And if little Andy Asshole tried to undermine that arrangement...
"Okay, okay, enough already."
Ronnie looked up, saw that the bartender was now standing directly in front of her, an expression of mild agitation fixed upon his face.
"Excuse me?" Ronnie asked.
"The bottle. You don't have to bang it on the table like that to get my attention. A simple wave would be sufficient."
Ronnie glanced at her empty beer bottle, realized that she had indeed been unconsciously using it to rap on the table like a war drum. Imagining, no doubt, that the table was Andy Gleason's soft head.
"Jesus, I'm sorry," Ronnie said, blushing. "I wasn't even aware I was doing it."
"Bad day at the office, huh?"
"You could say that, yeah."
That was as far as she wanted the conversation to go, in no mood to deflect the advances of a man who probably got a headache just reading the spine on a book, and whose teeth seemed to carry remnants of a meal he once ate in high school, but the bartender smiled now, said, "I've seen you in here before, haven't I?"
What could she do? Ignore the question?
"I drop in every now and then."
"I thought so. You an actress?"
"An actress? No. Listen, as long as you're here..." Ronnie gestured with the bottle, gave him a small smile of her own to take the sting off the rebuff. "You wouldn't mind bringing me another, would you?"
Recognizing the brush-off when he was getting it, the guy jettisoned all the charm, freshly annoyed with her, and shrugged. "No problem."
He beat a hasty retreat. Ronnie watched him go, trying to generate some sense of guilt for having been so abrupt with someone who had meant her no harm, but the memory of Andy Gleason wouldn't allow it. She was pissed, and she wanted to stay pissed. She spent almost every waking hour holding the old Ronnie in check, pushing the temptations and impulses which had once come so close to destroying her down beneath the level of her consciousness, where they couldn't get in the way of the things she needed to get done. But sometimes, letting her emotions go unfettered by restraint was just goddamn necessary. It felt good, and she was entitled to the release. Hence these occasional treks to the remote outpost that was the Tiki Shack bar on Sunset and Hillhurst, inconvenient to all major studios and production-company headquarters, where she could drink beer out of a bottle instead of Myers's from a glass, or glare daggers at a blank wall while cursing agents under her breath, and all without worrying about being seen by somebody else in the industry who would waste no time ensuring that every detail of her distress was duly noted in tomorrow's edition of Daily Variety.
She could start treating men fairly again in the morning. Right now, all she wanted was another beer and a little room to let her hatred of Andy Gleason run its course.
She didn't think that was too much to ask.
From Man Eater by Ray Shannon, Copyright © 2003 by Gar Anthony Haywood, Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of the Penguin Group (USA), Inc., All Rights Reserved, Reprinted with Permission from the Publisher.
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