“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline
from Every Day Fiction
There was a time
in my life
when I was so fucked up
I gave a damn what my lawn looked like
A few months ago I had a phrase get stuck in my head – “I was so tired I could barely sneer.” To get it out I had to sit down and write something from it.
I was so tired I could barely sneer; let alone lean back and kick that worthless loser in the balls – which is what I wanted to do.
“What’chew drinkin’ ma’am.” he said. “On me,” he said.
I turned away from the loser to face directly at the bartender and asked, “What do you have in Single Malt?”
“Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glenrothes…”
“You like the Glens,” I said.
The Bartender continued without hesitation. “Glengoyne, Speyside, Knockando, Cragganmore, Dallas Dhu, Loch Lomond, and Glenturret.”
“No Balmorhea?” I said. I always like to have an ace in the hole, something I knew he wouldn’t stock. There is no Balmorhea Single Malt Scotch. Balmorhea is a little town in West Texas.
“No, sorry ma’am. I’ll ask our distributor if he carries it next time I place an order.”
“You do that,” I said and gave him my favorite derisive squint. Have to always keep one up on the help. “In that case I’ll have a Glenrothes, neat, and put it on his tab.” I gestured at the mirror above the bar but when I looked, the guy was gone.
“Oh…,” I said.
“On his tab,” the bartender repeated, and reached for the bottle. I glanced at the shelf, at the bottle he was grabbing, to make sure the bartender wasn’t trying to rip me off and noticed a long glass case mounted under the shelf. On the outside it said, “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS.” Inside the case was a baseball bat… but… the funniest thing… the little knob on the end was gone and the thin part, where you grab, was sharpened into a point.
“And I’ll have a Bloody Mary,” a voice behind me said. Surprised, I spun and the guy was back again.
“Of course you will,” said the bartender, “On your tab?”
The loser didn’t say anything more; he simply stared at me while the bartender poured the tomato juice. He was tall, skinny to the point of being gaunt, graying hair, dressed like he had bought tacky clothes from the sixties – plaid pants and a striped collarless blazer, a mix of every color never seen in nature. He looked like he thought he was the king of polyester. They looked stale, a little wrinkled, like they had been slept in. I imagined those clothes hanging on racks at Goodwill for fifty years, until this idiot comes in and, “Has to have that outfit.”
The bartender reached out to hand him his drink and he took it right in front of my face. The guy had long fingernails, but at least they were carefully sculpted and clean. The skin on his hands and on his face was impossibly pale, almost translucent, like you could almost see the blood vessels pulsing underneath, but his lips were bright red, I thought he might even be wearing lipstick. Uggh!
Thank God, though, the only thing the guy said was, “Enjoy your drink,” and, before I had a chance to decide whether to say thank you or not, he turned and disappeared into the murk at the back of the bar.
Like I said, I was exhausted, so I was glad to get to sit there and try and enjoy my drink.
“Wow,” I said, “Who was that guy?”
“Never seen him in here before.”
“He always comes in late.”
I nodded. That’s why I had never seen the loser – I was at the bar a lot later than usual. At the most I stopped by for a simple tip on the way home; I liked to watch the sunset from my treadmill on the balcony. But the board meeting today had run long. It was worth it. The idiot bastards. I had to smile; I couldn’t help myself. I had been working the angles for months setting everything up and it had gone down, well, without a hitch.
“Long day?” the bartender asked.
“Oh, yeah. I’m beat.”
“That’s funny, you look a bit like the cat that ate the canary.”
“You have no idea,” I said. Damn Bartenders. They notice everything. Time to retreat, don’t want him to get the upper hand.
“Little girl’s room?”
“Down the long hall at the back, last door on the right.”
Of course I knew where the bathroom was. I don’t know why I asked. Maybe I wanted a way to let him know where I was going without saying it aloud.
When I came out of the can I noticed a shape blocking the hallway. It was tough to see; it was dark back there, and very smoky. Cramped. I didn’t like it one bit.
“Did you like your single malt?”
Oh, Christ. It was the loser. I felt a bit of panic – he had me trapped back there. But as I approached he moved to the side and pushed himself up against the wall to let me pass. He was so thin, he seemed almost to disappear into the paneling.
“Did you like your bloody Mary?” I asked back, with as much derision as I could. He only chuckled a bit.
“It was alright,” he said. “For starters.”
What the hell did he mean by that? I pushed past him, angling to the side, facing that lime green shiny fabric when I felt a hand on my shoulder, stopping me. His touch was bitter cold – at the time I thought he must have been holding an iced drink. The loser bent close. For a second I thought the bastard was going to try and kiss me. I was way too worn out for that kind of crap.
But of course he didn’t. He held me with preternatural strength, bent my head back, and pushed his long sharp teeth into the arteries in my neck.
“And that’s how it began. In a bar exactly like this one. I’m not tired any more.”
“What about the board meetings?” the bartender asked. I looked at him, looked at his lonely reflection in the bar mirror. He kept a sharpened, polished pine two by four sitting beside the gin.
“Oh, I had to quit my job, not a lot of that kind of work goes on at night. I took up consulting. I can set my own hours.”
“Would you like another bloody Mary?” he asked.
“No, thanks, I had better push off. It’s getting late and I think I’ve a taste for something a bit more flavorful now.”