“The Lucky Buck Poetry Club” by David Hopkins
Don was not disappointed; he was devastated. The roof of their bar, the Lucky Buck, caved in by the weight of last night’s snow. Don sat in his pickup truck, staring at the wreckage. The snow on the roof, which melted and re-froze into a heavier block of ice, exploited a weakness in the tired structure, broke through and everything gave way. The hole was massive. More snow drifted in.
Don kept his truck running, and stepped outside. The cold left him breathless. He gasped and zipped his coat to his chin. Don took a step towards the bar and then slipped on a patch of the icy sidewalk. The salt did little to melt anything. Don regained his balance and made it to the door. It was locked. There was a note posted inside the small window: BAR CLOSED. CAN YOU GUESS WHY? No doubt written by Sally who arrived earlier that morning. Don rested his head against the entrance. He could hear the creaking of the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign above him.
Don and his friends loved the Lucky Buck. They would meet almost every day after work, for every Packers game, for birthdays, for any special occasion, after his niece’s first communion. The Lucky Buck was the worst insulated building in town. The heater was always cranked to fight a losing battle against the cold. Neon signs advertised Miller High Life and Milwaukee’s Best. They hung on the wood paneled interior. A large mirror behind the counter bore the name of Jacob Leinenkugel. (Don and his wife Rheba toured the Leinenkugel brewery last summer. He bought t-shirts for Charlie, Nick, and Arnold. On the car ride home, Rheba was mad at him for not buying her anything. She received Charlie’s shirt as consolation.) The Lucky Buck had a row of dashboard hula-dancers around the cash register. A Packers flag draped near the restroom doors. A magnificent 20-point buck, the centerpiece of the establishment, was mounted high on the far wall. They named the deer “Lucky,” of course. Don and the guys always claimed the table nearest Lucky whenever possible.
“Well. That’s a shame.”
Don lifted his head from the door and turned to see Arnold standing behind him. Arnold had walked from his house across the street.
“We could always go to Last Shot in Remington,” Don said.
“Nah,” replied Arnold. “Thirty miles away. It might as well be on the surface of the moon.”
Don and Arnold paused. The conversation wasn’t over. They just preferred these extended moments of reflection before continuing. Even if they were both freezing, they wouldn’t rush and show weakness.
“How about we get some beer at Pick ‘n Save and go to your house?” Don pointed past Arnold to indicate the obvious. “It’s right there.”
“Yah. That’ll do.”
Don got into his truck. Arnold turned around and walked back.
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