Microbrews got popular, then overdone, then commonplace. Jimmy never tried one, even though they'd have to be better than the Bud on tap. Thing was, though, he knew he could manage a mug of draft by slipping his hooks through the handle.
The microbrews came in a bottle, and Vic served them in tall, straight glasses. Jimmy had tried at home, but he couldn't manage to lift and pour from a bottle. After too god-damned many years of practice, he was about as good with the hooks as he was going to get. He could dress himself, shave, and keep himself clean. Beyond that, he had to live within his limitations.
Ask Vic to pour his beer for him? Jimmy may not have had any hands, but he still had self-respect. So, he drank what was on tap - Bud and sometimes Guinness. He cast sidelong looks at the bottled beers Vic set in front of the other patrons. Beers with strange names like Sierra Nevada Porter, Blue Moon Belgian Ale, Fat Tire Lager.
The bar had a signboard with a dozen different beers on it, crazy sounding stuff that Vic played around with. He'd started it during the height of the microbrew bubble, kept it up when it paid its way. Smart guy, Vic; he wasn't afraid to take an angle if it wouldn't piss off his regulars. He'd get in eight or a dozen cases of something, and if it sold OK, he'd bring it back.
Mackeson's Triple Extra Stout, Burning River Pale Ale, Crocodile Village Wheat.
Jimmy read the names, examined the labels on the display bottles, then moved over to the bar so he could sit and drink his draft beer. There were times, usually in the small hours of the morning but sometimes sitting at the bar, when Jimmy sort of wished he'd been killed instead of just maimed in that attack. Vic always gave him a free one on Veteran's Day, a twenty ouncer of his "favorite", Budweiser. He pictured getting a Memorial Day tribute instead, somebody lifting a glass in his memory. It would be something dark and exotic with thick foam, something with some weird kind of flavor that shouldn't taste right in a beer, but does.
He sat on his stool, knowing that Vic would have seen him coming, and have his Bud waiting for him. Instead, Vic's new bartender, Alicia, set a regular beer mug in front of him, opened a bottle and poured out a golden brown beer.
"Hiya, Jimmy. I'll get your usual for you in just a second, but could you do me a favor? Could you taste this, on the house? Vic says it tastes like Bud, only better. I think it doesn't taste anything at all like Bud. You're our resident expert on Budweiser, so what do you think?"
For a long time, Jimmy looked at the foaming mug, at the empty bottle - Third Coast Golden Lager. Her hand was flat on the bar, her fingernails trimmed short and painted a reddish shade of brown. He reached for the beer. His grip on the handle was firm; hooks don't shake.
He set his lips to the thick, aromatic foam, and sipped, then drank quickly and deeply, as though someone were going to take it away from him. He set the empty mug down and let the flavor of the beer roll around his mouth. Amazingly, it also had an aroma that was practically a flavor all by itself.
"So?" she said. "How was it?"
In her eyes was understanding. She knew. However it was that she knew, she did.
"It didn't taste at all like Bud," Jimmy said. His voice was more choked than he thought possible.
She smiled and put some paper napkins in front of him, in thick stack, easy to grip.
"You've got some foam on you, Jimmy. These micros leave a mustache." She turned her back to fuss with something behind the bar, giving him a chance to do something about the tears that had started up.
After a moment, she turned back and said, "We've got a bunch of different ones, in case you ever wanted to give another one a try. They taste just as good in a regular mug as in one of Vic's fancy pub glasses."
Jimmy sat for a moment, then said, "Sure. Give me something good. Surprise me."
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