“I’ll have what he’s having, Furry Karl.” Karl pours Karoz Blogger a glass of red house wine. “Add it to my tab,” Karoz then says, making the bartender sigh but nod.
“Pay up by the end of next month,” he warned. “And Tom’s rent is due as well. Where’ve you been? Galavanting around space still?”
“No,” says Karoz. “I’m done with that.”
“You mean *Wheeler* is done with that,” Furry Karl corrects.
“Yeah,” Karoz admitted. He took a sip of wine and looked down at his hands.
“Well… good to have you back still, I suppose. Just kidd’n. I missed you. A little.”
Karoz smiles. “I’ll pay you back, Furry Karl, I promise. You know I’m good for my word. I’m pulling some extra shifts at the Bodega Market to make up for lost time. And Wheeler granted me a stipend. I’m working for her, and I’m working for Tom.”
“How did Tom the Busker get ownership of that market again?” queries Karl, referring to the store directly across from his own establishment in SoSo Mall.
“Excuse me,” said the stranger also drinking wine to Karl. “Do you have a magnifying glass by chance? I can’t seem to read this one particular quote in lower type.”
Furry Karl looked annoyed. This stranger had been sitting at the bar for what seemed like a week to him. “No, I don’t have a magnifying glass. And this isn’t the library, by the way. That’s through the mall and down Old Cannon Road to your left. Maybe ol’ Bean will have a magnifying glass over there. Why don’t you try.”
“Oh, I think I can just make it out, thank you anyway,” says the stranger, eyes closer to his book now and either oblivious to Karl’s annoyance or just not caring if he does notice. He murmurs softly to himself now as he reads.
“Anyway,” Karl continues. “Spill the wine.”
Karoz tips over the wine glass.
“Sorry,” says Karoz. “So clumsy.”
“I’ll go get a rag from in back,” says an exasperated Karl.
The distraction worked. Karoz didn’t have to answer another question about Tom for almost a whole week. And by that time, he’d also figured out some more lies to tell about his job over at New Island. Polishing the silverware; yeah that’s it.
When Furry Karl returned, Karoz had already cleaned up the spill with a borrowed book. “Well, I suppose it’s time to get going,” the stranger said, making Karl’s frown turn upside down.