10

Lorene's Tavern was Gandee's black D.D.'s, dominating the corner of Clark Street and County Route 61. A neon Budweiser sign hung over the plate glass window and a "Welcome" Coca- Cola sign over the front door. There was no mention of Lorene's on any sign, but no one ever thought of it as anything but.

As Jack walked in, a dozen or so black heads at the bar and pool table turned to see him. The place smelled as shabby as it looked--stale cigarette smoke embedded in tired gray walls, a residue of cheap whiskey and countless beers. Lorene was behind the bar, a full-figured dark brown woman in her fifties whose laughter turned sour when she saw who it was.

"We don't serve no white folk in here."

Jack put a hundred dollar bill on the bar. "You do now," he said.

Three stools down, a man laughed. Lorene glared to silence him.

"Whatcha want, J.C.?" she asked.

"Let's start with Heinekens, Lorene."

"You'll take a Bud. Don't have no fuckin' Heinekens!"

Jack shrugged as she set a bottle of Bud in front of him, no glass. She cashiered the hundred dollar bill without bringing change.

"What's going on, Lorene?" Jack posed the question as if he really expected some great all-inclusive answer.

Lorene barely acknowledged his existence. "Same old shit, J.C."

"It doesn't seem that way to me."

"That so? How's it seem to you?"

"Worse."

-77-

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