"So what are you planning on doing when the new season starts?" asks Ray, sitting on a rail with his feet on the second row of bars.
"As of right now? I have no idea. I really don't."
"You know you're in the group they want back, right?"
"I should fucking hope so," I replied. "Why would they wanna drop me?"
"They're droppin' a lot of guys. I think we're only keepin' like fifteen or twenny guys, and gettin' rid of the rest. JD said he wants to clean house a little."
"Where'd you hear that?"
"From JD. We were talkin' about it on Saturday, when you took off."
"I really don't know what I'm gonna do," I said. "They better promote the living hell out of this place come September, because the crowd that's coming in here fucking sucks."
"I mean, like, dangerously sucks. Like they're turning over rocks to get people in here."
"That's the way the business works," he said. "You know that as well as anyone."
"Right, but if you're not gonna remodel, or redesign, or open up under a new name, what the fuck does that mean for the crowd that's gonna be coming back after Labor Day? This place has been goin' downhill for like two years already, and it's only gonna get worse if nobody does anything."
"I don't know."
"From what I know about (The Owner's) places," I said, "he usually gives it a three year shot and then moves on, and he's already pushin' it with this shithole. I don't even wanna come to work anymore."
"When did you ever?"
"You know what I mean," I replied. "It's gone from being a job to actually being nervous while I'm here because of this fucking crowd. All anyone gives a shit about is making numbers. There's no more discretion at the door, the front guys aren't making any money, and it's one thing after another at the end of the night because we're letting in so much fucking trash."
"Somebody's gonna get hurt here. That's the next thing that's gonna happen."
"Dude, I talk to guys I know, and nobody has to do the shit we do here. Nobody. You can go through a whole fucking month at some of these other places and never have to even talk to anyone."
"I'll tell you what," he said. "I know for a fact that if it doesn't get better when the new season starts, a lotta guys are out of here."
"I don't blame 'em. I'm probably right behind 'em. It's not worth the risk. They're tryin' to make their numbers at all costs, and we're the ones who have to deal with the shit. And it sucks, because the only reason I stay here is because I know everyone and I feel safe, or at least I used to. I'd rather be out of a job for a couple months, and then come back to a new place. At least that way, we'd get some people in here who aren't fucking ex-cons."
"So which way are you leanin'?"
"I'm gonna do what everyone else is doin', I guess. Wait and see. The thing I don't understand is why nobody from management addresses the problem. I mean, I guess they're gonna wait until we have the big meeting in September and see who's comin' back, but there's shit going on right now, you know? We're havin' major problems every fucking night. Can you remember a single Friday night where the fuckin' cops didn't show up at least once?"
"What the fuck does (The Owner) care?" Ray asked. "It's not like anyone ever looks into the future in this business. He'll call a big fucking meeting after somebody gets killed and tell us all what we did wrong."
"What are you gonna do?"
"It don't matter to me either way. I need the money, and I'm gonna make more here than I will anywhere else. I don't wanna go somewhere else where I have to work with a bunch of guys I don't know, and learn a whole new system, and I can't drink or hide in the back or get away with any of the shit I get away with here. The hours I put in with two jobs are bad enough. I don't wanna make it worse by goin' and bein' the new guy at some other place."
"I know," I said. "That's why I don't wanna go anywhere else. The way I'm lookin' at it, it's either keep workin' here, or quit bouncing for good."
"What are you doin' during the day now? You still with (my old day job)?"
"Yeah," I lied, "plus I got some other shit goin' on, too. I'm doin' better than I was last year. If I quit, I'd be takin' a pretty good hit, but I think I could get by without it."
"You're lucky you don't have kids. I gotta stay doin' this. I don't know if I could ever quit. At least not now, anyways."
"Hey, like I said, it's a big fuckin' hit, but I'd let that money go to have a little peace of mind and get back on a normal schedule for the first time in years, you know? I'm sick of havin' my whole days fucked up worryin' about what's gonna happen at work that night. Maybe I sound like a pussy, but that's what happens. I worry about it, and I don't even wanna come in. I'm gettin' too old for this shit. I don't enjoy the fights and shit like I did when I was twenny-one."
"It's just a job," he said. "You been comin' in here for years, and you're still here. Nothin' ever happens."
"No shit. You don't see me callin' in sick or anything, do you? I'm here, right? My whole problem with it is that I can't shake the feeling that something's gonna happen. I didn't feel like this last year, or the year before, when I needed the money so bad it didn't matter. But now I'm doin' better, and I feel like I got a lot more to lose. I look at the shit I get in the middle of, and I'm not thinkin' about doin' my job anymore. I'm thinkin' about how it's not even worth it."
"You talk to JD about it?" he asked.
"Why should I? I talk to him about this shit, he'll know I'm thinking about leaving, and he's not even gonna wait. He'll just hire somebody else."
"He wouldn't do that to you."
"Sure he would," I said. "And I wouldn't blame him for it. Who the fuck am I? I don't do shit around here anymore. It's a running joke with the door guys. Freddie calls me the 'Innocent Bystander.' I've never been this lazy on a fuckin' job in my life. These people just suck the life outta you."
"You think I do anything here?"
"It's different with me. I was Mister Perfect for the whole time I been here, and now I just don't give a shit about anything. About the only thing I do right anymore is show up on time. But what I'm sayin' is that if you do everything right all the time, and then you start jerkin' off and bein' lazy, everyone notices. I set myself up for it."
"I haven't heard anything about anyone bein' unhappy with you," he said.
"It's not that anyone's complaining. Don't get me wrong with that. I can just tell that JD knows I'm losin' interest. If he's askin' me back in September, it's based on past performance, not on what I've done for him lately, because that adds up to a big fat fuckin' zero."
"It would suck here if you quit. Who the fuck am I gonna talk to? Nobody else here fuckin' hates people as much as you."
"First of all," I said, "I don't know for sure if I'm gone yet. And second, you'll find someone easy. Lot of miserable guys in this business, just like us."
"You got that right."