A Short Story

Just Wanted a Drink

It’s not that I didn’t like to be pelted with garbage, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it that day. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I’d lost my wallet, I also managed to lose my sanity. A wallet can be replaced. Credit cards can be canceled. A new library card obtained. But sanity? That’s a little tougher to replace.

It started when I walked into that bar after band practice. I guess I didn’t really feel like going home that day, so I stopped at a bar I’d never noticed before. It was called “The Mirage.” Sure, a blatant slap-in-the-face warning that something wasn’t right, but sometimes people just want to ignore the signs. Especially a guy like me, who doesn’t believe in signs unless they tell me which door to go through if I have to piss.

At first everything was normal. I ordered a bourbon. I sat and drank, lit a cigarette and stared at myself in the mirror behind the bar. Why do they put mirrors behind bars anyway? Is it to make the place look bigger? Or is it so that the bar patron who bellies up can stare at themselves in a drunken stupor while they get lost in their own image. Who is that person? What has that person let themselves become? Why does that person keep staring at me? Stop it! Stop staring!

“Sir,” came a voice from above me, “I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to stop yelling at your reflection in the mirror. You’re scaring the regulars.”

I looked around to see that the place was empty.

“Regulars?” I said. “But there’s no one here.”

“See,” said the bartender. “You scared ‘em away.”

“But wait a second,” a shiver passed through me as I spoke. “I wasn’t even talking out loud.”

“You don’t need to speak out loud to disturb our regulars,” the bartender said as he disappeared into a back room.

Being left alone in the bar made me painfully aware of how quiet it was. I stood to play some music in the jukebox. As I took a step away from my stool, I suddenly became aware that I didn’t have my wallet. I had a little over a buck in change in my front pocket, but I didn’t have anything else. How was I going to pay for this drink, let alone play any music?

Damn. I really wanted to hear some music, too.

I stepped back up to the bar.

“’Scuze me,” I yelled out, hoping the bartender would come back. I assume he had gone to stock some beer or something. But I got no response.

My reflection stared back at me from the behind the bar as I thought about what I should do.

“What are you looking at?” I yelled at the reflection.

I downed the rest of my drink and yelled for the bartender again. No answer. I guess I could just leave. I don’t have any money anyway. Now would be my chance to skate without worrying about it.

The problem was, I really wanted another drink.

I hopped down from my stool again, feeling a little lightheaded as I walked to the end of the bar. The door the bartender had disappeared through was closed. I tried to listen for bottles being shuffled, or cases of beer being moved, but I heard nothing.

I went to the door and opened it.

“Can I help you?” said the man standing there. This was not my bartender.

“Um, I was looking for the bartender,” I said.

The room the man was standing in didn’t belong in a bar. It was small in size, but the ceiling had to be fifty feet in the air. The walls were lined with books. Hundreds of volumes of books. Not one of the books had a name on its spine. There was no way of reaching the books higher up on the shelves. No ladders. No nothing.

“Aren’t we all?” said the man. “Can I interest you in a gas station attendant instead?”

“A what?” I was starting to think that someone was fucking with me. “I don’t think so.”

“In that case, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave,” he said. Then he pushed me. I fell backwards through the doorway and landed flat on my ass. As I looked up the door slammed shut, only to open back up immediately. The bartender stepped out carrying a case of beer and two bottles of spiced rum. Stairs behind him led to a basement.

“Everything alright?” he asked as he stared at me laying on the floor at the end of his bar.

“I think I need another drink,” I said.

“Well, I tend to have a policy against serving drinks to patrons who order while on the ground,” he said with a smile. “But I’ll make an exception.”

“I don’t have money,” I blurted out. “Lost my wallet.”

“I know,” was all he said as he filled my glass. “Now sit down and enjoy your drink. I’ve thrown some credits on the jukebox. Why don’t you play a few songs?”

“Thanks,” was all I could manage. How’d he know I didn’t have any money? How’d he know I lost my wallet? And what the hell was in that room?

I lit another cigarette, not sure if I ever even finished my first one. It tasted like the greatest thing ever. I closed my eyes as the subtle burn of the smoke was sucked down my throat and attacked the tissue of my lungs. I exhaled and watched the smoke linger around my head like a cartoon thought bubble.

Pulling myself from my reverie, I sauntered to the jukebox and played a song. All that came out over the speakers, though, was a woman’s voice. “Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve. Soft serve.”

“Soft serve,” I said. What’s going on here? I turned to the bartender, “I think your jukebox is messed up.”

But the bartender wasn’t there. In fact, the whole bar wasn’t there. I stood staring at my reflection in the mirror that was now behind a row of ice-cream machines. Soft-serve ice cream machines. This wasn’t right.

“Sundae?” said a voice behind me. I nearly jumped out of my skin, and stumbled to get away from the voice. In my haste, I tripped over myself and once again, landed on my ass.

“What?” I said. “Who are you? Where did you come from?”

“I’m Lacy,” she said. “Where I come from isn’t important. What’s important is that you get your sundae. I know how you like hot caramel, strawberries, and Rice Krispies over your ice cream. I’ve got that right here.”

“Actually, I don’t like ice cream at all,” I said.

“LIAR!” screamed the woman. “LIAR!”

And she threw the sundae at me. I closed my eyes waiting for it to hit me square in the face.

Nothing.

I opened my eyes slowly to find myself sitting at the bar. Once again I was looking at myself in the mirror behind the bar. The bartender stood at the other end of the bar, quietly humming as he wiped down some bar glasses.

“I think I’m gonna get going,” I said to him. “Thanks for the drinks.”

“Anytime, partner,” he said to me. “Travel safe.”

“Sorry I can’t pay you,” I said. “I’ll stop in again and make up for it.”

“I wouldn’t recommend that,” he said without changing his expression. “Travel safe.”

Not sure what to say, I just nodded, turned and walked out the front door. What a day, I thought to myself. My brain seemed to twinge slightly as the bells attached to the front door chimed. The door slammed behind me as I stared at my feet. I took a deep breath, ready to forget about the last two hours of my life when something slapped me upside the head. A rolled up magazine fell between my feet.

As I looked up, I was greeted by a wall of flying tomatoes, banana peels, crumpled up newspapers, empty soda cans, and all other sorts of garbage. It hit me like a barrage of punches. In the face, stomach, legs, back of the head, every part of my body was stinging as I was assaulted.

I realized then that not only was I not in the mood to be pelted with garbage, but I also didn’t like it very much. I didn’t like it very much at all.

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