Stringers | Seven

Bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling, piercing the darkness and casting hollows of yellow light through dense, stagnant air, the only obvious window boarded up and pinned with pictures of impossible waves. High bar tables and stools filled the room, peanut shells dusted the bare wood floor. The bar itself formed the centerpiece of the establishment, an enormous cedar log stretching the length of the back wall, carved in the likeness of a totem pole. Surveying the room Caspar set his sights on a winged image mid-bar.

Being Saturday night the bar was at full staff setting the number of employees at three; one leathered biker type and two indigenous barmaids. Biker type, an enormous bald-headed Spartan, had to be the owner as he spewed abuse on an underage patron but did nothing to discourage his cash contributions to the bars bottom line or healthy rate of liquid consumption. Barmaid one was either the owner’s wife or in training for the honour by keeping up in both leather and ballast. Barmaid two did not belong.

Tallish and lean, the young girl’s raven hair sat tied up in a bunch pinned together by a pair of bone needles, leaving the length undetermined. She glowed with healthy light brown skin and possessed wide-set eyes with a depth that appeared to look at everyone twice. Her knowing smile confirmed that assessment. From behind the bar and behind her back, aided by a wall patched together with hand-etched tiles, the girl watched Caspar part the doors, evaluate the room and target the solid wood bar. Appraising this stranger as he edged for a stool, more curious than business.

ID,” she inquired. Absorbing the California license, ‘Twenty-seven tomorrow, what brings ya here dude?” Mocking him seemed fair.

Canoes,” replied Caspar. But she already knew this beyond the one-word reply read from his lips over the bellow of biker type’s spouse to be.

Head tilted in query and with some concern, “Kill yourself on your birthday? Cool. You know there’s a storm?” Most ill-timed deaths in these parts were from alcohol or drugs. What this thoughtful looking stranger seemed to want to accomplish was new and curious, unexpected.

So what are we drinking birthday boy?”

Second thoughts on the beer. “Just water,” replied Caspar.

And to?”

Brian Jones.” And she knew this too. As a child she loved Winnie-the-Pooh.

Adding burger and fries to his request for water, Caspar sat wrapped in his thoughts, staring blindly into the infinity of vodka bottles mirrored back from the reflective glass squares. At some point in his reverie the girl had refreshed Caspar’s water, setting the glass touching the edge of a soft blue notecard folded diagonally through the middle, ‘off at midnight’ in tidy block printing.

to be continued…

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