Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Play Me Out

Here's a rough draft of a short story based on a dream that inspired me. Thought I would share. Very short. Enjoy on this Literary Tuesday!

The place was quiet, despite the filled tables. People sat at the small, dimly late tables, hovering over their drinks, occasionally taking sips. There was one open seat the bar, onto which Joe sank down, weariness sinking him down into the warn wood stool. The bartender paused in his drying of glasses, tossing the cloth over his shoulder. He took a few silent steps and was in front of Joe.

The bartender was neither old, nor young, his look solemn but not unkind. “What will it be? I was just about to announce last call.” Joe looked at the taps, and then past them to the harder stuff. Yeah,that was what he wanted tonight. He looked over the bottles, the labels not registering in his head. He licked his lips, a memory ripening in the back of his mind. “Whiskey, neat. Two fingers.” The bartender did not ask him which type he wanted, just went to one of the shelves and pulled out a bottle. With purpose he pulled down a glass and poured the amber fluid into it, the liquid glistening under the wan light cast by the bulb above the bartender’s head.

“On the house,” he said, pushing the glass forward. Joe reached out to take it, pausing as the glass briefly was in both their hands before it was completely Joe’s. Joe sniffed the alcohol, the memory becoming more vivid, close to being solidly formed. He would remember it soon.

The first sip was fire, hearth and home, all in one. He let the peatiness linger in his mouth. The scent of a cigarette wafted past his nose. He looked around, but no one appeared to be smoking. And hadn’t smoking been banned a decade earlier inside? Either way it was not an unwelcome smell. The smell had always been accompanied by a woman’s voice, deeper than most, not quite Kathleen Turner, but close.

The voice had always sent shivers down his spine. How had he forgotten her? Even for a moment. Maybe he had wanted to forget. After all, things had not ended well.

“Good, isn’t it?” The bartender paused in his duties to nod at the glass. Joe nodded affirmative.

“It’s the best I’ve ever had. Who makes it?” The bartender smiled, but kept his lips pursed together. “I respect a man’s secrets, “ Joe said, when he saw that the bartender was not going to tell him.

“A good way to live. You can never tell how far reaching the consequences of loose lips.” Joe cringed inwardly, another fragment of memory floating to the surface.

He had met her when he was undercover. She had been an informant, and also the wife of a made man, not someone to be trifled with. An affair doomed from the start, the classic story of star-crossed love and all that. But it had been heaps of fun, while it lasted.

He smiled to himself from behind the tumbler of whiskey. The first few notes of their song drifted through the air, drawing his attention to a piano player in the corner that he hadn’t noticed before.

A hand brushed his shoulder and he caught a glimpse of red nails. He turned, setting down his glass. He couldn’t make out her features in the dim light but he knew, and his imagination could fill in the rest.

“One last dance for old time’s sake?” There might have been a reason she shouldn’t be here, that it didn’t make sense, but he shrugged it off. He didn’t want to think about it. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she whispered into his ear, her husky voice sending tremors down his spine.

“Hopefully not too long. I hate to think I left a dame like you on your own for long. Someone might have snatched you up.” She gave a hearty laugh at that. “It was always you, Joe.” She leaned her head against his shoulder, nestling so close that they were no longer dancing, just swaying to the music.

The song ended and she pulled away, and Joe could see it. The bullet hole on her chest was definitely there, but it wasn’t dripping blood the way he had last remembered it.

“What’s happening, doll?”

“That was last call, partner,” the bartender said, pointing at the exit sign that had just lit up. “Now it’s time to go.”

“It’s time for us to go now, Joe.” She took his hand, pulling him toward the door with the beckoning neon sign over it.

“Where are we going?”

“Does it matter, honey?”

“Do we still get to dance?”


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