Mike sat at the bar and focused on his fourth whiskey, watching as the little air bubbles escaped from the melting ice and reached the surface. The bar was about to close for the night. Mike was swirling the ice around in his glass of amber bliss when he noticed them walk in; a man and a woman. Two newcomers to the joint, or at least Mike had never seen them before. They sat at the end of the bar, but close enough that Mike could make out their conversation.
“Nice of you to meet me like this.” The woman grinned at the man, “I didn’t know if you would.” She tucked her long black hair behind her ear as she ordered champagne from the approaching barman.
“Beer for me; whatever’s on tap.” The man told the barman. He turned to the woman, “I always do. Why would this decade be different?” He kept his silver hair short, giving him a militant look.
“This has been a tough decade for you.” The woman gave a demure pout, “I haven’t made things very easy I’m afraid.”
The barman delivered their drinks as Mike forgot his.
“It’s not your function to make things easy for me.” The silver-haired man told her and swigged his beer. “So, I’m here.”
“’Not your function’. You know, you might actually enjoy the game if you weren’t so uptight.” The woman ran her fingers through a bowl of pretzels, “You make it too easy to beat you.”
“You’ve not won.” The silver-haired man said quietly, “You’ve made strong moves in a long game is all.”
“Oh, honey, you may have played some safe hands in the fifties, but you’ve been getting trounced regularly since the sixties.” The woman laughed and sipped her champagne.
“Some in the sixties burned bright.” The silver-haired man said, “Their fire’s still felt to this day.” He ordered another beer.
“A fire I had doused by the dawn of the seventies, either by drug or by thug, before it could do any real damage. The poetry of their muses is merely used for selling cars and hamburgers in this age, only relevant to baby boomers and top 100 lists.” The woman finished her champagne and held the empty glass up to signal the barman. “Granted, I had a few of your sixties stragglers to see to in the eighties, but I handled them.”
The silver-haired man ordered two shots of tequila when the barman brought their drinks and simply swigged some more beer in silence as he waited for them. His drinking partner took his silence as leave to continue her bragging.
“Oh, but you really didn’t enjoy the eighties, did you?” she laughed. “No, not a bit. I really outdid myself that decade. The misinformation, the fear, made for a very untrusting time. From government to the church; neighbors even. Simply scrumptious.” She shot the tequila the barman brought, “What did you have again? MTV and We Are The World? They’ve still yet to realize that American fame does not a world make.”
“A great deal of good took place in the eighties, in and between government, churches and neighbors. If you can only count your wins amongst the pop-culture landscape –” the silver-haired man began.
“But that’s what you never understand!” the woman yelled, snatching her champagne glass up, “That is my masterstroke! It’s why you’ll never catch up! I’ve brought about the age of reality as fickle entertainment. Of bad television. I underscored it in the nineties and it is gospel today. Every person has learned it before they’re a teen demographic. Fame, even at fifteen minutes, is everything. Negativity sells. None of them sit up and take notice of anything less than sex, death and dirt! I mean, war is even trivial to them!” She finished her champagne in a gulp.
The silver-haired man had shot his tequila during the woman’s diatribe. Sitting there nursing his beer, merely listening.
Composing herself, the woman took a deep breath and then signaled the barman for the check. She looked to the silver-haired man as if to size him up.
“Why continue this game?” She asked him. “Honestly. Why? As it stands, I see no way of you ever being a real challenge for me again. You doling out poets and kings to administer compassion and wisdom to a world that eats its wise men seems a waste of cosmic proportions. Why not admit defeat with a modicum of dignity?”
The silver-haired man drank from his beer and looked at the woman.
“The potential of tomorrow.” He said.
The woman just laughed at the silver-haired man as the barman approached.
“Is this separate tabs?” the barman asked the couple.
“Not in the least.” The woman said to the barman, still smiling at the silver-haired man, “I haven’t paid for our drinks since 1959. Loser pays, is the standard wager.” Then she gathered her things and left.
Mike continued to watch as the silver-haired man finished his beer. The barman walked the check down the bar to the silver-haired man. Not knowing why he did it, Mike suddenly spoke up and got the barman’s attention.
“Hey, put their tab on mine.” Mike turned to the silver-haired man, “I got this.”
The silver-haired man just looked at Mike.
“That’s not necessary.” He said, reaching for his wallet.
Mike grabbed the check from the barman.
“I insist.” Mike said, slipping a fifty into the barman’s hand.
The matter settled, Mike sipped his whiskey. The silver-haired man gathered his things and walked down the bar to where Mike sat.
“I appreciate that.” The silver-haired man said, “Might I ask why you did it?”
Mike thought about it for a long while, finishing his whiskey as he did. Finally, getting up from his chair, he said, “I overheard your chat with your friend there. Couldn’t help it. Now, I don’t know from no poets or kings, or whatever you two was on about, but it’s a weary old world. That I do know. And sometimes, when ya can, you buy a guy a drink.”
It is nice to pass charity on. The entire piece feels momentary, all hinging on references to lives and events outside it. Were you drawing these folks from a longer work, out for a pit stop and a beverage?
I wonder if the silver haired man ever pays his tab…
Oh I’m desperate to know who those two were now! Dueling muses? God and Satan? Warring angels or demons? Random magical beings? So many possibilities!
I think the silver-haired man just won one! Loved this — at first I thought it might be Batman and Catwoman meeting for a yearly truce.
I’d say your experiment is a success. Nicely done.
Who are they? I don’t think the guy’s quite lost the game yet.
I agree that he might have just won, at least for the moment. I’m guessing God and Satan, but I’m not entirely sure. Good story either way.
It doesn’t matter who they are. And really, it doesn’t matter who is winning.
You get the impression that maybe the silvered hair man is setting up for one big win. At least that’s one thing you could surmise. Actually you could draw a lot of conclusions.
But that’s it. This piece is all about one moment.
In your better flash pieces, you capture one moment that makes you as the reader want more without needing more. The most vague way to tell a complete story possible.
One of your better pieces yet. And not as abstract as you let on.
I think to the silver haired guy it’s not about the winning or losing, it’s about the joy of taking part.
It’s interesting to see the banter between these two – really hints at universal forces beyond our comprehension.
What game is she talking about?!? How much was the tab? LOL So intriguing!!