I didn't know his first name until much later, when the problem of Santos had been solved for all of us except Santos, who would carry the problem of himself wherever he went, most lately to somewhere out in Montana. I found out his first name when I went behind the bar one day to get a pack of Marlboros and leave $.75 on the cash register because Sally, the day bartender, was showing the Rainier man where to put the kegs in the back room and when you want a cigarette with your beer you want it now, not later, so I went back and got them and when I put the quarters on the cash register I saw the letter stuck behind it, wedged between the corner and the mirror and flattened there by the beer nuts and cashew rack. It was addressed to William Santos and it had a Michigan postmark and the inescapable air of having been written by somebody's mother.
Well, Santos' mother has missed him by three to four months to forever, and she may as well forget calling him William or getting anyone else to, because Santos is Santos and will still be Santos when we meet on the corner of 1st and Pike cadging money for drinks when we're 85, which we plan to do in the event that we don't become rich and famous in the meantime, and he was Santos the day I walked in here when he was day bartender and I was looking for a place to play pool without getting hassled by a lot of horny drunks and Santos bought me a beer and we kidded around for awhile and I told him my problem and he looked at me over his glasses and out through the hedgerows of frizzy brown hair and said, without a trace of a smile, "I knew when you walked in here you were one of the holy people. You're welcome anytime, and anyone who bothers you answers to me. Is that clear?"
And I believed him.
He kept his word, too, and he was certainly Santos when he 86'd a couple of guys who got pretty obnoxious hitting on me and he was wonderfully Santos when he'd come dancing into the bar later on at night, when he wasn't working, stoned to the max and singing Grateful Dead songs and laughing up and down the bar, kissing the girls in that way you never minded and samba-ing with me around the pool table when the Pina Colada song came on the juke box and playing pinball with Willie and shooting pool with me and the boys.
Santos was a holy man, indeed ...
(to be continued?)