Instead of upvotes (or better, instead of downvotes) I would love to hear feedback about why people like/dislike my story. If that's expecting too much, I'm sorry.
I was in the shower when he walked in. I could see him through that damn patterned glass they have on the shower doors, the kind that make you see things like you're not wearing your glasses, or you are, but they're someone else's. Fractal, repeating images of Joseph, his clothes looking like some sort of technicolor jeans-and-a-Hawaiian-shirt Dreamcoat.
"Get the hell out of here! I'm showering!"
"I just need to borrow some money. Boy are you in a bad mood!"
That's Joseph. I was always the family genius, but he was the smart one. He's my younger brother, and I can't really stay mad at him. And he's right. Or was, since It was probably just a lack of sleep, one that will be remedied in just minutes as that early coffee takes effect. I don't know what it is, but I really can't figure people out like that. Maybe I'm just too socially inept to pick up on all of those subtle clues he sees, like me yelling at him for doing something perfectly innocuous -"Sure, whatever you need, my wallet's in my pants over the chair in my bedroom."- or maybe I'm just too used to dealing with drunks, whose emotions are a slightly easier, if more mercurial, construct to understand.
I'm a publican. That means bartender.
You think that bartenders are just people that have nothing better to do than watch people get drunk, right? I mean, it's interesting and all, but i'm a more complex person than that. An idiot, but a complex one. I spent five years in college on full scholarship, but never got a degree; I got distracted by bartending while a philosophy major; Drunks are better philosophers than dead white men. In any case, I tend to wax regretful while showering. And it's 1:00 already. I need to be at the bar in half an hour to clear up from last night so I can be open by 2 for Sunday. Always a big day.
I guess I don't think the big decisions through at all, and the little ones I overanalyze until the answer is defaulted. I need to leave. Quickly, throw on a shirt, the ones in the drawers are clean, and so are these pants, right? Ok, head out the door. A blur of faces outlined in the snow as I bike to the bar, each the same, or not, it's unclear. The world passing by like life does, only the big things are noticed. The important things, like that rock that I hit last week, pass by unnoticed until they send us sprawling forward. And you never get to look at the scenery. Pessimistic, but I'm about to start giving meaning to people who feel that the best use of their time is to bypass consciousness, access their pain, happiness, and knowledge without the easy, deceptive intermediary of lying to themselves. I don't have a job for optimism.
The door is locked, and Barney is waiting outside. 4'10", 120lbs, wearing his favorite shirt: a pointillist eye that is unrecognizible from within 20 feet of him. He looks cold. My favorite customer, always there to drink a beer or five, whether I want to be open or not. I did send him home last night. With Sam, who was only a bit less drunk, but a more than a bit more reliable. Or was that the night before? "Not until 2," as I pull my keys out, eyeing the rusty lock, always jamming, but I already know that I'll let him in early, even if he doesn't yet. I'm in a good mood. Nancy said she'd stop by this afternoon.
The lock finally jiggles open, and the bar lies spread before me: Empty, but not clean. I grab the bottles off the bar that I was too tired to pick up yesterday night, and I grab the broom. Barney peeks in, silently asking whether I will flout the public policy of the bar once again, and let him in early. Not for the first time, I wonder why I wrote that into the rules in the first place. I motion Barney in, and Joey follows him in. Damn.
I don't dislike Joey. I tell myself I don't mind him at all. He's actually, when you think about it--
"When the hell can I get a drink around here" he whines. I hate Joey.
"I'm still cleaning up from last night." I reply "So can you hand me the mop?" Not mentioning that its unlawful to serve him for another 22 minutes.
Joey looks sullenly at the beer fountain, uncooperative even for his own benefit. Barney jumps up to grab the mop for me, displaying an agility that I rarely see. It is Sunday, however, and he hasn't had any Alcohol for almost 10 hours, the only stretch over his standard 3 day weekends that that statement is true. He's young, and unless he picks up a girl, he just hangs out getting drunk all weekend. Not that I mind, though it does seem a bit of a waste. Who else would I get to test my crazy theories on if he wasn't around, constantly just drunk enough to be able to understand my arguments, without being sober enough to refute them. Unlike Sam.
I mop the floor, not quite remembering what it used to look like: It's got this brown covering obscuring the pattern that should be clear. The pattern underlying everything in the room obscured by the use of the room. Ironic, yet fitting. Not that it matters what the pattern is, not that it will help me serve drinks, or talk to Nancy. Nancy. I finish cleaning up, and there's still 5 minutes until opening. I can start my boys off with a drink, but I decide to ask about the game instead.
"What was the score last night? We won, right?"
"Oh, crushed them. 6-0. It wasn't worth watching. They didn't even come close to scoring."
"Yea, 6-0, glad I didn't show up." So I could wallow in my misery here, with no-one here but Barney and Sam to keep me company. "It's opening time..."
"Yea," already filling up the two mugs, I pass 'em out.
Two and a half hours of watching Joey and Barney start on the road to beer-induced clarity later, Sam walks in. Sam is a occasional customer, a much steadier drunk that either of these two, and a much better drunk conversationalist. I sometimes wonder whether he's really getting drunk. It's already mid-afternoon, and no sign of anyone else. Don't get the wrong Idea - I run a more popular bar than that - there were eight or nine other people in the bar already, but no sign of Nancy. She was coming by four o'clock.
I poured myself a drink. Bad Idea, but I already said I'm an idiot. Bartenders can't drink on the Job. Ever. It's too easy a habit to fall into. And I was in a bad mood. Not a good time to start drinking. Oh well. Sam gave me a funny look, and motioned to the drink. I thought about dumping it. Not for long. I shrugged, and started drinking. Bad move. I can bartend while drunk. That's actually how it started out. I'm pretty quick with my hands, and I got the bartender at the bar near my old school to show me all those nifty tricks he did. Not that he knew many, but he showed me. Then got me to cover for him while he snuck out for a while. It was fun. More fun that classes, that's for sure. And there went five years of scholarship money... and the direction that my life was heading. I didn't graduate. I wound up as a bartender, sitting in this bar, thinking about how miserable I am. A bartender whose front glass window just had a rock thrown at it by some teenagers sitting outside. Oh Shit!
I ran out, but I was already tipsy, and didn't chase them more than fifty feet. Damnit, it's not funny. That glass is expensive. It's completely ruined, a big spiderweb running from where the rock hit all the way to the edges. The bar inside looked like a drugged out version of those stupid multiple TV screen displays showing the warts on some guy's face stretched out over a screen and a half. I walk back into the bar, feeling even worse, if possible, than I did 15 minutes earlier when I gave up on Nancy showing up. Sam tells me the police are on the way. I don't really care. I have a third, or is it fourth, beer. Then another.
The police showed up just when I was getting that beer-goggle effect really going. Everything was maving a bit slow, and these two blue people walk into the bar. "What'll it be?"
"Sorry, we can't drink on duty."
Comprehension slowly dawns. Police. Ok, I can deal with this.
"What seems to be the problem, officers?"
"Umm..." The first cop starts "We, uhhh..."
"I'm Deputy Kohn. That's Deputy Walters. There was a reported incident of vandalism by the proprietor of this establishment. May we speak with him."
"Oh! right." I said that it was dawning slowly, right? "That's me. Some punk kids threw somthing at my window." I point outside, just in time to see this pattern that looks familiar pass by the window. The first cop starts scribbling something on his notepad. I stopped. What is that? My brain's pattern recognition functions working overtime, the door opens and she walks in. Nancy. "Nancy! How are you?" I gush, a bit too excitedly. "I've been having a bit of a dad bay. I'll... I'll" I stopped, a bit confused. The cops stop writing on their little notepads, and look at each other.
It's a good thing Sam is such a good friend. He stopped the cops before they left, and explained, with what must have been enough credibility, given the insurance check I received, what had happened. Haven't seen him around for a while, though. In any case, I was a bit confused at this point. I stood up, just in time to see Nancy again. I stopped whatever it was I had been doing, and, remarkably cogent for one in my then advanced state of intoxication, I started talking to her. I was told later that It was something along the lines of:
"I'm really drunk, and maybe I should talk to you when I'm sober, because I'll probably tell you that I really like you, and that's a bad idea right now, since we haven't seen each other in two years, and I'll sound like a loser for not having done anything since then. Besides, You probably didn't even remember me until I looked you up." I collapsed onto the floor, and could barely see her walk by, first through my blurry impaired vision, then through the spiderwebbed glass as well.
I'm stupid. She probably hates me. For the first time, everything was clear.
This is the first fiction piece I've shown to others in years (since 10th grade,) so any feedback would be welcomed.