2006-12-04 - 11:04 p.m.
This is a story is about Jack Trachel. Jack was sitting at his favorite bar, in his favorite chair: just to the left of the candelabra and one seat over from Proletariat the horse. While Jack found Proletariat to be a wise individual, if a bit crass, he enjoyed the colt’s company mainly because he spent the majority of his time at the pine nursing a feedbag and guzzling down a bucket of whiskey every evening. Mainly, when he did speak, he’d buck and flash his mane, but he’d do it all through a gooey stew of oats and liquor - a grand scene underscored with utterly incomprehensible syllables. All Jack would need to do to be friendly is nod.
Bucky, the bartender, sat to the side reading a paper, bobbing his head to the house band. It was pretty standard for Bucky, a Norwegian who communicated almost exclusively through a series of points and eyebrow raises. On a good night he’d turn to the newt on piano and scat singing rat accompanying him, and let out a single celebratory hoot. Still, small as it was, it was always a hearty hoot, and the rat would swing his tail in thanks. Considering that the band played for beer nuts, any sign of appreciation was like a blanket for the soul. At that particular moment, the duo was working through their fifth rendition of Blue Danube. They liked to play on a theme.
As they hit the bridge, a Priest, a Rabbi and a Buddhist all trundled in, lockstep. They lurched up to the pine, and groaned slightly, in unison and to the surprise of no one.
Only the Norwegian moved, but he made up for the stasis of his fellows. With hectic jerks, he began pointing to three different places simultaneously to take the ascetic’s orders; no small feat considering his having only two hands. In time with each other, the holy men shuffled off their godly duds, sighed and spoke.
“The usual,” They said.
Bucky swirled in something that looked quite like a figure eighty-seven, and then went about gathering the necessary canines to slap together a few Jack and Cokes. Amidst some general barking and yelping, Jack turned a smidge and raised his glass to the holy trinity.
“Yeah, yeah,” They said.
The bar slunk back into peace. The band played on. The television played a boxing match everyone had already seen. (The other guy won.) It was all peace and liquor, all round the bar. That is, until a young man clambered in, excitedly holding out a lottery ticket.
“Everyone! Everyone!” the youth beckoned as he ambled up to the collection of holy men. “You’ll never believe it. I won the lottery. All five numbers. That’s fifty thousand. Ten thousand for each number right. Now you four, you’ve been my guides for so long, I want to share it with you all. Ten thousand for Bucky, ten thousand for the Priest, ten for the Rabbi and ten for the Buddhist. Now...” He leaned back, catching his breath. His hands wiggled, like he was indicating a magician’s ruse. “What do you think of that?”
The boy’s eyes bugged and ran wild over the bar as he spoke. But his audience seemed subdued. The Buddist spoke first.
“Johnny, it is kind of you to offer, but my religion forbids me from taking such money. We live an simple life. It is not my place to take such money.”
“The same for me, Johnny.” Spoke the rabbi. “I’m merely a student of our God. This money should go to someone more deserving.”
The priest said nothing, so Johnny felt inclined to ask.
“What about you, Father?”
“No reason in me taking it either.”
“Why’s that, Father?”
“Same as these guys. We owe it to Bucky, anyway.”
By this point, Bucky had ripped off his shirt, and begun doing a dance that resembled the electric slide, whilst all the while ringing two small silver bells in each hand. No pointing was necessary to see that Bucky had just witnessed what he saw as a miracle.
Jack rolled his eyes to the horse beside him.
“You know, it’s not even that funny.”
“Really?” answered Proletariat. “And Bucky asking me everyday about the long face is just a hoot, right?”
Jack shrugged, and held up a finger to the bartender. Bucky, still giggling and ringing, didn’t miss a step as his gummy hands flipped beneath bar, and produced a small cocker spaniel to plop before Jack. Mr. Trachel sighed and patted the dog on the back, holding his pint glass before the small pooch. After a few taps, a streaming black mess came gurgling up from the tiny beast’s snout. As it trickled into the glass, Jack failed to marvel as it formed a perfectly poured pint of Stout. Fido finished off the glass by coughing a shamrock into the foam.
Jack Trachel sighed. It was another night. Just like the rest. Exactly. Down to the shamrock in fact.
At least it had been. It had been exactly like the rest. It had been, up until that point, identical. Where that changed, where it wasn’t perfectly, predominantly, and near precisely identical, was when she entered. Announced by a distant and faintly supernatural flush from an infrequently used women’s bathroom, a frame stepped up to the dark side of the bar. No one ever sat on that side. The seats were cramped up against the bar by the pinball machine. There wasn’t any real light either, just the dull glow of blinking bumpers. All you could see was her frame.
“Margarita?” The ghost intoned.
Bucky turned and looked over a little surprised; suddenly unsure of his shirtless status. Or his dancing.
“Margarita?” repeated the girl from the darkness.
“Ahhh…ehhh!” said Bucky. “Katten! Der Katten!” Bucky went under the bar and produced a cat who went about slowly coughing up a pink icey drink into the woman’s glass. Jack didn’t know what to make of it. Never had seen a cat in the bar before. Never seen a glass like that here either. It looked fancy.
Drink poured, Bucky went back to dancing, and things went about as they always did: the frog tickling the ivories and the rat gingerly tapping out the beat on the microphone shaft. The three wise men rubbed their temples. Proletariat munched.
No one else seemed to notice the pink filled glass at the end of the bar, except Jack. He blinked. Then blinked again. Then got tired of blinking. He reached down and rubbed the muscly patch between his thumb and index fingers on his left hand with the thumb and index of his right. He focused there.
“Long face? Me,” said Proletariat to no one at all. “Why do I have a particularly long face? Christ! Really? Who came up with that one?”
Jack’s focus remained at his hand, trying not to hear Proletariat, or Bucky’s bells, or the cat vomiting up a perfect margarita. He felt his hand, and fought the black.
“This isn’t my hand.” He mumbled to himself.
The sip the shadow slurped from her glass shot into Jack’s ears.
“This isn’t my hand.”
Proletariat whinnied as he downed a shot.
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