The word prompts over at 3WW are punch, T-shirt and unravel.
Punchy, punch-drunk, punched out.
He sits at the end of the wooden bar, in the darkest corner of the dive and well past the tarnished brass bars where a lone waitress orders drinks for the few tables scattered around a forlorn two-quarter-a-game pool table.
He sits in a haze of tobacco smoke like a mirage, his hair gone the sickly silver color of a oil slick on a black asphalt puddle. A few days stubble cover his cheeks, loose skin hangs with the weight of gravity, the weight of the world.
His overall features are hard to discern in the harsh upward light from the back-bar, the lights that advertise dusty bottles of Hot Shot Schnapps and other sweet and fancy liqueurs that no one here ever orders.
He lifts his head and in that instant his face takes on a demonic glow, light and shadow, like a child who holds a flashlight under his chin at midnight in a musty canvas pup tent in the backyard while telling chilling tales of hooks and campers and blood.
Smoke from the hand-rolled cigarette leaks from the corners of his mouth; the upturned face is a signal to the bartender that this soldier had died, and what the hell, there’s a $20 on the bar and let’s have a ‘nother longneck compliments of the suited benefactor at the café who paid cash for his Denver omelet and coffee – and made the mistake of going to the bathroom before the waitress picked up on it.
Hey, you snooze, you lose and it was already 7 a.m. and the shakes were getting bad, man. Seventy-five cents for the coffee, a $20 in the pocket – and the safety of this dimly-lit corner with his Drum, his papers and a fresh beer on a new, bright-white square of napkin.
His dirty Pogues concert T-shirt showed the remnants of his last café meal, a bowl of oatmeal loaded with sugar and doused with cream from the little silver service pitchers on every table within reach, along with the all-you-can eat soda crackers (as long as the waitresses weren’t looking) from the little wicker baskets on each table. His jeans held clues to the last real job he’s had, a day labor gig in the suburbs installing links of white PVC pipe into a lattice of sprinkler coordinates across a sun-drenched expanse filtered through mature palm trees.
Absent-minded fingers roll up another butt, a tongue lubricated with suds flickers from patched lips and seals the deal. A flick of a Bic and we’re in business. A smoke and a beer and no one to bother you deep in the warm corduroy of shadows.
The last swallow of this current beer rolls down his throat, his Adam’s apple toggles against the dirty-snow-white skin of his neck an in an instant he realizes how far his life has unraveled. A moment of clarity drunks call it, where you get see clearly that all the seams are busted and you’re the Scarecrow and you’re heart’s just not into finding the Emerald Palace anymore because the darkness of the corner seat in a dive bar with money, smokes and suds seems just about heaven.
But in this instant, it isn’t heaven, but a rotating reality of the shakes, the sour aftertaste of vomit and dirty gray-and-blue striped mattresses without box springs or sheets and cockroaches and the funk of too many days without bathing proper and yellowed nicotine stains on fingers.
“It’s time to clean up, my friend,” he whispers as the smoke leaks from his lips, which the bartender notices and puts another cool, brown sweaty soldier on a new square of napkin and walks away.
“Right after this one.”
3 hours ago