A Discussion

In a bleak city, down an even bleaker alley, sat the bleakest bar in the world. Desperate glimmers of light slid under the gap between the old wooden door and the street outside, only to be swallowed and drowned in a mixture of darkness and rainwater. A slim figure wearing an ageing mud coloured trench-coat sloshed through puddle after puddle, eventually reaching the dull dark door to somewhere no one wanted to be and reached for the rusted handle. With an easy twist and an ear splitting creak, the door opened.

You found your way back. That’s an Achievement,” someone remarked sarcastically upon his entrance.

A haze was forever present in that horrible place. A murky yellow and brown. It stunk of open beer bottles left in the sun, but there was no way that place had ever been graced by daylight. It was tiny; there were no more than four tables cast adrift in the visible stench, and the bar on the opposite side was manned by a barely visible barman who recreated the picture of Bigfoot to a tee.

The trench-coated figure glared at the source of the voice, finally working out from where it had come. Through the haze he went, to the source of this sarcastic, bloated voice. At the table in the corner, the dirtiest corner, the corner that somehow managed to smell even worse, was another man. The man at the table, wearing a white shirt with a green segmented circle decal, nursed a nearly empty bottle and silently toasted the success of finding him in that mire. A grunt came from the bulky barman, confirming the significance of the event at a level the trench-coated man didn’t care to comprehend.

With another gulp of the unfinished beer the man spoke again, “Don’t see you in here often…”

Taking the seat opposite him, the trench-coated man slid into a damaged looking wooden chair. It creaked almost as much as the door did, confirming the state of disrepair the place was in. Occupied it may be, but cared for it was not. In one smooth motion he let the coat slide down his broad shoulders, revealing his black shirt and matching trousers below. He regretted introducing his favourite coat to the floor – a floor that by the looks of it could tell a thousand stories, and none of them clean. He was left with little option though as the omnipresent stink carried a horrible heat behind it, reinforcing, defending and persisting.

Felt like a change,” he said to the drinker.

Got some money to spend now, right?” the drinker replied with amusement.

The animosity was obvious. It had always been there whenever they met. At some point, long before their first meeting in that disgusting abode, at a crossroad where they took opposing paths, a subdued dislike was conceived. That bar, that bar with the intimidating barman and post nuclear war décor, had become the incubator for their mutual dislike. The dislike was brewed, mixed, encouraged to grow and eventually gave birth to hatred. Yet they both kept coming back.

The drinker smirked with the bottle hanging out his mouth, “How does it feel? To stoop to my level, I mean.”

He glanced to the side of the table, to the pocket of his trench-coat filled with money. He looked back at the other man, to the beer bottle still hanging from his mouth despite clearly being empty. In the pit of his stomach he knew there was no retort to the accusation. There was no defence, no easy way to escape the obvious. For the first time in a while there was no counter argument. There was no support in that place either. The barman was neutral, an equal opportunity purveyor of liquid escapism. The bottle still hung in that mouth, an Achievement in itself given the slouched angle. Or should that be Trophy?

It isn’t the same,” he managed to say at last.

A straw grasped at the last second was held tightly in his fist. The last one. The only one. Desperation epitomised. There was still a difference between them, they were not the same person. He looked at the drunk, the sloppily dressed drunk that stunk of that place, enjoying the filth his wealth had bought. He looked at his glazed-over eyes and smirk that could so easily morph into a sneer at any moment and knew; they were not the same.

The drunk leant across the table, “Really? People pay me for my services. Always have. It’s the best way to do things. No, you said. No, it isn’t. You need to offer the service for free. Yet here you are with your pockets full of guilt and broken promises.”

A sigh escaped so fast that there wasn’t time to try and stop it. A frightening chuckle came from the towering barman, now playing the part of the audience. The drunk, his enemy, his friend, confident that he had won this argument, the last argument setting them apart, lay back in his chair with his hands behind his head. A beaming smile appeared out of nowhere, a surprise attack, a Fatality waiting to happen. The money filling his pockets suddenly felt as dirty as everything else in that place. No wonder he felt at home.

What choice did I have?”

It was a rhetorical question, signifying that he had given in. Surrendered to the obvious, the thing he could not retort, surrendered to the lure of money. It was one thing they had always had in common even when they were enemies. But now the line between them was as blurred as the drunk’s vision with anything distinguishing them from one another gone, lost, forgotten.

He turned to the barman. “Two beers.”

Two dirty brown bottles were opened, carried, and placed onto the dismal table they shared. The drunk eagerly took up a bottle, toasted once more, and started drinking. The other looked at the other bottle, at the plain label that could be any brand, at the foam dripping down the sides, at the fingerprints left on it by the barman’s unclean hands. The desire to drink was strong enough to stomach the horrible ale. He took a gulp and toasted back.

The drunk nodded towards the barman’s open palm. “Pay the man.”

A collection of coins, small parts of a greater evil, the proof that he had given in, were retrieved from the mud stained trench-coat’s pocket and given to the barman. There was no acknowledgement, no thanks and no appreciation. Still playing the part of the audience, the barman only scowled at them both with equal disdain and then returned to the safe haven of his bar, away from the stench, the haze and the two fools.

They drank together, they drank that horrible tasting ale, and shared stories for an hour. They weren’t happy stories, they were admissions of guilt more than anything else. It made him uncomfortable to think about it; but that was what the beer was for. He was new to this, the exploitation of people, but the drunkard was an old hand, he’d been doing it for years.

Do you want some advice?” the drunkard slurred at the end of the evening.

The man was too tired to turn the offer down. He’d been treading water since he entered that place, but now he was drowning. He’d sunk and at the bottom he had found this person sitting across from him, the person wanting to help him, to help him sink even lower.

…Go ahead,” he said with the second accidental sigh of the night.

The drunk smiled and leant forward, filling the air between them with the putrid smell of his breath escaping through the gaps in his rotting teeth. The barman, pretending to clean a glass with an equally dirty cloth, smirked and shook his head, predicting what would be said.

Give the people what they want.”

The drunkard laughed out loud.

And then charge them for it.”

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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

One comment

  1. *achievement unlocked* :very creative and original article

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