Nothing in Her Way - By Charles Williams


He looked as if he'd got lost from a conducted tour of something.

I didn’t pay much attention to him when he came in, except in the general way you notice there’s somebody standing next to you in a bar. Unless it develops he’s dead, or he has fingers growing on his ears, or he tips your drink over, you probably never see him. He did it that way, in a manner of speaking. I tipped his drink over.

I wasn’t in any mood for an opening bid about the weather. The track had gone from sloppy to heavy during the afternoon and outside the rain was still crying into the neon glow of Royal Street. It’d be soup tomorrow, and unless you tabbed something going to the post with an outboard motor you’d do just as well sticking a pin in the program or betting horses with pretty names. I’d dropped two hundred in the eighth race when Berber Prince, a beautiful overlay at four to one, just failed to last by a nose. I was feeling low.

It was one of those dim places, with a black mirror behind the bar, and while it was doing a good business, I hadn’t known it was that crowded. I’d just put my drink down and was reaching for a cigarette when I felt my elbow bump gently against something, and then I heard the glass break as it went over the bar. I looked down at the spreading Daiquiri, and then at him. It was odd. There’d been plenty of room there a minute ago.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It didn’t spill on you, did it?”

“No. It’s all right.” He smiled. “No harm done.”

“Here,” I said. “Let me get you another one.” I caught the bartender’s eyes and gestured.

“No,” he protested. “I wish you wouldn’t. It was just an accident. Happen to anybody.”

“Not at all,” I said. “I knocked it over. I’ll get you another one.” The barman came up. “Give this gentleman another Daiquiri. And charge me with a glass.”

The barman mopped up and brought the drink. I paid for it. He picked it up and said, “Thanks. Thanks a lot. But don’t forget the next one’s on me.”

He looked like a cherub, or an overgrown cupid. He had on a blue serge suit too tight under the arms, a white shirt too tight in the collar, and a cheap hand-painted tie with a can-can dancer on it. You knew he’d been saving the tie for New Orleans. There wasn’t any convention badge, but maybe he’d been left over, or he’d lost it.

“My name’s Ackerman,” he said. “Homer Ackerman. I’m from Albuquerque.”

“Belen,” I said. He pumped my hand. Well, I thought, I can always make it to another bar, even in the rain.

“Belen?” he asked happily. “Why, that’s the name of a little town right near Albuquerque.”

“Yes, I know,” I said. “I’ve never been there, though.”

He was disappointed. It was obvious he was hoping I knew old Ben Umlaut who had the tractor agency, or maybe the Frammis boys. I wished he’d go ahead and ask me where a fella could find some—uh—girls, and then beat it, but you couldn’t just brush him off. Not with that face. It’d be like kicking a baby.

“Say, this New Orleans is some place, ain’t it?” he said. “To visit, I mean. Sure wouldn’t want to live here, though.”

He went on talking. I only half listened to him, and looked at a girl who was sitting on a stool at the other end of the bar. She had red hair, but it wasn’t quite the same shade of red…It never is. I wondered if I’d ever break myself of it. After all, it’d been two years.

“Gee, my feet are killing me,” Ackerman was saying. “I must have walked a hundred miles around this place. And then standing around out there at the race track—” He broke off and turned that cherubic smile on me again. “You prolly won’t believe this, but I won over ninety dollars out there. There was this horse running named Dinah Might, and it was raining, and I used to know an old boy named Raines who was a powder monkey—get it? Powder monkey, dynamite? And I’ll be dad-burned if he didn’t—”

I didn’t say anything. Dinah Might was the cheap plater who’d beaten out Berber Prince by the nose at something like forty to one. Maybe he’d go away.

“Say,” he said suddenly, “there’s an empty booth over there. Let’s sit down.”

I looked at my