Showdown at the Old Sam
He looked in the glass door. His father was at the bar talking to a woman seated next to him. They were the only customers. There was a guy on the dance floor with an amplified acoustic guitar singing “Up Where We Belong”. The bartender was wearing a leather vest over a white dress shirt and a bolo tie.
The top glass panel of the door had the Old Sam Dude Ranch logo stickered to it, and, underneath, in a Western font, “SALOON”. He pulled it open and went inside.
The woman saw him first, then his father turned around. They both had cigarettes burning in the ashtray.
“Terri,” his father said, “this is my oldest son, Carl.”
“Nice to meet you, Carl,” she said. “You didn’t tell me your son was so handsome.”
Not acknowledging the woman, Carl asked his father, “Do you know that your other two kids are back in the room crying their eyes out?”
“They are? Why?”
“Because you left them alone. I just got back from the arcade and found them crying.”
“They’re fine. The door is locked and this is a safe place. They’re right down the hall.”
“They’re not fine. They’re crying because they’re scared and said you wouldn’t come back to the room.”
“Hey, whoa, this is my vacation too. I work pretty damn hard and spend a lot of money to take you kids here every year, and I deserve a chance to relax too.”
“Maybe you should go check on them,” Terri said to Carl’s father.
“No. My son will go check on them, and then he’ll come back and let me know how they are.”
“No,” Carl said. “You go check on them.”
The guitarist hit a bad chord and stopped playing. The bartender slowed his wiping of a glass.
“It’s getting late,” Terri said, stamping out her cigarette. She opened her purse and took out some cash. “This should cover the drinks.”
“No,” his father said to her. “You stay right here. My son is going back to the room.”
The guitarist started packing his gear. The bartender stopped wiping.
“It was nice meeting you,” she said, then hurried out the door.
His father finished his cigarette.
Carl made a fist of his right hand.
“Go back to the room and stay there,” his father finally said, then turned to the bartender and ordered a Bud and a shot of Jack.
Carl waited a beat, then turned and left.
The lodge’s main lobby was warmer, but he felt cold after having his sweat chilled by the saloon’s air conditioning. Down their wing to the room, he found his brother and sister watching Miami Vice, their eyes turning to him as soon as he came in.
“Where’s Daddy?” his brother asked.
“He’s at the bar,” Carl said. “Don’t worry about it, everything’s fine. I’m here now and I’ll stay with you guys. Do you wanna call Mommy?”
There was a bank of payphones across the lobby. He led them as far as he could from the saloon. Their father was still sitting in there.
He pressed the “0” button and told the operator he needed to make a collect call and gave her their number. A minute later his mother was on the phone.
“Oh God,” she said after he’d explained. “Alright. Just try to go to sleep. He won’t hurt you. You guys are coming home tomorrow anyway.”
“Can you come get us?”
“No, legally I can’t do that. Just put the other kids on the phone and I’ll try to calm them down.”
She spoke to both of them and afterward, they were calmer, then he got back on with his mother.
“Call me back right away if he does anything,” she said.
Passing back through the lobby, Carl saw that their father was no longer at the bar. Several doors down from their room, he stopped his brother and sister.
“I’ll do all the talking, and don’t be scared,” he said. “Even if he’s mad, don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine. Just try to go to sleep, and then we’ll go home tomorrow.”
He pushed open the door.
“Where were you?” his father asked, smoking a cigarette in the dark, his voice deep.
“We just went to the phone and called home.”
“Because they wanted to say goodnight to Mom.”
Their father took a long drag and exhaled.
“How hard I work for you kids,” he said, “and how much money I spend on these vacations, and you can’t even give me a goddamn break and let me relax for a few minutes.”
He went into the bathroom and slammed the door.
Carl turned to his brother and sister, both on the verge of tears.
“Don’t worry about it,” he whispered. “Just try to be quiet and go to sleep. We’re going home tomorrow.”
Richard Daub was born on Long Island and has resided in Seattle, Baltimore, New York City, and California’s Lost Coast. He is a former journalist turned fiction writer with the occasional essay thrown in. His short stories have appeared in Maudlin House and New Pop Lit.