I'd started (and ended, actually) as a waitress at the Legion Hall in Anoka. The clientele consisted mainly of old men, many of whom smelled badly, and only two of whom did NOT consider ten cents an appropriate tip. Old Man Kelly was my favorite stinky ten-cent-tipper. He warbled in every day when we opened at 1:00, and graced us all with his effervescent presence until he was kicked out. Most of the bartenders refused to let him sit at the bar, and the bartender who'd been working there longest, Linda, could actually smell him coming from two blocks down the hall. She'd stop dead in her tracks, wrinkling up her nose, and exclaim, "Ahh good Lord. Here comes Kelly." From time to time, he'd come into the bar, doused in HI KARATE, in hopes of landing himself a prime bar stool. Once, he even came in dripping wet, trying to convince us he'd just taken a shower. In retrospect, there's no doubt he'd merely splashed himself in the bathroom sink. His GLASSES were covered in water droplets, for Christ's sake! Ahhh, but he tried. Truly, Kelly was a man on a mission.
He was a shaky and shriveled old guy, short in both stature and teeth. He sported his wisp of silky white hair under a red baseball cap. It was painful watching him drink himself into a stupor every day, and I had some moral reservation about serving him at all, but I learned pretty quickly that if I ignored him on my rounds for long enough, he'd eventually waft like a fart up to the counter and order his "own damn beer." Miller Lite on tap was his poison, because it sold for ninety cents per glass, and he believed in managing his social security checks; Half for beer, half for pull tabs.
Old Man Kelly had no family that we knew of, and judging from the smell of things, he had no bathtub, either. His speech was slurry and spit-riddled for reasons unknown, and by 5pm, he'd typically given up on any attempts to speak at all. At the start of my shift, Kelly would greet me with a hearty, "Hey! How you doing?" By the middle of my shift, he was reduced to, "Heeeey. Doooing," followed by a juicy burp.
By 7 or so, his speech failed him entirely, and Kelly took a shine to bothering The Guys. The Guys, who all worked at the used car lot directly across the street from the bar, came in daily at 6, sitting at the tables against the window, where they stared out at the lot and talked shop. They kept Kelly in beer and conversation until they could stand his stink no more, then banished him to a different table, preferably downwind of the heater.
So, on a night like this, disgruntled and devious, Old Man Kelly sat giggling to himself. "Hey Kelly. How's life treating ya tonight?" I inquired while keeping out of spittle range. "Dem guysh. You know..Al and dem? And Steeeve? Dey tell me I gotta take a baff. And den dey shtick me here," he complained, indicating his table. His lips disappeared entirely as he spoke. "Well, why don't you run home, take a bath, and come back again? I'd love to see ya all spiffed up," I smiled. "You kick me out if I frow stuff at dem guysh?" Kelly inquired. "I won't," I answered, "but Dan probably will." I gestured towards Dan, the bartender that night. "He runs a tight ship around here, Kelly. You know that!" "Bleefff," he said, and dismissed me with a wave of his liver spotted hand.