From April 27, 2009
At the VFW lounge (Veterans of Foreign Wars, which I guess means no Civil War vets need apply), Aunt L made beeline for the machines while Aunt V and I sidled up to the bar.
The VFW is a fairly large building, with a room in the back for gambling and pool tables along one side. The bartender, with a short beard and curls coming down from under his ball cap, has a tattoo of a Hawaiian girl on the inside of his forearm.
We weren’t there long before a gentleman made his way over. He stood between our barstools with a hand on each of our backs. He was rubbing the back of my neck with his thumb and, judging by the long-suffering look on Aunt V’s face, he was doing the same with her. His round face was clean-shaven and he was bald under his red hat; his smile was an incredible centrepiece to his round, friendly face.
Apparently in Canada, if you come into a Legion wearing a hat, you have to buy everyone a round. Only high-ranking officers are allowed to wear their hats off-duty, so that when someone with hat walks into a room, you know who’s in charge. Every second man in Montana wears a hat, so that wouldn’t go over too well here, or anywhere in America, as a bartender at another VFW later told us.
“My name is Dill Pickle,” announced the gentleman with his hands on our necks. I knew his name already – Aunt V had pointed him out to me. “Dill’s my last name and they call me Pickle.”
She told him that I was the visiting niece and he asked whether I like my aunts.
“I’ve got four aunts,” I said, “and three of them are fantastic.”
He hooted and hollered and made me promise I’d come back, because he wasn’t going to visit me.
“I’d travel to see that gorgeous smile, but I ain’t goin’ to the far east, not even for you, beautiful.”