A Seat at the Bar

          Welcome to the Carver. What can I get you?

          Yup, we have that. One Jameson’s Irish Whiskey coming up. You a guest at the hotel? If you are, I can charge this to your room.

           No? Just here for a drink? That makes you a rarity. Nobody comes to the bar just to drink anymore. Now don’t get me wrong. People still drink here. It’s just not the purpose for their visit. That would be Elijah. In fact, more people come to this bar hoping to see Elijah than stay in the hotel. Which is too bad, because it’s a beautiful hotel. Still, it’s those lookiloos that keep the doors open.

            Who’s Elijah? You are a greenhorn. Elijah Carver, the man who built this hotel. That’s his portrait out there in the lobby, big as life. Surprised you missed it. Even in a painting, there’s something about the way he looks at you. Like you’ve got his full and undivided attention.

            Yup, we all—all the employees, I mean—learn all about Elijah Carver. We even have to pass a test when we’re hired. Wanna hear the short version?

 Photo by Efaucon via  Wikimedia Commons , used under Creative Commons 3.0

Photo by Efaucon via Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons 3.0

            Okay, here goes: Ol’ Elijah came out West to find his fortune. He built this place in 1902. Poured his heart, soul, and life savings into making it the jewel of the town. Then the influenza got him, back in the Pandemic of 1918. He’s buried in that cemetery just outside the town limits. Course, some say he never left this building.

            That’s his seat down there, at the end of the bar. Every evening at 5 p.m. sharp, he’d perch on that stool and sip a glass of whiskey. I heard tell that people have been pushed off that seat by invisible hands, but I ain’t ever seen it happen. People say the air around that stool gets awfully cold sometimes, too, and that’s a sign ol’ Elijah’s spirit is visiting. Me? I chalk it up to the air vent in that part of the ceiling.

            Which isn’t to say strange things don’t happen around here.  One of ‘em happened to me. Lost a pair of sunglasses, in fact. I had put them on that seat right there, the very one you’re sitting in. It wasn’t on purpose. That just happened to be where I was. I bent down to retie my shoe when I felt a blast of cold. I straightened up to find my glasses had broken; each lens had developed a web of cracks like a windshield. Guess somebody don’t like sunglasses.

            No, you’re right. Sunglasses make it easy to hide. Elijah woulda thought that too, if he’d lived to see ‘em invented. He believed you should always be able to look a person in the eye. Mr. Carver also believed in keepin’ to a schedule, and I better get back to mine. It’s almost five o’clock, and Mr. C needs his whiskey.

            Hey, that’s a nice watch. Don’t see those analog babies around much anymore. Most people use their cell phones to keep track of time these days. Nice to see someone else is as old-fashioned as I am.

            You ready for more? No problem. It’s just as easy to pour two as it is to pour one. Let me top you off before I pour the new one.

            Here you go. 

            And this one goes…over…here.

            Yes, that’s Elijah’s seat. That’s Elijah’s whiskey too. We still put out a glass for the ol’ boy every evening at five. Oh! You thought that whiskey was for the other Mr. Carver. Jeffrey Carver owns the hotel now and yes, he’s related to Elijah. A great-grand-nephew or something. Elijah never had children of his own. This hotel was his baby. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure Elijah even had a wife. As far as I know, he was married to this place. Anyway, Jeffrey Carver does enjoy an occasional whiskey like his uncle, but he’s not as punctual about it as ol’ Elijah.

            Yeah, someone does drink from that glass. Can’t say if it’s Elijah Carver’s ghost or a patron with sticky fingers, but that glass ends up empty more often than not.

            Jeffrey? He’s a good boss. Seems to care about the place as much as Elijah did. He certainly goes out of his way to preserve the Carver’s charm. He even got this place on the local historic register. They’re unveiling the plaque tomorrow morning. You should stop by. The ceremony starts at nine.  That is, if you’re still in town. What brings you to these parts, anyway?

            Yeah? What business are you in?

            Hotels, huh? You with one of the big chains?

            No, huh? Good for you. Those chains have no charm, no character. Every room is the same, no matter what city you’re in.

            Yeah, I used to work in one. Guess I’m still a bit bitter. It wasn’t a bad place. It just lacked personality.  And when conventions came through, well, that was plain crazy. I don’t mind being busy, but that was ridiculous. I was putting up drinks one after the other. Don’t think I ever made eye contact or had a real conversation. Not like this here, like you and me. This is a treasure. This is why I became a bartender.

            Speaking of busy, looks like the evening crowd is starting to stream in. I best get back to work. Drinks to pour and Elijah’s stool to protect. Can I pour you another before I go?

            Your card?  Yeah, that’d be great. It’s been nice chatting with you. Maybe I’ll stop by your hotel sometime and we can do this again—only next time, you can pour.

            You have a good night, and thanks for the card, Mister, uh, Carver.

            Sir?


Click here to read the story behind "A Seat at the Bar."