Molly did not drink and did not care much for sitting at bars, but she drove Trevor to the places he liked and sat with him. She had become his designated driver, among other things, some of them wearing thin.
She drove him to one of those bars, a hotel bar, where he tried to talk to her about what life might be like for them in the near future. Her attention went instead to an array of liquor bottles against a mirrored wall. The bottles stood in tiers, like members of a diverse choir.
“Rip Van Winkle,” she said. “Have you ever tried that one?”
“No,” said Trevor, though he might have. At the moment he was drinking a manhattan, at the bottom of which lay a black cherry speared by a plastic pick.
“It’s got a lovely label. You ought to try it.”
“Memo to myself. In the meantime…”
“Such beautiful labels. A lot of creativity went into designing them. You can see it. They pull in the eye, in a strange way, and…imagination.”
“How’s it all arranged? It looks like there’s a plan. If a bottle is removed, someone will know which one takes its place.”
“The best stuff is always on the top, the cheaper stuff on the bottom.”
“Is that where the expression, ‘Top shelf’ came from?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“But nothing stays on the top shelf forever.”
“Some things do. The classics do.”
“What happens to the rest?”
“The cheapest booze is in the well.”
“The well? What well?”
“The tank, below the bar.”
“I didn’t know there was a tank below the bar.”
“They call it the well.”
Trevor knew she would go on about liquor bottles and their labels and how they were arranged. She would draw other people into the conversation, people who would then become her friends.
“Look at that one. Pyrat. Is that how you say it? Pirate?”
“I don’t know. It’s rum.”
“So, pirate. Remember Havana? I love that bottle.”
“It’s top shelf.”
“Where is it made?”
“I have no idea.”
She called the bartender over, as Trevor expected she might.
“That rum there,” she said, “the pirate, is it good?”
“I’m not really a bartender.”
“She’s not really a drinker,” said Trevor.
“I’m a server, just filling in for the regular bartender. He’s a little late. He’ll be here, though, soon I hope.”
“Where is that rum made?” she asked the young man who was not a bartender but was behind the bar mixing drinks anyway.
“Let it go,” said Trevor. “He told you he’s not a bartender.”
“Aren’t you curious?”
“Yeah, but not about that bottle of rum.”
The server took down the bottle and put it on the bar. “Let’s discover this together,” he said.
She smiled at Trevor. See? She followed the young substitute’s fingertip along the fine print on the back label.
“Anguilla!” she cried out.
She and the fill-in regarded it as a small wonder. Anguilla. Neither of them knew exactly where Anguilla was or anyone who had ever gone there.
Trevor would have guessed the rum came from Barbados, gun to the head.