Getting Drunk, Alone, In a Crowded Bar

Jack sits at the bar with a glass of whiskey in front of him. He lifts the dirty glass with a shaky hand and pours the rancid juice down his throat. It goes down like water. His eyes shut for a second as the liquor hits bottom. The glass slams on the counter. The fat lady next to him turns and gives him a disapproving look. Jack waves his hand in the air and signals for another. His foot sweeps back and forth. His ass manages to stay on the stool. The barkeep walks over to Jack.

“Don’t go breaking my hardware kid.”

Jack stares at the man and pushes the glass away. The bartender’s face is wrinkled. His eyebrows are glued on. His nostrils are a jungle. His white shirt is yellow. His black vest covers the stains caused by the timeless job of catering to drunks. The man lowers the glass below the counter. It comes up full. Jack pulls a five out of his pocket and slides it over. The glass glides back to Jack.

The front door opens. Light shoots into the dark room and tries to spread out. The lingering smoke stops its advance halfway. Three men walk in. The door swings closed. The man in front is a walking tower. He’s wearing a black leather coat, has short, cropped hair and carries a toothpick in his mouth. The man behind him is also clad in leather. He is noticeably shorter. His blonde hair drapes over his eyes. The third man is small. He has a small goatee, a small leather jacket, and takes small footsteps. The man in front sets the pace for the three. They walk up to the bar. The tall man sits at the end. Blonde sits next to him. The littlest man takes the last seat next to Jack. The little man turns and stares at Jack. His little goatee turns up and sends a frown. Jack glances over briefly, raises his brow, and turns back to his task. The little man lets out a whimper and turns away.

The order comes in from the end of the bar, “Three tequilas amigo!”

The men are served. The tall man lifts his glass and shoots it down. Blonde follows lead. The littlest man raises the glass to his mouth, drinks, cringes, and slams the glass on the counter. Jack stares into his drink, his hand wraps around the glass, his fingernails try hard to dig into the solid glass.

Drinks are poured, glasses are slammed and voices raised. Jack’s grip tightens. He throws a granite stare deep into the empty space in front of him. His reflection in the mirror before him turns black. His lips begin to move.

“He don’t like it when you do that,” says Jack.

All three turn is synch. They look Jack over. The little man and Blonde turn and look at the tower. He looks past them, still focused on Jack. The toothpick in his mouth stops twirling.

“Tres mas cabron!” he shouts.

The barkeep obliges. The drinks are poured. Glasses rise, are drained, and slammed in unison.

Jack picks up his glass; the liquor flows onto his teeth and wets his dry tongue. He stretches his arm high in the air, lifting the glass high above his head. He looks up at it. It shimmers in the cloudy room, shattering the dim light, shooting sparkles over the crowd. His hand comes crashing down, shattering the glass on the wooden slab. The drunks in the bar shut-up, forced to notice the world around them. Jack’s hand is clenched on the counter surrounded by broken glass.

“He don’t like it when you do that!” he screams.

The men abruptly stand, knocking over their stools. Jack turns on his seat, walks off, misses a step, grabs hold of the bar, and straightens up. The fat lady becomes hysterical. She thrashes her purse at Jack.

“You lunatic! You crazy lunatic! You crazy dunk lunatic. I knew he was a crazy drunk lunatic!”

Jack grabs her purse and throws it across the room.

He walks in front of the tower. The tower’s stale breath rains on Jack’s scalp. He has at least six inches on Jack. The tower’s eyes lower on Jack, pupils dilate, breaths grow shorter and faster. Blonde and the little man stand beside the tower. The other six drunks in the room become mute, slowly circle around and listen to the four men’s combined gasps echo on the walls. Even the fat lady, close to a heart attack, shuts her mouth and waits to pick up her pink purse with white polka dots. The bartender’s skin sags some more, his arm reaches for the phone, and his fragile fingers dial. He talks for a moment, gives an address, lowers the handset and leans against the back of the bar, his right hand grabbing hold of an aluminum baseball bat.

Jack closes his eyes, exhales, and shoots his knee into the tower’s groin. The tower shrugs, bends at the waist, and Jack connects his fist to the side of his skull. Jack takes a quick step back. The giant’s head falls on the ground. Blonde rushes at Jack. Blonde misses Jack’s left hook that lands on his jaw. He stumbles and catches himself on a crooked stool.

Jack’s heart is racing. The alcohol is rushing through his veins; every muscle in his body becomes excited. His mind wanders and focuses on the two fallen men in front of him, their blood fresh on his fist. He stands over them enjoying their defeat. The littlest man has made his way behind Jack. His whiskers stand on end. His coat opens. His hand produces a blunt piece of wood. He swings. The two and a half foot object strikes at the base of Jack’s skull. Jack’s eyes see black. His legs wobble. Blonde rushes him, successfully this time, his arms wrapped around Jack’s waist. The force is overbearing. Jack is on the ground. The three men stand around him. Feet land on every inch of his still body. There is no more harmony in their movements; an inner force drives each man. Blonde and the little man keep a beat with their constant pace. The tower undulates a rhythm through his kicks. Together they produce a morbid symphony.

Jack lies still on the floor, moving only when hit hard enough. He’d be dead by now if he were sober. Alcohol, whether you’re wrapping your car around a tree or getting the shit kicked out of you, keeps you alive so you can face the consequences. Alcohol is counterproductive to Jack’s resolve.

A siren pierces the air. It’s a new song. The music forebodes a rescue. Tires screech. A door swings open. Flashlights blast through the smoke. Eyes are blinded. The music is spoiled by shouted commands. Three men are thrown on the floor. Handcuffs clang. Radios bleep on belts. Stools are shuffled. Asses rub on stools. Drunks get thirsty.

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