A Federal Case

Cruising down the boulevard, Denverís avenue of schemes and dreams.

At the back of the long, L-shaped bar, a big-screen TV is tuned to ESPN's Sports Center, which is rolling through a montage of the day's game highlights. A handful of folks are perched on bar stools, clutching their drinks and chatting. "Mandolin Rain" stops falling, giving way to the unmistakable rumbling bass line of Tool's "Stinkfist," which sounds as loud as a jet engine firing up.

"This one's for you, Tracy," remarks the sound man, glancing toward the bar.

Good call.

A few minutes later, I make my way out to the Toad's posh new smoker-friendly patio, which sits on the sidewalk just in front of the bar. Although many bar owners are bemoaning the smoking ban, the Toad seems to be making the best of it. Fenced in by a cast-iron rail and outfitted with a pair of futons and several bar stools, the section is an invitation to fire up and shoot the shit.

"Justice is hitting on me," comments a slender blonde to her friend.

"I noticed," says the friend.

"I'm like, ŒI like boys,'" says the blonde, with a look of exasperation.

Just as the words leave her lips, a petite woman with dark, close-cropped hair flings open the bar door and comes stumbling onto the patio, inspiring the two ladies to make their way back inside.

"You got a smoke I can get from one of you guys?" asks Justice, who's clad in a baggy, checkered shirt, beige slacks and construction boots. "Just one?"

"I don't smoke," says the burly guy seated on a nearby stool.

"You're fuckin' full of shit," Justice slaps back, incredulous. "What the fuck you doin' out here, then, bro?"

"Claire drug me out here," he responds. "Hey, smell my breath. I don't smoke."

"I don't smell a motherfucker's breath," says Justice.

The guy gives up and heads back inside.

Unloading a banana clip of F-bombs, Justice is tore up from the floor up. As she leans against the rail and takes a pull from her beer, she sprays random invective about a box of onions someone left behind, free for the taking. "Fuck, yeah," she exclaims to a guy standing next to her. "Dude, we're having a big-ass fuckin', fuckin' cookout, dude! I'll tell you what."

A few minutes later, she confirms what's obvious to everyone. "Fuck," she mutters. "I'm fucked up, dude."

With that, she sets down her beer, thanks us for the smokes and heads for the door. On her way out, she turns and says, "I better get my ass gone, man, maintain my own self, you know?"

We know. -- Dave Herrera

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