What’s Said In the Bar Stays In the Bar

Danny dropped his hat on the bar, then undid his tie, wiped the sweat off his forehead with it, rolled it up and stuffed it into his dark blue suit jacket. “Scotch, Joe,” he ordered.

The blonde in the black cocktail dress sitting at the end of the bar said, “Tough day?”

“Not as tough as some, tougher than most.”

Any other day and he would have offered the woman a drink. This was not one of those days. All he wanted to do was have his drink and forget the day. It had been one of those days when the markets eat you alive if you don’t have a whip. When he became a trader, he didn’t think he was going in for lion taming.

The scotch came. He downed it, then ordered another.

While he waited, he noticed the blonde was drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette. He gave her his all-American smile, then decided it might be a good thing to offer her a drink.

“Buy you a drink?” he said.

“I don’t drink.”

“You’re in a bar?”

“So are you.”

“I’m here for the scotch.” Lifting his refilled glass, he raised it toward her, then had a drink.

“I can see that.”

Danny carried his scotch over to her end of the bar. He sat down on the stool next to hers.

“So, why are you here?” he asked, giving her his best boyish-charm smile.

She leaned towards him, her perfume making him forget his bitch of a day. “I’m looking for someone to help me rob banks,” she whispered into his ear.

His smile faded. She went back to her cigarette, puffed on it and laid it back on the ashtray.

His eyes dropped to the green carpet.

“You interested?” her soft voice asked.

His eyes moved from the carpet, up her long legs and the sexy dress and finally glanced at the pearl necklace. Their eyes met. This wasn’t the usual cat-and-mouse game he played with women. She was serious. “What if I’m a cop?” he asked.

Her hand reached over and fingered the lapel of his jacket. “You’re not a cop. A cop couldn’t afford that suit. At least, not on the salary they pay cops.”

He remembered his scotch, drank his glass empty and ordered a third. Another shot of scotch was definitely called for.

“So you won’t have a drink with me,” he said softly, “but you want me to help you rob a bank?”

“Banks.”

“What?”

She leaned into him again. “Banks. Not bank. And I’m not crazy.”

“I didn’t say you were”

“You were thinking it.”

“What if I go to the cops?” he said. He sipped his scotch.

“You won’t.” She stubbed out what was left of her cigarette. “If you do, I’ll find you and shoot your balls off.”

His frown went into a nervous laugh.

“I’m crazy enough to do that. And a good shot too.” She patted the small handbag on the bar next to her coffee cup.

Danny downed the rest of his scotch. “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Hey, Joe, can I get a refill on the coffee? This one is getting cold.”

“I’ll get you a new cup.” Joe called back at her. As he went for the coffee pot, her right hand slipped a .38 out of the handbag, dropped it below the bar and pointed it at his crotch, the barrel touching his pants. Joe brought the coffee over. With her left hand, she handed him two twenties. “For all your troubles, Joe.”

“Much obliged, Mara,” he said, then to Danny, “Can I get you another scotch?”

“I’ll let you know,” Danny said.

Joe went over to the cash register and rang up her tab.

“And I’m not afraid of you,” she said, then slipped the gun back into her bag.

Danny smiled his all-American smile, then asked, “You sure I can’t buy you a drink?”

She snapped the bag shut. “That seems to be an offer I can’t refuse. Bourbon straight please.”

Near 500 words: The Church of the Almost Forgotten

Connie entered the Church of the Almost Forgotten and headed toward the altar. The Church was empty. A few votive candles and the light above the altar provided the only light. She slowly made her way toward her usual pew. She had come to have a conversation with her uncle, who had passed on ten years before.

She found a pew and took her seat on the wood. There wasn’t a riser for kneeling. The people who came here saw themselves as free people and they were not about to kneel to anyone, not even God.

As she sat contemplating, she let the silence embrace her heart. Then she whispered, “Uncle Matt, it’s me.” Connie was an atheist but there were times she needed to pretend there was an afterlife. The Church of the Almost Forgotten was the place to do that.

“I have a problem. I know you can’t help here but it’s nice just to bring it up to the silence.” She pushed her long auburn hair out of her face.

The silence didn’t answer.

“I think I am in love. The problem is that he is a Christian. Now, I know you didn’t have anything against Christians. And I don’t either. But he insists I convert.”

She waited, and wondered. What had she expected when she came here. Answers.

She continued, “And he’s pretty adamant about that. And he sticks to his Christian guns. He won’t even sleep with me till we’re married. In a church, no less.”

She studied the light above the altar. It was beautiful, its colors changing as it rotated slowly, almost imperceptibly.

“I haven’t been a virgin since I was fourteen. Boy, was that a mistake. I know you warned me, but he was all shiny and wonderful. A regular Lancelot. No wonder Guinevere fell for him with one fell swoop. The guy was irresistible. He sure charmed me out of my panties. You were right. He liked to collect panties. Thank, God. Oops. Sorry I mentioned that guy. It’s just a saying. Something you used to say. Well, I’m thankful he ditched me. Two weeks later, I caught him with my best friend. You know the old saying, ‘He came. He saw. He conquered.’”

Connie still couldn’t stand to see Judith’s face. Betrayer.

“All he wanted was a bit of tail, then it was off to the races again. But he got what he deserved. He got a bad case of the clap. He slept with one girl after another till he slept with the wrong bitch.”

Connie breathed a deep sigh. Five guys she had slept with, and all of them turned out not to be the one. How could she be so wrong about so many. And now this one, who wouldn’t sleep with her. Was it a ruse? Or was he the One every girl talked about? She might be an atheist, but she still had feelings. As many said of her poetry.

“Well, you know how it’s been. Watching me from the other side. Wondering how I can be such a pushover. And I know I am a pushover. Why don’t I just go out and have lots of sex and leave love be? I wish I could. My friend, Olivia, does. And she’s no worse for the wear. And she does have good advice. ‘Always make ‘em wear a condom.’

“I’ve been tempted. And I have done it from time to time. But, I don’t know, Quinton seems so genuine. I met his parents last weekend. Beautiful people.”

Connie looked at her watch. If she didn’t leave soon, she’d be running late.

“Well, thanks for listening. I really appreciate your time.”

She slipped out of the pew and headed toward the giant wooden doors. As she closed the doors behind her, she thought she heard from inside the Church, “No problem.”

She turned to check and opened the door once again. There was no one there.

For the Birds

 

A couple sits on a balcony overlooking New York City. They are eating their breakfast. A pigeon is on the balcony’s ledge looking at the couple. The couple are looking at the pigeon.

Carla, the bird, says, “Okay, guys. Here’s your agenda for today.”

“Joe, I can’t believe we are taking orders from a bird.”

“Jill, this bird has made me a fortune. Before Carla here, I was bankrupt. Carla comes into my life and within weeks I am rolling in dough.”

“Okay, guys. Here’s the plan.”

“I don’t know, Joe. Seems real stupid to me. Don’t you know your own mind?”

“Of course, I know my own mind.”

“Hey, guys. Listen up.”

“Joe, it don’t seem like you do.”

“Jill, I can make my own decisions. It’s just that Carla does a much better job. She doesn’t let things get in the way.”

“Guys, you want me to leave. I’ll do it, you know.”

“Jill, you got to quit doubting my decisions.”

Carla up and flaps away.

“And my decision is to follow Carla. By the way, have you seen Carla this morning?”

Short Story Wednesday: Divorce in America

Short Story Prompt: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver

Maggie and I had been married for three years when the word “divorce” first came up. There we sat on our screened-in back porch, gazing out at the soft summer rain, sipping glasses of iced tea, day dreaming as if we had forever.

Then Maggie turned to me. “Jack and Anise are getting a divorce. Anise says it’s for the kids.”

I looked over at her. “For the kids? Nobody gets a divorce for the kids.”

“That’s what I said. But she insisted.” She went back to studying the lawn. “You think we should plant a rose bush over there.” She pointed to the back corner.

“It’s okay with me. Remember you are the gardener. I have the black thumb.” I gave it some thought. Maybe roses would look good at the edge of the yard. “What kind of roses?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when they told the kids. ‘We’re getting the divorce because of you kids.’ Bet that was one heck of a conversation.”

Maggie reached over to the pitcher on the table between us and poured herself another glass of iced tea. “She said the kids had pretty much figured it out. They were troopers about the whole thing.”

I swirled the ice in my glass with my finger. The cold felt good. “I thought they were the perfect couple. Who’ll be next? The pastor and his wife?”

“Naw,” she said. “It would mean his job.”

“As if that would be a bad thing. His sermons are so boring that the devil wouldn’t have a hard time recruiting our congregation Sunday mornings. Anything to get out of that sanctuary.”

She giggled, then said, “You’ve got that right. Why do we keep him?”

“Nobody wants to hurt his feelings.”

“If she’d only have an affair. She’s the type you know.”

My interest perked up. “What do you mean? She’s such a tight ass.”

“The ones you least expect, you know.”

“Are you saying?” I couldn’t imagine this. Helen, the preacher’s wife? Who’d have the gall to sleep with her anyway?

“I’m just saying.” She laughed. There were times I wasn’t sure if Maggie was joking or serious. This was one of those times.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I don’t know for sure. I have my suspicious though. Just call it woman’s intuition.” That closed that subject. She brings up woman’s intuition and I knew that was it.

“So when’s the big day?” I asked.

“The big day?”

“When is Jack moving out?”

“As soon as the kids go off to college this fall. He’ll be there when they leave. When they come home, he’ll be gone. He’ll be coming over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’ll be one big happy family for the holidays.”

I shook my head. “That sounds nice and cozy. How long they been married? Twenty-three years and now they’re getting a divorce. And for the kids too. Did she say what she meant by that?’

“No,” she said, then leaned over and kissed my lips lightly. She had tears in her eyes.

I offered her my lap, then I held her, trying to fend off the fear I knew she was feeling. She said softly, “It’s Mom and Dad all over again. We kids go off to college and they get their freedom. Only it’s freedom from each other.” There was unforgiveness in her voice.

I didn’t say anything. There was nothing to say. I remembered the arguments between my parents. All the yelling, and they stayed together for us kids. At least, that’s what Mom told me at Dad’s funeral.

Maggie squeezed my arm and drew it closer around her. There we were, Maggie and I, sitting on the back porch of our new house and talking about divorce. Hoping it wouldn’t happen to us.