coolly entered the Spirit of Zinc’s Bar
(established 1984 and proudly bearing the musk of seventeen long years of spilled beer and cigarette smoke and misguided dreams) and surveyed the near-empty establishment. Jeremy spied Deckard, shrouded in smoke and introspection, off in the far corner knocking ash into his empty tumbler and staring as an occasional spark sizzled, fleetingly, on the fading ice. Jeremy gave Jimmy a humorless smile that made the latter shrug and head on toward the table, ambling past the barstools, beer stains, and billiard balls that littered the room.
“Man, I was thinking the weekend’d never come.”
coolly entered the Spirit of Zinc"s Bar
and proudly bearing the musk
of seventeen long years of spilled beer
and cigarette smoke
and misguided dream
s) and surveyed the near-empty establishment
. Jeremy spied Deck
ard, shrouded in smoke and introspection
, off in the far corner
knocking ash into his empty tumbler
and staring as an occasional spark
sizzled, fleetingly, on the fading ice. Jeremy gave Jimmy a humorless smile that made the latter shrug and head on toward the table
, ambling past the barstools, beer stains, and billiard ball
s that littered the room.
'Man, I was thinking the weekend'd never come.'
A brief glance was the only reply expected and Jimmy wasn't disappointed. He sat down on the faded leather
chair and sighed, the conversation again strangled at the beginning. Jeremy joined them, and then a fourth boy who had been getting the drinks --"Scotch
, a pitcher, and a coke. Thanks"-- sat down. It was still early and the heavy red dusk
only stifled the table more. The cards gently flitted between Deckard"s deft hands. After an eternal silent moment, Jeremy noticed he had become lost in the cards' hypnotic whirring and spoke up:
"Anybody else ready to play? Or ya'll just want to sit hear all night and enjoy the atmosphere?"
The boys smiled and Deckard dealt, under a lone fan
spinning vainly above in a futile attempt to drive away the day's last draining heat, which drafted over the wall's faded photographs and the bartender
's hands which tenderly cleaned off the few crumb
s and grease spots from the lunch patrons.
The nine o"clock crowd had swelled quickly: the usual college kids" banter roaring back and forth, crashing against the constant tide of live music ('Mike"s Mobile Vulgus, live at Zinc"s Friday') and shouted orders in the back kitchen. The four were finishing their game quickly, and the noise was deflected from them, leaving them above and out of the conversations that flowed and pooled around their back-corner table.
Jimmy idly tapped his fingers on his glass as Jeremy eyed Deckard"s stony facade and then his own hand.
'Ah, screw it, three-of-a-kind, tens.'
As Deckard lay down his two pair
—aces and eights
—he smiled, but it was a smile that his friends could find no response to, it was dead. Jeremy swept his winnings and downed the last of his drink quickly.
'Good game, guys, but I think I"ll quit while I"m ahead and before Deckard decides to clean me out, too. You need anything, buddy?'
Deckard nodded no and again smiled—Jeremy saw something missing, but knew pressing the issue was futile. Maybe Deckard really didn"t know what was wrong. Finally, Johnny eased up out of his chair and the brooding silence
which hung over the others and bid the others goodnight. The other three soon said their goodbye
s and stumbled out into the open night.
Mike"s Mobile Vulgus pumped forth a primal cadence of drums, guitar, and bass, tapping into some primal rhythm that touched the shouting, drinking, laughing mad crowd in a way they could understand without having to think. Several had started clapping their hands, and their slurred, shouted conversations seemed as basic to the music as the guitar or vocals.
Deckard"s radio crackled faintly as the Dance of the Gypsies
swept around his car and out the window. Suddenly annoyed, he jammed the power button off. He had found himself driving aimlessly, down towards the river that pulled him to it, as the moon pulls the tide... or flame pulls a moth. He pulled onto a patch of unsteady, crumbling asphalt on the riverbank that threatened to slide into the cold, rushing water and disappear forever. He got out of the car, his feet crunching the glass shards on the ground, and then absent-mindedly slammed the door shut. Deckard cupped his hand and lit a cigarette with a pack of old restaurant matches—'Lulu"s Grill: Catering and Parties by request'--and set himself on the car hood, back propped against the front window and eyes staring blankly at the dazzling show overhead. The heat of the now-silent car engine warmed him but was little real comfort.
Just as he had melted into the bar, amid the smoke and stains, he soon faded into and became more a part of the darkness than a separate entity. And neither were his thoughts his own, but rather they seemed to creep, to crawl across the lot, occasionally registering as a flicker in his eyes but more often lurking on the periphery of his vision. He only vaguely wondered, why?
Yet even the remote, impersonal curiosity that this question evoked in him soon washed away, and a dull burning sensation was all that was left. He looked at his hand and then flicked the tiny cigarette butt
away, then rolling up thick piece of green paper and lighting it, watching incuriously as it burned. An acrid smoke twirled first towards the heavens, but the smoke always diffused before even the lowliest angel would take note. But he had been lucky tonight, and the bills would burn slow, and if no revelation was forthcoming, at least the night would slowly recede away and blur into his memory.
'After all, it is only insomnia
,' he murmured. 'Many must have it.'