The Old Guy Sat At The Bar

Jason pulled back the bar stool, and had a seat. The bartender quickly found him, and asked what he wanted to drink.

“Seven and Seven,” Jason quietly, politely asked.

The bartender wandered off to mix his drink, and the old man sitting at the bar, in the chair next to Jason smacked his empty glass on the shiny hardwood surface. “Oh, yeah! That’s good stuff.”

Jason thought of moving. He didn’t want to sit next to anyone loud, or anyone in a group. Before he could, the bartender returned with his drink, “Seven and Seven,” he placed the drink on a tiny napkin in front of Jason, then turned to the old man, “You want another round?”

The old man didn’t speak, he smiled and nodded yes, and the bartender wandered off again.

The old man looked through Jason. He had those kind of eyes, the ones that see past all the lies, the games, the masks people put on every day. The ones that see your soul, and know the truth of who and what you are.

“Had a fight with your girl, did you?” Jason started to get up, but the old man kept talking, “Nobody won, did they?”

Jason stayed on his stool, and stared back at the old man. He’d always thought he was a good judge of character, but when he looked at the old guy, he saw no lies, no masks. He saw the face and eyes of someone who’d lived live. Someone who’d seen life. Someone who knew.

“Yeah. We had a fight.”

The old guy took a deep breath. “Money?”

Jason nodded.

“Yeah. It’s always money, ain’t it?” Jason picked up his drink, and chugged half of it down. “So, you’re gonna drown it all, ain’t ya?”

Jason let his drink glass reconnect to the bar with a loud smack. “Yep. We just broke up.” He picked up his drink, and drained it, then smacked the glass down again. “And I’m gonna forget all about her!”

The old guy laughed. “Gonna let a fight about money destroy love and happiness?” He shook his head. “Yep. You’re an idiot.”

Jason, jaw dropped and he stood up, “What!”

“Sit down, and shut up. And maybe I can talk you out of making the same stupid mistake I made when I was young and full of hormones, and emotions, and pride, just like you are now.”

Jason couldn’t help himself. He sat down.

The bartender plunked new drinks in front of them both. The old man stared at his. “See,” he took a long chug. “I was in love once.”

“Hasn’t everyone?”

“Yeah.” The old guy finished his drink. “Yeah, everyone has.” He laughed. “But the smart ones stay in love.”

Jason shook his head. “You don’t know what she said, what she did.”

“I don’t need to.” He didn’t smile. There was something in his eyes, some memory, some regret, and perhaps a wish he could go back in time. “I was in love once.”

“What happened?”

“We had a fight.” He waved at the bartender, “Another round for us, Bill.” Then he shook his head, and stared at the reflections of light in the polished wood of the bar. “We had a stupid fight.”

Both men sat, waiting for their drinks. When they arrived, the old guy wrapped a hand around his glass, but didn’t lift it. Jason watched him stare into the liquid swirling in the glass. “I was too young, too stubborn, too idealistic.” Jason stared at his own glass. “I hadn’t figured out the truth. And I didn’t want to know the truth.”

“The truth?” Jason stared at his drink, picked it up, and took a swallow. He felt the familiar burn of the alcohol in his throat, and the warmth in his stomach.

The old man told him the truth, “She said a lot of things about you, didn’t she.” Jason nodded. “She called you irresponsible. She called you immature. She told you to grow up.”

Jason nodded, “Yeah. Something like that.”

“Hurt, didn’t it.”

“Hell yeah.” Jason took another swallow. “And she knew it. She let me have it with both barrels.” He looked at the old guy, “Why should I put up with that? That’s it, you know. We’re done.”

Jason thought the old man wanted to cry, but maybe the old guy had forgotten how. “What do you know about fights? About couples?” He looked around the bar, Jason did the same. “You know how many couples break up these days?”

Jason shook his head.

“Damn near all of ‘em.” The old guy took a chug of his drink. “Damn near all of ‘em.” He stared into his drink again, “And nobody stays married forever anymore.” Jason stared at his drink, and the old guy asked, “How long were your parents married?”

“Still are.”

“How long?”

Jason shrugged. “Twenty-five, twenty-six years? I don’t really know.”

“Have you ever wondered how they stay married?”

“No.” Jason took another swallow. “Never thought about that?”

“So. How do you think they stay married?” Jason sat silently. He didn’t have an answer. He’d never really thought about it. “Did they ever fight?”

Jason remembered the nights he heard them screaming at each other. The nights he heard the front door slam as his father left. The night his mother cried herself to sleep, and his father came home, and slept on the sofa. “Yeah. They did.”

“Why did they stay together?”

He didn’t have an answer. He’d never thought about it.

“You like music, right?”

“Yeah. A good band is good. But they always break up.”

“All of them?”

“No. Not all of them.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not the same thing, you know. It’s not.”

The old man finished off his drink. “Bill. I’m gonna need another.”

“You’re gonna need a cab.”

“Yeah. That too.”

“Let me know when, and I’ll call one.”

The old guy nodded, and resumed his conversation with Jason. “Why isn’t it the same?”

“Bands and couples. They’re not the same.”

“Now you just think about that a bit. And then think about how they are the same.” Jason shook his head. “Don’t band members fight?”

“Yeah, but it’s over a band. It’s not like when a couple has a fight.”

“You saying the band members aren’t family?” Jason stared into his drink. His mind struggled to make sense of the old guy’s words. “You saying families don’t have fights and break up, just like bands do? You saying they stick together for fame and money, and not because they’re a family?”

The old guy shook his head, and tipped his drink again. “I was just like you. Thought fights weren’t supposed to happen to people in love. To friends.” He gently placed his glass on the bar. “I was so fuckin’ stupid.”

He leaned toward Jason, “Dude. Fights happen. You put two people together, and sooner or later, fights happen.” He put his hand on Jason’s shoulder. “The smart ones figure that out, and learn to get past the fights.”

He remembered his parents, the morning after the fights. They didn’t act like nothing happened. They talked. Quietly. They apologized to each other. And their lives went on. Together.

“Fights happen. It’s not an ideal world. Not a dream world.” The old guy stared at his empty glass. “I used to love her. Probably still do. Had a fight with her. About money.” He took a deep breath, then slowly let it out. “I’ve been alone since then.” He looked at Jason. “She was my girl. My one chance at love. My one chance at being happy.” They guy looked at the floor. “And I fucked it up. Me, and my pride. She’d hurt me in that fight. And I couldn’t get over it.” He took another deep breath. “I couldn’t let it go.”

Jason said nothing. What was there to say?

The old guy smiled. “If you’ve got any brain cells in that head of yours, well. You’ll figure the rest out.”

Jason excused himself. He went to the quiet hallway outside the restrooms, where the pay phones were, pulled out his smart phone, swallowed his pride, and called her.

The old guy sat at the bar, and smiled. “I’m gonna need another one, Bill.”

#MWBB Week 2.1 : Sally MacLennane

Once a year, on March 17th, those of us who haven’t died yet, celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day at the Sally MacLennane. This year was no different. My grandson wheeled me in, “Now, Grandfather. You know you’re not supposed to drink.”

“On this day, I drink, and you know it!”

Jamie, Liam, Conner and Dillon all raised their tankards and belted out, “Hear! Hear! We’ll drink to that!”

“I see Ryan’s not here this year,” I observed, as I studied the room.

“He took the train to Dublin three weeks ago,” Liam took another chug. “Should be with the others now.”

Dillon hollered at the barkeeper, “Bring Gavin his first round!”

“I’m on it! I’m on it!” came the answer.

Conner raised his drink, “Aye! Won’t be long before we’ll be joining them!”

Ah, I wished I were 50 years younger when the barmaid handed me my drink. She was grandly built, and my old eyes followed her as she walked away, her little kilt barely covering anything as her hips danced the way a pretty woman’s always had.

Jamie roared, “I see you’ve noticed our dear new friend!”

“I’ll drink to that!” I tipped my drink, and let the brown pour. “Well, Ryan, the least you could have done was drop a postcard in the mail when you got there.”

We drank away the night, into the early dawn. My Grandson joined right in, it wasn’t like he had a choice. We told the stories once again, of our wives, and sons and daughters, and of all our friends now gone, all gone, on the train to Dublin and beyond.

“Was Eathan that left first, as I recall.”

“Aye, he did,” Dillon agreed. “And we all cried like little girls that day, we did.”

Liam set his drink upon the table, “It was the first time one of us left.” He stared into his drink, “The first time.”

Conner shook his head, “He could have told us he was leaving. Going to Dublin and beyond.” He raised his drink and drained some more, “Was rather rude of him, you know. Not telling us about the train.”

And as the dark began to fade away, falling before the sun, we sat there at our table with our drinks, and remember every name.

What does it mean, when ancient men like us, get sloshed on Saint Patrick’s Day, you might wonder. It’s what old men do to live with the memories of all the friends and loves long gone, so we don’t feel so alone. And we never say they’re dead and gone, buried in the cold hard ground. That would be so permanent. It’s better, don’t you know, to leave hope and dreams alive. And say they’ve caught the train to Dublin and beyond. And someday know our turns will come, and we’ll ride that train, and join them.

In Dublin, and beyond.

480 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for Year 2, Week 1 (Week 2.1) of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

#MWBB 45 : Runaway

Shelly saw him sitting at a table, by himself. “Damn, he’s cute.” So, she wandered over. She knew what she wanted. What she always wanted. One night. One chance to feel alive. To feel real. No strings. No repeat. One night.

She walked up next to him, “I don’t want to drink alone.”

He pulled the chair next to his out, but said nothing. Shelly took the seat. They both sat there, listening to the band, watching the bodies on the dance floor. She started tapping out the rhythms of the music on the table. He watched her.

“I wanna dance!” She stood up, and grabbed his hand to pull him to the floor. He resisted for a moment, as if thinking. Then, let her lead him to the floor. She didn’t know if he could dance. She didn’t care. All she wanted was an excuse to touch him. To put her hands on his shoulders, back and chest. To bump her hips into his. An excuse to feel alive for the night. Before she returned to reality tomorrow.

He let her lead. Let her do what she wanted. Touched her shoulders, her back. Met her hips with his.

They danced. Shelly loved it. Loved the motion. The contact. She loved being touched. She loved to touch. To feel. Alive.

When the music changed, and a ballad started, the floor filled with couples. He grabbed her, pulled her close, pressed his chest to hers, his hips to hers. She drank in the smell of him. The feel of her head on his shoulder.

They danced until she needed another drink. She led him back to the table. He ordered her drink, and his. She drained it. Leaning into him. Letting her hands move. To his thighs. To his stomach. To his belt, and more.

“Let’s leave,” she whispered in his ear.

They went to his place. Shelly got what she wanted. One night. To feel. To be alive. She wanted everything. She did everything. Tasted every inch of him. Felt every inch of him. One night. To lose control. To groan. To moan. To whisper, “More. More. More.” To cling to the motion. Back and forth. In and out. One night to feel whole. One night her emptiness left her. One night she wasn’t alone. One night she felt alive.

Spent, she pretended to sleep. And waited for him to sleep. Then, she slipped away. Got dressed. Left. One night. That’s all she wanted. One night. To feel alive. To feel real. Before she ran away again. To hide in a world where nothing was real. And no one felt a thing for anyone.

No one would ever hold her again. No one would ever touch her heart. No one would ever make her cry. No one would ever hurt her again.

Like he had.

She’d always make sure of that. She’d always run away.

485 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for week 45 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

#MWBB 28 : Tu Vuo’ Fa l’Americano

Carlo walked into the club, wearing his best American attire. Three piece, gray, pinstripe suit, white shirt, black leather shoes, black socks, black leather belt, black silk tie, white gold cufflinks, and a white gold watch with a matching band.

His attire stood out like that of a black American Cadillac SUV in an ocean of Italian micro cars and scooter. Our world was tie dyed, his was black and white.

Concetta took one look at him, smiled at me as she shook her head, placed her elbows on the bar, and said, “You were right. He needs my help.” She studied Carlo for a time. “Poor boy.” She ran her fingers through her long, fiery red hair, making sure to drape some over her shoulder. “He has forgotten what it means to be Italian!”

I laughed. “And you are the pulcino caldo to remind him, eh?”

She swayed her hips, pressed her fingers to her lips, then pressed them to a hip as she said, “Shhhhhhh,” then showed me the most playful grin, “Naturalmente!” And off she went.

I watched her sashay over to Carlo’s table, wondering how long it would take for Concetta to restore his Italian soul to life. Five minutes? Ten? How long could Carlo resist her color, her flair, her sultry, smoky ways.

I watched, and listened.

Concetta made sure Carlo saw her hips sway as she walked to his table. Her skin-tight, too short, bright yellow skirt stayed glued to her hips, making every movement more noticeable. She propped her elbows on his table, leaning her shoulders forward, so her matching yellow vest opened a touch, providing Carlo with a view of acres of her chest.

Carlo almost crushed his glass. He quickly placed his drink back on the table, and tried not to stare at her. Especially at her chest, as it hung, just above the table. “Concetta. How are you tonight?”

“I’m thirsty, amico.” She gently grabbed his hand, letting her fingers drag across its back, before they interlaced with his. “Care to buy me a drink?”

“What would you like?”

“Something… Italian…” She rested an elbow on the table, and her chin on her hand, revealing even more of her skin. “Something… With soul…”

Carlo tried to walk calmly to the bar. He failed. He leaned over the bar, and hissed at me, “Angelo! Help! She wants something Italian! With soul!”

I nodded, and fixed two Sgroppinos, one for each of them. “These,” I whispered knowingly, “Are one of her favorites.”

And off he went, like a little boy, about to lose his virginity. It would not take long at all for Concetta to awaken Carlo’s Italian soul.

They had their drinks, then Concetta took his hand once more, “Dance with me, amico!” And she danced him out to the floor, where she opened his suit coat, loosened his tie, and handed him his cufflinks in the first three minutes. He melted into her on the floor, running his fingers through her hair. Crushing her chest to his. His hips locked into the same swaying motion as hers.

She spent the evening melting his American image into a puddle at her feet. Leaving his Italian heart and soul revealed for all to see.

543 Words
@LurchMunster


My entry, in all its unedited glory, for week 28 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.

#MidWeekBluesBuster : Week 8 – Living Room

Cherie was one of those women guys just go stupid around. Big, blue eyes, dark red, almost brunette hair, breasts that were just the right size, and an ass that you just had to watch as she walked away. She was my greatest mistake. I’ll never forget her. And I’ll never blame her for the way she was, the things she did. She was a work of art, a goddess to behold, to hold, to kiss, to sleep with. And she was absolutely heartless.

I learned she had each of us scheduled into her life. Nick on Monday, Tom on Tuesday, Frank on Wednesday, Robert, Steve and Jim on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I was her Sunday plaything.

I met her on a Sunday morning, at church of all places. She came in that first Sunday, and sat next to me. “I’m looking for a church home,” she explained.

“You are always welcome here,” With all the empty spaces on the other pews, I should have known something was wrong when she singled me out to sit next to.

Sunday after Sunday she showed up, and she sat next to me. After a month people began to talk about her, and about how she was corrupting me. “Do you see the way she dresses? That hussy!” I didn’t care. I relished having a pretty girl sit next to me. And Cherie was gorgeous. Everything she wore exhibited her curves, and they were the best curves I’d ever seen.

After two months, she asked me to lunch. Of course I said yes, why would I have said anything else? Lunch after Church, with a hot chick? It was a dream come true. And the rumors at church took off, expanding, “They’re having an affair! She’s sleeping with him now!”

After the third month, she asked me to come watch the football game at her house, in her Living Room, on her big screen TV. “I don’t want to watch the game alone,” she declared, as she took my hands in hers, lacing her fingers through mine.

When we got to her house, we sat down in her Living Room, and she turned on the game. But, I never saw a single play. She got naked, and then got me naked, and then the sex started. Sundays became filled with sex. In the morning, before church, in the afternoon, watching a game, or a race, or whatever she put on the TV, then well into the night. “I just want to be loved,” she explained. “I need to feel loved. To know you love me. I need to feel alive. Make me feel alive.”

Hell, she gave me everything I wanted. Right there in her Living Room. Me, with a fantasy women like the ones you stare at in magazines, and on-line, and pray no one sees you staring. And there I was, every Sunday, having sex with a fantasy woman.

Until she grew tired of me, and replaced me with Harry. That’s when I realized how much I’d spent on her. Buying her anything she asked for.

When it was my turn to be thrown away, I wandered into a bar a few blocks from her house. That’s where I met Nick and Steve. They were there, drinking and telling stories of Cherie, waiting to see if another of her victims wandered in. And I did.

Now we’re a group of ten. Any day we should grow to eleven. Cherie’s still out there, collecting men, then throwing them away. We sit here once a week, at a set of tables, and we laugh about how stupid we were.

It’s like Tim Allen said once, “Breasts make men stupid.” Yep. No doubt about that. And if you add a good ass and blue eyes to the breasts, we don’t have a chance. Trust me on that. The ten of us are proof.

666 Words
@LurchMunster


Trying Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge again, and finding I had to cut oceans of words out of this one to get it under 700. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.

There Was Something About That Woman That Made Me Uneasy

There was something about the woman that made me uneasy. Took me a few minutes, but I realized it was her eyes. They weren’t any special color. Just hazel. But there was something in the way she looked at me that rattled my nerves. They were empty. I mean, the kind of eyes that you look in and nothing looks back. No emotion. No life. Just nothing. Everybody’s got a look in their eyes. Anger. Frustration. Love. Pain. You name it. It’s in their eyes. But not hers. Her eyes were like blank sheets of paper. Not even any lines to write on.

I watched her as she walked around the bar. Moving from place to place. Looking like some kind of soulless bird of prey searching for food. I was thinking, “Damn. I ain’t going anywhere near her.” Now I gotta admit, I didn’t mind watching her. She was a work of art. Some of the best curves I ever seen. And if it hadn’t been for her eyes, I’d have gone after her. She was the best looking thing in the whole bar. By far.

But those eyes. Damn. One look at them, and I could hear air raid sirens going off. “Everybody, to the bomb shelters! Now!” Jesus, but those eyes were scary. You know that feeling you get when some guy’s pointing a sword right at you, and all you got’s a jewelry screwdriver to fight back with. Yeah. That kind of scary.

She hit a few guys up for drinks. Always walked away from ‘em. Until that last guy. He was all smiles. You know the type. “No woman can resist me! And I want one to play with tonight!” Gods, I hate them bastards. Give the rest of us bad names. “Oh, he’s a male. You know what they’re like.” Well. Mr. I’ve got what you want in my pants just kinda drifted over to her. Bought her a drink. Then another drink. They laughed. They talked. He put his hand on her thigh, and let it drift up. She didn’t stop him.

I figured, “They’re made for each other.” Sure enough. After an hour or so, they left. Together. Her clinging to his arm. With that playful look that says, “I’ve know what I want for desert.” And him, grinnin’, with that look that says, “Don’t you poor bastards wish you were me.”

Yep. They  left. And everybody knew where they were going. And what was gonna happen.

A few days later, the cops stopped by the bar. “Have you seen this guy?” They were asking everyone. Showing his picture. It was the same guy that had left with the woman with the blank eyes. “He’s been missing for two days now.” His friends were concerned. His employer was concerned. They’d called the cops. Filed a missing person report.

That was the last we heard. Until a few weeks later. It made all kinds of news. Was on CNN, right there over the bar. They’d found a mini-storage shed that had 24 male bodies in it. Stacked like cord-wood. No telling how long they’d been there. They’d been treated so they didn’t decay. Like they’d been embalmed or something. The story said this has been going on for years and years. Each body was someone that was missing, and never found. The missing reports went back 24 years. One each year. But never on the same day, or time of year. So there wasn’t a real pattern. And the missing were scattered over a 100 mile radius from the warehouse. Again, no real pattern.

But, checking the corpses, a pattern did appear. Each had severe damage to their central nervous system. As if they’d been severely shocked.

They never found the woman. But we all knew it was her that had done killed those men. We all described her to the cops. But they never found anyone matching the descriptions. All anyone could do was wait, and see if there was a 25th body someday.

All I could think was, “I knew that bitch was dangerous.”

This work was written in response to the prompt for Motivation Monday, hosted by Wakefield Mahon each week. I’m still writing. But I’m writing outside the word count limit rules of most challenges right now, so I’m not entering Flash Fiction challenges at this time. Seems I’m looking for something. Anyway. Please feel free to wander to the Motivation Monday site, and read the entries for this week. They are always good.

Memories : Unlimited Soda

I remember.
Clearly.
The day I made that choice.
It happened
The first year I ever worked
In a world I never made.

1976.
It was in early October.
I’d managed to get
My very first job.
Working in a grocery store.
As a grocery bagger.
A generic name.
For a generic job.
A job in which
You could end up doing
Damn near anything.

Like straightening out
The contents of
The freezer isle.

Do you have any idea
How frakkin’ cold
500 half gallon boxes
Of ice cream really is?
Momma…
My fingers still remember that.
Even after all these years.

Back then,
Soda was dirt cheap.
Less than 50 cents
A can
Out of vending machines.
And the store had one.

I’d been working
All afternoon.
Into the evening.
I was helping
Close the store.
When I decided
I was thirsty.
And took a time out
To grab a drink.
And chug that drink down
While I was working.

No one minded
In the least.

But as I went
To get my drink,
I remember exactly
What I thought.

I thought
Of my family
History.
Our ingrained abuse
Of alcohol.
I thought of the problems
So very many
In my family
Had had with that.
Going back
For centuries.

I knew then
That a person shouldn’t drink
3 or 4,
Or 5 or 6
Cans of soda
Every day.
That doing that
Would not be a good thing.

But I knew also
About the dangers
Of drinking even one
Alcoholic beverage
In my family.

So I stood there for a moment.
Having bought a soda
From the vending machine.
With that cold grape soda
In my hand.
Feeling the coldness
Of the can.

And I remember thinking,
“I don’t care
If it’s wrong.
And it will hurt me
In the long run.
I’m going to let myself
Drink all the soda
I want to.
Because it beats the hell
Out of drinking
Alcohol.”

So on that night,
Working in that store,
I threw out the rule
I’d been taught
About drinking just one can
Of soda
Every day.

I remember that choice,
Every detail.
Every thought.

And I don’t regret
Having made that choice
At all.

For I’ve never had a problem
With alcohol.
Unlike so very many
In my family’s
History.

I remember.
Clearly.
The day I made that choice.
It happened
The first year I ever worked
In a world I never made.

1976.
It was in early October.
I’d managed to get
My very first job.
Working in a grocery store.
As a grocery bagger.
A generic name.
For a generic job.
A job in which
You could end up doing
Damn near anything.

Like straightening out
The contents of
The freezer isle.

Do you have any idea
How frakkin’ cold
500 half gallon boxes
Of ice cream really is?
Momma…
My fingers still remember that.
Even after all these years.

Back then,
Soda was dirt cheap.
Less than 50 cents
A can
Out of vending machines.
And the store had one.

I’d been working
All afternoon.
Into the evening.
I was helping
Close the store.
When I decided
I was thirsty.
And took a time out
To grab a drink.
And chug that drink down
While I was working.

No one minded
In the least.

But as I went
To get my drink,
I remember exactly
What I thought.

I thought
Of my family
History.
Our ingrained abuse
Of alcohol.
I thought of the problems
So very many
In my family
Had had with that.
Going back
For centuries.

I knew then
That a person shouldn’t drink
3 or 4,
Or 5 or 6
Cans of soda
Every day.
That doing that
Would not be a good thing.

But I knew also
About the dangers
Of drinking even one
Alcoholic beverage
In my family.

So I stood there for a moment.
Having bought a soda
From the vending machine.
With that cold grape soda
In my hand.
Feeling the coldness
Of the can.

And I remember thinking,
“I don’t care
If it’s wrong.
And it will hurt me
In the long run.
I’m going to let myself
Drink all the soda
I want to.
Because it beats the hell
Out of drinking
Alcohol.”

That on that night,
Working in that store,
I threw out the rule
I’d been taught
About drinking just one can
Of soda
Every day.

I remember that choice,
Every detail.
Every thought.

And I don’t regret
Having made that choice
At all.

For I’ve never had a problem
With alcohol.
Unlike so very many
In my family’s
History.