By Pete Moss
"Can we get a drink?" I say to Shrelle.
Shrelle rolls her eyes. But she goes to the fridge and gets 2 bottles. Spela and I take stools and sit at the bar. Shrelle sets our bottles down.
Spela takes a sip of her beer and makes a face.
"What is this?" she says.
"Bud Light Lime," says Shrelle, deadpan.
"So how are things with you?" Shrelle says to me. Shrelle would make a great lawyer. She never asks a question she doesn't already know the answer to.
I don't answer, except a vaguely waved hand.
Spela is looking around the bar. It's a dingy old place. Some photos hanging on the wall. The bar. Not a huge selection of bottles. A few Budweiser and Miller posters on the wall. Some faded sports memorabilia.
Suddenly Pedro, sitting on his bar stool patiently, stands and growls, hackles raised.
I'm aware of two people standing directly behind me. It's awkward to try and turn and find out who it is. They have me boxed in. Too late I realize I shouldn't have sat at the bar, leaving my back exposed to the room.
Then YoYo slips into onto the stool next to me. The old man who was playing pool has disappeared and Shrelle suddenly seems to have a very persistent puddle that needs wiping up at the other end of the bar.
"YoYo," I say.
Pedro doesn't say anything.
"So you brought Pedro back?"
"If he wants to come back."
"And you have some other things to chat about?"
Now Shrelle comes back down to our end of the bar. She's got her bar rag still in her hand.
"Hey YoYo, why you bring these 50 cent niggers in my bar?" says Shrelle.
"Well I figured you could use some business since nobody under 60 has been in here since Jimmy Carter was Prez." says YoYo.
"Who you calling a 50 cent nigger?" says one on the ones standing behind me. His voice is oddly cordial.
Spela slips off her barstool and does a little sideways move and is out of the way, the 50 cent niggers now focused on Shrelle.
"I'm calling you a 50 cent nigger," says Shrelle.
I've managed to turn half sideways on my barstool. Both of the 50 cent niggers have backed up a little. The light is dim. But I see them move.
But then I hear the slide of an automatic readying to fire from Shrelle.
"Looks like I got the draw on y'all," says Shrelle.
Nobody makes a move for a second.
"Now you are going to walk out of my bar. YoYo here has some bidness to go over with the two white folks and you know she'll be perfectly safe. She doesn't need your 50 cent security. K?" says Shrelle.
Nobody moves for another second. Then some looks pass between YoYo and her security team, and they stroll on out of the bar as if it was just another day at the office.
"Why don't you three move it on over to that booth," says Shrelle. So we do.
"So why you bring the Russian bitch?" says YoYo as soon as we're seated.
"I'm Croatian!!! Not a filthy Russian swine!!!" says Spela.
"Pedro's grown very attached to her," I say. Pedro is sitting between me and Spela. Leaning against Spela.
"Pedro! Come to momma baby!" says YoYo. Addressing Pedro for the 1st time.
"Pedro, didn't I treat you right? Remember all those times I gave you food right off my own plate?" Says YoYo
I could swear Pedro rolls his eyes. Then looks away.
"Ah fuck you then," says YoYo. ''You think you the only dog in the pound?"
"So, got that outta the way," I say.
"Yeah Now down to the important stuff, like my money you owe me," says YoYo.
"Money I owe you???" I say.
"From selling that house," says YoYo.
"We're not selling the house."
"Well what you gonna do with it then?" says YoYo.
"Live in it." I say, shrugging my shoulders.
"Are you outta your mind?!?! You can get a million dollars for that wreck of a house!!!!"
"Yeah but then I won't have a house to live in," I say.
"So take the money and buy you two houses in Fresno or Bakersfield or wherever."
"I don't want to live just wherever," I say. "Anyway, how do you I figure I owe you any money if I did sell the house?"
After YoYo leaves Shrelle motions us over. We sit at the bar, but this time, around the corner with our backs to the wall and a good view of the room.
"I heard what you all were talking about," says Shrelle. She motions and I look over the bar and there's a little microphone there.
"So you think we should just sell?" I say.
"Absolutely not!!!" says Shrelle.
"Not even for a million dollars?" says Spela.
"Can you live in a million dollars? You two are a cute little couple. You should live in the house and have babies!!"
"Babies??!!!" say Spela and I together.
"Well look how it is with little Pedro there? He obviously loves you and wants to live with you. You gave him a good home. You can do the same for a baby. Lord knows there's plenty assholes can't give themselves a good home, yet they out making babies anyhow. And the babies grow up robbin’ and rapin’. Some of us good ones gotta step up and raise some decent kids once in awhile."
Pedro barks once and looks from me to Spela.
I look at Spela. She looks at me.
"I know you got some problems. Those developers are like Hyenas. All over poor folks here in the Bay Area. Shit!!! They were after us to sell Sam Jordans. Not a moment’s peace," says Shrelle.
"Whadya do?" I say.
"We got historical status for the building." says Shrelle.
"Registered with the City and County of San Francisco as a historical landmark. Puts all kinds of restrictions on what developers can do to a building," says Shrelle. "They wanted to tear it down and put up a 5 story condo building."
"But this is just a dingy old bar," I say. "Sorry, not meaning any disrespect."
"None taken. It is a dingy old bar. But it was the first black owned bar in San Francisco, actually the whole Bay Area. My grandpa came out her from Louisiana to work in the shipyards back in '33. Got work as a welder. Made some money. Bought this bar the next year," says Shrelle. a definite note of pride in her voice.
"I guess that's pretty historical," I say. "I wonder if that old house across the bay ever had any history like that."
"I could look it up," says Spela, already tapping at her phone. "What's the address? Damn!!! I forgot my phone is bricked!!!"
"It's worth a look," says Shrelle. She goes and gets a pig’s ear for Pedro. "They bricked my phone too when I kept turning down they offers."
Two old guys come into the bar and greet Shrelle. She greets them back and serves them a shot of cheap rye each with a pickle back.
"I guess we oughtta be getting back," I say to Spela.
"Thanks for the advice," says Spela to Shrelle, who's down talking with her two customers. Shrelle waves her hand.
Spela and I walk out of the bar and skip across the street to the street car station. There's a T car pulling up and we hop on and ride downtown to catch BART back to Oakland.
Spela keeps messing with her phone.
"Damn it!!!!" says Spela. "Whoever did this really did it."
"It can wait," I say. "Anyway, I want to talk to you."
"I can talk and look at my phone at the same time," says Spela, without looking up.
"No...this is important."
Something in my voice has Spela look up.
"It's about what she said," says Spela.
"About making babies."
"I never even considered being a mom. I mean, what with all the war and then being a refugee and...."
"I never considered being a dad," I say. "Until right this minute."
Suddenly Spela kisses me. Not a big movie kiss. Just a quick little kiss. On the lips. But a small kiss that delivers a big message.