The Last House on Rainey St

“Sorry I’m late,” Kira said, throwing her bag over the back of the chair. “There’s no parking down here anymore.”

Ashley laughed, putting her phone face down on the table, “Don’t worry, I took an Uber and just sat down myself. “How are you doing?”

The waiter arrived and handed Kira a menu. He was wearing a faded black T-shirt with the restaurants cracked logo across the back. “Can I start y’all off with anything to drink?”

A quick glance behind the bar revealed the current happy hour specials, a three dollar blue flavored margarita that was no doubt mostly juice and half off their signature zombies.

The entire place was a mix of mid century pseudo Polynesian and rhinestone cowboy. Pastel pearl snap shirt clad bartenders mixed drinks adorned with skewers of pineapple and cherries. “I think we’ll start with a couple of the zombies.” Ashley said glancing at the prices of the other hybrid cocktails on the list.

“Oh and a queso.” Kira said looking over at the nearby tables food.

“Sure thing, I’ll have those right out.”

“Well,” Kira said, picking up where they left off, “the new job is going well enough, still settling into things. I got lucky they let me take Monday off to go to the wedding.”

“Your sister is marrying who again?”

“Some guy she met a few years ago, seems nice enough, only met him once.”

The girls sat back in their chairs as one of the waiters placed a bowl of bright orange cheese on the table and a basket of chips. “Sunset queso and two Zombies.” He said, landing two tall ceramic cowboy styled tiki mugs in front of them - curly straws and paper umbrellas included. Ashley thanked him and took a chip from the basket.

“Well that’s good,” she said taking a sip of her drink. “Oh wow this actually has rum in it.”

Kira laughed, taking a sip of her own, “Hah, you’re right. This place has gone fancy since we were here last.” And it had, a decade ago the two of them shared an apartment a few blocks away. It cost every bit of their paychecks to live in so they could get to work or class without having to leave at 4am. On their days off, usually a Monday or Tuesday, they came downtown to the row of old homes transformed into bars.

This place had been one of the last to evade the bulldozer, others along the street that were once protected by historical commissions lost their status after their commercial zoning booted them from the program, allowing investment firms to swipe them up and turn them into high rises.

No one can keep things the way they are for long, either swallowed up by progress or left to decay when the value dries up. This was the last little Sears mail order home still standing, a final scrap of bones left over from the feed of urban expansion. The only thing keeping it in place was the owner renting out a shed in the back to whoever needed it.

“How about you? How’s the fancy office job going?”

Ashley tapped a chip into the queso, “Doing alright, folks need batteries and we supply them. We won’t be going under anytime soon, unlike the last place.” She took a quick bite. “You still seeing that James fella?”

Kira laughed, “Oh yeah me and Jimmy are still doing the on again off again bit.” She also took a chip. “One day we’ll just give up and bite the bullet, if we can stay in the same place together for longer than a few months.”

“I saw his band was on tour out in Denmark, was it?”

“Yeah, he sent me pics of all the old buildings and such. He wants me to go with them for a few weeks when they start their east coast tour and I should have enough vacation saved up for it.”

Ashley smiled, “Well that’s good, you should go. Worst case, something goes wrong you can just fly back home.”

“Yeah, things were so much easier when he just lived two blocks away and we could walk to his shows.” She took another chip, “Is that place even open still?”

“Nah, I think it’s been office buildings for a while now.”

Kira took a sip of her drink, “Figures, at least this place is still here.”

After several minutes of catching up the waiter came back to refill the empty chip basket. “Another round?”

“Sure thing,” Kira said looking up at the man. “Hey, you’re buddies with Kenneth Brown, right?”

The waiter gave her a surprised look, he had never seen her before. “Um, yeah, he’s an old friend of mine from way back. Haven’t seen him in a while though.”

Kira took out her phone and rapidly tapped a message, “I thought you looked familiar! Yeah, we used to hang out with Kenneth back in school. It’s been forever!” She said hitting send, followed by a digital woosh of sound. “Yeah, turns out Kenneth isn’t friends with you anymore because when we brought him in last week he sang like Mariah Carey in a Christmas parade.” She said, holding up an image of him on her phone.

The waiter froze, dropped his plastic serving tray and bolted for the door. Two large men in black jackets and shades stopped him. Another two were already at the back door and another was chatting with the bartender. He swore at them as they clamped the zip ties around his wrists and escorted him out of the bar.

“I thought you said you had the weekend off.” Ashley said, taking a fresh chip from the basket.