Love and Happiness 

Sheila ordered a gin and juice from David, the bartender, and laid a dollar on the counter. She glanced at her watch and saw she had about two hours before her girls would get out of school. David made her drink, set a napkin on the counter in front of her and sat the drink down.

“How you been doing, Sister?”

“I’m cool, Dave. How you?”

“Doing all right, hanging in there, you know.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Sheila took a drink from her glass and looked around The Colony Club. It was 1:00 pm on a Wednesday. It had been raining that morning, but the sun was coming out now and you could see it trying to pierce its way through the half-cleaned windows of the club. It was already difficult to see out of them anyway with the logo of the club printed in bold black letters and the flashing red and white Miller beer sign. Sheila could see the cars and the Long Street COTA bus as it stopped to let people off at the bus stop. Thanks to the Columbus voters passing a $0.8 million transit levy in 1972 more people used the buses to get around the city. Some had a Key Card discount bus pass for riders with disabilities, and not just the disabilities that you could physically see, but the invisible ones, the hidden ones, like mental illness and drug addiction.

Some used their key card to get to the outpatient mental health center on East Broad Street. A few blocks south from there on Bryden Road was the thirty to ninety-day bed psychiatric unit, it was on the top fourth floor of St. Ann’s Maternity Hospital. Not many people knew about that place and had no idea that while women were giving birth to babies on the first three floors that you needed an elevator key to enter or exit the fourth floor.

On that floor people were hallucinating, yelling, crying, and being shot up intravenously with five-hundred milligrams of Thorazine, which was the psych knock- out drug at the time in the seventies. It was used to calm the truly unruly to help keep them from harming themselves or others, but really to make them shut up and sit like zombies in a corner. Sheila knew about that place because her grandmother had spent some time there when she was a child. 

Shelia looked around the semi-dark club. The bar counter was made of oak wood with red covered bar stools. Against the walls, in the narrow space, were oval-shaped tables with red table clothes, some with two and four chairs. On each table was a bowl of some sort of snack, today it was peanuts, and an ashtray. There were four other people in the club, two talking at the end of the bar and the other two sitting together at one of the tables for two. There was a jukebox against the right wall next to the restrooms. 

Sheila took another sip from her drink, took a quarter from her purse, walked to the jukebox, and punched in Love and Happiness by Al Green. She walked slowly back to her seat at the bar. David was wiping the counter down.

“Something that will make you do right, make you do wrong. Sure ‘nuff,” sang David as he wiped the counter.

Shelia smiled at David and took another sip of her drink as she thought about the last time she was in this club. She sat in the same booth where the couple now sat today, just a week ago, today, with Smooth. At the start, Smooth had been his usual jovial self, making her laugh at his jokes and laughing at hers. Few people could make Shelia laugh out loud and Smooth was one of them that did so effortlessly. Sheila took another sip of her drink and let out a loud sigh.

“What’s wrong?” David stopped wiping the counter down and leaned towards Shelia on the bar.

“You're thinking about Smooth, ain’t you?”

“Yeah, I was.”

“You know a detective was in here asking questions about him.”

“What did he look like?”

“Tall, dark, nice looking, according to Nina.”

“You didn’t see him?”

“No, I was off that day. Nina said he was asking about Smooth, who he was with that day he got killed.”

“What, she told him about me?”

“You know Nina. Her mouth runs like a car motor in high gear. Who knows what she said.”


“What’s up?”

“I hope she didn’t tell him I was in here that day.”

“So, what if she did? You’re here every week. What’s the big deal about that?”

“Nothing, I just don’t like people talking about my business with the fuzz. When’s her shift?”


“I can’t be here tonight. Find out what she said about me please and let me know.”

“No problem. What do you think happened to him? I can’t think of one person that would want to kill Smooth, I mean the brother man was alright.”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe it was that one dude, what’s his name, you know the big light skinned guy that got in Smooth’s face about his wife. Remember that?”

“I remember.”

“Or maybe, it was that one sister that slapped his face and threw her drink on him. Something about cheating on her.”

“Could be. He had a lot of women.”

“What about that one time, remember, when that one lady, an older lady, came in here and pulled a knife on him. Put it to his throat. Said if she caught him doing it again, she would kill him. I don’t know all she was saying because she got right in his face and was almost whispering it to him. She scared the shit out of me! I told her to leave before I called the cops. Remember that?”

“I wasn’t here for that. Heard about it though.”

“And one time, Smooth was sitting out front in a cab with some fat dude. Looked like they were arguing about something. Smooth got out of the car laughing and the brother drove off fast, almost hitting another car! Remember that, girl?”

“No, I don’t.”

“You and Smooth got along real good, didn’t you? I’ve never seen you argue.”

“We were friends. Smooth was my dude.”

“I always thought it was more than that with you two.”

“Oh, why is that?”

“It was the way he would look at you when you were looking away from him. Sort of a longing look in his eyes.”

“Smooth had too much going on for me.”

“That’s true, but you still liked him.”

“Of course, what wasn’t to like?"

“You know what I mean. You were into Smooth. Now come on girl.”

“Yes, I liked and was into Smooth. But that’s not enough for this sister. I got girls to raise. I need stability in a man.”

“Well, you wouldn’t get that from Smooth.”

“Exactly! I was good with what I got because that was all I wanted. No beef.”

“Yeah, a lot of people didn’t know that Smooth was into a lot of illegal things, and into a lot of women, and young girls, which kept him in trouble and looking over his shoulder.”

“Everybody loved Smooth.”

“You too?”

“Me too.”

Sheila got up from the stool with her drink in her hand and went back to the jukebox, put another coin in and punched Love and Happiness again. This time she stood there listening in quiet deep thought as David went back to cleaning the counter and singing along with Al Green.