Chapter 185

               The bartenders were washing out the last of their glasses while the shot girls finished changing out of their uniforms in the back. At Six Shooter, those who worked the bar had a set of more strenuous closing tasks than the other workers, since they were also the ones who frequently got the most business and therefore made the most tips. Chad and Roy had already finished their glasses and moved on to emptying the beer bins when Roger Brown, the owner and their boss, stepped out into the empty club and coughed loudly.

                “Excuse, can I get everyone to huddle up for a moment.” His voice didn’t come across as urgent; nothing about Roger ever struck anyone as particularly emphatic. Even when dealing with irate or drunk customers, he had the same level of half-interested calm that defined dealing with him. Strangely, it had a calming effect on others, and made everyone want to deal with him more rationally. “Shot girls in the back, that’s you too,” he said, slightly raising his voice to be heard.

                Several girls, including Alice and Angela, came out to hear what their boss had to say. Many of the employees looked confused, but a keen eye could spot a flicker of excitement dancing in Angela’s eyes. Alice noticed that gleam only a second before Roger started talking again, which robbed her of the chance to put the pieces together.

                “As I’m sure you all know, in two weeks spring break will be upon us. For the bar, that means we’ll be almost completely dead. Feel free to take off if you want, honestly if no one feels like working I’ll just close the place; it’s not worth the cost to run it for so few customers anyway. But, before that happens, Six Shooter has an annual tradition to send our college students off in style. On the last day when classes are held, a Friday this year, there’s an event at the bar. We call it the Cowgirl Rodeo, and it’s about as bad as the name implies.”

                Roger had to pause for a moment, as Angela had started clapping wildly from her spot in the back. He waited, watching her until she finally stopped the applause, though the wide grin on her face remained unabated.

                “Thank you for the enthusiasm. Some of you may have heard of or been to this event before, but I’m going to cover the basics so everyone knows what they’re in for. The Cowgirl Rodeo is a tournament held each year on the night before spring break starts, only the games we play are lewd or alcoholic, and the competitors are all young women. There will be things like a bull ride, a no hands shot race, and the ever popular three beer roping contest. Whoever wins the most points will receive a thousand dollars for their team, as well as some bar merchandise.”

                Already he could feel some of the glares coming from his employees. Despite his usually unflappable nature, this was the part in the speech every year where he had to force himself not to rush through and explain. It was important he treated this calmly, so their reactions would mirror it.

                “I know some of you are going to be uncomfortable with this kind of event,” Roger said, meeting the eyes that were glaring at him the fiercest. “And if you don’t want to work that night, I’m not going to make you. Or you can work in the back if you need the pay. No one has to be associated with this in anyway if it makes them uncomfortable. I want to be clear on that from the outset. Yes, it’s a busy night, but the potential revenue is not more important to me than my employees and their comfort in their place of work.”

                Some of the glares softened, others remained hard. That was about what Roger had expected, so he pressed on.

                “That said, for those of you who want to participate in the games, that’s perfectly acceptable. We open it up to everyone of legal drinking age, employees included. Since all the events are scored based on observable metrics, there’s no way for favoritism to come into play, which means we have no conflict letting you all enter if you want.”

                “Who would enter something that in the first place?” Roger couldn’t quite make out the voice; it came from the back of the crowd of waitresses. Before he had a chance to try and guess the person so he could address them, another voice piped up, this one far easier to place.

                “Me!” Angela declared lifting her hand high into the air. “And this girl too!” Angela grabbed Alice’s arm and thrust it skyward with her own, causing Alice to quickly try and pull it back while fighting off a sudden onset of shyness.

                “People who want cash do it,” Roger said, giving on answering the person directly. “Or people who just like to cut loose in these sorts of events. In the case of our own Angela, I suspect it come from a love of being in the spotlight.”

                “Guilty,” Angela said, finally letting go of Alice’s hand, nearly causing the more demure young woman to tumble onto her ass as she pulled free.

                “The point is, whatever the reason, people enjoy it and they enter of their own volition,” Roger continued. “As I said before, I understand that some of you will find an event like this objectionable, but the fact remains that our number of entrants grows every year. So, while I respect your desire not to be associated with something inherently a bit wild and perhaps lewd, I do expect you to treat those who choose to participate with respect. The goal of the night is for everyone to have fun, enjoy the start of their spring break, and of course for the bar to make enough to sustain over the week long draught of people. If you don’t want to work that night, you are free to take off with no ill feelings. But if you show up, I expect your game faces on. The night will be crazy, and we need to do our best to make sure everyone has a fun, safe, time.”

                Roger knew there would be some waiting in his office after this was over, asking not to be scheduled that night. He’d meant what he said though; those who didn’t want to work such a shitshow were free to skip it, just as those who wanted to participate were allowed to sign up.

                “One last thing: entry requires a team of two to three people. Anyone who wants to play in the games must be signed up by the Thursday before the Cowgirl Rodeo. Sign-ups are online, or in my office, whichever is easiest for you.”

                Angela let out a yelp of excitement that caused everyone to wince, ending the meeting more effectively than anything Roger could come up with.