Freddy’s and Blood

image of Sunset Hotel sign

February 5-7, 1982
Ballard District, Seattle, Washington

We leave the Sunset Hotel, where we live. We come out of the alley, around the corner. Half way down the block three men are tearing off the facing of an old building, on a ladder and leaning over the roof, with claw hammers and a crow’s foot. One Eskimo and two pale Scandinavians, young, energetic.

Tim (to one of the blonds): What are you going to replace this with? (No answer.)

Frances (to Tim): Maybe he heard you but didn’t understand. He looks puzzled.

Tim (louder): What are they going to put up here?

Scandinavian: I don’t know.

He keeps working, talks to the other blond. The Eskimo says nothing. We walk on a few feet. Someone yells, we turn to see. An old man approaches, joins us, must be in his seventies at least. White hair, kind of long. Goatee.

Old Man (yells at the workmen): What the hell you guys doin’ now?

He’s teasing, obviously knows them. He seems familiar with the place. He’s very short, bird-boned, sharp angles … the jaw, the nose, the brow, the toothless mouth. Blue cataract eyes that don’t converge. He looks at Tim with one of them. We  stand in a cluster of three, looking the building over. On the broad side of it is a faded blue sign that says, “Freddy’s.”

Tim (to the old man): Are they going to put up new siding?

Old Man (nods): She doesn’t know what she’s losin’. It was the best tavern in town … it was the best.

Frances: Why are they doing it?

Old Man: The law won’t let ’em have a tavern there anymore. They’re gonna make a deli outa it. Ain’t nobody gonna go there. What are they gonna do with it? Where are they gonna eat? (He points off to the right) There’s Bergan Square. (He points the other direction) And there’s the other park. They call that Hickie Park. (He laughs.)

We’re close enough to smell the alcohol on his breath. He’s pickled.

Old Man: It was the best.

Frances: I guess you’ll have to find another one.

Old Man: I already have. (He points across the street) They closed Freddy’s, but we all go over there.

He starts across the street, drops his cigarettes.

Frances (runs after him, taps him on the shoulder): You dropped your cigarettes.

Old Man: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Leaving the old man, we walk in the crisp air back to the Sunset Hotel. We notice that the sidewalk is dotted with red drops that look like drying blood. One about every six feet, like a sanguine trail in a mystery story. We decide it really is blood, and follow the drops to the back entrance of the hotel, which we haven’t used before. Up the steps and at closer intervals now, the ominous trail leads to the first room and stops. Three drops outside the closed door. Did someone fumble for his keys right here, bleeding from a barroom fight a few blocks away? Or was it just a nosebleed?

Tim: Maybe someone’s dead inside. Should I call the landlord?

Frances: I think it’s a man. A woman would take care of it, stop the bleeding. I think it’s an older man, late middle age, husky, dark hair a little too long. A quiet man, a lonely man. No skid row bum. They don’t live in this hotel. Or do they?

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