The Cowboy leaned over and thumped an empty shot glass down on the wooden surface of our table. "What's Patrón?" he asked.
"Tequila", my brother answered.
"It's shit," said the Cowboy.
He, as young cowboys at bars in Montana often do, was wearing a wide brimmed black cowboy hat and a western-styled collared shirt. He was clean shaven, chiseled jawed, and very drunk.
Earlier in the evening, the country western band in the front of the bar had dedicated a song to one of his friends on the occasion of her 21st birthday. The friend in question had a very squeaky voice and, to the amusement of the whole bar, was very excited to have reached the legal drinking age.
"This next song is for Jessica who is turning 21 tonight," the band said, unenthusiastically.
"Squeak! Oh. My. SQUEEAKING. God. SQUEEEEAK!" said Jessica with the loud sort of zest for life that only comes with finishing your 15th drink of the hour.
The Cowboy thumped another shot glass filled with a murky liquid on our table. "Here, drink this," the cowboy said to our table, which consisted of me, Jen, my brother, and his girlfriend.
Our table was silent. I made eye contact with my brother across the table. He shrugged. His girlfriend giggled. No one made a move for the shot glass.
"Ah, come on. I ain't drugged it," said the Cowboy. He paused, and then looked at us suspiciously. "You guy's ain't from Nebraska, are you?"
Our table was silent.
"Okay, here's what we are going to do," the Cowboy said, holding up a coin. "We are going to play quarters. Whoever bounces it in gets to say who has to drink the shot."
He then flipped the quarter so that it bounced off our table and then hit the side of the shot glass.
"Quarters?" I thought to myself, frantically wishing I had attended the sort of parties in college that would have allowed me to develop the proper social skills for such a situation or, at the very least, helped me develop better hand eye coordination.
The Cowboy picked up the quarter and handed it to me. I bounced the quarter off the table and it spun sideways and landed on the floor, which was glistening with a wet layer of melted snow and mud that had been tracked in from the parking lot.
The Cowboy narrowed his eyes and slowly reached down and picked up the coin. He wiped it on his jeans and handed it to Jen. I could tell there was no way she was going to drink a mystery liquid, given to her by a stranger, containing a quarter that had recently been on the floor. She bounced it off the table, it clinked the glass way below the rim, and landed back on the table.
I let out a breath of relief. I wasn't sure if she'd pick the cowboy or me to drink if she had landed it in the shot glass. The Cowboy handed the quarter to my brother. Clunk, clink, miss.
The quarter was passed to my brother's girlfriend. Clunk, miss.
The cowboy handed the quarter back to me. This time I managed not to hit the floor.
Jen picked the quarter up from where it had landed on her lap. "You know," she said to the Cowboy, "There's no way in hell anyone here's going to drink that shot."
The Cowboy looking puzzled, glanced at me. I avoided eye contact by staring at the shot glass. Jen tossed the quarter and it hit the table and fell to the side of the shot glass. She picked up the quarter and handed it to my brother.
Clunk, thunk, the quarter was back on the floor. The Cowboy reached down, picked up the coin, and handed it to my brother's girlfriend
"SQUEEAK! Squeeak!," said Jessica from the nearby table and the Cowboy looked over.
My brother's girlfriend, sensing an opening, lashed out lightening fast and dunked the quarter into the shot glass. It floated lazily to the bottom of the 3 ounces of murky liquid, leaving what I thought looked like a greasy trail behind it.
The Cowboy's head snapped back around.
Everyone at our table, as well an older couple sitting at the table next to us, cheered. The Cowboy peered at the quarter resting on the bottom of the shot glass. "Huh," he said. "There's no way."
He peered at us and then turned towards the older couple he apparently thought were neutral observes sitting next to us.
"Did she really get it in?" he asked.
"Oh yeah," said the man.
"It was amazing," said the woman.
"You have to drink it," said my brother's girlfriend.
The Cowboy looked at the older couple, who just happened to be my parents. They nodded and shrugged as if to say, "Sorry those are the rules."
The cowboy picked up the shot and in one smooth motion downed the alcohol. He sucked on the quarter for a moment, puffed out his cheeks and spat it out. The now shiny coin sailed across the table in a perfect arc and landed down the front of Jen's dress.
Jen's face went red and she dug a hand down into the front of her dress.
"Wait," the Cowboy said, "Did I just get that down your …"
Jen's pulled her fist out of her shirt and chucked the quarter at the Cowboy. My parents and everyone at our table broke out laughing. The Cowboy looked at us and then chuckled hesitantly, seeming somewhat unsure if we were laughing at him or Jen.
"Squeak," said Jessica. The Cowboy nodded at us and turned away.
A couple minutes later, the Cowboy turned around and thumped a glass of something that looked tropical and fruity on our table. He held up a quarter.
"Okay," he said. "Here's what we are going to do…" he trailed off. He peered at our table, looking at each person.
"Ah screw it," he said as he took his drink back and turned around.