I had only been open a few minutes when they walked in: a police officer, one of my regulars, and a friend of the regular.
“Good morning!” the officer said, broadly smiling.
“Hey, morning to you,” I said. “You working a new beat, now?” I was surprised to see him in my bar. This particular officer was memorable for two reasons–he is drop-dead handsome in an Erik Estrada, “CHiPs” kind of way (show your age if your remember that late’70s cop show); and he used to frequent my dive restaurant for breakfast, never able to make up his mind between a breakfast burrito and the huevos rancheros. My bar is nowhere near my former restaurant, however.
“Just filling in,” he said, staring me right in the eye. So cute.
“Hey Bobby,” I nodded to my regular, who I now noticed was hanging back from the bar staring down at the floor. Huh?
“So you work here now?” asked the officer. “I wondered why I hadn’t seen you in a while. You like it better?”
“It’s fun, different. The money is good,” I told him. “So what’s up? What brings you here? I can make you some wings, but no eggs,” I laughed.
“Already had breakfast, thanks,” he smiled, his dark eyes twinkling. Be still my heart. “Hoping you can help us. I met Bobby and his friend here outside the bar, and he says he doesn’t have an ID on him.”
Understand, in any other town, in any other geographic location on the planet for that matter, Bobby and his friend would ooze a pretty serious “scary bad guys” demeanor. Bobby, however, is as gentle as the fat feline that faithfully follows him everywhere around town like a pet dog. He does odd jobs to scrape together cash, and everyone knows they can find him through me or the other bartenders. He has never been in trouble, as far as I know, so I was shocked that this officer was concerned.
“But you know Bobby, right?” asked the officer, as if he were about to re-introduce me to a friend. “He says he’s in here all the time.”
“Sure, I know Bobby,” I smiled, not at the handsome officer this time, but at Bobby, trying to reassure him.
“Would you happen to know his last name, then?” my suave and gorgeous policeman asked, his smile still perfectly intact.
“Oh, well, um…his last name?” I stuttered. Last name? I don’t know anyone’s last name in my bar. Okay, I know this one lawyer’s last name because he gave me his card when I asked him to read over some legal documents, back when I thought my landlord’s house was in foreclosure. But that’s about it.
“Yes, his last name.”
“Bobby, I’m sorry. I’ve never gotten your full name,” I said directly to Bobby instead of the officer. Then I smiled back at my dreamboat man in uniform, saying, “But I know what he drinks!”
That’s how I know everyone in my bar: Vodka, soda, splash of cran no fruit; Bud draft in a mug that’s not too cold; rum and tonic and don’t throw away the used stirrers because he uses them to keep count of how many drinks he’s had. I may not even remember all my customers’ first names, but I always know their libation of choice.
“Okay, what does he drink?” asked my Prince Charming.
“Captain and Coke,” I said, smiling at Bobby once again.
“That’s exactly what he told me,” said the officer. “That’s good enough.”
“Okay, next time, try to keep some ID on you, Bobby,” he said. “Why you’re not in the computer system is beyond me. Good thing she knew your drink!”
He then turned to me, extending his hand in a firm handshake. “Take care. I’ll try to stop in and say hello when I over this way again.”
“Great,” I said, swooning slightly, because I knew he must be used to swooning females.
My officer turned and walked out of my bar. Bobby and his scraggly friend perched on barstools, eyeing me like two hungry baby birds. I poured them both Bobby’s drink, figuring they just needed a drink, stat.
“To the Captain,” I toasted the two with my own mug of coffee.
“To the Captain,” they said in unison, raising their plastic cups.
And there we are, I thought, trying not to laugh. Only in the Keys is a man’s drink an acceptable form of ID in the very handsome eyes of the law. To the Captain, indeed.