San Francisco by the Moonlight – Part 1
By: James Dubeau
“I’ve never understood why they call it Irish coffee,” The petite woman standing behind the bar said as she topped off the whiskey filled clay mug with coffee. Her short red hair was a stark contrast to the black dress and pinstriped suit coat she wore. A single strand of pearls clung tight to her neck, a strand which attempted to add a splash of coloration to her pale complexion.
“It’s a drink we created back home to keep the late autumn chill away.” A young man in his late teens said when the bartender slid the steaming mug in front of him. His sing-song voice was soft and cracked under the pressure of her beauty. He sipped the drink and bunched up his freckled covered cheeks in disgust. “Arbuckle and ‘shine is not quite the replacement for our Irish whiskey. Have some cream to sweeten this up?”
“Pouring liquor into coffee is a tradition older than the Irish, makes little sense to name the drink after them. Are you new in town?” She retrieved cream from the icebox and splashed it into his drink. Her doe eyes washed over the stranger. His clothes were a size too big for his emaciated frame, hand-me-downs most likely. He had walked into the tavern with an overloaded pack which he had laid at his feet. Tied to his pack was a shovel and pickaxe, nicked and dented from many years of hard farm work. A look of desperation was in his sunken eyes. It was a longing which she saw upon most men in San Francisco, except for the few who had found their gold rush fortune.
“Boat got in this evening. This drink was just the pick-me-up I needed before finding a place to stay for the night. Come morning I’ll be off to find a chunk of land to call my own.”
“Aren’t you a little young for prospecting? All the best claims are already taken by bigger and meaner outfits. Save yourself from frustration and an aching back and go home.”
“There ain’t nothing in Ireland for me anymore. Potato blight starved us all. I’m here to prove to ma, bless her soul, death is not all life has to offer.” His voice trailed off.
“If you aren’t going to take my advice then I might as well make your first night in San Francisco a hospitable one. It is hard to find a friend for good conversation in this town. Nothing but dirty old prospectors or vile hard frontiersmen and sailors walk these streets. Ben can take care of the few in here tonight.” After nodding to the other bartender she circled around to take up the space next to Murphy. She smiled and extended her hand. “I’m Lauren.”
“Pleased to meet you. Murphy is the name.” They shook hands and he blushed.