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The bar is from a deep city stereotype. The bartender is a cartoon character from a 1965 iconic holiday cartoon. He is drawn older, but the red on his t-shirt is still bright.


The bar is from a deep city stereotype. The bartender is a cartoon character from a 1965 iconic holiday cartoon. He is drawn older, but the red on his t-shirt is still bright. The day is done. The week is done. There is one man at the bar. His head is forehead-down on the dark wood, right behind a rock glass that holds an ice cube, useless in that it gets little chance to cool the whiskey poured over it in regular intervals. The man bolts down the liquid, requests another, and the dance repeats with excruciating pauses; like the minimum moments spent before it is polite to leave a party but you wouldn’t want people to think that you were rude, or in this case, struggling. The man straddles his barstool like he might excel at sitting a horse, but his shoes–one untied–betray a man of business, or some discipline carried out under a roof, near office supplies instead of under an open sky, or near any kind of hoofed beast. This is not to say that the man is meek, or diminutive. He is physically robust and healthy, but only physically. His shoulders, lean and defined from gym time, sit in symmetry as points of two triangles–his elbows, winged away from his ears, and then his hands, wrapped around the glass– make the other necessary points. Emotionally, he has no shape, and at this moment, no hope.

The bartender holds up a wine glass, examines the rim, and moves a linen rag in contest with the lipstick mark missed by the dishwasher. He wins. He hangs the glass upside down with the others in its rack. He turns and takes a drink of water from his own glass, set back underneath a small, blue cartoon blanket that hangs up on a hook between the great, long mirror, the shelves of different liquor bottles, and the coffee machine. 

The man raises his head from the surface of the bar. He finds the bartender with his eyes, briefly examines his own glass with the lone, melting ice cube, then pushes himself up so that his spine is straight. He wavers slightly, then steadies himself with one foot on the ground and both hands clawed onto the edge of the bar as if he was a lobster. He stares at the bartender. He squints and then gasps. His jaw drops. He wipes spittle off of his hung-open lower lip, then opens both arms as he can hardly believe whom he is seeing. 

“You. I…say it,” he says. “Could ya say it? Not the whole thing. I don’ need it all. Jus’ start it off. Start it off with those two words. Jus’ the two, an’ then I’ll go.” He closes his eyes, and bows his head, hanging it off of his shoulders again. He folds his arms and rests them on the bar in front of him. “Plze.”

The bartender sets his glass down, turns, and walks over to stand in front of his real-life patron. It is dead-late in the night. There is no noise. Nobody else around. He wipes some water off of the bar. He shakes his head, clears his throat, and says, in that voice,

 “Lights please?”

The man stands straight and looks at the bartender. The man is weeping, but there is a glorious smile on his face. He slams money down on the bar, tucks in his shirt, fixes his hair, then makes his way to the door. He steps out onto the street, but then turns and leans back into the bar. “Ligh’s plze. Ligh’s plze. Beautiful.” He waves to the bartender, and then leaves, muttering to himself, “Beautiful. Jus’ beautiful."

- Suzanne Crone

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