I was in that sleazy little bar, the same one I was always in every Friday night after work. It was karaoke night, and while I didn’t particularly enjoy listening to drunken fools pretend to be rock stars, I did enjoy being one of them occasionally. I was inside, wearing my thick black disheveled jacket, a beer in my right hand, watching the pool table bounce around in its lackluster fashion.
There was a particularly poor singer on the stage, and the distressed audience rolled their eyes in distaste. I wasn’t talking to anyone; there wasn’t anyone to talk to that evening. The bar was a poorly lit, shag carpet, low income establishment. The bartender would frequently leave her clients in waiting while she smoked an absolving cigarette.
It was then that a “friend” of mine came in through the narrow Plexiglas hallway. He was the kind of guy you tolerated because he had a relatively pleasant demeanor, and he’d buy you a shot every now and then for no distinct reason. He was something of a derelict, but he kept a decent, short conversation; though he was an insufferable drunk. A girl followed him in, cast by shadow, and looked flatly into my stare.
She was beautiful. She was short with straight black hair, and a desperate face. She was thin, but not emaciated. Her eyes were wrong, they weren’t milk toast round; they were exotic. My strange shot patron approached me with a goofy smile on his face, and she was soon after him.
“Hey man, how’s it going? Long time no see,” he said.
“Not bad, just observing this little match here,” I replied.
“Oh yeah? Nice, nice. Well, this is my friend Audrey.”
“It’s nice to meet you Audrey, I’m Rider.”
“You as well, thank you,” she said with a bit of a bow, or possibly a curtsy.
Once we had exchanged repartee, they moseyed over to the bar to purchase their drinks. When they did an about face to return, the derelict was the only one with a drink in hand. How rude, I thought to myself. Why would someone bring a lovely girl to a bar, and not purchase her a drink? I debated acquiring her one myself.
The bum went off to mingle with his peculiar friends, and I smiled at the girl patiently until she approached me. She had a presence about her, a nervous energy, and she seemed as if she was trying to please, which she accomplished by approaching me.
“What’s your story Rider?” she said cautiously.
“Eh, I move around a lot, raised by gypsy parents, and I write about it I suppose.”
“Oh you write? What kind of writing?”
“Well, some articles, some short stories, the usual.”
“Not much, I guess I’m a musician, but who can really say? I’m just me.”
“I couldn’t say. Where are you from?”
“Oh, Earth I suppose? More specifically a few places like Shanghai, and Los Angeles, et cetera…”
“Yes, I’m half Chinese.”
“That’s very interesting.”
I had always had a thing for girls who were half something: half-Indian, half-Latina, half-anything. It wasn’t so much that they had to be half exotic, but it seemed like the pretty ones usually were. It made them unique in the crowd; two parts of different sides of the sphere.
As we were conversing, the loaf approached us again, and he was grinning as if he had just done something impressive that we were unaware of. He put his arm around her for a moment, and I punched him in the jaw, in my mind. I already felt confident in the fact that she was too good for him, and probably too good for me, but I wanted her more than that bastard did.
I told them I would be going outside for a cigarette, and they both followed. One of my real friends was outside and we patted each other on the back, without words. I took a seat at the round patio table, and my escorts took seats next to mine. The hoodlum lit up a cigarette and offered one to Audrey.
“They’re not great, but they were on sale, and they’re not bad,” he said to her.
“Doesn’t matter much to me,” she replied.
“Oh hey, I know a guy that’s got the cigarettes you like, the ones in the black box, wait a minute.”
“Alright,” she said.
The cretin was referring to my friend who I had just greeted, and had gone inside.
“Hey! Wait, I have that kind, here you go,” I said, handing her a cigarette.
“Thank you,” she said with a genuine smile.
It was then that she pulled a small mason jar with what appeared to be red wine inside from her jacket pocket. She looked around, smiled again, and took a healthy swig of wine. I liked that. I imagined she was trying to save money, and probably wasn’t expecting the joker to get her anything.
“I have celiac disease,” she said to me.
“Is that the—“
“It means I can’t have gluten, like in beer.”
“Ahhh, and the plot thickens.”
We made trite conversation for a while, and then the increasingly belligerent one went in for another drink. Audrey and I told each other stories, and teased each other. Then, a girl I wasn’t very familiar with approached us, and started telling Audrey how beautiful she was.
“Well, don’t lie to her,” I said, in an attempt at humor.
“What!? Look at her!” the drunk girl said.
“I’m kidding,” I replied.
“And I love your scarf,” she told Audrey.
“Yeah, let me try that on,” I said to Audrey.
I wrapped Audrey’s tribal looking scarf around my neck. She found it amusing, and slapped me on the chest. Suddenly the third party realized she wasn’t wanted, and she left for other conversations. I was glad she left, because I wanted to get close to Audrey while her cockeyed tag-along wasn’t around.
“It smells like burnt bread,” I told her.
“Really? That’s weird.”
She eased in to smell the scarf, coming inches from my face, and we made eye contact briefly as she inhaled the aroma of the scarf, and me.
“I don’t smell it, but maybe it does.”
“It does, anyway, I’m probably going to leave soon, so let me get your number, and we can hang out some time.”
“Yeah, ok, we’re both new to town, sure.”
She gave me her number, and moments later the frivolous cunt walked out. He was stumbling like a wounded deer, and I was almost sure I saw him vomit in his mouth at one point. He attempted taking a seat, nearly fell to the floor, and told me I had to give Audrey her scarf.
“That’s not your scarf, give it back,” he said.
“Fine, there, no problem,” I replied, handing her the scarf.
There was an awkward silence among us as I noticed what the half-wit was noticing. I didn’t typically steal girls from under my associates’ noses, but any chance the fool had with the girl had gone when he showed her the other options. I may not have been royalty among peasants, but I was surely an improvement to him, the blabbering drunk who was currently presented.
I left shortly after when a friend of mine arrived to take me home. I pointed the girl out from the car before we left, and he was impressed I had acquired her phone number. “I’m going to make that happen,” I said, “she’s going to be my girl soon enough.”
Thor Benson is a traveling writer currently located in Portland, Oregon. Benson wrote his first novel in Puerto Rico, and now uses it as a paper weight. He also writes political journalism pieces for online markets. Benson can be found at a run down whiskey bar somewhere in Portland. He can be contacted at: email@example.com, or through his Facebook page at Facebook.com/AuthorThorBenson.