h1

Thirsty Night

September 15, 2008

Another quick story start draft. Again–unedited, and read through once. There are bound to be a massive amount of errors.

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The bar must’ve been six Cadillacs wide and three deep he figured. He used cars as measurements whenever he could, cars are something he could understand. It wasn’t that the concept of feet or meters was beyond grasp, it’s just that cars are real, he saw them everyday, every minute, and with distances that far, the approximation has more likelihood of being correct, or closer to correct, and being correct was very important to him. The ceiling had been dropped from the original height, a two by two (Cadillacs, that is) section was left at the original one 1968 Fleetwood on its end altitude. The floor under that cutout was sunk by a couple steps, with bar height tables and stools arranged to maximize capacity surrounding a small stage, on which was ‘The Bedwetters’ an experimental jazz trio that had recently changed their name from ‘O Sam I Been Laden Jazz Explosion’, a truly unfortunate name selection that caused two thousand four hundred twenty-two dollars and sixty eight cents worth of medical bills. Finally, an emergency room doctor pointed out the possible cause of the constant beatings they received before, during and after gigs. Needless to say, they voted two to one to change their name. O.B. Smith was the dissenting vote, as usual.

The six foot five inch lanky framed bass player was always causing problems, at first it was the language barrier, then it was him not wanting to end his bass solos, and constantly he would stink up the hotel rooms with his bedwetting, a problem he said had plagued him since boyhood in his hometown of Riyadh, Maine. That explained the language barrier, and the small town experience must’ve fueled a need for attention the others thought, all in all though, he could make that bass swim, run, and fly, so the others couldn’t really see a need to kick him out of the band.

Johnny watched the group jam away while sipping on his Newcastle. ‘Damn’ he thought ‘that fucking bass player is tall’ Johnny focused in on the hip hugger bell bottomed patchwork cords and the barely too small butterfly collared flower shirt on the bass player and chuckled to himself. ‘sure, retro is hip, but fuck, a person that ugly shouldn’t draw attention to himself.’

He slid the last three ounces from the pint glass and held it head high for a split second. Christine flipped a fresh pint glass from the ice bin with her left hand into her right with practiced precision. A smooth shift of her slender frame and a slight turn put her directly in front of Johnnys’ favorite tap, a quick flip, and the elixir flowed. Johnny was used to this type of attention, somehow it was natural for people to notice him, and feel okay about making him happy. As far as he knew, everybody got the attention he did, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Fifteen years earlier, on a family trip to celebrate Christmas in Rome, he should have started getting the hint. At the Vatican, on Christmas day, he noticed an old woman at the top of the steps leading back down to the vast expanse of the square from St. Peters Basilica. Being an okay guy, he sprinted up the steps to the old woman and helped her down to the square. This, he thought, deserved no special attention. Somehow the Pope had seen it, and sent some Cardinal or another to fetch him, and got to meet and chat with the Pope. To Johnny, this wasn’t very impressive, being an atheist, the Pope was more like a weirdo that was well respected by other weirdos, so he tried to treat the guy with respect, but he wasn’t going to be filled with honor and reverence.

When he got home, he didn’t even tell anybody about it at the party his friends put on to welcome him home from his week-long vacation. Christine placed the brown ale in front of him, smiled, winked, and quipped “that one’s on me”. The obligatory “thank you” unconsciously flowed from Johnny’s mouth. ‘I hope I have my cock in her one day’ he thought, then pondered whether he said it aloud, reassured that the words hadn’t mingled with the stale barroom air, he felt relief, something he hadn’t had about a year earlier at a gas station. He had been strolling into the mini-mart after pumping his gas, an angelic looking twenty one year old wearing a knee length printed summer skirt and a tight white blouse glided in front of him and took the closer place in line, which he didn’t mind, being able to admire the beautiful form (and ass) of the young woman. ‘oh my god, she’s gorgeous’ floated to the forefront of his mind. She turned and looked at him with a coy smile and her wide open bright green eyes “thank you.”

He almost passed out from the embarrassment. “I’m sorry…did, did…” he stuttered “…did I say that out loud?”

Her smile grew, her perfect cheeks rose a bit, “I guess you did.”

Reeling, he knew only one defense “maybe we just have a psychic bond, because I’m pretty sure I didn’t say anything.”

They had dinner, three drinks and ended up dirtying up his kitchen counter with porn quality sex. He couldn’t remember her name a week later. Johnny almost hated his success with women, looking around the bar, he saw four women he had had sex with over the past year, which was, for him, expected, being a slow bar night.

He liked to be anonymous, yet enjoyed meeting new people. Having women around that he had been intimate with dramatically reduced his ability to remain an unknown quantity, which was the fodder for his conversational fire. He thought about leaving, and going to another bar, but he realized that there too would be another few women he knew, and the same boredom that poked at him like an annoying little child trying to get attention.

Looking down at his full pint of ale, he gave into the fact that a full pint takes a half-hour to drink, and not finishing it would be a slap in the face to the brewer who had painstakingly guided the ingredients to mingle and evolve into a truly enjoyable flavor. Looking around, the string of small dim blue bulbs that framed the opening of the cutout in the ceiling caught his eyes, above which a toy train track carried its compliant partner, four cars long, and a bit over-sized from the normal toy trains one is used to seeing, around the interior edge. As the train went along, the dim lights under the track cast a caterpillar of shadow above the train along the wall. Like an infinitely cresting wave the shadow crawled from the caboose to the engine, always beginning, and always fading away.

For a moment he lost himself in the vision that seemed to mimic his underlying search for excitement. A quartet of enormous bald-headed, muscle-bound, color wearing motorcycle gang guys stood and sat tightly grouped around an elevated wall mounted television flashing its attention deficit disorder friendly broadcast of an NBA playoff game.

The largest biker was quickly recognized by Johnny, having become friendly with him a year earlier. Tom was a giant, everything about him was over-sized, his arms, legs and chest rivaled trees in thickness, and his large bald head even had a larger than life shine to it. Johnny had been sitting at the bar of another establishment , when Tom lumbered in and took the stool next to his, and had ordered a shot of Jack and a coffee.

Somehow, Johnny couldn’t really remember, they got talking about Russian literature, whether Chekhov or Solzhenitsyn was the better writer, if Bulgakov or Tolstoy best told a story. It was quite a shock to Johnny how intellectual Tom was, but being thoroughly convinced of his capacities, accepted it wholeheartedly. Tom had an amicable way about him, smiling easily, and seemed to be a pretty liberal guy, so Johnny got along with him pretty well, except for one drunken night where Johnny beat him down over a disagreement about the safety of Sweet and Low vs. Equal, they had since agreed to disagree. Johnny hated the use of Equal, NutraSweet he knew, affected the central nervous system, numbing limbs if enough were consumed, this fact worried him to such an extent, that he chose to use the cancer causing Sweet and Low instead. A lot of things worried him–mortality, toilet seats, getting a ping pong ball lodged in his throat, losing his penis in a car crash, biting into a pickle filled with red ants, and a variety of other pertinent things.

Christine wandered over, a look of boredom mixed with exhaustion lightly veiled her luxuriously pretty southern French face. She gave a sharp exhale upward out of the corner of her naturally red lipped mouth, sending a stray lock of curly black hair back over her rich porcelain forehead to its tied back counterparts. Leaning against the bar with one arm outstretched, elbow locked side facing Johnny, she exhaled quietly while looking unimpressed at the muted TV “I don’t know…I just don’t know, Johnny.”

Johnnys’ eyes cocked knowing that she wanted something to talk about, something more to say. “what? Whether I’d be better in bed, or in a hot tub…or whether you should wear a merry widow or a teddy?” he figured he give her a choice of subjects.

Slowly, she turned her head to face him, her brows furrowed, her expression became vague and defied Johnny’s attempts decipher it. “Are most of us that stupid?”

He tilted his head in thought, ‘does she mean bartenders?, does she possibly think I hold them in low stead, I’ve never degraded her position, have I? She probably does well here, I’d imagine, right? She knows I’m a slacker, she can’t mean that, no, she can’t, she probably thinks that I’m the loser in this match-up…’ “Women? Yeah, actually, they seem to like it when I say stuff like that” ‘maybe they don’t… no, they must, it seems to work’

Christine smirked, her brows raised again, widening her seemingly innocent almond shaped eyes, she tilted her chin upwards like a proud cat would. “Well, I wasn’t questioning anything of the sort” her faux austere intonation made Johnny think that although she wasn’t truly being deceptive, she wanted to leave that as an open topic in his mind.

‘She fucking likes me, I’ll be a son of a bitch- fuck…calm down…calm down, it’s cool, whatever, just don’t even think about it’.

She swaggered away, exaggerating her hip swing, he knew she was trying to signal that she had gotten the best of him, while he couldn’t believe he got to finally see her hand.

He first noticed her some six months before, she was working, just as she was that night, he got a beer from her, nothing special, but she did something no other bartenders did in segue, she held out her hand and introduced herself, it later became apparent that that was her way, extremely friendly, very polite, and never seemed to miss a beat. What the kicker was to Johnny, is that two weeks later, he went back, having not been back since, not only did she greet him with his name, but also remembered his beer.

‘She’ he mused ‘was the best fucking bartender I have ever come across… wow… she is wicked hot, isn’t she, I , oh, man, look at her ass, man, that’s so nice, hmmm, yeah, I , whew, damn, I want that…’

Well, he kept on thinking for a bit more, but it got quite tawdry. Ever since, he held her in high esteem, not only was she beautiful, but obviously her quick wit and manners told of her intelligence. She’s the type of girl he’d give a boatload of cash to (if he came across a shipload) because she would probably use it wisely and lead a great life. His eyes fixated on the toy trains shadows, following the undulating pattern with a slight envy for its’ infinite rebirth and pity for its’ constant death.

The short, half bald elfin looking horn player collapsed his cheeks, having tapered from a slow low pitched harmony that begged like a half starved beaten down step child of Duke Ellington for adoration and acceptance. Sliding the antiqued dull brass convolution of plumbing down his twenty year old Luke Skywalker-Princess Leia- Han Solo trio Star Wars ¾ sleeve baseball shirt, resting it on Levi clad hip, he pulled his body back, shoulders raised and tightening, crushing his eyelids together, his mouth opened, as he pushed his face closer to the mic and vocal chords strained to hit A sharp- The movement led Johnnys’ focus to the foam covered silver-banded black microphone.

Staring intently at the sheen of the aluminum band, his pupils listlessly wandered closer together, blurring his vision, giving way to a thought he had had a couple years earlier while sitting on the can. He had been looking at a smoke detector on the ceiling of his bathroom, wondering how many people set up surveillance cameras in those things, the thought contorted into bugging equipment, and a fully engineered idea exploded into his consciousness- an altitude sensitive switched, ion balanced sheathed, kinetic energy gyroscope powered surveillance bugging system for aircraft (heads of state, industrial leaders, bureaucrats, etc.).

He sketched the idea into a blank area of a car ad on the back cover of a three month old copy of the local free newspaper, thinking nothing of it until a week later when, chatting with some middle-aged guy that said he was in town looking at a company to invest in, they bandied stories and ideas back and forth, eventually the bug idea came up and piqued the guys interest, Johnny quickly threw the system onto a cocktail napkin. The two ended up at an office later that night, electronic equipment and gadgets filled every workbench and desk in the 1000 square foot, old mill building workspace. The middle-aged guy made a couple calls, worked his calculator, and quizzed Johnny on this detail, or that one, revising his scribbles in the process. It ended with a pre-formatted piece of paper covered by legalese, threatening this or that for tit and tat. Johnny signed his name, and didn’t know what it really meant.

Two months later, checks from the US Department of Agriculture started arriving, $1540.00 each, twice a month. On the paystub it stated ‘consulting services’. With the first one came a photocopy of the hand-drawn explanation of the bugging system with the words “thanks for your hard work- MB” Johnny never told anybody about it, it was too surreal, plus, he didn’t want to admit that he was a complete schlep with no employ. He’d tell people a variety of things about what he did, mostly some sort of sales or consulting in inane fields like anatomical modeling or historical interior design with a concentration in faux baroque style. Mostly, people wouldn’t even comment, not knowing where to even start with such boring career choices. If someone said something like that to Johnny, he’d say something, he’d throw out some vague bullshit questions, acting enthralled.

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