needs a bit of brightening.” At this point, Julie makes a run for the bathroom, poor thing. And then the dart crew arrives. Yeah, it’s Dart Night, and now I’m down a server. Imagine? You know how nuts it gets on Tuesdays. So I’m tending bar alone, Julie’s losing a pound of water weight in the bathroom, and Carlos is sitting there, sipping his pint, as smug as a bug. If I’d had more balls, I’d have slapped the froth right off that moustache.

    Anyway, about an hour later, I’m clearing table four, and who do I see cornering poor Julie by the pay phone? Your pal Carl Garfield. And I think to myself: Jesus, that miserable bugger actually has the nerve to put the moves on her? I swoop past to try and grab a listen, and what do I hear? What do I see, more like. That idiot is holding a tube of toothpaste. Called Glisten. Amway Brand. Their version of Crest or whatever. The bastard’s peddling for Amway! The whole thing was a sales pitch. Imagine? Worst part is, between you and me: I think she may have bought some. Next time you’re working with her, check out her teeth. I’m serious. Before they were kind of butter-coloured, right? Now Julie’s walking around with Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth in her mouth. Picket fences. Chiclets. You get what I’m telling you? They’re so white they’re almost translucent. Just check it out next time you see her.

"Carl Garfield" was selected for The Fringe Eden Mills Writers' Festival in 2013.
It was also shortlisted for the 2013 Eden Mills Writers' Festival Literary Contest.

© 2013 Shannon Alberta.