The Plank

By Ross Hargreaves

The other day I was leaving Captain Comics and saw that the Korean restaurant that used to be The Plank was gone. Torn down. Obliterated. I thought about texting some of the guys I used to hang with there, drinking pitcher after pitcher of PBR, to let them know, but I’m not in their lives anymore. 

I fucking loved The Plank. Back in the day it was a pirate-themed bar that smelled of fried food and draft beer, had a cardboard cutout of Captain Jack Sparrow positioned next to the Golden Tee. A load-bearing arch had been carved into a Bonny Lass. The Pabst Blue Ribbon was five bucks a pitcher and the free popcorn was tasteless unless soaked in sriracha. Hot wings were twenty-five cents of gristle dipped in blue cheese for Monday Night Football. A lot of the regulars were people I went to high school with. The wait staff would give me dollar bills to run the jukebox. Which usually meant “Africa” by Toto. “Solitary Man” by Neil Diamond. “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. “Handlebars” by Flobots. And if I was being a dick, “The Soft Parade” by The Doors. 

They didn’t have a license to sell liquor at The Plank. That never held me back. One time my roommate Towlley and I were drinking Blue Moon. (It wasn’t always PBR. Towlley had a decent job.) Pitcher after pitcher of Blue Moon. The bottom of our glasses caked in orange peel. I went to the bathroom and filled the sink with vomit that reeked like cleaning product. When I got back to our table Towlley went to piss. “Sink’s full of puke,” he said when he returned. I gave him an obnoxious laugh. 

It was a point of pride that I’d puked on the premise of almost every bar in Boise, Idaho. 

I have lots of great Plank stories. The time Adam, Albertson, and I spent all day in the corner, playing Marvel Monopoly. The time this guy kept accusing me and Albertson of having weed, wouldn’t leave us alone, until admitting that it was he who had the weed. He apologized for being annoying and gave us some. We smoked it in the parking lot out of a pipe Albertson kept in his car. The Halloween party where I told everyone that me and my uncostumed friends were out of work Ghostbusters and I met a forty-two-year-old Lando Calrissian who’d recently lost his virginity to a forty-eight-year-old Sailor Moon. That one dark night of the soul when I drank two pitchers of PBR by myself in less than an hour. Or the time I sat at the bar between Jim and some rancher. Jim was a Plank regular, a gay man, a higher-up in Boise State admissions. The rancher was so decked out in cowboy gear he jangled. Jim and the rancher were talking over me. Both of them, for one reason or another, had met Tommy Lee Jones. In between, I helped myself to Jim’s cooling order of Mozzarella sticks. 


The waitstaff were all awesome; except that dick cook who told me to shut up after a loud rant about how Heroes used time travel as a story crutch. There was Carrie who painted herself blue and went as a Smurf to that aforementioned Halloween party. There was Crystal who had the Starfleet insignia tattooed on her chest and never complained if I put The Mars Volta on the jukebox.  

And there was Shawnelle.  

She and Carrie were roommates. Waitressing wasn’t Shawnelle’s only gig. She also had a job as an X-ray technician. Always wore jeans and had her dark hair cut right above her neck. If I walked into The Plank and she was there the night had a different flavor. Shawnelle laughed at my jokes. I never felt awkward around her. 

On Thursdays The Plank did Karaoke. Mostly it was awful but still far more endurable than the open-mic comedy they did on Wednesdays. If I went up there it was to perform a screeching version of Bread’s “Baby I’m a Want You.” One Thursday night Shawnelle stepped onto the Plank’s tiny little stage. She was blushing and embarrassed and sang “Moon River.” 

“Where after that same rainbows end, waiting round the bend, my huckleberry friend, Moon River and Me.”  

And fuck it. I fell in love.

At the time all my flirting involved jokes about food, so I’d ask her for an avocado slice in my beer. She’d give me beers adorned with all kinds of garnish. One time I was so on fire with the jokes. I asked her for a PBR with an asparagus stick in it, some Worcestershire sauce, and whatever kind of mix they put in Long Island Iced Teas. She came back with a plain old PBR. Her smile though. I could see all her teeth. Looking at her made me dizzy.

“Well,” I said. “This is disappointing.”

She tossed me a full fucking orange. “Best I can do,” she said.

I laughed because I couldn’t think of what else to say. I considered eating the orange but couldn’t part with it. I took it home, brought it out whenever I was wasted, and listened to Radiohead’s In Rainbow’s on repeat. Kept it until the skin turned fuzzy and green.

Anyway, I was going to ask her out. I should have done it the night she gave me the orange but I’m not one for getting things right. This was the Friday after, a little after six. I walked up to the Plank because in those days I didn’t drive. It interfered with my drinking. One of the houses I walked past had Titanic on a big screen. Kate Winslet naked on some fancy couch.  When I got to the Plank a few of the regulars had pushed some tables together to play beer pong. Two of the guys I’d gone to school with. The tall, unfortunately named Mike Dick, and Lee, who was much shorter. Both had blonde hair. Both worked in construction.

“Trees get in on this,” Lee said.  

I was standing in the entranceway. I looked at them, red solo cups full of Pabst, pitchers positioned on the tables around them like candles in a satanic ritual. I looked at Shawnelle. She was behind the bar pouring someone a beer.t. The plan had been to sit at the bar and get a conversation going. I’d been working on jokes in my head all week. But these guys had been cool, once upon a time.

I chose beer pong. The other team seemed to be aiming for me. Chug. Chug. Chug. Foam coated the back of my throat. I fought to get it back down. “You okay, Trees,” Lee asked. I held up my hand. Swallowed hard. Told myself, I got this. Swallowed again. Then the foam came up. Some of it got on the floor. Most of it landed on the leg of my jeans. 

The waitress with the shaved head was super pissed. Made us stop playing beer pong and move all the tables back to their original places while she scrubbed rather exaggeratedly at the beer foam/bile on the floor. I was allowed to stay but couldn’t drink anymore. I sat with the guys, listened to them bitch about my tolerance. Shawnelle brought them out a new pitcher. I smiled at her, looking for sympathy, looking for forgiveness. She did not smile back, looking at the stain on my jeans. 

They never could play beer pong at The Plank ever again.

Here’s another one.

Albertson went home early to play video games. Leaving me to drink alone. At Woodies. The Plank had become Woodies. Bought out by new owners who replaced the pirate theme with generic sports bar. Fired the entire wait staff and skyrocketed the price of hot wings and Pabst Blue Ribbon. The first step of many in the long road to demolition. 

For a while, me and the other regulars kept going out of habit, but Woodies wouldn’t take. 

I sat at the bar by myself for a while, then joined up with Lee and some of his friends. Tried not to think about how they laughed at me after I puked on myself. Eventually, Lee’s friends took off and Lee was going to a party. I tagged along. The whole drive we reminisced about The Plank like it was old times. I asked him if he knew what Shawnelle was up too. 

He did not. 

It wasn’t much of a party. People sitting around drinking bottles of Bud Light. ESPN on the TV with the sound down. Sublime's greatest hits from a record player. There was a Scarface poster on the wall. I sat in the corner and didn’t say much. When Lee split, I stayed. There were still beers left to drink. 

Someone arrived. I guess she lived in the house and her shift at Applebee’s had recently ended. Short and blonde, she greeted her friends with jubilant hugs and looked at me like I was a smudge on her TV screen. “Who is that?” she whispered loudly.

Her friends just shrugged because, yeah, that’s about right. 

I drank five more beers before I decided to leave. Thanked them for the good times and started the long walk home. And that walk was long. Endless. The only sound was the backyard dogs who barked as I passed by. Maybe the moon was full that night. Or perhaps an obvious sliver. I started singing “Moon River” to myself. When that didn’t make me feel better, I shoved two fingers down my throat.