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A Bar in Omaha

I’m sitting at the bar at the Omaha Ramada, wanting to celebrate because I just closed the Ramsfield account.  I called my boss at home like he told me and he actually said, “Good work, son.” He never called me “son” before, although once he called me a lazy son-of-a-bitch.

I want to call Karen, but she’s probably putting Billy to bed.  When I tell her how big the deal is, she’ll say, “Goody for you,” like a little kid.  That’s what I love about her, her enthusiasm.  The best part is after all these years, she’s still enthusiastic about me.

I told her I’d call about ten when she can relax and we can talk dirty.  It’s dumb, I know, but it’s this little game we play when I’m on the road.

So I sit down at the nearly empty bar to help pass time.  I don’t drink much, but I order a scotch and water and try to make small talk with the bartender.  He acts like he has to polish the imitation brass railing along the bar separating him from the customers.   Someone’s played a Garth Brooks song on the jukebox, and it makes me feel like everyone has either just lost their best friend or is hung over.  Or both.  I don’t want to go up to my room because hotel rooms are even lonelier than hotel bars.  It’s funny.  If I were home, I’d probably be watching TV while Karen reads the newspaper or grades her third graders’ spelling tests.  But I can’t bear the thought of watching TV alone.

There are peanuts on the bar so I grab a handful and pop a few into my mouth.  The bartender brings my drink and I sign for it with my room number, not planning on staying past the one drink.  He’s less communicative than before.  Even giving him a decent tip doesn’t make him friendlier.  He just mumbles, “‘preciate it,” gives me my receipt and returns to his polishing.

So I’m sipping my drink and popping peanuts when this real knockout with long black hair sits down next to me, although there are plenty of empty seats.   She catches me looking at her and smiles.  I’m embarrassed when our eyes meet, so I turn towards my drink.  I’m thinking she’s a hooker and that’s a mess I sure don’t want to get involved in.

“Hi,” she says, holding out her hand. “My name is Gwen Whitner.”

I look up as if I’m surprised to see her.  I figure even if she’s a hooker, I could be polite.  “Jim Yoder.”  We shake, and I realize my hand is filled with salt from the peanuts.

I apologize like a fool, but she just laughs and wipes her hand with the napkin from under my drink.  She has one of those open-mouth, toothpaste commercial laughs.  It’s sexy and wholesome at the same time. 

She orders scotch.  The bartender asks if the bar brand will do and I notice he didn’t ask me.  When the drink arrives, she takes a long sip and sighs like Billy does when he drinks his first glass of milk in the morning.

“Rough day?” I ask.

“No more than usual.”

I stare at her, trying to think of something witty, but I’m still afraid she’s a hooker.

Finally, she helps me out by asking what I do.  I tell her and she tells me she’s with Payne Marketing.  I’ve heard of the firm, so we talk shop for a while and exchange cards.  That helps me relax, and the next thing I know I’m bragging about the Ramsfield account.  “It should bring in over a half million the first year,” I say.  “And if they merge with Bellows Electronics, the sky’s the limit how much that account can be worth.”

She asks about my company’s annual gross and she seems impressed, although Payne Marketing must be worth five times the amount.

“Ramsfield could be a big move up for me,” I tell her.

“Then we should celebrate,” she says.  “I have a bottle of J&B in my room.”

I guess I’m not the sharpest tack in the box because I say I usually don’t drink and I’ve already had my limit. 

She smiles.  “You don’t have to drink.  We could just celebrate.”

It finally dawns on me what she’s suggesting and I feel my heart pounding like it’s decided to stop playing back up and do a solo.  Finally, after a long silence, I say, “Thanks, but I, uh, have to call my wife.”

“That’s all right,” she says, quickly. “I know you’re married.  I can see your ring.”  She wets her lips with a pink tongue and raises her eyebrows just a little. 

Her eyes are just plain gorgeous.  Even in the dark bar I can see they’re green.  And the rest of her?  Well, let me just say she fills out the tan sweater she’s wearing under a dark jacket.  

Karen is good looking, but Gwen is, well, wet-dream gorgeous.  And she’s coming on to me. 

It’s been a while since anyone hit on me.  I must be one of those guys who looks like he was born married.  But to be honest, I like it that way.  It’s safe.  I love Karen and the life we have, especially now that Billy will be starting kindergarten and doesn’t demand our attention all the time. 

I’m a pretty decent looking guy and I keep myself in shape.  I jog every other day and I work out with weights twice a week.  But no one’s going to mistake me for a movie actor.  My nose is too big and when I was a kid I got it broken in the only fistfight I’ve ever been in, so it kind of slants to one side a little.  Still, I have a full head of dark hair with a few streaks of gray that Karen tells me looks sexy.

And I don’t mind admitting I’m feeling pretty sexy, too.  I can’t get over that this beautiful woman is coming on to me.  This could be the experience of a lifetime.  But then I think of Karen and Billy.

“I’ve been married six years,” I tell her.  “Seven in August.”

She smiles.  I try to think of something else to say, but all that comes out is, “My boy is going to be five in a month.”  I’m about to take out my wallet to show her pictures, but then I think that’s a little weird.

We talk some more about marriage.  “I was married for two years,” she says.  “But I knew it was a mistake from the start.  My ex was a good guy, but I don’t think I could ever be satisfied with one man.”

I’m feeling like I’m on Oprah or something.  I tell her if you really love someone, one person is enough.  But she kind of cocks her head to one side and gives me that raised eyebrow again.

“Really?  You’ve never cheated?”

I don’t know why I did this, but instead of telling her the truth — that I haven’t been with another woman since Karen and I started dating in college nine years ago — I tell her I had an affair when we were first married and another just before Karen got pregnant.  “But not since Billy was born,” I assure her. 

Now I’m feeling like a jerk.  I want to go, but I don’t want to.  She calls the bartender over and orders another round.  “This one’s on me,” she says.  “To celebrate your latest conquest.”

I look at her.

“The deal you closed today.  The Ramsey account?”

“Ramsfield,” I say, after a long pause.

I try to change the subject.  I ask about her job again and how long she plans on being in Omaha.

“A week,” she tells me.  “I’m with the American Beef Association convention.  My company does a lot of PR work with the food industry.”  She sips her drink.  “How much longer will you be here?”

“I leave tomorrow afternoon.  Got a few things I have to clear up in the morning.  Paperwork, mostly.”  There’s a long silence while we drink.  I sneak a look at my watch and see it’s nearly nine.  I consider thanking her for the drink and going up to my room and calling Karen early.  Then I imagine Gwen naked, straddling me, with her long black hair tickling my chest as she moves downward.

“You hungry?” she asks suddenly.  “Why don’t we get a booth and order some munchies?”

I already had dinner, but I follow her.  My eyes take in her rear end, which is round and shapely under a dark skirt that’s as short as the ones Karen used to wear back in college.  When we get to a booth, she takes off her jacket and the whiteness of her bare arms puts me on edge, like I’m seeing something I shouldn’t.

I’m surprised she orders hot wings.  I thought she’d get a salad, maybe grilled shrimp.  I’d like wings, too, but Karen always tells me how gross it is watching me tear into chicken.  I order a hamburger instead.  “No onions,” I tell the waitress. 

I usually don’t pay attention to other people while they eat, but she impresses me with the way she dives into those wings without the slightest bit of self-consciousness.  When hot sauce drips down her lip, she just wipes it off and grabs another wing. 

Meanwhile, we discover we’re both Midwesterners.  I tell her I’m from Clinton, Iowa and Karen is from a town called Carlisle, just outside of Des Moines.   “We met our junior year at the University of Iowa and we’ve been together ever since.”

She ignores my happily-ever-after story.

Instead, she tells me how she couldn’t wait to get out of the small town where she was raised.  “You’ve never heard of it, I’m sure.  No one has. Sarcoxie, Missouri.”

“Right off Interstate 44,” I say.  “Near Joplin.  Southwestern corner of the state.”  I would have told her how I read road maps when I’m alone in hotel rooms, but that’s not the kind of thing that impresses women. 

She tells me how lonely it is on the road and how she envies me having someone to come home to.  I tell her that a woman as good looking as she is shouldn’t have any trouble with men

“Not usually,” she says. We both laugh.

We order another round and then another and I’m feeling like we’re old friends.  I also feel her bare foot slipping under my pant leg.  I get chills as her toes touch the skin just above my sock.

I see it’s a little after ten and I think of Karen waiting for my call.  I pull my leg away and tell Gwen I have to go.  I try to stand, but the room spins and I stumble a little.  I call the waitress over and ask for our bill. 

“No, no,” Gwen says.  “Let me get this.  You can pay for breakfast in the morning.”

I think it over for what seems like hours.  A lifetime of sexual fantasies dance through my head.  When the waitress arrives, I sign the bill. “I have to make a call,” I say.

“You really are chained to your wife.”  She lets her eyes finish the thought.

“Yeah, I guess I am.”  I hold onto the table for support.

“It must be nice,” she says.

I smile and shake her hand.  She tells me she’s staying in room 458.  As I walk, unsteadily, to the elevator, I repeat the number to myself.  I turn to look back and watch as she drains her drink and orders another.  I punch the elevator button and  think of how Karen has wanted us to renew our vows.  I wonder if this counts.


Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net.  He’s published hundreds of short stories, essays and poems, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories, published by Thumbscrews Press.  A film adaptation of his short story, “Zen and the Art of House Painting,” can be viewed at   Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife and can be contacted at

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