Rhymer’s Blog on Life
|Come with me...I wanna discover the world, and I don’t wanna do it alone.|
| I’d left the bar after having a drink created by the new bartender, needing to escape humanity as I was discovering the deeper and more disgusting cynic within myself. I was headed to my car when I realized I should call someone to come and get me, an Uber maybe. I dug into my pocket, mindful of my avoidance of social media, but the phone I’d use to call a taxi was still in the bar. I dropped my head. My body was tired, and I didn’t want to go back inside.
I flung the door open and walked to the bar, stood in the corner so as not to disturb anyone. The new bartender was refilling an order, but in the time it took me to walk out and back in, Andre, owner of the pub, showed up. He was moving back and forth behind the bartender, and when he looked up, he nodded that he’d be with me in just a few minutes. I could wait.
I turned and looked at the room, but nobody was looking back. Usually there were eyes on whomever had walked in, but nobody paid me any mind. I guess it was because I had just exited. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Even when I waved and nodded, though, nobody made eye contact longer than momentary, fleeting and empty validation for…what, exactly?
The cynicism flowed through me, charging me like an iPhone. What made me think anything had to do with me in the first place? And what did I care? I had only come back in for my phone.
The bartender finished up his order before Andre completed his task, and I thought he’d come running over. Instead, he leaned back, crossed his arm, and chatted with Andre.
“Yello,” I said. No response. I waved my hand at him, but there was nothing.
“I’m coming!” Andre said, and he was there before I could respond. “What do you need?”
“I left my phone in here,” I said. “I’ve only been gone for about three minutes. It has to be here.”
“Nope,” Andre said. “Nobody turned in a phone.”
“Well, they wouldn’t be turning it in. It should still be…right here…somewhere….maybe I knocked it off back there by accident?”
Andre bit his lip and bent down beyond my view, looking for my phone. While he searched, I turned back to patrons, back to those who were drinking their day away, but there was nobody there. The lights were out. I turned back to the bar, but there was nobody there, either. I spun around, but there were no lights on in the bar. The only lighting was from the streetlamps outside. I put my hand on the bar and recoiled at the feeling of the rough, charred wood. The mirror behind the bar, filmy and cracked showed the reflection of the pathetic remains, ribs of building where people once existed.
But my reflection…mine wasn’t there.
Did I die here?
| Lilli had gone home for the day, and I didn’t know who the new bartender was. Fyn departed, saying she had to go edit some works and destroy some dreams, and Annette had work from school, leaving me to my thoughts on this odd week. I had encountered Snoop Dogg through maybe a vision, and then a sock monkey threatened my soul if I didn’t give the thing bananas, and then a group of us found out about our kinda-friend, Teddy, who had claimed to have seen and been bailed out from jail by his deceased children. The week of Halloween had not been disappointing.
“May I have a drink? I asked the bartender. When he asked my choice, I shrugged my shoulders. After a couple of minutes, he produced a dark blue liquid in a martini glass. “Is this a martini?” I asked. He shrugged his shoulders.
I downed the drink, a concoction tasting of cotton-candy and vanilla with bitter undertones. After my body shook without my consent, I felt great for a moment. I looked around the room. Nothing untoward as of yet. Maybe this evening would go unlike the previous ones, maybe it would be a good night.
My body shook once more, and warmth spread all over my body, a cloud of self-righteousness holding me tight. My jaw clenched, and there was sweat on my forehead. I wanted to speak, to ask if this was normal, but I was afraid of how I would sound.
“Is it good?” the bartender asked.
I forced my lips together, pressing them so no words would come out. I didn’t know what I would say or how I would say it, but something was happening to my body with a speed I didn’t like. I’d drank lightly for years, and there was no way I was already drunk.
“I asked you how it was?” the bartended said as he pointed his forehead to the empty glass. “I call it ‘The Cynic Special’.”
“Honestly,” I said before I could realize it, “it’s not great, it’s not horrible, but I don’t know how you’d make it better.”
Oh, God! There it was! Cynicism! I was turning into a cynic!
“Oh yeah?” the bartender asked, a crook of a smile begining at the corner of his mouth. “What about the troops?”
“Don’t get me started on the troops. Ugh. Whether we got out back then or we get out now, we’re still in a well of financial dependence.” I clapped my hand to my mouth. I wanted to tell the bartender I wasn’t like this. I wanted to convey that I was a decent person, but I was afraid of what might come out next. I started to panic, so I slipped him 50,000 GPs and left the building. I would need to find a book and stay away from social media. That’s when the horror began.
| “Did y’all hear about Teddy?” Lilli asked as she wiped down the bar. I’d been helping to close Andre’s a couple of times earlier in the week, and it was nice to sit on the other side with the patrons. The sun was setting outside, and there were a few people sitting in tonight, more than the rest of the week. There were currently a couple of us huddled around where Lilli was drying glasses.
“Teddy? What happened to Teddy?” Fyn asked. Her eyebrow was arched, but there was no concern in her tone. None of us had much concern for Teddy as he brought the energy of the room down to his level, a miserable cloud of rain personified. He hadn’t been in the bar for a few days now, so we sat, ready to chomp down any bit of gossip Lilli could provide.
“Well, you know he was in here on Monday,” she said. “I guess he drank a little more than he’s used to, so when he jumped ont he bus to get home, he had a reaction.”
“A reaction? What kind of reaction?” I asked.
“He swears he saw his kids, the girl and the twin boys,” Lilli whispered as her eyes swept the scenery behind us for anyone who might be listening. “He thought they were out trick or treating.”
“How would he know it was them?” Fyn asked as she shifted her weight on her stool. She held her cup up to her mouth and slurped her coffee. She shut the book in front of her, Leaves of Grass. “Weren’t they in costume? Didn’t they have masks on?”
“He said that they had make-up on, like, uh, face-paint to look scary,” Lilli said.
“May I get another Redbull?” I asked as I placed 35,000 GPs on the bar. She gathered them up and handed me a cold can of caffiene.
“Anyway, he got off the bus at the next stop. When he walked back to where he’d seen them, he couldn’t find them. He assumed they had gone on to the next house. So he walks back up to the stop again, and the next bus picks him up.” She refilled Fyn’s coffee. “On the way to his stop, he sees the kids walking down the sidewalk.”
“Wait,” Annette said from the side, “are we talking about Angry Teddy?”
“Yeah,” I said. “The one who always leaves the toilet seat up in the bathroom, and then complains because there’s a mess on the floor.”
“Anyway,” Lilli said, “I guess he freaked out on the bus when the driver wouldn’t stop. He flipped out and cut two of the seats up before urinating all over the back window. The police showed up and took him to jail.”
“Sounds like too much drinking,” Fyn said as she sighed into her cup.
“I’d swear that, too, but even the cops testify three trick or treaters bailed him out.”
“So?” Annette asked.
“His kids were killed thirty years ago in a fire,” Lilli whispered.
| Andre's was the local pub where writers of the community could hang out together, to converse about experiences and debate literary devices, and though I didn't want to, Lilli asked that I close the bar up. After closing and locking up the previous might. I lacked the enthusiasm when I was certain I'd envisioned Snoop Dogg emerging from the restroom in a cloud of…mist. Unexcited about what might be dropped upon me by fates unknown, I walked into the bar at eight that night. A shorter shift could justify my fear, my devotion fraught with fright.
Andre's was the local pub where writers of the community could hang out together, to converse about experiences and debate literary devices, and though I didn't want to, Lilli asked that I close the bar up. After closing and locking up the previous might. I lacked the enthusiasm when I was certain I'd envisioned Snoop Dogg emerging from the restroom in a cloud of…mist. Unexcited about what might be dropped upon me by fates unknown, I walked into the bar at eight that night. A shorter shift could justify my fear, my devotion fraught with fright.
I walked into the bar expecting the worst, but there was Lilli behind the bar, smiling and wiping down the counters as she tended to the few people in on Tuesday night. When she smiled, my fear drained, and I was ready to get through this evening, familiar confidence oozing back in. I walked through the door for the employees, and as I walked behind the length of the bar, I dropped my things off at the end where we kept our personal things like man-purses, Redbull, and coffee. I turned to greet the manager, to ask how her day had gone, but there on the end of the bar, facing the two of us, was the sock monkey.
The bar was decorated for Halloween. There were ghosts hanging on wires from the ceiling, and here and there were pumkins carved in the likeness of literary characters such as Pennywise and Pazuzu and Miss Havisham, the scariest of the scary. There was a mechanical Frankenstein, complete with eyes that lit up as it did a little jig to “Monster Mash”. Candles were added for spooky ambience, but none of these crept like ice into the depths of my soul as did the sock monkey.
It was vintage, someone’s chacki that had traveled through time and around the world, and, for some reason, Lilli kept putting it back out after I’d put it away. The fear was irrational, like a phobia, and the intelligent side of myself could easily reason there was nothing of which to be afraid. But it was inherently creepy, and the irrational voice screaming in my heart prevailed. Maybe it was the stringy hair, or it could have been the saftey pins across the patented red mouth, but I’d hidden the gross relic many times in the instances I’d been here to hang out. But when Lilli was present, she had this gift of ingesting so much coffee and then breaking the barriers of time, of motion, and she could move like electricity. It just made sense to believe she kept bringing Sockey back out, and I was certain she was doing it with clear and delightfully malicious intent.
“Just so you know,” I said to her, “I’m hiding that monkey as soon as you leave.”
“That’s fine,” she responded. “It kinda creeps me out. Hey, I gotta go. I’m already ten minutes late.”
“Oh, yeah! Tell your granddaughter good job with the play!”
“Will do,” she said as she dropped her towel and snatched her purse. “Hey, if Snoop Dogg shows up tonight, will you get his recipe for Christmas cookies?”
“Go!” I said to her as she crossed the door and left the building.
I walked over to the monkey and removed it from the bar, shoving it into one of the shelves underneath. Looking around, I had a feeling it would be an easy night. There were a couple of regulars chatting away in a booth as Connie Francis played on the jukebox. Lilli had already taken care of the cleaning, so there didn’t seem to be much to do. I grabbed the bleach bottle and a towel, then walked out to wipe the tables down, even if they didn’t need it. Something to do.
I stopped as I went beyond the employee door, the sock monkey sitting on top of a napkin dispenser on the booth furthest from everyone except me. I stared at it, my forehead cramping as I shoved my eyebrows down, and then I looked around, glancing to see if the others noticed anything odd. And then I realized the explanation had to be Lilli was messing with me, that she had placed it here on her way out.
Except…I forced it away after Lilli left.
“Nope,” I whispered as I took it from the table. I squeezed it, could feel the pressure from my fingers on my fingers through the material as I threw it in the trash. Nobody would miss it.
In the few hours I had left to work, none of my fears manifested. Nobody came in with a gun, there were no beligerent customers, and nothing burned down. When my responsibility, I welcomed nights like this. With the building locked up tight, I walked to my car. The air was thick, but it smelled fresh in the tickling autumnal breeze. The streetlight buzzed with a thick hum, and then it was silent as the world around me was hurled into the night. I don’t remember if I stopped or kept walking, but it didn’t take too long for the light to burst back into existence, the droning of electricity returning, as well.
I glanced around, skeptical that things were okay. I’ve read too many books, seen too many movies, and I know how horror works when one lets down defenses. My keys were leaving cuts I wouldn’t discover for hours afterwards, slashes in my index finger as I prepared myself to use the keys for…what? To provide inconvenient cuts to a demon sock monkey? I laughed at myself, at this situation.
I approached the car, opened the door, and dropped into the seat. Something wasn’t right. It didn’t feel comfortable in the vehicle. I raised up and pulled the monkey out from under me.
I tossed it through the window, then shook my hands as if dusting away curses that might have attatched themselves to my life. I don’t need that. I have three spoiled cats; I don’t need any more possession in my life, no more demons. Unease crawled up into me, and I put the car in drive and launched away from the premise. I can remember wondering what had just happened, the rain sprinkling down on the windshield. By time I pulled into my driveway, it’d started to shower, cold water on a now chilly night. I got out of the car and raced into the house, still looking around for that stupid toy. Now that there was time and distance between me and the homeless toy, it seemed silly to be afraid of it.
I considered just drying off, but a shower would be better, so I stripped and turned the hot water on, tinkering around with things beside the sink until the shower was warm enough. I stepped into the water, and when I shut the door, I could hear a symphony of meows as my pets, one by one, made their way into the bathroom. I finished my shower and dried off, and then I opened the shower door. When I reached down to pet one of the kitties, Peppermint, when she reared up and hissed at me, scratching at my hand. All of the felines were in here, all of them screaming. Even as I stepped into my sleep-pants, they seemed purturbed, anxious.
I walked them through the house, through each room to ensure them nothing was out of place. Or maybe it was to remind myself, but as we came into the kitchen, I flipped the light on. I walked over to the pantry, and the cats hissed, growling under their normal tones. There was a noise coming from the smaller room, a crunching just behind the door. I cocked my head, but I couldn’t place what the sound could have been. I held my breath and reached for the doorknob.
It was there, the sock monkey, and it was rummaging through the bags of chips, moving them and tossing them to the floor. It turned its head, a slow, tense swivel as I watched in terror, watched as its eyes burned with the darkest flames, illuminating the pantry in orange. It opened its mouth, and before I could react, it uttered its question at me.
“What,” it asked with the voice of demons, “does a stitch have to do to get a banana around this dump?”
| Afraid of what could go wrong when asked to close down the bar for the first time, tears begged to form as I locked the door. With the last patron gone and not much else to do besides basic clean-up, I turned back to the bar and snatched a towel and the spray bottle of bleach, and then I started wiping down the tables. Andre's, a bar for writers looking for equally-yolked conversation, isn't difficult to clean, and with no mishaps through the might, all I wanted to do was clean the place up and get myself out of there. Any place, even Andre's, can be creepy when empty.
I only had a couple of tables left, was working my way to the darkest corner of the room when the overhead music came on. the Muzak version of "Gin and Juice", a Snoop Doggy Dogg song from the early nineties. My brow was cool and damp, and I was aware of the weight my bones upheld, aware of the energy the room now supported. I swiveled, pivoting on my own terror with bleach bottle raised in defense. No matter what was coming to pull me to the fiery depths, it would, after I was done, be clean enough to eat from.
But there was nothing there, no fangs, no claws...nothing.
I inhaled and giggled at my own silly cowardice before returning to my work. I remember spraying my towel with cleaner, and I bent to wipe down the table, and that's when things became hazy.
No, really. I spun around when the organic fog was gliding across the floor, dancing around Chair legs and across the booths. I followed it, exploring where it was coming from when the door to the men's bathroom burst open. Light emanated from behind a figure, an eerie green glow lighting up the restroom. The back-lit monster. complete with horns as it puffed out an ominous s'moke, moved forward, nearing me too quickly.
I ran, but I couldn't get around one of the chairs, my legs twisting with the wooden ones as flipped myself and tossed the chair, my face scraping the textured tile. I was on the floor, reaching until I hurt for anything I could use to save my life.
A giant hand clapped my back, a startling but not uncomfortable feeling as I work to understand.
"Ease up, lil homie!" Snoop Dogg said, his smile revealing his teeth. "I was just using the toshizzle, my man. I'm on my way back to da bus."
"Uh, I feel I'd regret this later if I didn't ask, but-"
"What's on your mindizzle?"
"What's the secret of life?" I asked.
He smiled." Whatever you do, baby, drop it like it's hot while sippin' on gin and juice."
I wanted to laugh until he blew away like smoke. I later asked to see the surveillance video from the bar, but there was nothing but old-fashioned tv snow.
For "Andre The Blog Monkey's Banana Bar" by Brother Nature , 496 wds.