Day 6: 6,550

Alice sat at the bar watching the world move around her. Her beer had begun to go warm while the condensation beads began to pool together and slide down the glass in a small streams. Alice glanced back down at her book long enough to finish the last paragraph and turn to a new page. When she looked up again the short red headed bartender was swatting a hand out from underneath the back side of her skirt.

“It was great spending time with you today kiddo. We hope you had a good birthday,” read the text preview on Alice’s phone. The text was received from her mother forty-five minutes ago. Alice took a long swig from her beer before pressing the home key on her phone and reading the text preview again.

Meanwhile Joe has made it three blocks on foot. He stops at the intersection waiting for the crosswalk lights permission to go. He pulls his phone out of his pocket again to check notifications. There still aren’t any. When the light turns white Joe sighs, puts his phone back in his pocket, crosses university and turns left along the other side where he continues his slow shuffle home.

“Would you like another?” the male bartender asks Alice. He looks to be well over six foot tall. His badge number reads 173, he’s very thin with a dark complexation and jet black hair. His eyes are cat like and give his face a look not to be trusted.

Alice jumps her head from her book, startled at the sound of his voice. She peers at him for a moment of confusion. Then she looks over at the glass to her right. It contains less than an inch of dark liquid and is sitting in a puddle of condensation.

173 picks up the dripping beer glass and wipes its puddle from the bar. He places a thick stack of bar napkins in it’s place before serving Alice a fresh glass. Alice notices the pile of napkins and chuckles to herself.

“Just in case you want to hold onto this one as long as that last one,” 173 says to her with a wink.

She rolls her eyes and takes a long swig of her fresh beer. Alice smiles as she sets the half empty glass back on the excessive napkin diaper. But when she looks back up she notices 173’s no longer watching her. His hand is wandering back up the backside of the little red head’s short black dress.

“Alice!” shouts a voice from the other side of the bar. “Alice! Is that you?!” A girl in a black dress with long black hair comes bounding toward Alice with a stretched out grin on her face.

“Hey. How are you?” says Alice. “It’s been forever girl. How’ve you been. What have you been up to?”

“Not a whole lot. I’ve just been working here.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Since I left. So, I don’t know. What? Four years.”

“Wow. Has it really been that long?”

“What brings you down here?”

“I moved down here a few months ago actually,” said Alice as she shrugged her shoulders.

“Need a job? We’re looking for bartenders.”

“Sure. I could always use a second job.”

While Alice begins filling out the application her phone rings. Joe’s name and a photo of him and Alice wrapped in an embrace appear on the screen.

Joe has stopped at another intersection again and this time his phone is to his ear as he waits for Alice to answer. The crosswalk light turns white before she does. He hangs up the call and shoves the phone back into his pocket.

Alice watches as the image disappears from her phone screen. She finishes the application and her beer, as quickly as possible. 173 walks by as Alice places the empty pint glass on the rail.

“Yes. I’ll take another. And a shot of Jameson please.” She said a she turns her head to the right, slightly away from him. But she averts her gaze back in his direction as she grins with the left side of her mouth. She locks eyes with him as she reaches her left hand out with the application. He grins back at her as he takes the form she’s shoved in front of his face. He returns with a beer and a shot which he sets down in front of Alice.

Alice watches 173 as she shoots the Jameson. When he walks away she reaches for a napkin to wipe the few dribbles of liquid from her chin. She swallows the burn down a second time before chasing it with a swig from her beer. She leaves her book sitting upside down on the bar with it open to her current page. She leaves her phone next to it as she gets up and begins rummaging from the oversized bag hanging from the back of her chair. She finds a pack of cigarettes and heads out to the patio with them and her beer.

The music is louder outside. Alice walks to the end of the patio furthest from the last speaker. She sets her beer on the table and removes a cigarette and lighter from the pack, then commences to use two hands to light it in order to block her hair from the cigarette and the cigarette from the wind.

As Joe rounds the corner into their cul de sac he reaches into his pocket for his keys. He pulls his phone from his other pocket while he opens the front door to their home. Buster comes sprinting around the corner and leaps directly into Joe’s crotch as soon as he’s slammed the door closed with his back. His phone falls to the floor and he reacts by kicking the beagle to the other side of the room.

He walks over to the dog and pets him a few times before letting him out side. Then he gets down on his knees to reach his phone under the recliner next to the front door. He dials Alice’s number before getting off the floor. Her phone is ringing on the bar top while she enjoys her cigarette.

“There you are,” says 173 as he turns her direction, from the side door she’d walked out of moments before.

She inhales a deep drag from her cigarette, as he slinks towards her, while sliding his own cigarettes from a pack, flipping a zippo from his pocket, and lighting it, all in one snake-like slither.

“What brings a girl like you out by herself on a Tuesday night?” 173 asks as he veers up beside her.

His question is answered by another long pull from her cigarette and an even smaller version of the side grin she’d given him before wandering into the night air.

“Well at least tell me your name then.”

“It’s on my application,” Alice exhaled, as slowly as the cloud of smoke she’d been holding in her lungs.

“Oh, you wanna work here, do you,” he chuckled before taking a drag from his own smoke.

Alice tilted her head to the floor while clicking her right heel to her left foot. Pointing her toe up towards 173, she glanced her eyes up at him through her lashes before she gave an even smaller side grin through which she said, “well, that depends.”

“And what might this depend upon?” 173 inquired of her.

She pointed and lifted her toe up towards him one last time. “Wether or not I’d have to work with you,” she said before bringing her foot back flat on the ground, flicking her cigarette into the street, and walking back into the bar.

Alice tapped the home key on her phone to reveal Joe had tried six more times since the first. She reached into her bag and dug out her wallet. Then she commenced burning a hole in the back of the red headed bartenders head as she commenced flirting with two of the bar backs bent over the glass washing station.

173 circled around from the other side and slid her card from the bar. “One more shot?” he asked as he snapped her out of her focussed trance by tapping the card on the bar, twice, in front of her.

“Sure,” she replied with a side glance. “Then close me out.”

He placed the shot in front of her before running her card, and she finished it and the remainder of her beer before he returned with it and the receipt for her to sign. She made note that 173 went by the name of Eli before writing a ten on the tip line and signing her name. Then Alice tossed all of her things into her oversized bag, and walked out the door.

She took notice of a stoop to the left of the door she’d walked out of and took a seat on the first step. While she was rummaging through her bag Alice was tossed a few pieces of change by a well dressed couple scurrying by. She let out a whispered laugh as she pulled her cigarette pack from her bag.

Alice used the hand rail on the side wall of the nook as leverage to pull herself vertical again. She used her hip to shrug her back up on her shoulder again as she put a cigarette to her lips and lit it, taking a strong pull before walking east.

She inhaled three more outstretched drags from her cigarette as she walked. At the intersection she held the cigarette sideways infront of her eyes to gauge the length of the outstretched cherry she’d created with her pulls. When the light turned she flicked the cigarette away, crossed the street, and whipped into the next doorway.

“Guinness and a shot of Jameson please,” Alice said to the brunette approaching her from behind the bar.

“Yes ma’am,” said the bartender.

Alice drank her shot and followed it with half of her beer. She dug through her bag, pulled out three five’s and a ten, set them on the bar, finished her beer, and walked out the door. The brunette bartender made a point to remember her.

Joe turned the water off on his shower and began to dry himself as he stepped out to stand in front of the mirror. His phone was placed at the corner of the sink furthest the shower. He dried his hand completely before tapping the home key and revealing no notifications.

Buster could be heard howling outside. Joe tapped on the window in the kitchen with his fist three times before it stopped. He tapped three more the second time it started. The third time he opened the back door and let the nine year old hound inside. Meanwhile Alice continued walking west.

She glanced through the windows of Gwierdo’s as she walked past, and just as Eli happened to glance up from wiping the bar. Alice quickly averted her gaze and lit another cigarette. She decided to continue straight to avoid the crosswalk light. She crossed again, on the other side, then made her way to the lot with her car. She got in and headed home.

Her car jerked back and forth as she slammed on her breaks just shy of her garage door. She put the orange convertible in park and flung the door open as the garage door began to rise up.

“Fuck!” she screamed as her car door slammed back into her knee. She pushed the door open again as she lifted herself up out of the Mitsubishi. She reached across to the passenger seat for her bag and threw it over her shoulder. He was standing in the middle of the open garage when she looked up.

“Where the fuck have you been?” Joe shouted at her. She jumped slightly at the volume of his tone, just before she chuckled.He stood with his hands on his hips as she walked towards him. Alice walked wide around him as she went for the garage door opener. Once the door had closed she opened the screen door. The dog came running out. Alice fell to floor and begin petting and hugging him.

“Awwwww… I missed you too baby,” Alice cooed to Buster as she rubbed his head vigorously.

“Answer me, Alice,” growled Joe.

Alice continued to stroke the dog in silence. Joe grabbed her by the arm she’d been using to support her weight and pulled her from the floor. He jerked her towards him as she pulled a blade from her front right pocket.

Her hand comes up as her body moves toward him. The blade connects with his throat just as his face registers what’s happening. Joe shoves Alice to the side, and the force pulls the blade through the length of his neck. She trips over her own foot snd falls to the floor.

She leans back against both hands. Her eyes remain fixed on Joe as he grasps at the canyon carved across his throat. His fingers look like twigs trying to hold back the current of a river. He falls to his knees. His eyes lock desperately with hers, pleading for help before finally going blank. Then he falls forward.

She watches as the blood pools out of him and towards her on the garage floor. She shuffles her body backwards until she is on the other side of the floor drain. Buster sniffs the body before he lifts his leg and pisses Joe’s back. Alice continues to watch the pool of blood as it makes its way into the drain. She shakes her head before getting to her feet.

The dog follows her through the screen door and into the house. She flips the deadbolt on the back door and the dog follows her into the back yard as well. She opens a large grey rubber tub sitting on the ground beneath their kitchen window. She pulls out a seventy foot black hose and walks it towards the side of the house on the opposite side of the screen door.

She screwed the hose to the spicket and turned the water on before walking the hose through the house and out the screen door to the garage. She set the hose down next to Joe’s feet and removed his shoes. She picked them up and brought them into the house before removing all of his clothes. Those she brings into the house and sets upon the dryer.

She starts the washer on cold water and adds detergent. Alice scrubs extra detergent directly onto the blood spot on the neck of Joe’s shirt. Then she placed everything from the top of the dryer into the wash and closed the lid. When she went back out to the garage she stood in the door way and stared at the body for six minutes before moving.

Alice picked up the axe with the long yellow handle from it’s resting place next to the door and stepped closer to Joe. She lifted the axe up behind her and swung it down, hard. Joe’s right hand separated cleanly from his wrist. She brought the axe down again and his arm separated at the elbow. When she brought it down a third time his arm separated at his shoulder and she heard Buster begin to howl.

She set the axe back against the shelving unit next to the door. She dead bolted the garage door closed before opening the back door and letting the beagle inside. The dog began pushing around the aluminum food bowl Alice had just filled for him as she ran tap water into another aluminum bowl. After she set that down she began boiling water in a small quart pot and her large five gallon stew pot.

The water in the quart pot began boiling first and Alice emptied the contents of a ramen packet into it. She set the timer on the stove for five minutes before going back into the garage for two more swings. Joe’s foot was now severed from his ankle and his same leg separated at his knee.

Buster jumped up and rested his front paws on her knees as she pushed the garage door shut again behind her. She bent down and fluffed his ears a few times before pushing him aside and shutting of the timer. She strained the excess broth from the small pot and dumped the noodles into a bowl. She put the bowl in the freezer and set the timer for another five minutes before stepping back into the garage.

It took six swings to separate Joe’s right leg from his pelvis. Alice was able to separate the left with only five. The timer interrupted her before she could start on Joe’s left arm.

She went inside and pulled the bowl from the freezer. She stirred the Ramen as she sat down at the table. Buster’s aluminum food bowl was now upside down. The contents of his bowl were strewn across the kitchen floor. As Buster sat across from Alice and watched every scoop lifted from the bowl into her mouth, saliva dripped from both corners of his own mouth. She finished her dinner and went back out to the garage.

Alice separated Joe’s remaining arm with three swings of her axe. Then she took his chin in both hands while walking backwards and stretching his neck out straight. She carefully rested his chin on the ground in a way that lifted his neck and kept it stretched straight. She brought the axe down hard with both hands and his face rolled up to look at her as his head separated from it’s torso. She turned her head to the side as she looked at it.

Then she grabbed the torso and flipped it over. She went back into the kitchen and got the meat cutting scissors that were kept in the knife block Joe had gotten her for sweetest day last year. The large pot on the stove had begun a slow boil. Buster sat and stared as Alice walked back out to the garage with her scissors.

She bent over the torso and stabbed it in the lower abdomen with the knife she’d used to slit his throat. Alice placed the point of the scissors into the hole and began cutting Joe open, up until the hard cartilage of his rib cage stopped her progression.

Joe’s torso lay disembowled while Alice tied an old shop towel around her face. Then she used the scissors to cut open his stomach and cut his intestines into three and four inch chunks. she used both hands to squeeze the scissors closed around the tissue.

Once she was done with the intestines she grabbed the hose and began spraying. She rinsed every bit of bodily fluid down the shop drain. She picked up the axe again and separated Joe’s pelvis from the rest of his spine and she used the scissors to separate the remaining pieces of flesh holding them together.

Then she went to the other side of the garage wall and grabbed the pair of hedge clippers hanging there. She rested one side of the handle on the ground while using both hands to force the blades closed around the thick cartilage between his ribs. There was a loud crack and Alice repeated this seven times before being able to spread Joe’s chest open. She used the scissors to separate his remaining organs from his body. She used the hose again to further rinse everything.

Water splashed out of the pot and too the burner with a sizzle as Alice dropped Joe’s heart, stomach, and several pieces of intestine into it. Buster watched as Alice washed her hands and grabbed a box of large freezer bags out of the bottom cabinet drawer. Then she went back into the garage.

She placed bits of his organs into plastic freezer bags, carried all eight of them into the house, and put each bag into the freezer. The water one the stove had resumed its boil. Alice walked over to it and curled her nose. She reached into the cabinet left of the sink and pulled out two beef bullion cubes. She unwrapped them both and dropped them into the pot. Then she added three spoonfuls of minced garlic from a jar she kept in the refrigerator.

Once Alice was back in the garage she began picking up the smaller limbs. She grabbed both of his hands and held them with her own left hand. She made a loop with her left arm and those hands in which she proceeded to shove all four pieces of Joe’s arms and one shin as if she were stacking pieces of lumber. She went in through the kitchen and out into the back yard. She dropped the pile into her burn pit before quickly snatching Buster up as he tried to run off with a meaty treat.

Buster squirmed in her arms as she carried him inside to be placed into his crate. He whimpered the duration of her carrying pieces of Joe out to the burn pit. Between trips, Alice strained the meat in the pot from its broth. She cut them into smaller pieces and placed them into a large bowl which she set on the ground outside the door to the back yard.

Before doing so she pulled a tiny piece from the bowl. She held it to her lips and blew three times before tasting it herself. She was grinning when she carried the steaming bowl to the back door. “You’re gonna love this baby,” she called over her shoulder to Buster.

Alice walked around the perimeter of her privacy fence in the backyard with a flashlight as she picked up even the tiniest pieces of twig and tree limbs. Thirty-three minutes later Joe was completely covered by sticks, four pieces of leftover purchased firewood, dead and dry shrubbery, pieces of three card board boxes, three large branches, and half a bottle of lighter fluid.

She ran into the bathroom and grabbed three small sample bottles of chi essential oil. She used a knife from the butchers block to pop out the plastic pour spouts and dropped all three into the center of the pile she’d stacked in the burn pit outside. She shoved three pieces of printer paper into opposite spaces in the pile and then she lit each one with a bic lighter.

Once the flames began to climb the entirety of the stack, Alice went inside to get Buster. She removed all of her clothes and the shoes she was wearing before going back outside. He buried his face into the bowl of meat the second he made it out the door and began inhaling. Alice threw her clothes and shoes into the flames before she began stoking the fire with an old shovel handle she kept leaning against the tree in the center of their back yard. Her body had an orange glow from the flames as she stood in front of them.

As the flames began to fade goosebumps began rising on Alice’s skin. She leaned the fire poker back against the tree and went inside. Buster followed her as she grabbed her bag and headed towards the bedroom.

Alice laid down in bed before pulling her phone out of her bag. She touched the home key and revealed a new notification from a 217 number she didn’t recognize. The text read, “Where’d you run off too, Alice?”

She set the phone on her dresser, pulled the covers up to her chin, and turned the lamp off. Buster curled up against her back and they both fell asleep.

Alice awoke at 7:03 the next morning. She put on a pair of shorts, a tank top, and a pair of flip flops before grabbing a roll of garbage bags from under the sink and heading towards the backdoor. Buster followed her outside. He sniffed the empty bowl left from last night before walking over to and cocking his leg on the far right corner of the privacy fence. She went straight towards the fire pit.

She felt around for the skull first. The organ left inside made a sound like a rubber ball as it moved around. She placed the charred remains of Joe’s head inside a garbage bag before swinging it hard against the tree. The bone had broken into large pieces freeing the dried rubbery substance from inside. She tossed that to Buster. He took it to a sunny spot in the yard where he laid down and began chewing.

Alice continued to beat the contents of the bag against the tree. Twenty minutes later she went into the house and retrieved an empty freezer bag from the bottom drawer. She transferred the contents of the garbage bag in the freezer bag and set it on the table. Buster continued to gnaw on his new toy while Alice washed the large pot from the night before.

She pulled a meat bag from the freezer and set it on the table next to the bag of bone shards and teeth. She put two beef bullion cubes in the pot as it filled with water. Then she sprinkled in some basil and onion powder before dropping in three spoonfuls of minced garlic. Once the pot reached the half full mark, Alice set it on the stove and turned the flame on high.

Meanwhile, 173 or Eli-according to Alice’s credit card receipt from the night before- stretched his limbs and opened his eyes. He awoke on his back before rolling over and running his olive finger down the ivory backline of the red headed bartender. Then Eli rolled over to his opposite side. He grabbed his phone from the red headed bartender’s dresser.

He hit his home key, unlocked the phone, then he went straight to the message he’d sent to the number he stole from Alice’s application. There hadn’t been a response, but he stared at his own message for three minutes. Then he hit the lock button and set the phone back on the dresser before standing up and assembling his clothes.

Eli took the apartment key off her key ring. He used it to lock her front door behind him. Then he dropped the key into her mailbox. The red headed bartender was still unconscious when Eli left her apartment. He walked down the stairway from her unit and onto the sidewalk parallel Neil St. He walked along Neil until he approached and entered Aromatic.

“How is the beautiful Samantha on this fine, gorgeous, Wednesday morning?” asked Eli as he approached the brunette barista working the coffee bar. He grabbed the local Chambana Gazette from the top of the pastry display and set it on the counter.

Alice walked back outside after starting Buster’s breakfast. She layered three garbage bags into one and filled it with the blackened remains of Joe. She fit what she could then beat the bag against the tree until there was room for the rest.

At Aromatic, Samantha’s cheeks flushed with a deep burgundy hue comparable to a dark red wine. “How are you today Eli?” she forced out through a shaky smile.

“I’m absolutely fabulous today Samantha, now that I’ve gotten to see that beautiful smile,” Eli cooed at her. “And I’ll be even better yet when I’m enjoying one of your delicious mocha’s. Large please. With an extra shot and whipped cream.”

The burgundy hue consumed more of Samantha’s face as she typed the keys on the cash register. “This too?” she asked as she picked up the paper he’d set down.

“Yes, dear,” he grinned at her.

“$5.89,” Samantha said flatly as she turned to set his paper in the bar near the machine and began packing espresso. “You haven’t answered any of my texts since that night, Eli.”

“What night would that be, Samantha,” Eli asked as he set $6.00 on the counter. He walked around the the side of the counter next to the feature board and sat at the second barstool in front of his newspaper.

Her hand shook as she poured the steamed milk into the travel cup. “Never mind,” she mumbled as she topped his steaming beverage with whipped cream and a travel lid. She set the cup on the bar in front of him.

His eyes squinted into slits as he grinned at her with all of his teeth. “You’re such a silly girl Samantha,” Eli whispered. “It’s a good thing you’re so pretty.” He stood up and grabbed his large mocha with an extra shot and whipped cream. “I hope you have a wonderful day young lady,” He said just before pushing his barstool back under the bar.

He winked at her before grabbing the paper with his free hand and turning to walk towards the back patio door. “I can’t wait to see you again,” he called without turning his head back towards her. He walked past the restrooms and the fireplace, and out to the third table on the left side of the cobble stone patio where he leaned back, crossed his legs, and began reading.

Meanwhile Alice was straining the pieces of tissue she’d boiled on the stove, in a pot of water and spices, into a large bowl. Steam engulfed the freezer when Alice set the hot meat on top of the remaining freezer bags. She shut the door, then went to the dry storage area across from the back door in the kitchen. She grabbed a used Walmart bag from the collection of them stored in a single bag hanging from the corner of a white latex coated wire shelf.

She put the two bags she’d filled with the bone dust and shards she’d smashed, in the triple layered garbage bag, into the Walmart bag, tied it off, and set it atop her luggage sized purse. She grabbed the bowl of scraps from the fog-filled-freezer and walked out the back door with Buster on her heals.

He began devouring the contents of the bowl the moment Alice set it on the ground. She stirred the remaining fragments and ash left in the fire pit, with the stick she kept leaning against the tree, while Buster finished his breakfast. Alice went inside and began a shower while Buster circled the yard with his nose to the ground.

When Alice got out of the shower, she flipped her head upside down and fluffed her fingers through it until she managed to maneuver all of it through a hair tie which she wrapped around the mess until it took the shape of a bun she pulled into a loose, wet pile atop her head. Then she walked into the bedroom and began to dress.

She walked to her car in brown boots that came up to her knee and had a one inch heal, dark denim jeans which hugged her legs like a glove, a lightweight oversized beige sweater which extended to mid thigh, and a maroon scarf wrapped loosely around her neck. Buster walked the length of his retractable leash while Alice pulled her front door closed and locked the deadbolt.

“Come on, baby,” she called to the dog as she walked around to the passenger side of the door and hit the unlock button for her car. The dog scampered over to her as she opened the back door, and he hopped inside. Then she walked over to the drivers side door and got in herself. She rolled the back right hand window down six inches as she backed out of the driveway. She looked back to see Buster stick his head out the open space before pulling out of the cul de sac. Red and yellow leaves blew up along the side of the road as Alice took the first curve in the road, out of her neighborhood.

Eli finished the last sip of his coffee and stood up from the table. He threw the paper and empty coffee cup into the garbage can next to the opening in the black iron fence surrounding the patio, before walking down the alley way, towards The Piglet.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket on the way and opened the text conversation containing his unanswered message to Alice. He pauses a step before the opening in the iron gate surrounding The Piglet’s patio. While standing still, he types out, “Okay, what are you doing today then?” He stares at the sentence for twelve seconds before hitting send. Then he walks through the patio and in thorough the back door of the bar.

Alice is pulling up to the light at the intersection in front of Saints, downtown, when her cell phone illuminates with a notification. She looks down at the cupholder to see that it’s from the same unknown 217 number she’d noticed a message from that morning. She looks back up and continues driving straight on University.

She pulled into the Chambana Savings and Loan bank parking lot. She throws her phone in her bag and puts the purse’s straps over her shoulder before climbing out of the car. Then Alice walked over to the passenger side and opened the rear door. Buster shook with anticipation as Alice reached for his retractable leash handle, on the floor board.

“Okay, Babe, lets go,” she chirped at him and he leapt from the car. He ran to the grass patch surrounding the parking lot and cocked his leg on a fence pole while Alice shut the car door and double clicked the lock button on her key ring until the car honked.

Then she pulled Buster’s leash until he walked back towards her. Once he was by her side she headed out of the lot and took a right towards University. She walked east until she reached the rain garden and turned left. Buster panted as they walked through the grass and down a steep hill towards the water reservoir at the center of the park.

When they reached the bottom Buster began drinking from the running stream as Alice hopped from rock to rock, down the center of the creak. Once she got to the end of Buster’s leash, she gave him a pull. He lifted his head and looked at her for a moment before wading out through the creak to follow her.

She stopped at the last stone under the center of the bridge. Buster climbed out of the water and sat on a flat rock behind Alice as she removed the Walmart bag from her purse. she opened the first baggy, knelt down, and emptied it’s contents into the creak. The larger segments sank to the bottom as the dust dissolved into the water, temporarily creating a milky cloud before it disappeared. She emptied the second bag before shoving them back inside her purse and steadily making her way back across the stones and out of the creak.

Eli is sitting at the patio level bar, enjoying one of the Piglet’s signature craft beers as Alice and Buster make their way back up the hill and head towards the sidewalk. His phone is sitting on the bar top next to his pint glass when it illuminates with a notification from Tess, the redheaded bartender he’d left in bed unconscious that morning.

Meanwhile, Buster shivered from the autumn breeze hitting his damp fur as they walked back along University towards downtown. Alice walked them across to the side of the street illuminated by the suns rays. The leftover summer warmth still found in September dried his coat by the third block

Eli tapped the home key and opened his phone to view the text as the downstairs bartender at The Piglet came up the steps and walked behind the patio level bar. Eli closed the Tess window and reopened the messages he’d sent to Alice. He was staring at the unanswered texts when the girl from the lower level recognized his face.

“Well look who it is,” she bellowed out as she approached Eli.

He lifted his head from his phone and smiled his cheshire grin as their eyes met. “Hey, cutie,” he replied. “I’ve missed you.”

“Oh, don’t give me that shit Eli,” she said with a snort.

“Lesley,” he gasped. “Leslie, you’re wounding me.”

“Oh, I’m sure,” she snorted again as she turned his back to him. “Tom, I need a couple bottles of Dragon’s Milk. I’m out in my cooler.”

The patio level bartender reached down into the bottom shelf of his beer display case and pulled out four black bottles.

“Thanks Tom,” She said as she took the bottles and turned the other way. “Have a great fucking day, Eli,” she called without looking as she walked back towards the stairs. Eli watched as the back of her head disappeared down the stairwell.

“What’d you do to get on her bad side?” asked Tom after she’d left.

“Fucked her,” Eli said flatly as he turned his head back to the bartender who’d served his beer. He took a strong swig from the pint, almost emptying the glass, before finishing his statement. “Then I ignored her.

“Yeah,” laughed Tom. “They tend to hate that.”

“Oh, they can’t stand it,” Eli emphasized before finishing his beer and setting the empty glass on the bar rail. “That’s what makes it so much fun.”

“Fun, huh?” Tom inquired as he grabbed the empty glass and walked it towards the sink. “Another one?” he asked after he washed it and set it on the rack to dry.

“Yes please.”

Alice turned right down the Alley way behind Aromatic and The Piglet. Buster’s nose was firmly to the ground as they rounded the corner. He stopped to lift his leg as they walked past a line of four trash receptacles. He urinated on each one separately while Alice lifted the lid on the middle one and disposed of the bags she’d shoved in her purse.

Back at The Piglet, Tom walked over to the glass chiller and grabbed a fresh frosted pint. The frost turned to condensation as the glass filled with the dark liquid. He set the glass in front of Eli, who took a sip before elaborating.

“It’s a blast,” Eli laughed. “These girls act like they’re something special. They keep telling you, “No,” over and over like they’re some prized piece. But as soon as you hit it, they start begging you for it. When you ignore them, they get pissed off and go nuts.” He laughed again before taking another sip of his beer. “If I do decide to hit em up again, there always willing. They’re like drug addicts, man.”

Tom laughed as he walked back over to the sink. He picked up the pint he’d just washed and began polishing it as Alice came walking down the alley behind the Piglet’s patio. Eli saw her reflection in the glass mirror that made up the wall behind the bar and jumped out of his stool so fast it fell over with a crash that echoed throughout the empty bar.

image-Megan Groff