Here is my Part 2 of Chris’s writing exercise. Scroll down on this post to Part 1 if you would like to read Part 1 first. Please let me know what you think. This was a fun one to write.
Jim walked away from the old lady, saying nothing. He had seen enough movies to know he should take her words to heart (where old ladies who knew your name and gave out random prophesies always right?), but had lived long enough to know she was most likely off her Plush Pink Riding Pig. Jim glanced back as he was walking away, wanting to give her one more chance, but she was back to staring into the fire and he gave up.
Jim made the walk to Stinky’s in record time, as would be expected of someone in zero degree weather wearing neither a jacket, nor a hat, nor gloves. Jim never wore these things when he went out as the disturbing tendency of staying at the bar far after he had gone home for the night, probably having a much more interesting time than their owner.
His hands tucked inside his shirt sleeves, Jim nudged open the door to the pub and walked straight to the bar, saying, “Five Lagers Stinky,” as he slid a quarter across the bar. Jim wasn’t entirely sure the man’s name was Stinky, but he was the only bartender Jim had ever seen at the place and had always answered as if it were.
“Might’ve been a good night to stay home Jim,” said Stinky, placing the frosty glasses in front of Jim as fast as he filled them. There was something in his voice that Jim found unsettling, though it didn’t keep him from quickly downing his beer.
“It wouldn’t be Friday without seeing your pretty smile, Stinky,” said Jim, tapping his hand on the bar with a THUNK, THUNK, THUNK. Nerve damage suffered as a child (he had the brilliant idea to test “what would happen” if he put his hand up to the wrist in a blender) had kept his hand in a permanent fist. It had won him several bets in college, and won him a few fights in his friskier days as well. There wasn’t a surface around that he couldn’t crack with a good left jab.
“Well, keep your head up, alright?” said Stinky, placing five more beers in front of Jim. “The next round’s on me, but take it easy on the bar, will ya?” Stinky walked away, summoned by another patron.
Jim downed the next five drinks nearly as fast as the others, glancing about the room as the alcohol began to take effect, noticing that although the place was reasonable packed for a dive bar, none of the other regulars seemed to be there. As he was about to order another round, Jim felt a cold breath on the back of his neck, as if someone just ate a popsicle and was standing inches behind him. If he were wearing cologne, the person would’ve had a nose full.
“Excuse me,” said Jim as he turned around on his bar stool. He said this in the kindest voice possible, in the unlikely chance the cold breath belonged to a woman. Standing inches from him, seemingly sniffing his neck, was a man his in mid-thirties with pale white skin, jet-black hair, and piercing blue eyes. Jim cocked back his left hand, restraining himself from knocking the stranger out. Jim had seen what his fist could do, and did not want to go there unless it was absolutely necessary.
“It’s a big bar,” said Jim, gently pushing the man away. “Why don’t you go get lost in it?”
The man smiled, displaying a mouthful of long pointed teeth. Jim glanced quickly behind the bar, looking for Stinky, hoping his friend had seen all of this and was ready with the shotgun he kept hidden behind the bar. Stinky was nowhere to be found.
As he turned back around, the man lunged at Jim. Jim closed his eyes and swung his left hand as hard as he could, wishing he hadn’t drank those ten beers.
Jim was having a crummy day. It was only the Tenth, but his bank account was already empty, his gas tank was empty, and his refrigerator was empty. Lucky for him, the couch cushions weren’t quite empty. Equally lucky for him, it was Friday night and also Nickel Draught Night at Stinky’s, the local pub.
Leaving his apartment, Jim checked to make sure the lights were on (he never left without making sure the lights were on), locked the door, and walked down the dank, poorly lit staircase onto the cold, lonely streets of the city. He started on the block and a half journey to the bar, the change in his pocket playing the poor man’s chorus as he walked. He wasn’t sure what he would do when those spare coins were gone, he had only one couch after all, but he would think of something. He always did.
Jim passed a dark alley, not a block from his building, and noticed an old woman warming her hands at a small trash fire. Lacking a date for the night, Jim doubled back to the woman, hoping to offer the woman a few of his nickels and take her with him. At least that way she would be out of the cold for a few hours and be able to forget her problems for a spell.
“Hi there,” said Jim as he approached. “Care to join me for a nip?”
The woman looked up from the fire and smiled. She had the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen and not a tooth in her mouth. “I am unable to move from this spot, I’m afraid. I’m only here to observe.”
“Really?” said Jim. “I’m headed to Stinky’s, just down the street there. It’s not that far. Why don’t you get out of the cold for awhile? It’s supposed to get below zero tonight.”
The old woman cocked her head to the side and then leaned in close to Jim. She smelled nothing at all like someone who lived on the streets. “Keep your neck about you tonight Jim,” she said. “Things are gonna get ugly.”