Mountain Passages—Why Are the Limes in My Margarita Brown?

In this life there are some risks worth taking and there are some risks to be avoided. It is only by careful analysis and investigation that these risks can be properly evaluated.

It is a fine spring day and to celebrate the season I sit down at a well-worn stool in my favorite mountain bar and order a Margarita, without salt.

Gunner, my regular barkeep, slides a frosty glass at me with a couple of wedges of lime that have brown spots all over them. I pick-out the lime wedges and on closer examination, the brown is probably some sort of rot. I carefully squeeze the juice out of them and put the limes aside.

The ‘rita is fine, it will head me in the direction I want to go.

The next time Gunner comes by I ask, “So how did you manage to get brown spots on the limes?”

“Whut?” he asks. Gunner has a GI Bill degree from CU in something esoteric like that odd place between physics and biology, so he’s not as dumb as he pretends to be, but I think he reads lips because he doesn’t hear worth a damn. He also says “Whut?” when he doesn’t have a smart-assed response to a question. He claims that it gives him time to think.

The bar isn’t crowded. Gunner is thinking.

“The brown spots on the limes Gunner? Where did they come from?”

Gunner looks at me like he probably looks at anyone who tracks mud into his bar or leaves the door open to the just marginal John. He avoids the question by reaching for a bottle of whiskey with a long silver cap on it and a really odd label.

He plunks two shot glasses down on the bar and pours Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.

We make eye contact and he says, “Gunships.”

We click the glasses and I say, “Welcome Home.”

We smile—a grunt and a draft-dodger can be friends.

“About those gnarly-looking limes?”

Gunner was a crew chief and door-gunner for two tours. His methods of handling adversity have significantly improved since then. He moves over real close and sort of whispers to me, “They coulda come from the bottom of the garnish tray.”

“The what?” I ask.

“The garnish tray, that thing on the bar where we keep the fruit and olives for drinks. The thing with the plastic top on it.”

“So let me see if I’ve got this right. My limes had brown spots on them because they spent too much time in the garnish tray?”

“Yeah, that’s possible, look, after last call I put it in the fridge,” he says sort of apologetically.

“Great, so the garnish tray comes out for first shift at about 11 AM, sits on the bar unrefrigerated for maybe 14 or 15 hours until you serve last call?”

“Right,” says Gunner, “some refrigeration is better than no refrigeration.”

I walk over to the garnish tray and carefully lift the scuffed plastic lid. In front of me are recently cut pieces of lime on top, some lemon and orange rounds, candied cherries and green olives. As I look in the box Gunner hacks up another couple limes and tosses them in on top of the pile.

“So you were mad at me for something and got down to the bottom and found a brownish lime for me, right?”

“No, there just weren’t many limes left when you ordered,” he said.”

Gunner wanders down to the other end of the bar and I stick my finger in the limes. The bottom of the lime section is as I expected—soft, mushy and slimy. You would not be wanting anything in your drink from the bottom of the garnish tray.

Gunner comes back down the bar.

“I saw you stick your finger in the limes. That’s unsanitary,” he suggests.

It’s my turn to look at him as if he came from someplace where Moms and Dads are often brothers and sisters.

“So when was the last time your garnish tray got cleaned?” I ask.

“Dunno,” says Gunner, “The help is supposed to clean everything.”

“Same help that cleans the Johns?”

“Ah, yeah, them.”

Alan Stark is a Boulder-based freelance writer and a recovering book publisher.