Here is an excerpt from a story I’ve been working on (struggling with) recently.
The day had been wholly uneventful, as most days are around here. The usuals stopped by of course. Frankie with his lazy eye and a need for “god damned quality lager” even if he only had two bucks and a dead fly in his pockets. Judging by the smell, it was like he took a swim in a brewery, he probably wouldn’t have been able to tell piss from New Castle. And Mich managed to dislodge herself from whatever sleaze infested motel she stayed in the night before. I really wish she’d take better care of herself. It’s hard seeing someone treat their body like a pincushion for every needle out there. I’ve tried talking to her about it but she honestly doesn’t know how to function, a word I would use loosely at this point, if she’s not putting all of her money into her arm. It doesn’t help that I’m less than half her age and trying to lecture her on how to live her life. “ What would a kid like you know about livin’? Now I ain’t gonna hear ‘nother peep outta you ‘bout the way I choose to spend my money and my God given time,” she would always say to me in her hoarse, southern drawl.
Slowly, the last half dozen or so drunks that littered the bar found their way to the door and became lost to the wind like so many inebriated dandelions. But, lucky me, they left plenty of reminders of today’s visit. Amber liquid glistened up and down the hard oak bar top. I also found a collection of new nicks and chips to commemorate this blistering February day.
The cleaning worked my arms sore and I had accumulated a line of sweat on my brow by the time I had finished. I tossed the rag into the makeshift laundry bin I have behind the bar and prepared to close up shop for the night. My nightly ritual consists of emptying the already scant funds from the register into my deposit box. The box isn’t pretty to look at but it’s sturdy and gets the job done. The deposit box then goes securely into the backpack that I’ve had since the tenth grade and only after that am I free to lock doors until sunup. This night, however, my routine was intruded upon by a cavalcade of noises that were unmistakably drunk coming from outside the Crescent.
A rugged man, early forties with unkempt hair and threadbare clothes, stumbled through the door and onto a stool. He smelled like the sea, briny and lonesome. His image brought to mind a down on his luck fisherman who spent most of his time wandering by the docks, peering out over the steely water that he used to call home.It was sort of pitiful, in an “at least I haven’t hit that level of rock bottom” kind of way. I pulled out a glass and filled it with the club specialty. We call it a “specialty” but it’s just Colt 45 with a twist of cherry. Hell, we even call this a club, and it’s just another ratty dive in the middle of smog central.
Behind the glasses are those felt pads that pass for coasters in bars. I grabbed one and plopped it down in front of the man before setting down his drink. He didn’t move to grab it, just shifted in his seat a bit. I paused a second to see what he’d do next, but when he remained still I went back to cleaning the beer stained mugs and glasses that reeked of vodka. I had hoped to be able to pack up early and, assuming it was still there, return home and contemplate my position in the universe. Or, you know order pizza, whichever seemed more appealing once I got there. But, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to get the cleaning out of the way now and make a couple of bucks before lights out.
The radio sputtered in the corner, making it sound like The McCoys were playing around a bonfire. Between the static cracks, I could just make out that “Hang on Sloopy” is what the DJ had queued up for our late night pleasure. There’s something about 60s rock that gives me this internal serenity, this stillness that other music just can’t deliver. I started to lazily sway side to side, like the flame of a candle might flutter in disrupted calm, behind the bar. I let my eyes close, and for the briefest of moments, allowed myself to feel at peace with the world around me. This, of course, did not last.