Stranger Days: Part 1

August 5, 2009

Sorry, guys, this one’s unedited. Granted, all the writing I put up here are usually first or second drafts, but I’m not editing this one for typos and grammar because I’m tired and it’s already almost two hours late. It’s pretty long but probably worth it, I’d say. I decided to try something intentionally funny this time–tell me what you think. Think I’ll continue this one on here sometime soon.

“Stranger Days”: Part 1

Rick desperately needed to find a bar somewhere in town. He didn’t exactly fit in a hole-in-the-wall dive as well as he once did, what with his insurance agent here-let-me-help-you-with-that-form blue flannel suit, tie, and recently clean-shaven face, but damn if he didn’t need a bourbon at the end of a day like this. He staggered down the 82nd street strip looking for a place to lose this day in, muttering to himself about those damn kids from earlier–who the hell thought insuring a bunch of teenage skateboarders was a good idea, anyway? He passed by a couple of places before coming up to… “The Brass Skillet.” Eh, fine, he’s been in holes with worse names than that. (Lest we forget “The Grumpy Skunk.”)

The place was about as interesting as the name would suggest. Just about as clean, too. The whole place had a sort of grey air to it, actually–though that might’ve just been the smoke, or the old guy at the bar. He sat down at the nearest bar stool, three seats down

from the nearest occupied spot, and yelled “Whiskey!” at the bartender, who was in the middle of refilling a fortysomething-woman’s beer glass. Surprised and even a little scared by Rick’s yelp, he spilled some of the beer on her. A few gracious sorrys and a new glass later, the bartender ran down to Rick, spilling whiskey as he nearly slid in his leather shoes.

Rick would neither ask nor care about the bartender’s name for a long time, but his name was, in fact, Boyd. He was a little bit heavyset, and as mentioned earlier, pretty damn old–you could tell by his discolored mustache, by the fact that the mustache was all the hair left on his entire head besides the tufts under his nose. Even so, he had a sense of uneasiness that betrayed his age–no, uneasiness is the wrong word. It was a childish sort of fear, a worry of people who seemed better than him and their ensuing judgement, although he just thought everyone in the world better than him. In any case, his personality and appearance made strange bedfellows. And him and any woman made even stranger bedfellows, at least by her admission and thoughts.

Needless to say, Boyd was immediately freaked out by Rick. Boyd placed the cold glass down on the bar in front of him, and stood there while Rick nearly downed the damn thing. Rick finished his gulp, put the glass down, and noticed Rick was still looking at him. He was almost in awe, honestly–if you didn’t know any better and were onlooking you’d think they were having some sort of a moment, there. Rick realized the oddness of the situation, but also saw that the bartender wasn’t looking in his eyes, but instead at his cheek. There was a scar there–deep and long, running from the bottom of Rick’s nose to just below the far corner of his right eye. After silently working up some courage, Boyd asked in his best impression of a tough-talking barkeep, “So… how’d you get that scar?”

Rick looked down to his whiskey. “I’m not telling any stories tonight, guy. Just start a tab for me, already.”
“Oh, um. Sure.” Boyd grabbed a reciept and a red pen from his black apron. “I’ll, uh, need your name and your credit card.”

Rick said nothing and reached down into his pocket for his wallet. Pulling it out, he saw that he didn’t have a card, or any cash leftover–just some receipts and some lady’s business card with a phone number scribbled on the back. Realizing that she scribbled the same number onto the back that was already on the front of the card, he decided to just let it fall down to the floor beneath his seat.

He shrugged and said, “Eh. I don’t have any money on me, apparently.”

The glass of whiskey already had lost its ability to be called as such, and Boyd knew it. He had a tradition of how to deal with guys like these, though–something he’d do whether they were dirty cheaters trying to get a free drink or innocents who just forgot their sense at home for the day. He worked up some courage again, and said,

“You could… uh, tell me a story.”
Rick thought it was a bad joke. “A story.”
“Yeah! Er, uh, I mean, yeah. You know,” he raised his hands and the pitch of his voice,”just any old sotry of some interest or another. Anything’ll do. Then your–” He lowered his pitch again for gruffness’ sake.”–Your drink’s on me. You seem like a guy with something worth remembering.” Oh, yeah, Boyd thought to himself. I bet I seem pretty gruff, yeah.

Rick sat for a minute, wondered how much of a kook this guy was, and sighed. “Fine. Luckily for you, I’ve had stranger days than this. I’m Rick.”
“Oh! Uh!” Boyd got excited–he had completely expected the man to get angry and run off without paying. After a quick bit of hesitation, he tried to reply, “I’m–”
“Don’t care, guy. Just listen. I ran an underground operation before I hit this cushy, boring insurance gig…”
Boyd was taken aback, but still excited. He thought for a second, trying to remember something he wanted to ask Rick. As soon as he remembered he gasped and asked, “Is this going to be about how you got that scar?!”
“No. The scar’s unrelated. Now shut it and pour me another glass.”
Boyd thought he should argue, but was too genuinely excited to care about the money. He quickly poured more whiskey into the glass and then grabbed another dirty one from the sink, drying it with a white dish towel to fulfill his ideal image of what his job should be, listening intently to old stories from fascinating folk and drying the glasses old alcoholics drank from…

“As I was saying…”

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