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Last updateTue, 06 Aug 2013 2am

Wednesday, 15 December 2010 04:27

Two Guys Walk Into a Bar

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I searched for movement through the smudged window. The only thing I knew for sure was it was Thursday because I had money in my pocket. My face burned with anticipation and the misty rain was refreshing.

Nothing moved inside the unlit bar.

The reflection in the window was my old man’s, down to the cracking skin in the corner of my eyes. Head against the glass, I studied myself: Three-day growth, thicker than the hair on my head. Sagging swollen eyes, glazed. A Bulbous nose, shined red, a stop light against sunset skin the colour of a week-old bruise. The last time I saw myself was a distorted bulge coming from the bottom of an empty glass.

The barman walked through my face, stealing my attention. Morning, he said.

I will be if I don't get a beer in the next five.

Huh?

Mourning, Barry.

Have a late one?

Something like that.

Lose your key again?

Must've. I'm here, aren't I?

Someone rolled out the wrong side of the gutter, he said.

I stared at Barry jiggling the keychain, picking keys out, holding them up and dropping them into the group. The rattling keys were like a glass bottle to the back of the head. He unlocked the door and stood, blocking the entry. Sorry, mate, he said, with a hand on my shoulder. Come inside, I'll fix you a drink.

I patted his hand, nodded and stepped past him into the pub. Into the welcoming stench of stale beer in rotting floorboards. I took stools off the bar, chairs off tables. I laid out ashtrays and unrolled bar mats. Barry unlocked the till and switched on the lights. The Cooper's sign flickered, settling into the familiar, soothing neon glow. I sat on a stool in front of the taps and picked at the beer nuts while Barry set up.

You gonna pour me that drink? I said.

Come on, matey, you know I can’t serve 'til eleven.

I’ll take it down the back. No one’ll know.

Just sit tight, old man. If you want something to do, he said, clean the bathroom. He rolled the mop and bucket to the side of the bar.

He thought I was an old man, useless as tits on a bull, not capable of paying for my own drinks, which is true--except on Thursdays.

What do I owe you?

He flipped open a notebook, scrolling his finger down the page and said, It’s sitting at six-hundred-ish.

I pulled out the pay I withdrew that morning and, as much as I didn't want to, handed it over.

That's rent and whatever’s left can go towards my tab.

There’s only 400. You’re still in the red.

If I do the bathroom, will you make it square?

Deal, Chris.

 

#

 

I found Monday's paper wedged behind a toilet. I read through the Form Guide and picked the horses I would’ve backed if it was today’s paper. The obits were four pages long. I scanned the names for my ex-wife’s. An ad in the corner of the page read:

 

From conception to cremation,

we'll cater anything!

 

I laughed.

What’s so funny? Barry set a fresh beer down and picked up my glass, a good mouthful left.

Whoa there, I said and took the glass back, drank the last mouthful and held it up for him to take. He put it on the dirties rack, now six glasses deep.

The rest of the day went by like every other--one drink at a time.

 

#

 

Barry decided to shut early because no one was in, save for a few people through the day, moving around behind me. He sat a key down in front of me.

Here, old man, he said, and don’t lose this one, will you?

Cheers, Barry.

Don’t mention it.

I’ll drink to that, I said, waving my glass in the air. Have one with me?

One. Not eight. And you’re cut off after this one. You’ve had a gut-full.

He poured two beers.

To not mentioning it, I said.

We clinked glasses and drank.

We spoke about nothing for half hour, then Barry began packing down.

Why don’t you go see those kids of yours soon? he said.

He doesn’t know this, but I don't have kids. When I first went to the bar I needed an alibi. A reason. So I did what any self-loathing man would do, I told him my ex-wife had full custody of our children and wouldn’t let me see them.

The god-damned hell-whore won’t let me, I said, I thought we were drinking to not mentioning it?

He kept his head down after that. And after he finished packing down, he poured me another beer.

I’m gonna head, he said, gonna get home early. Do us a favour before you head up to bed?

Sure.

The deadbolts on the front door. Make sure they’re locked.

Yeah, Barry. No worries.

Seriously. Make sure you do it.

Yeah, yeah. I'll do it, mate.

See you in the morning.

I skulled my beer, leaned over the bar and refilled the glass. It was too heady, but I didn’t care. I knocked it back fast and when I tilted back, taking the last mouthful, my body just kept going, like a weight was in the back of my throat. My head hit the hardwood floor. I didn’t get up.

I woke gasping for air.

A guy was taking money from the till. Another was taking the breath from my lungs.

 

#

 

Barry found me in a puddle of my own piss, my face busted up. He helped me to my feet and brushed off my clothes, straightening me out. Then he punched me in the nose and I fell backwards onto my ass.

You piece of shit alco. One-fucking-thing. I ask you to do one thing and you fuck it up. It's my own fault. Fucking idiot. You useless old cunt.

I sat there feeling sorry for myself, holding my jaw together. An ice-cold slap hit me. I shook off the shock, and wiped the water from my face.

Barry stood, bucket in hand and said, Get the fuck out. And don’t even think about coming back.

I crawled outside and laid in the gutter. The sun screamed at me. Once my clothes were dry I limped a few blocks to a dingy place in a dark alley called Mickie’s.

I took a stool in front of the taps and flagged down the barman.




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Last modified on Thursday, 15 March 2012 04:56
Doc O'Donnell

Doc is the deadbeat responsible for www.dirtynoir.com. His work has filthied the pages and screens of a few other dives: Crime Factory, Warmed and Bound: A Velvet Anthology and a bunch of Thunderdome issues. He can be abused for his many misgivings at www.docodonnell.com. Dare you to drop him a "Fuckyou".

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