Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
With lost marbles over mixed drinks, I stare at the face reflected in the oak bar. It looks more real to me, somehow, than I feel.
The bartender comes over to me. His huge moustache is waxed to slippery perfection. He looks down at me with crossed arms and a scowl. I know what that means. Time to pay up and leave.
I look up at him. I smile to let him know that Iâ€™m alright. The mirror behind the bar shows me that Iâ€™m a clown with wide rubbery lips smiling an idiotâ€™s smile. The five-oâ€™clock shadow on my face has turned into a two-in-the-morning carpet.
Iâ€™m having trouble balancing on the wide stool that Iâ€™m on. He doesnâ€™t even need to say it. The bartenderâ€™s right. Iâ€™m done for the night.
I reach back to get my wallet. It takes five tries. Heâ€™s patient.
I pull out my credit card and lay it on the bar. The bartender picks it up and carries it over the credit card machine. The last half inch of my martini is trying to keep the bottom of the olive damp.
I try to fish the olive out of the glass but I fumble. The glass skips away and falls over, spilling the last little bit of gin onto the bar.
â€œOh Jesus, Danny!â€ I hear from the end of the bar. I recognize the voice. I look up from licking the gin off of the bar to see what the problem is.
Itâ€™s the bartender again. Heâ€™s looking straight at me. I wonder why heâ€™s doing that until I remember than my name is Danny and heâ€™s probably found a problem with my credit card.
He comes back and puts the card down with the receipt. Itâ€™s gone through just fine. Of course it had. This is the magic card given to me by the government after the war. It never runs out. I was determined to drink the treasury dry.
I bring my other arm, the heavy one, up with a clank onto the bar. Its jagged shapes are cornered with rubber to prevent it from scratching furniture or people. Its barrel has been filled and plugged, never to fire again.
Itâ€™s too wired into my head to be removed, they said, and this credit card is their apology.
â€œYou canâ€™t lick the bar, Danny. You know that.â€ The bartender says and shakes his head.
â€Butâ€¦.I shpilled.â€ I explain, amazed at the thickness of my own tongue.
â€œCome on, Danny. You canâ€™t stay here. Go on. Get out. See you tomorrow morning.â€ Said Danny, not unkindly.
I stand up, aim for the door and walk outside. It takes five tries. Heâ€™s patient.
I fall over with a crunch of glass into the garbage in the alley behind the bar. I smell limes. I donâ€™t get up.
Home Sweet Home. Iâ€™m enjoying the freedom I fought to preserve.
Iâ€™ve drunk enough that the faces of the screaming children in a country far away wonâ€™t wake me up. Thatâ€™s the theory, anyway.
I close my eyes.