Probably going to be a two-parter. New characters and whatnot.
Joe peered into the building and walked in, waving to Carl tidying up the bar. It was three thirty in the afternoon, and the place was sparsely populated.
“Heya Carl,” he said, slugging his bag around to a stool and sitting next to it. “Howyadoin’?”
It was two weeks after the moose started working at Bar Jocks. Apart from the first days, the rest of the weeks were unremarkable.
“Nothin’ much, moosie,” the bartender said in his usual drawl. “We might ‘ave a private party today,” he added. He motioned to the bottles behind him. “A small tipple before ‘our shift?”
Joe shook his head. “Nah. Need to get a workout in.” He frowned worriedly. “Are those two meatheads around?”
“Which ones?” Carl asked innocently. “We got Curtis, Brian, Steven—”
“You know which ones I’m referring to,” Moose said, looking around. “I mean the two rats.”
“Ah, them.” Carl smiled. “Lucky ‘or a certain moose, they’re not here.”
“Thank goodness,” Joe said, massaging a shoulder. “They’ve been running me ragged these past days. I can’t believe I can get so sore.”
Carl laughed softly.
“It’s true!” Joe opened the bag and pulled out a set of needles and a ball of green yarn. “I mean, they are like machines over in the weight room. Though, honestly,” he added, “I think Sarge just wants to ogle me.”
“That goes without saying,” Mike said, sitting down next to Joe. “You made quite an impression on him the first day, dressed in that jock.”
“I’d say moosie made a ‘mpression on everyone,” Carl said.
Joe shrugged and focused on his knitting.
Mike looked at the needles. “I still can’t believe that you can do this,” he said.
“It isn’t a hard skill to learn,” Joe said. “My grandmother said that it just four movements, with lots of variations.”
“You should see about making knitted jocks for the staff,” the ‘roo joked.
Joe paused in his knitting and glared at Mike. “No.”
Mike raised his hands up in defense at the intensity of the stare. “I’m only kidding. Kidding!”
Joe stuck his tongue out and went back to his knitting. “So, what’s up for tonight?”
“I was about to let Carl know,” Mike said. “Miss Ybarra is back in town.”
Carl’s jaw dropped. “Maddie’s here?”
“Who?” Joe said.
“A local legend, in a fashion,” Mike said. “One of the best singers ever to grace Bar Jocks.”
“’Er band’s been ‘round the state,” Carl said. “The girl‘s ‘mazin’.”
“So what’s happening?” Joe said.
“The bossman usually holds a private party for her,” Mike explained. “Nothing much, like usual, but we don’t go around in jocks.”
The ‘roo shook his head. “We usually go in for speedoes or swim trunks.”
Joe nodded. “No preening for the folks?”
“If you want, though we will just be enjoying the music.”
Joe nodded again. ‘Enjoying the music’ is bar-speak to ‘hip gyrations’.
“But on times like this, all we will do is strut around and carry hors d’oeuvres and glasses of drinks to the guests. They might try to cop a feel, but more likely than not, they will just listen to her sing.”
“Sounds like she’s a good singer.”
Mike nodded. “Oh yeah. She’s amazing.”
“She ‘ad ‘er first concert ‘ere,” Carl said. “Even Mister ‘Uxley didn’t know what to expect.”
“After that,” Mike continued, “her popularity just skyrocketed.”
Joe nodded. “How many times has she’s been here?”
“This would be my sixteenth time, if I don’t miss the guess.”
The moose turned around in his chair to see a dumpy-shaped panda standing at the threshold of the lobby. She was dressed in a loud tropical blouse and matching pants. A small grin played across her face as she walked to the trio.
“Maddie,” Carl said, smiling.
“Miss Ybarra,” Mike said, reaching over to take the panda’s hand and giving it a firm handshake. “Bar Jocks welcomes you back.”
The grin exploded into a brilliant smile. “Thank you, Micheal,” she said, her voice quivering with energy. “It is a pleasure to be back.” She turned to the bartender. “And you, Carl, thank you.” She tilted her head coquettishly. “If I may get the usual?”
As Carl got the drink ready, the lady focused on Joe. “And who is this?”
He stood, easily standing a foot above her. Ye gods, he thought, I assumed she was taller! He shoved the thought out of his mind as he cleared his throat, pressed his hand against his chest, and bowed low. “Joseph Moose, ma’m. Might I also add my welcome to Mike’s?”
Mike elbowed Joe. “Cut that out.”
The lady laughed. “Delighted, Joseph.” She returned the bow with a slight dip of a curtsy. “Madeline Ybarra, sir. I take it you are the newcomer I saw a while back on Twitter?”
Joe blushed as he straightened up. “Oh hell, you know of that?”
Madeline laughed again. “I’ve been following the page for ages, Joseph. I saw all those photos there. I only wish I was there to see it in person.”
“Your drink, Maddie,” Carl said, placing a tall glass filled with pink froth on the bar.
“Thank you, Carl,” she said.
“So what brings you here so early?” Mike said.
“I need to talk to Rudy,” Madeline said in between sips. “I found a new sax player for tonight’s ensemble, and I have to practice here a bit so we can get some tuning in.”
“Let me let him know you’re here,” Mike said. He turned and went to a corner phone.
“And you, Joseph,” the panda said, eying Joe’s flying fingers. “Mind me asking what you are knitting?”
He looked down at the fabric he was making, his fingers never stopping. “A commission,” he said. “One of my friend’s employees asked me to make her a baby jacket for her upcoming daughter.”
Madeline nodded. “I’m a hooker myself.”
Carl looked flummoxed. “A what?”
Joe and Madeline laughed. “She crochets,” he explained. “That’s what they call themselves.”
“Alright, Miss Ybarra,” Mike interrupted, hanging the phone up. “I’ve let the bossman know. Cindy’s already expecting you.”
“Good,” she said. “I’ll probably see the rest of you later tonight, along with the band.”
As she walked through the double doors, Joe folded up the knitting and put it away. “I need to get that workout in. I am in need of a heavy duty chest workout.”
Mike nodded. “Mind if I join you?”
The moose shrugged and smiled. “Sure, why not. I’m in need of a partner.”