It was a dive bar with an air hockey table and 50’s monster movie posters for wallpaper. Despite this, the rural crowd liked to come here. The posters may appear to an untrained eye in the dark to be yellowed abstract patterned wallpaper. Or it may just be a stereotype; even fans of Universal Pictures get old and live somewhere. The fans here get a bar that smells like seventy-year-old roses and the glory days.
At the bar, in the bar, on a stool, my right-hand wraps around the pint glass. I take a sip of the cider and look up, no sports today, but Godzilla was devastating the countryside. At the doorway, past the bartender, I saw the bar owner Petey Walker. His hairless head could best be described as an onion in shape and color.
“HEY JONESY!” Walker shouted at me.
“Oh not much, just another Thursday night.” Seeing Walker’s face I drew another breath and belted it out this time.
“NOT MUCH, JUST THURSDAY AGAIN.” Walker caught it that time and gave a lazy wave as he approached the tap closest to me. His elbow connected with the glazed wood and stayed there despite a wince.
“AH! Jay! When are you going to capture a job that gives ya’ two days on the weekend?” He was close enough now that normal shouting would suffice.
When was I going to get a real job?
It’s not like what I did was anything good. I built and repaired rainwater collection systems for self-sustaining homes. That’s French for I’m poor and get hired to do weird shit. That means there is no day-off except the ones I choose not to eat. But I usually work those days too; the ones where I don’t eat much I mean.
What would I even do as a real job?
“When you start raising the prices around here I’ll consider it!” Walker would never raise those prices. Not in a million years. He sells cheap beer at cheap prices to keep people coming in. You would think that being the only game in town meant that you were guaranteed success. You’d be wrong. Not a lot of people are left around to partake in Cheshire Vermont’s finest booze joint.
“Well, I like seeing you around Jonesy. Not a lot of folks like good movies”. Godzilla ripped through the city.
“I just like to see the costumes Walker.”
“I know that. You loved Black Lagoon.” I gave a big nod and drew a long sip. Letting my belly get warm, but not too fast to let it get toasty.
“I do like the city in this movie too though. It’s so big.”
“No, it’s small Jonesy.”
“That’s just because Godzilla is so big. Everything looks small next to him.”
“That too, but it also is a mini-golf thing. A small place.”
“Yeah, miniature golf. Everything was built small and is small.” Walker was watching me closely. I slid my empty cup forward and put another couple dollars down. Walker wadded it into his pocket and passed me another cider.
“Watch my drink Walker. Gotta’ pee.”
“You didn’t have to tell me J… I’ll pause the movie.” Walker looked up at the TV as I walked away. Licking his thumb and rubbing it against the bottom of the screen.
Looking up into the mirror, with water dripping down my face. I could see my face. I could see my eyes and my cheeks were so red. I couldn’t think straight. What was I doing here? Where am I?
Behind me, in the mirror’s reflection was Walker. Standing there in a Godzilla costume. I could see his face revealed by a small panel that had been opened on the costumes lower neck.
“Wake up Jay!” He yelled. His voice hoarse like he had been yelling the entire time.
Looking over to the door, the costume left my peripheral vision and in came another.
“Jonesy what took you so long?” Walker was standing there, bleeding out his nose and onto his whole arm. It took me a moment to collect myself. How long have I been awake?
How long have I been working? Is today Friday?
“Jonesy, you there? You’re looking pretty fucked.” Walker was stuffing toilet paper up his nose.
“Yeah, I’m here. What happened to your nose?”
“You didn’t hear?” No, I heard nothing Walker, my face was six feet deep into my palm. I shook my head and motioned for him to quiet down a bit.
The bathroom door whipped open and there stood an asshole. Not a big brown tear in the air, but Paulie Slimms. Black jeans and a backwards red hat held together by the sparsest moustache I had ever seen.
“WE CAN HEAR YOU DUMBASS!” Slimms yelled. He grabbed Walker by the collar and pulled him out of the room. I followed.
“Open the register and pay your bills.” Slimms pushed Walker back. A pair of feet were on the ground just behind the bar, soles visible. Not moving.
“Yeah, you want to still have this bar huh? Want some customers? Eh? Eh?” This one wore long hair and a pair of green boots. Dark green worn at the edges and gently dusted with sand. He was tossing glasses on the ground at the knocked out bartender.
“Hey, asshole! Cut that shit.”
They looked at me. The guy who is exhausted and pale except for a cherry face. I stepped closer and Boots held out a hand.
“You’re looking sick. You should turn back around.”
I stepped closer. This time Slimms had something.
“You heard my associate here. Turn around and give it five minutes, then lunch breaks will be over.”
Another step. Now Boots had a knife. He came closer, cautiously. He marched over, blade out, and smiled.
“I’ll escort him back.”
Fuck. The blade cuts into my side. I drift for a moment. I elbow him across the throat, he goes back a step and I take a swing.
THUD. Went Boots.
KLING. Went the knife.
My knuckles are split, and I can feel the blood in my lips. I give a kick while they’re down.
My jaw is flung up and I see bright lights and black spaces. The ceiling has a black lagoon painting on it, how long has that been there?
My feet are held in place as another punches me till my guts touch my lungs.
A chair flies and stops the onslaught, a Slimms is on the ground bleeding. Back to my first target, each of my punches sends Boots head cracking on the floor.
“JESUS FUCK!” yells someone.
Free, I step to see that Slimms is starting to stand up. My shoe pushes his chest down and my fist rises above his face. His eyes reflect a lightning bolt that is about to strike, bolts of swollen meat cut by teeth.
“Stay down Slimms. Or you’ll wake up tomorrow unable to chew.”
Slimms head fell and his breathing slowed down.
The blood on my hands was first rubbed off on my pockets. Wet stains and smears of dark and darker shades of “reddish” went through and onto my twenty dollars.
“Sorry about the fight Walker. It couldn’t be helped.” I slid him the twenty as he leaned the bartender up.
“I’m taking Chet to the hospital. Look after while I’m out. Lock the doors.”
More spots in my eyes.
“What was that Walker?”
“Local boys, I pay them to keep bringing their crew over.”
Got to make ends meet some way.
“So there’s more of them?” I’m rubbing an ice cube across my hand.
“On Monday.” Walker stepped over Boots.
“I’ll take the weekend off.”
Walker kicked Slimms and left. I locked the door behind him, taped the boys up and looked out the window. No cars and no one walking around. It really is dead here.
I lay down in a booth and dream. I dream about being as big as Godzilla in a town as big as me.