8/24/17 12,729
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.

Joe stood at the intersection, three blocks away, waiting for the crosswalk light’s permission to continue walking. He tapped the pedestrian button a second time before pulling his phone out of his pocket. There are no notifications when he hits the home key. When the light changes to 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.

Meanwhile, Alice has finished with her phone and is digging a copy of “Silence of the Lambs” out from the oversized bag hanging on the back of her barstool. She finishes the warm beer in two gulps before setting the empty glass back where it was. Then she opens the novel to the page previously marked by a folded corner and begins reading.

“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 complexion 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. She set her book down on the bar top to the left of her, open upside down to hold her current page. “It’s been forever girl. How’ve you been. What have you been up to?” Alice asked as she shifted her posture to a more vertical position. Then she took a long swig from her beer.

“Not a whole lot,” said the girl in the black dress before opening four beers and selling them to a man standing two stools to the right of Alice. “I’ve just been working here.”

Alice took another sip of her beer and watched the girl in the black dress serve three other gentlemen before asking, “How long have you been here?”

“Since I left Kankabourbaly,” the girl in the black dress called out as she poured liquid from three different bottles into a shaker with ice. “So, I don’t know.” She paused her speech while shaking the  drink. “Four years,” she said while straining it into a martini glass. Then she dropped a cherry into the cocktail and set it on the service mat.

“Wow,” Alice choked. She took another swig before asking, “has it really been that long?” at a much lower volume.

“What brings you down here?” asked the bartender in the black dress as she circled back around.

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

The girl in the black dress circled around again, after opening eight more beers, and asked, “Need a job?” She walked over to a clipboard on the wall and removed a piece of paper from it. She walked back over to Alice and set the form down in front of her with a pen, “We’re looking for bartenders, especially ones with experience.”

Alice glanced at the form for a few moments before saying, “Sure.” She shrugged her shoulders and took another sip from her dwindling pint. Then she said, “I could always use another job,” to absolutely no one in particular.

While Alice began filling out the application her phone rang. 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 it back into his pocket.

Alice watches as the image disappears from her phone. She finishes the application and her beer with determination. 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 as she turned her head to the right, slightly away from him. But she averted her gaze back in his direction as she grinned with the left side of her mouth. She locked eyes with him as she reached her left hand out with the application. He grinned back at her as he took the form she’d shoved in front of his face and walked it  back towards the clipboard on the wall it was removed from moments ago. He returned with a beer and a shot which he set in front of Alice.

Alice watched 173 with both eyes as she shot the Jameson. When he walked away she reached for a napkin to wipe the few dribbles of liquid from her chin. She swallowed a second time before chasing the shot with a swig from her beer.

She left her book sitting upside down on the bar with it open to her current page. She left her phone next to it as she got up and began rummaging from the oversized bag hanging on the back of her bar chair. She found the cigarette pack and headed out to the patio with it and her beer.

The music is much louder outside. Alice walked to the table at the south end of the patio, furthest from the last speaker. She set her beer on the table, removed a cigarette and lighter from the pack, then commenced using two hands to light it, in order to block her hair from the cigarette and the cigarette from the wind.

As Joe walked towards the right, and into their cul de sac, he reached into his pocket for his keys. He pulled his phone from his other pocket while he opened the front door to their home. Meanwhile, Alice’s phone vibrates on the bar top as the home screen illuminates with an app notification.

Buster came sprinting around the corner into the living room and leaped directly into Joe’s crotch as soon as he’s slammed the door closed, behind him, with his back. His phone went flying from his hand and onto the floor. It bounced twice before sliding under the brown recliner. Joe reacts to this by kicking the excitable beagle to the other side of the room.

Joe walks over to the dog and pets him a few times before letting him outside. 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 she exhaled 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 the right heel on her left foot to the ground. While pointing her toe up towards 173, Alice 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 while exhaling a cloud of his own.

She pointed and lifted her toe up towards him one last time. “Whether 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 ignored the missed calls and opened the screen for her app notification. After the image played 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.

Joe continues to hit redial on her number while turning on the shower and stripping off his clothes. He places his pants, shirt, and socks in the hamper while calling one last time. He gives up, sets his phone down, and gets in the shower.

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

She inhaled three more longer than necessary drags from her cigarette as she walked. At the intersection she held the cigarette sideways in front 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 wide wooden bar with cast iron bolts.

“Yes ma’am,” said the bartender. She walked to the rustic liquor shelf and removed the green bottle from it’s amber backlighting. She poured the pale brown liquid into a sparkling rocks glass and set it on the rugged wood. Then she began pouring Alice’s beer.

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.

With his back to the door Nick was wiping layers of dust off the display bottles shelved on the wall alongside the tv. The front door to Memphis swung open chiming a set of eight large bells attached to a leather strap hanging from the inside handle.

Turning towards the unexpected sound, Nick sent a whisky bottle crashing to the ground. The sound exploded through the hum of the empty bar like a bull through a china shop. Alice jumped so high at her entrance interruption, her dress flew upwards slightly and she nearly toppled over when her feet became reacquainted with the floor.

She braced herself with the door as he stepped over the broken glass towards the bar. He didn’t run to her aid, just to the bars edge, where he stood still and looked at her with inquisition. He still had the whisky bottle he’d been polishing firmly in his hand while the other hand continued to polish.

Alice was wearing an olive green dress which contrasted against her bronze skin in the dim lighting of Nicks dive bar. The dress dipped in a deep V on both sides and hung off of her like two triangles connected to a flow of fabric. Her freckled chest and back were exposed as much as her long slender arms and legs. She had a large khaki canvas bag  attached to a long leather strap hanging from her shoulder.

Long brown hair was wrapped over her other shoulder, framing her face in a dark glow. He watched her as she steadied herself. She looked up and locked eyes with him for a moment. Then she stumbled her way to the can.

Nick followed her slowly. As much as he could safely follow her behind the confines of his bar. He stopped at the speed rail closest to the restrooms and spent some time forcing the goo from the bottles resting there with a warm towel.

After thirty minutes had passed with no sign of her, he decided to clean up his mess. Glass shards clanked together as he swept them into the dustpan. He glanced over towards the restrooms each time he emptied the dust pan into the garbage can he’d positioned in line with them. But he didn’t make an attempt to check on her.

Lifting herself up enough to turn her head, Alice expelled the contents of her stomach into the toilet with which she’d been spooning for a vast stretch of time. She shook her head as she pulled her arm out of the toilet bowl. While the vomit streamed down her arm she gagged and reached for the paper dispenser. It was empty, so she stumbled over to the bathroom sink.

Shoving her arms under the running faucet, Alice caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Her mascara created a perforated black ring under both her eyes. She wet a paper towel and used it to wipe the rings away then blotted her cheeks to combat the puffiness of her face.

Buster is bent over with his face in a pile of food on the floor next to the aluminum food bowl he’d flipped over while Joe walked towards the living room. He sat down on the couch before grabbing the remote and checking his phone for notifications. After he sees the blank home screen he turns the tv on and begins scrolling through Netflix.

Disappearing immediately after her arrival Alice is now seated at a stool on the shorter side of the L shaped bar located inside Memphis. He watched her emerge from the bathroom and gawked at her as she made her way towards the door. His frustration faded from his face when she sat down at the middle of the three stools located on that end of the bar.

He begins to ask her what she’ll have but she looks straight into his eyes and he chokes before the words can form on his tongue. Just as he was about to open his mouth again, his attempt at speech was halted by a second chime of the bells on the door as four kids came laughing into the bar.

Running towards stools, two kids quickly take control of the sound system while the others shout out their requests. Alice observes as he pops the tops off four bottles and sets them on the bar in front of the girls.

They run off with the bottles and set them down on a shelf built into the wall next to the pool tables one of the boys has migrated to. Nick grabs four rocks glasses from beneath the bar and spreads them out before combining fluid from two different bottles and three lemon slices into a shaker with ice.

He locks eyes with Alice again as he pours the icy concoction into four sugar rimmed shot glasses. The blonde grabs the guy from the juke box while the brunette pulls the dude from the pool table and the both drag their partners to the bar. They each take their shot then the kids make their way back to the pool table near the restrooms.

Nick breaks eye contact with Alice to watch the kids slam their shots before picking pool sticks and partners. As he watches the taller boy pat the blonde girl on her back side with his pool stick, Nick’s eyes move back towards Alice, whose gaze hasn’t shifted the slightest.

Alice has been watching Nick with fascination since she sat down. He’s wearing a dress shirt and slacks which seem to suit him quite well. He has a confidence about him as he mixes their drinks which suggests he’s completely at home in his task.

Their eyes locked again and they stared at each other for several moments. Finally Alice asks for a drink. Nick’s mouth stretched into a grin at her request. “You know,” Nick began as he poured half a pint of Guinness and let it rest on the rail. “It’s not everyday a woman walks into a bar ordering a shot of whisky and an Irish Stout.” He grabbed a glass and the green bottle from the rail at the same time. He set the glass in front of her and poured a three finger shot while smiling ear to ear. “ Especially not my favorite whiskey and my favorite Irish stout.”

He watches with a shit eating grin as she shot the brown liquor before chugging half the glass of black ale. She set the empty shot glass on the rail, and the half empty pint to the left of her on the bar. Then she pulled her phone and “Silence of the Lambs” out of her purse and began reading.

“Hey.” the blonde girl announced as she slapped a spot on the bar furthest away from Alice’s position. Her over bleached hair flipped back over her shoulder as she turned her head away from him. “It stinks like ass in there man.” She chuckled as she pointed to the toilets.

Nick growled with irritation as Alice grinned down at her book with a chuckle. Annoyed, he placed the whiskey bottle back into the speed rail as he maked his way hesitantly to his newfound blonde nuisance. Any other day He’d be all too happy to humor and flirt with the bimbo, but today he wanted her to disappear.

Alice tilted her head back and raised her glass. She swallowed her beer as she admired the way Nick’s slacks frame his backside. Admiration set in again as she observed the skillfulness used to mix another round of shots for the brats. As her admiration grew her sips turned into gulps.

The empty pint announced it’s arrival upon the bar with a clank as Alice slid off her seat. Turning her back to the bar she lifts her bag upon the stool. She folds the left corner of her page and closes her book. She places it and her phone back in her bag before pulling out forty-five dollars and placing it on the bar under her empty glass. She fishes further into her bag for a pen and a scrap of paper.

After assuring the short girl that bar bathrooms tend to smell like shit, he made his way back to the woman at the end of the bar. His shoulders slump and his pace slows as his vision catches her back.

She pulls the paper and pen from her bag and turns back around. She quckly scribbles her first name and phone number on it. Their eyes lock as she places the note next to her empty glass before turning to leave. Alice flashes him a mischievous grin just before she walks out the door.

Alice turned left as she exited the bar and held a swift pace down the sidewalk. 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 and avoid the crosswalk light.

“What an idiot,” Alice said outloud to herself, walking across the street. She crossed again, on the other side, then made her way to the Chambana Savings and Loan parking lot. She checked her phone before entering the lot in which her car was now the only occupant.

She knew this route far to well. The familiarity allowed her focus to rest upon mimicking the sounds of her radio. Driving past a familiar eatery that happened to be open at this hour, Alice decided to make the necessary turns placing her on the path to filling her stomach.

Unable to mimic her radio with a mouth full of food, she switched to analyzing the lyrics. Her turn approached just as the taco wrapper found it’s way into the empty bag. 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 the floor and began 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 came up as her body moved toward him. The blade connected with his throat just as his face registered what was happening. Joe shoved Alice to the side, and the force pulled the blade through the length of his neck. She tripped over her own foot and fell to the floor.

She leaned back against both hands. Her eyes remained fixed on Joe as he grasped at the canyon carved across his throat. His fingers looked like twigs trying to hold back the current of a river. He fell to his knees. His eyes locked desperately with hers, pleading for help before finally going blank. Then he fell forward.

She watched as the blood pooled out of him and towards her on the garage floor. She shuffled her body backwards until she ended up on the other side of the floor drain. Buster sniffed the body before lifting his leg and pissing on Joe’s back. Alice continued to watch the pool of blood as it made its way into the drain. She shook her head before getting to her feet.

The dog followed her through the screen door and into the house. She flipped the deadbolt on the back door and the dog followed her out into the back yard as well. She opened a large grey rubber tub sitting on the ground beneath their kitchen window. She pulled out a seventy foot black hose and walked it towards the side of the house on the opposite side of the screen door.

She screwed the hose into the spigot and turned the water on before walking the spray handle end of the hose through the house and out the screen door into the garage. She set the hose down next to Joe’s feet and removed his shoes. She picked them up and set them on the kitchen floor just beside the screen door before removing all of Joe’s clothes. Those she brought into the house and set upon the dryer.

She started the washer on cold water before adding detergent. Alice scrubbed extra detergent directly onto the blood spot on the neck of Joe’s shirt before dropping it into the machine. 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 doorway 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 became a nuisance just before she could begin 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. She finished her dinner and went back out into 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 its torso. She turned her head to the side as she inspected it from a distance.

Then she grabbed the torso and flipped it over. She went back into the kitchen and got the meat cutting scissors they kept in a 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 disemboweled 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 onto 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 out to the garage.

She placed bits of Joe’s organs into plastic freezer bags, carried all eight of them into the house, and put each bag into the freezer. The water on 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 cardboard 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 her olive green dress and the brown sandals she’d had on 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 the dress and shoes into the flames before she began stoking the fire with an old shovel handle she’d 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. She set the bag down next to her bed before putting the clothes from the dryer into the washer.

Alice laid down in bed before pulling her phone out of her oversized khaki purse. 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 to the hum of the dryer.

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 into 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 on 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 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 through 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 strap 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, let’s 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 creek. 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 creek. 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 creek.

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 cool days 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 sun’s rays. The leftover summer warmth still found in the late August sun 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 text 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.

Eli came stepping out of the patio door as Alice turned the corner onto the patio with Buster. The dog walked up to Eli, who bent down and began rubbing his head.

“And who might this be?” asked Eli as he continued to stroke the panting dogs head.

“Why don’t you hold onto him a minute,” Alice said to Eli as she handed him the leash handle and walked inside the bar where she ordered a cold brew lager and a cup of water. Tom filled a plastic pet bowl, they keep behind the bar just in case, with water and set it on the bar.

“Thank you so much,” said Alice. She picked up the bowl with both hands and turned towards the door. “I’ll be right back.”

“No problem, dear,” called Tom as he pulled a frosted pint from the chiller.

Buster went straight to the water bowl the moment Alice bent to set it on the ground next to one of the black metal patio chairs. “He’s mighty thirsty, isn’t he,” stated Eli as he watched Alice stand back up. She hung her oversized bag on the back of the chair and rummaged through until she pulled out her wallet

“So am I,” said Alice as she turned to walk back inside The Piglet.

“$4.50,” said Tom as Alice walked towards her beer and opened her wallet. She picked up the glass and set a ten on the bar before walking back out to the patio. She stopped just before the bar’s wooden floor ended and the patio’s brick began. Alice took a long sip from her pint glass. Then walked the rest of the way towards Buster and Eli.

“Does your phone work?” asked Eli as Alice took the leash handle from his hand. She set her beer on the table and used her free hand to pull out a chair. She sat down, then took another sip of her beer before she began rummaging through the tiny suitcase again. Eli reached in his pocket and pulled out his own pack of cigarettes when Alice lit the one she’d dumped out of the pack she’d pulled from the bottom of her purse.

Alice put the lighter back in the cigarette pack. “Yes,” she responded. Then she dropped both the pack and her wallet back into the bag. Buster circled underneath her chair before collapsing to the ground, in a ball, with a sigh. His eyes looked up towards Eli before he closed them, and Alice took a long drag from her cigarette before reaching down to stroke his head and exhaling, “good boy,” through a cloud of smoke.

Eli walked inside and picked his abandoned beer up off the bar. Alice leaned back in her chair, tilted her head back, and closed her eyes. When Eli came back outside, he pulled out the chair directly across from Alice. The metal chair legs made a loud ringing sound as they scraped against the brick patio. Alice opened her eyes and lifted her head to look at Eli. He sat down and she stared at him until his eyes squinted into crescent shaped slits with the expansion of his grin.

Then she turned and reached back into her oversized bag. She pulled out a book and shifted in her chair as she opened it and unfolded the corner of the page. She bent the book at the spine until the front and back covers touched. Eli leaned back in his own chair, observing, as she rested the book flat upon the table and leaned over it.

“What might you be reading?” asked Eli.

She looked up at him from her book. Then she took a long sip from her beer before taking another long drag from her cigarette. “This is by far the best beer in town,” she said before taking a second, quicker sip. She set the glass back on the table. “They brew it with Aromatic’s signature coffee beans. It tastes like the smoothest cold brew you’ve ever had in your life.”

“Can I try it?”

“Help yourself,” she said as she waved her hand towards the glass. Then she bent her head down over her book.

“Wow,” he announced before setting the glass back down on the table next to her elbow. “That is really good.” He grabbed his own beer and leaned back in his chair while staring at her. “You look like that book’s beginning to burrow under your skin.”

“Nope. This is just my concentration face.”

Then Alice looked up from her book, gave Eli an inviting smile accompanied by a glare from her eyes. She took another sip of her beer. Then she put her head back down and continued staring at the book.

As Alice turned the page, Eli stood up. The chair made it’s loud ring again as it was pushed from the table. Alice never lifted her head from the book as Eli strolled back into the bar.

She left her purse on the chair and her book on the table next to the side door when she and Buster walked in for another beer. She jerked the dog’s leash when he began sniffing the legs of one of the barstools.

“That guy’s a bit of a character, isn’t he,” said Tom as he pulled a frozen pint from the glass chiller. He began pouring her another glass of their cold brew porter. “Leslie’s probably ready to kill him.” Tom lifted the handle on the tap and waited for the foam to finish dripping from the side of the glass before walking it over to Alice. “He went down to her bar after he got done out there bothering you,” he said as he set the glass on the bar.

Alice placed another ten on the bar before picking up her beer and walking the Beagle back outside. Buster took a few laps of water from the bowl on the ground before curling up into the shady spot in front of the table. Alice took a seat in the same chair from which her purse hung and resumed staring at her book.

“Come on, have a beer with me when you get off,” pleaded Eli.

“Drink your beer and be quiet, Eli.” Leslie shot him a glare when she said it, then went back to loading the glasses from the dry rack into the glass chiller.

“Having one beer will require minimal effort on your part.”

“Responding to my texts would require minimal effort on your part, but you can’t seem to be bothered. Why the hell should I?”

“Leslie Grant. Such language.” Eli turned his pint in circles on the bar with his thumb and index finger as he smiled at her.

“Don’t give me that look Eli.”

Meanwhile, Alice folded the corner of the right hand page in her open book. She closed it and put it back into her oversized bag.  Then she took out her phone and activated the screen. It opened to the screen with the messages from Eli. She saved his number in her phone and closed the application. Then she opened her email.

While she was swiping through, deleting each junk email, she came across one from gwierdosmanager@gmail.com. The email contained a phone number and an opportunity to set up an interview. She tapped the number on her screen and tapped call when the option appeared. Jorge answered and explained himself as the general manager of the restaurant. They set up an interview for 7:00 that night.

“Fine,” said Lesley. “I’ll have one drink with you after work. I get off at 7:00.”

“Great,” he said with a smirk as he stood up from his stool. “I’ll be at Gweirdo’s by 7:00. Meet me there when you can.” Eli finished his beer and set the empty glass on the bar before walking out the front door.

Alice finished her beer before walking back to her car with Buster. He stopped her, before crossing the street, to pea on the tree at the corner. He rode all the way back with his head out the window while Alice sang along to the songs on the radio.

She parked in the same lot that night, walked to Gweirdo’s from there, and arrived at 6:42. She walked past the patio door and walked in through the main entrance. She approached the left side of the triangular bar and was greeted by a bearded man she’d never met before.

“What can I get for you?” asked the bearded man as he walked towards her from behind the bar. He picked up a menu from a holder mounted below the register and set it on the bar top in front of her.

Alice slid the menu back towards him before sitting down. “I’m actually here for an interview with Jorge I believe.”

“Have you filled out an application already?”

“Yes, I have. Alice Carrol.”

“Okay, just have a seat, I’ll let him know you’re here. Do you want anything to drink while you wait?”

“No, I’m okay. Thank you though.”

The bearded man walked down a hall in the back of the building and disappeared to the left. Alice sat at the barstool next to the front pillar. She watched Eli walk in the side patio door. He looked right at her, but walked toward the back of the right side of the bar and took a seat.

The bearded man came back from the hallway and walked towards Eli. “What are you up to today, man?” he asked him.

“Enjoying my day off.”

“Nice. What are ya drinkin’?”

“Just give me a Shanty for now,” said Eli. “It’s early.”

Alice watched as a taller man with a much longer beard walked quickly down the hallway, toward her. She stood up from the high-backed maroon-painted wooden bar stool once the space between them shrank to a few feet.

“Alice,” he said as he reached out his hand.

She smiled and reached hers out as well. “Yes sir,” she said as they shook hands firmly.

“Shall we?” he turned his head towards the right side of the bar, extended his arm in the same direction, and held his palm up and flat. She nodded and they walked towards the middle of three booths in the far right corner of the building.

Alice glanced at Eli as they faced him at the bar. His head was down and his focus was directed towards the screen of his phone. Jorge sat in the seat facing Eli, leaving Alice to sit facing Jorge and the wall. They discussed her work history and her limited availability. She explained that she works at The Horn full time. She’s available Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. But she’d prefer not to work Sundays. She also doesn’t want to work nights. She explains that she’s only hoping to work a couple shifts no one wants.

Jorge asks her if she can attend another interview so she can speak with his assistant bar manager. She agrees and goes home. Alice stops at Aromatic while walking to her car and orders a large mocha with an extra shot and no whipped cream. Then she stops at the speedy mart two blocks down from the bank. She buys a pack of cigarettes and pint of Beam.

When she gets back to her car, she dumps half of the Mocha into the parking lot. Then she refills the cup with Beam. She pulls a straw out of her server apron, removes the paper wrapper, and stirs the coffee. Then she puts the travel lid over the straw, snaps it in place, and takes a sip.

Then she sets the cup into the cupholder, packs her cigarettes, and removes one. She lights it and takes a long drag before shutting her door and starting the car. She takes seven more sips of her coffee before turning into her driveway.

Buster jumps up to greet her as she opens the front door. She walks through the kitchen, opens the backdoor, and lets him outside. While holding the door handle with her left hand, she bends and pulls her left foot up. She pulls the zipper of her boot down to the base. Then she grabs shoe by its heal and pulls it off. She does the same with the other before walking to the closet near the front door. She pulls out a hanger and clips the boots to it with a set of clothes pins.

She pulls a mans navy blue winter coat out of the same closet and throws it on the floor behind her. Then she grabs a mans black wool coat from another hanger and two pairs of shoes from the floor. She throws them on top of the other coat behind her. she walks into the bedroom and creates a similar pile of male clothing on the floor in front of that closet door.

Alice walks back towards the kitchen and lets Buster in through the back door. She reaches up and pulls a box of garbage bags down from the white latex coated shelf. She walks into the living room while pulling one bag from the box. Alice sets the box on the coffee table before shaking the bag open. Then she begins stuffing it full of the things from her pile. She fills five bags and carried each one out to her car. She left biscuit in the house when she left.

She took the interstate to prospect and pulled up in front of the salvation army clothing drop booths twelve minutes later. They were located at the farthest corner of Michael’s parking lot, directly behind The Horn. She opened each bag and dumped the contents into each of the four bins. She balled the empty garage bags up and shoved them on the floorboard of her backseat.

She sat in her car long enough to finish her coffee and light a cigarette. Then she drove home with her driver window cracked half an inch and the country radio station turned up enough to drown out the sound of the wind through the open window.

When she got home Alice walked straight into the kitchen. She let Buster outside, then she grabbed a glass from her cabinet and filled it with ice from the bucket she kept in the freezer. She also grabbed a frozen bag of meat scraps and set it on the table next to her glass of ice. She poured the remainder of the pint of Beam into her glass and then topped it off with a can of Diet Coke from her fridge. She put a straw in and took a sip before lighting a cigarette.

The cigarette hung loosely from her lips as she scrubbed out the large five gallon pot in the sink. She squinted her left eye as the smoke rose up into it. Once the pot was rinsed she set it in the sink and allowed it to fill. Then she ashed her cigarette before taking another sip of her drink.

Buster started crying by the back door. Alice took another drag from her cigarette then she smashed it out in the large clear glass ashtray sitting on her kitchen table. She added a can of gravy to the half filled pot of water, along with half a bag of baby carrots and the contents of the bag she’d pulled from the freezer. She set the pot on the stove and turned the burner on high before letting Buster back inside.

Alice walked out to the garage and grabbed the Comcast box their DVR equipment had come in. The boxes to all of their electronic devices were stored in the small attic space above the garage. She had to pull the stairs down and wave through spiderwebs before reaching it. She pushed the stairs back up and brought the box inside. She finished her drink, then carried the box into the living room and set it in the recliner next to the door.

Meanwhile, Eli is still sitting at the bar waiting for Leslie. he loses track of time while drinking. At 8:45 he walks over to  The Piglet and learns her relief came in early. She left work at 6:00. Tom is the bartender working at the time. He’s working a double today and will be on until 11.

Alice throws on a black fitted sweater dress and a pair of flip flops before heading out again. She parks her car at the downtown bank and walks towards the piglet. She began talking to Tom and agreed to come back up and help his night shift fly by quicker.
She walks up from the alley side again and enters in from the patio door. Tom’s face sinks as she approaches the bar. He pauses in mid conversation with Eli. This causes Eli to glance up at the mirror. He turns his head to be sure the reflection was correct.

Alice blushes at the noticeable tension in the room as she walks briskly towards the bar, pulls out a stool and has a seat. She hops the stool forward three times before resting her elbows on the bar. She begins talking to Tom and completely ignores Eli’s existence. Meanwhile, Eli attempts to insert himself into the conversation.

Tom steps out for a brief cigarette. While he’s gone, Alice stands up and walks towards Eli. She reaches her left hand down and grabs the shaft between his legs. She massages it with her plans she wraps her right hand around his neck and slides her tongue into his mouth. She strokes him four times before removing her tongue, standing up, and walking away from the bar and down the stairs towards the women’s restroom.

Eli gets up from the bar and follows her down the stairs. Tom walks back in from his cigarette to find her empty glass sitting on the bar, her purse hanging from the back of her barstool, and his half full glass sitting in front of the third barstool over from hers. Eli opens the door to the women’s restroom and steps inside.

Alice is waiting in the third stall. It’s the furthest from the door. Eli walks directly towards the back wall. She reaches her hands out as he passes in front of her and pulls him into the stall. She begins kissing him before he turns her around and pulls her dress up to the middle of her back. She bends over as he slide himself inside of her.

He washes his hands before tucking in his shirt and fastening his pants. Then he goes back to the bar and sits down to finish his beer. Tom asks him if he’d like another. He says he would.

Alice cleans herself up, washes her hands, comes back to the bar and sits down. She orders a shot and a beer for herself and a shot for Eli and Tom each. They take their shots and Alice pays her tab and leaves.

Tom gets off work and is out to meet his buddy Clayton for a drink.

“About time you got here man.” Clayton chuckles as he slaps Tom on the shoulder. “What’d you do, get lost?”

“No man. I had to get ready.” Tom rebuts while returning the shoulder slap and taking a sip of his beer.

Tom notices Clayton isn’t alone at the bar. He’s sitting next to an unfamiliar woman with short red hair. Tom nudges Clayton in the shoulder with his beer hand and directs his eyes towards the woman seated to Clayton’s left. His inquisitive eyes ask the question for him.

Clayton chose not to answer the unspoken inquiry into the identity of his companion, but decided to tease Tom instead. “Aww man did you wanna get all purdy for me?” Grinning, Clayton calls to the bartender for shots which the girl to his left unsuccessfully attempted to refuse.

“Of course baby. I gotta look good for my man.” Tom joked as he threw his left arm around Clayton, and right before reaching his other hand up to grab Clayton’s chin, planting an exaggerated kiss on the empty space just in front of his face.

The bartender returns with three different bottles just in time to shake her head at the sight. “You guys are so gay.” She laughed as she poured three different shots. She placed each glass in front of it’s rightful owner before returning the bottles to their homes.

Clayton and Tom simultaneously pulled their heads back in exaggerated shock. Pretending to be offended Clayton corrected her. “It’s only gay if ya love it. We just like it a lot”

The woman to Clayton’s left shook her head at this. “You’re retarded.” She mumbled just before the three of them toasted their shots.

Clayton slammed his shot glass down on the bar, leaped from his stool, and wrapped his arm around Tom in one fluid motion as if it were a choreographed dance. Tom’s ear is directly under Clayton’s mouth, allowing it to absorb the mumbled words, “She’s fightin’ with her boyfriend man. He’s down at another bar. Keep her mind off it real quick ok?” Immediately after, Clayton swings his arm off Tom, points towards the restroom and shouts, “I gotta piss!”

Tom is left gazing down at his beer like a dumbfounded moron. He lifted his head slightly before forcing himself to move a couple of steps closer toward her. Resting his arm on the back of Clayton’s barstool, Tom leans in to inspect the phone screen stealing her attention. He quickly leans back before making his unsuccessful attempt at buying her a second drink.

The woman chuckles, “I can’t. I have to get outta here. Besides, I’ve got an hour drive home.” Before Tom has a chance to say anything else Clayton has pushed his way between the two and reclaimed his seat at the bar.

“Would you stop texting him? Why’re you degrading yourself like that? Don’t give him that kind of control over you damnit.” Clayton yells as he places his hand between her eyes and the screen. She shoves his hand aside while exhaling an oversized breath of air.

“He hasn’t responded to me all day” she cried with sad desperation in her voice.

Tom shifted his feet enough to place him between the tiny red head and Clayton’s barstools while asking, “Why do ya’ need to talk to him? You’ve got us here now.” She looked up at his hazel eyes and extra large grin, leaving her no choice but to reciprocate with an even larger grin. She laughed slightly while averting her eyes from his face. She stared at her glass for a brief second as she swirled its contents.

The woman illuminated the time on her phone before explaining, “It’s almost twelve. Absolutely nothing good happens at a bar after midnight.” She averted her eyes from him yet again and lifted the beer to her mouth before leaning her head back and taking a swig. “Some of us happen to have a bit of self control, and know when it’s time to go home.” She explained coyly before resting it back on the bar.

“Hey. We can’t all be winners.” Clayton laughed as he orders another round of drinks.

“Trust me honey. Nobody’s ever accused you of being a winner.” The woman laughed this in Clayton’s direction before standing. Tom flexed his arm as she grabbed her hand around it in a guiding motion. Sliding past She glanced into Tom’s eyes one last time before softly expressing, “It was nice to meet you.” She quickly turned to Clayton’s direction before shouting, “Later dip shit. Try not to get too fucked up.”

Tom placed his hand over the warm spot on his arm where her hand was just moments ago as his eyes followed her ass out the door. Clayton grabbed his own shot in one hand before handing Tom the other. Once the shot glasses slam back down on top the bar, Tom Finally get’s his answer.

“Dude, that’s my sister Tess.” Clayton Laughs. “She’s a bartender over at Gwierdo’s.

image-Megan Groff