You n Me n the NTG.

The NTG was one of those shoehorned bars stuck in a small space below someone’s house. The house and the bar both belonged to one Charlie Kuchenbecker, who was the proprietor and namesake of his beloved bar. It was small, but cozy; full of gentle-hearted folks who all enjoyed each other’s company and the taste of a fine ale or, in some cases, something a little harder.
Dan was no stranger as he walked in, as one of his pre-recorded station promos had just flashed across one of the bar’s two television screens. On nights when the Yanks and Sox both had games, the twin TVs were a blessing. The patrons were all friends, but loyalty to one’s drinking buddies only goes so far.
Dan sat down at his usual spot at the bar, flanked by his usual pals. There was Tom, the construction worker and part time substitute teacher, and Dustin, the delivery man. These were the real heart of this city, and Dan’s credibility with the people of Boston was always made stronger by his interactions with the blue collar element.
Plus, they were both great drinkers.
Spud drew a couple of strange stares as he sat next to his brother at the bar. On top of his rather shabby and gaunt appearance (the after-effects of living on ten dollars a month) his curious walk attracted many a stare.
“Hey Danno,” Tom grumbled in his grizzled and sawdust tinted voice, “who’s the kid?”
Dan threw a friendly arm around Spud. “This here’s my kid brother, Will. We all call him Spud. Say hi Spud,” he gave his brother a good natured poke in the ribs.
“…Hi.” Spud said. He was rewarded with a resounding chorus of greetings in return, which worked to elicit a smile from his typically taciturn features. The smile soon turned into a sheepish and embarassed grin as the bartender sauntered over to take their order.
Not just any bartender.
Sally Camden.
Five foot eight and built like a German racecar: not one gear out of place, if you know what I mean. Natural jet black hair that ran straight from her head halfway down her back with bangs hanging coyly in front of her bright hazel eyes. The eyes, the hair and the porcelain nature of her skin betrayed some Asian ancestry, even if her name did not. She was exotic, she was strong, and she held her hands on her hips with a certain kind of sass as she waited for his order.
His order.
Oh shit, he needed to order!
Somewhere between trying not to look like an ass and cursing himself for not shaving that day, he muttered out “cheeseburger, medium,” or something along those lines. Sally smiled, flashing a dazzling set of pearly whites, and disappeared to give his order and get their drinks.
“Heh,” Dan snickered, “not much has changed.”
Spud thumped his head on the bar in defeat. So it wasn’t just him overreacting again, he really did manage to screw things up pretty well. But still, who woulda thought that this hidden little bar in downtown Boston would have held such beauty?
He watched her re-emerge from the kitchen and go to make drinks. She set down a bottle of Bud and a shot of tequila for Dan, and something brown and interesting looking in front of him. He raised his head up from the bar with enough time to see her look at him, give him a smile and a wink, brush her errant bangs away and head off to take care of another customer.
“Hey hey, little bro, looks like she don’t think you’re too bad!”
Spud tried in vain to banish the red bar bumping mark from his forehead.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. What did you order me?”
“Rum and Coke. Don’t worry, nothing nuts.”
“Three parts Rum and one part Coke?”
“Nah. Did you want it that way?”
“Not really,” Spud smiled, “I’ll take Coke anyday.”
But the drink was good, Spud wouldn’t deny that. Or maybe it was the girl that made it. As he saw her going back and forth around the bar, he was trying to figure out the rest of her lineage because, frankly, Asian girls aren’t typically built like Sally Camden. Dan seemed to read his mind (or his wandering eyes) and took a timeout from discussing the Red Wings/Rangers debate to give his two cents.
“Her Ma’s from Japan. Her Dad’s from Allentown. Papa Camden’s half English/Half Italian. Talk about a mixed bag that pulled out a jackpot, eh?”
“Eh…” Spud muttered, still entranced.
“You’d like her too, kid. She’s a little younger than you, just finishing up at BC. Doin’ the whole English thing I guess, she’s always correcting the patrons grammar and shit. Too bad her boyfriend’s kinda possessive…”
And that was all it took. Suddenly, everything rosy that had been blooming in Spud’s imagination turned to diseased, ashen wasteland. Nothing looked good anymore. Not Sally, not his Rum and Coke, and definately not the burger that that previously angelic figure had just lain in front of him.
Although, to be honest, the burger would have looked plain nasty to any patron. The NTG wasn’t known for it’s food, unless it’s in the drunken sponge category. You could cram some of the grub down a drunk’s mouth to try and sober him up, but once he came back to consciousness he’d revile the taste in his mouth worse than the vomit he’d be chugging up later.
Spud couldn’t take it anymore. The burger was the charred, meaty straw that broke his camel’s back.
“Oh…oh no way,” Spud grumbled, and hopped off of his barstool. Sally was busy with a one of the few tables outside of the bar’s perimeter, so he had a clear shot around the counter and back into the kitchen. As he crossed the threshold he expected to be mauled by angry patrons believing him to be taking advantage of something or another. But no one stopped him. They knew where he was headed, and they knew why. They’d all been there at one time or another when they, in their poor, misguided youth, had foolishly ordered food at the Non-Threatening German.
The stumping noise of Spud’s right foot seemed to grow louder and louder as he reached back into the kitchen. A small and modest affair, but he had worked in worse. It seemed to have every amenity needed, and it was clean enough. The only problem seemed to be with a flustered looking young Latino boy, who was at the moment trying to navigate his way around a hopelessly charred chicken breast.
Spud gave a shrill whistle. The boy turned around. He must not have been more than fifteen.
“Yo, Paco!” Spud growled, “salga de la Cocina.” He had worked with enough migrant workers in three years to pick up enough Spanish.
The boy didn’t move. He looked absolutely terrified of this hulking, stomping man that had just entered his kitchen. Finally he found words to speak.
“B…but I’m from Cleveland…” the boy sputtered in shock.
“Then get out of the way,” Spud snapped. He stumped over to the grill and looked at the poor, poor doomed chicken breast. With one smooth flick of the spatula he flipped the disgraced bird into the garbage can and swept the charred bits of fowl off the grill into the grease trap.
“Wow, that’s pretty good, mister!” the boy said in awe.
“Oh Yeah? Well still around, Chico, I got plenty more to show ya.”

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