Girl walks into a bar one day. Puts down her purse. Gives a nod to Big Joe.
Girl orders a drink. Bartender says, scram. Vamoose. Get lost.
She looks at the Bartender. Girl says, why?
Bartender says, I don’t like you, that’s why. Never have liked you. You know what you are? The sound of fingernails, scraped on a blackboard.
Girl leaves the bar. Girl walks home. All night long, she tosses and turns.
She goes back the next day. Steps up to the bar. Bartender says, I thought I told you to amscray. Get lost.
Girl says to the Bartender, listen, man. You said "leave" so I left. But all night long, I turned and I tossed—
Now look, says the Bartender—
No you look, she says. You can spit in my beer, water down my whiskey. You can even put dirt in my dirty martini. But you can’t make me leave just because you don’t like me.
He thinks for a moment. Bartender sighs.
He looks at the Girl.
You like baked potatoes?
Girl smiles. Yes, I do, she replies.
Me too, he says. But you know how sometimes, you take a bite of a baked potato. And under the cheese and sour cream—along with the bacon bits, next to the chives—there's a piece of foil, sometimes. Scrapes your mouth and your teeth. Leaves that metallic-y taste behind.
Yes, the Girl tells him. I've had that happen. At best it's unpleasant.
Bartender agrees. It's grating. Annoying. Lot of other things, too. And I still like it more than I ever liked you.
It sounds like a joke. Girl walks into a bar. But this story’s not funny. Not all stories are.
As with most stories, though, it reveals something hidden. Like a pilot in war dropping bombs on a village—
It sounds like a joke. But all jokes aren’t funny. Not all birds can fly. Not all battles are bloody.
But you’re always the tin foil in someone’s potato. You’re always the fingernails on somebody’s blackboard. They can water down your whiskey, they can spit in your eye.
Girl picks up her purse. Big Joe says, you leaving?
But if nobody loves you—here’s the punchline—you’re not going to die.
Girl looks at Big Joe.
She says, not on your life.