My first night at The Ninth Circle I show up an hour early for work. I want to show them that I can do the job and that they can count on me. Standing on the sidewalk, I summon my nerve and walk up the steps.
“Hi, I’m Geoff,” I say, extending my hand to the doorman. He’s sitting on a stool and I need to talk to him to get past and into the bar. “Huh?” he says looking at me, his mouth hanging open. A little toothpick dangles out the side of his mouth. “Hi, I’m Geoff,” I repeat, holding out my hand. “Wha?” says the doorman. I try again, “I’m new here and tonight is my first night.” I speak a little louder this time, thinking he can’t hear me. “I’m covering for one of the waiters.” I am now yelling. I figure that he must be hard of hearing because he just keeps staring at me.He walks over to the jukebox. “Come over here Geoff, and play what you want.” Don opens the jukebox and begins to push hundreds of song selections. “We play what we want and by the time people put money in to hear their songs it will be closing time.” With that said, Don closes the lid.
“Where’s the basement?” I ask. Tree points to a door in the wall. “That’s the door to the basement and that other door leads upstairs. If you need to piss, use the upstairs bathroom, it’s semiprivate, staff only.” “Thanks,” I say with a smile.
“Do we close down for the party?” I ask, walking back towards Tree. “Why do you ask?” inquires Tree. “Well, because there is no one in here right now,” I respond. “Oh there will be, there will be,” says Don with a chuckle.
About twenty minutes later the place is packed and jumping. A woman in a mesh bikini and a cowboy hat walks by me. “Robin Byrd,” Tree mouths and then winks. She heads past the bar and into the basement. Tree follows right behind her. As he passes, he tells me to come down when I get a chance. “I’ll introduce you,” he says.
The bar is dark now. They have turned down the lights as low as they can go without being off. I can’t see faces unless they are standing directly in front of the bar or next to the jukebox. My first table waves me over. It is so dark that I extend my hands like a blind man searching for something. I touch someone’s arm and yell into the dark in front of me, “What can I get you?” I scream over the music. Joan Jett is singing about her Bad Reputation. “Two boilermaker specials,” requests the faceless voice. “Okay, coming right up,” I yell back.
I go to the bar and ask for two boilermakers. “Did they ask for the special ones?” Don asks. “Oh yeah,” I say, feeling bad for not knowing there are special ones and not special ones. Don puts two beers, two shots, and a wooden box on my tray. “That’s the special part,” he says pointing to the box and patting me on the shoulder.
I turn from the bar, tray in hand, and almost run smack into Brian. “What are you doing later?” Brian asks, putting his hands on my waist and trying to pull me in. “Getting a penicillin shot,” I say. “Suddenly, I have the strangest itch I can’t get rid of.” “Really?” says Brian with a wink. “Need a ride?”