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Rated: 18+ · Sample · Adult · #2280586
A rewrite of the scene
Note on the Exercise

UPDATE: Read the first draft here:
 A Scene in a Bar  (18+)
Written for a writing exercise hosted by A E Willcox
#2280291 by Grayt Expectations for 2023


Abner Mortensen shuffled into the Primavera Bar and leaned on the door frame to rest. As he peered around, he tried to ignore the worry writhing in his belly.

It was a yuppie sort of place, the kind his grand-daughter might have liked: brightly lit with emerald wall sconces shaped like seashells and hanging lights of variegated green crystals over each table; comfortable beige upholstered chairs; round tables like lime frisbees on twisted poles; modern art that seemed nothing more than paint smeared on canvas. Please God, may they have seen my Sandy.

Heaving himself away from the door, he plodded to the bar and eased up onto a chair with a sigh, like a piece of old farm machinery chugging into the barn and wheezing to a stop.

Although half-full, the bar was surprisingly quiet. Patrons at the tables shared murmured secrets or sorrows over their drinks. The basketball game on the TV was muted. At the far end of the bar, waitresses muttered drink orders to the bartender over the electronic chirps of the till. The hum of traffic outside and the whisper of overhead fans emphasized the silence. The quiet--and the hope that he would learn something about his missing grand-daughter, Sandra—eased the tension in his bones.

The relaxation brought a memory of Sandy. “You’re my old basset hound, Papa,” she had teased him once, not so long ago. It’s true, it's true! With every morning shave, his mirror showed sagging jowls, a pendulous bottom lip, dark bags under sleepy, watery brown eyes with droopy lids, and large ears with floppy, swaying lobes. I’m not the handsomest of men, Lord knows what my wife saw in me. But bassets are friendly dogs, easygoing, smart, and stubborn. I’ve been called worse things. I could be worse things.

The bartender--the man he'd come to talk to, at the far end of the bar--was stocky and muscular, approaching middle age but well-preserved. Wavy dark hair and a Fu Manchu moustache sandwiched narrowed black eyes. From here, his eyes look mean. Would Sandy have liked him? Oh, I hope not.

Since his target was busy at the till, Mortenson eased his sore feet onto the stool's foot-rest and prepared to wait. Waiting was something he'd learned to do well.

Eventually, the bartender came over. "What'll it be, old timer?"

Oh, yes, definitely mean, beady eyes. Mortensen cleared his throat. The name stitched onto the man's apron read 'Lukas'. "Well, Lukas, I'm hoping to talk with you a bit."

"This is a bar, buddy, not a radio talk show. What're you drinking?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. Yes. Uh, beer, please. Bud Light."

The bartender stooped into a fridge under the bar, popped the top off the bottle, and set it onto the green tiled bar. He added a glass as an afterthought.

"Eight bucks."

Oh, my, that much? How could Sandy have afforded this? Mortensen fondled a ten out of his wallet and offered it. The barman snatched it and walked off, apparently considering the two dollars change an obligatory tip.

Mortensen sipped his beer, mourning the loss of his change, but enjoying the hiss of bubbles, the froth against his lip, the sour tang on his tongue, the refreshing coolness in his throat. Perhaps I should do this more often. Once a month, maybe. Just to get out a bit. Perhaps Sandra is right, I'm an old stick-in-the-mud.

The bartender was flirting with the waitresses when not running the till, but he finally came over when Mortensen's glass neared empty.


"Yes, thank you. But, please, I'm sorry to bother you; I can see that you're a busy man. I do apologize for taking up your time, ...."

"'I'm sorry.' 'I apologize.' Old man, you are a real sad sack. You're depressing just to be around."

"I know, it's true. Lugubrious, that's what I am. Isn't that a beautiful word, lugubrious?"

"A fuckin' flake, that's what you are. You want another beer or not?

"Yes, thank you. But please, I don't mean to bother you, it's, well, I just need a little of your time, just a couple of questions."

"You got questions, you ask Alexa. I ain't no fuckin' search engine." He opened another bottle, plunked it onto the bar, and held out his hand for money.

"Please, I know it's an imposition, really I do, but I just have to ask. You may have knowledge of something, I know it won't be important to you but, you see, it's terribly important to me. Did a young woman come in two nights ago, and maybe leave with a man? She's my grand-daughter, and she lives with me, but she hasn't come home. It's been two nights now. I'm so worried that something bad may have happened to her."

Lukas laughed. "A young woman comes in here, and she leaves with a guy, and she don't show up at home? Buddy, that movie plays here a few times a night, all week long. It's called Getting Lucky.

"You owe me eight bucks. Pay up, Buddy."

"I'm so sorry. It's my fault. I was far too vague. Of course, girls come in and leave with men. That's life. I'm not as old as I look, and I do understand that these things happen. Here's her photo. This is my grand-daughter, Sandy. Isn’t she beautiful? Please just look and tell me if you've seen her."

The bartender glanced at the photo, slapped it onto the bar, and took the lapel of Mortensen's jacket, caressing it as though considering tearing it off. "Listen, Buster, and listen good. Unless you got a subpoena, I don't blab about my customers.” He pulled on the lapel, drawing Mortensen almost nose to nose. “Would you like it if some pervert came in asking if I'd seen you in here and you didn't want it known? On second thought, I don't like you, and I'd tell everything I know." He released the lapel and Mortensen recovered his balance by pushing on the bar. "Pay up, drink your beer, and get lost. Or just fuck off. I don't give a shit if some old coot like you gets snuffed, but I like living."

"Of course. I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to upset you. I just don't know how to approach people. I guess I rub them the wrong way." He fumbled a twenty out of his wallet and handed it to Lukas, mentally kissing it goodbye and expecting to never see his change.

He straightened his clothes and huddled over his beer. Oh, dear, why is so he angry? Did he just threaten to kill me? I must have said something to upset him. Was Sandy here and he’s angry that I asked about her? Now what will I do? Whatever will I do?

In a back corner of the bar, a waitress taking a break sat hunched over and rubbing her temples. Ah, do I know from migraines, poor thing. Perhaps she could help. He picked up his beer, eased off the bar stool, and trudged towards the corner.

“Please, miss, may I sit at your table? I’m sorry to intrude, I can see that you’re not feeling well, but I’m very worried about my grand-daughter and I hope that perhaps you could help me.”

The woman looked up with tears in her eyes. Oh, dear. Headache? Or heartache? About Sandy’s age, perhaps a few years older, she was a slender brunette with a narrow face framed with black hair in a pixie cut. A cute girl, despite her pouting lip and running mascara.

He wrung his hands around the beer glass and shifted from foot to foot. His brown summer suit jacket hung baggy and slack from sloping shoulders; the shapeless trousers puddled in waves above his scuffed shoes.

“I’ve come at a bad time. I can see that. My timing is always poor. I’m so sorry. I know I’m intruding. You probably want privacy, I can understand that. I apologize for my effrontery. That’s a good word, effrontery. I’m not usually like this, I assure you, but I’m so worried that I’m not myself. I really am sorry.” Hoping to look more presentable, he swiped at the sparse grey hair struggling vainly to cover his bald scalp.

She gave him a twisted smile. “You’re a walking apology, aren’t you? Well, why shouldn’t you barge into my life? Join the crowd. Sit.”

“Thank you. Oh, you’re so kind to help an old man. My name is Abner Mortensen. Call me Abe. I do apologize for imposing at what is clearly a bad time for you. My timing is terrible.”

“Yeah, yeah. So what d’ya want?”

He repeated his story and handed her the photo of Sandra. She took it from him, then tilted it for a better view under the green table light. Her eyes narrowed.

“You crazy bastard,” she hissed. “You pathetic old fool. You wanna get killed? You wanna get me killed? As if I didn’t already have enough fuckin’ problems because of this bitch? Take this goddam picture and get the hell out of here before the wrong people find out you been asking questions.” She shoved the photo into his hands. “Go! Leave. Now.” She leaned her forehead against the table and covered her head with her arms as though to protect herself from assault.

He stumbled to his feet in bewilderment, almost knocking over his chair. Oh, dear. What have I done? What has Sandra done? Sandy isn’t what she called her, Sandy’s a nice girl. As he turned to leave, the waitress said, “Midnight. Parking lot across the street.”
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