Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans: Possibilities

“So what’s her name?” The bartender leans over the counter and wipes the condensation ring left behind by Antonio’s last Heineken. His name tag reads: “Joe.”

“Who?” Antonio asks absently. He hangs his head over his plate of home chips, hot out of the grease. He’s waited close to an hour for them—Mother Goose’s has never been known for its fast food service. In that time, he’s typed seven multimedia-long text messages to Elise, and deleted them all, knowing her response will be the same three words: “Fuck. You. Nigga.”

Coming here was a mistake. He’s not even drunk, but he feels the dizzying effects of a hangover coming. He’s cursed Elise out seven different times, but can’t muster up enough liquid courage to hit send. He knows he’ll lose Ryder if he does. Funny how he can lose someone he’s barely even had. He’s already missed Ryder’s first steps, his first words—or more specifically, his first babbles that could be construed into words.

Elise has stolen it all for herself, claiming title of both mother and father. A false superheroine, making feign sacrifices for the sake of the child she keeps captive. Baby mamas—they all have this I-can-do-bad-all-by-myself complex, like they deserve a trophy, a Nobel prize, for raising their own fucking kids. It’s not like you were forced to do it alone, bitch, he mumbles to himself. He’s here—he’s always been here—but she’d rather play victim than accept him back in her life, even if that means her son, her black son, will have the black father he needs to raise him right—not bitter and angry and hating him like his mother does.

“Her.” Joe nods toward the booths by the pool tables, and Antonio looks over his shoulder to see that Renee has joined Tash’s one-woman pity party, which is less pity than party now. A plate piled high with at least twenty hot wings sits between them. Tash goes in on—from the looks of the stripped clean bones stacked on the napkin by her elbow—her seventh one. Her shot glass has been replaced with a glass of water—probably took some convincing from Renee, everyone’s human conscience.

Tash doesn’t seem as depressed as she had when Antonio called Mitchell. Maybe she was only waiting for Renee. Mitchell could be on his way to crash a possible bachelorette party about to begin—Rita not far behind, coming to to light shit up with some trees. A party wasn’t live until Rita’s thug ass arrived.

“You’ve been watching her since you got here. Both of y’all looking at your phones, throwing back drinks. It’s pretty obvious,” Joe continues.

Antonio shakes his head—wrong girl. “That’s my friend’s fiancé.”

Joe shrugs and turns to the tap on the back wall, places a glass underneath. “She doesn’t look too thrilled to be getting married,” he yells over the television in front of him. “I say you still have a shot.” He hands the curved glass, cold brew foaming at the top, to a waitress who sits an orange slice on the rim and takes it to a table under a flat screen showing the Warriors game.

Antonio looks back toward Renee and Natasha’s table. Bartenders seem to have a sixth sense about reading people. They can tell a person’s fears, weaknesses, who they’re pining over as they take another shot. They can tell a person everything they’ve ever done from their choice of booze alone. Antonio bets, in this day, even Jesus could be a bartender. He did turn water to wine.

But the keep’s surely got this one wrong. Antonio will admit that maybe he had a thing for her back in college—she was definitely a sexy drunk—but Tash’s always been crazy about Mitchell. And if there’s anyone Mitchell could love more than Jesus Christ Himself—though Mitchell would flat deny this to ever be true—it would be Natasha. What could the bartender possibly have seen that would make him think she’d even be interested?

He thinks back to his phone call with Mitchell, how Mitchell sounded like he’d just finished a sprint when he finally answered the phone, nearly out of breath, yelling Natasha’s name like a sudden gust of wind. Still, Tash looks fine now. Maybe it was just a little lovers’ spat—cold feet before the wedding.

Joe approaches the counter, wiping his hands on the apron tied at his waist. “When’s the big day?” he asks.

“Christmas.”

“Damn,” he says, and Antonio looks at him, trying to decipher from his eyes if that comment was surprise at a holiday wedding, or an apology to him for it being so soon.

“Look man,” Joe says, “I’m not here to break up any friendships or ruin any marriages. And I know all too well what it’s like to get dumped on Christmas Eve. That ‘Last Christmas, I gave you my heart . . .’ song still gets to me this time of year.”

“Hmmm,” Antonio grunts.

“But chick is hot.” he shakes his head. “If I were you—”

A hand suddenly slams down on Antonio’s shoulder, and he jerks back. Mitchell stares at him, his coat askew—buttons fastened in the wrong holes—his eyes red, either from crying or lack of sleep. He runs his hand over the tiny balls of naps in his hair that he hasn’t brushed, then quickly shoves his hands in his pockets, as if a mental mirror has just appeared and he sees how awful he looks.

“Hey bruh, you ok?” Antonio asks shakily. He turns to Joe and discretely shifts his eyes toward Renee and Natasha’s table. Joe nods and offers a draft list to Mitchell.

He waves it off. “I don’t drink.” Then to Antonio, “Where is she?”

Antonio spins around in the stool to face the booth by the door, where Renee and Natasha are already watching, frozen in mid-feast of hot wings. Mitchell storms over.

“Mitchell, wait!” Antonio calls after him. He wrestles his wallet out of his back pocket, puts two twenties down on the counter, and slides them across to the bartender. “Uh, just keep the change.”

“Thanks, man. Aye, remember what I said.” He points to Natasha.

“You got it wrong, bruh,” Antonio says as he follows Mitchell to the booth, and then again, quietly to himself, “You got it wrong.”

—Nortina


Part of Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

——
Previous: Sober Reluctance
Next: Party Crashers

Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans: Driving Down Memory Lane

Renee hasn’t been to Mother Goose’s Pub & Hot Wings since college, back when it was the “spot” off campus. Students would come to have a beer, watch a good game on the ten plus flat screens lining the walls, sober up on wings and home chips after a night of partying, play a little pool and try not to get too competitive—although, Renee recalls Bryan once splitting a cue stick over his knee after Natasha beat him fair and square.

Renee, Natasha, Rita, and the guys would meet up at the quad outside their dorms every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night to walk the quarter mile up South Tatum Street to Mother Goose’s. The men always accompanied. There was a section of South Tatum, just before the restaurants and bars started, where none of the street lights worked. The trees hung low over the road, but there was never any wind, so the leaves never ruffled. A quarter-mile strip of total silence, total stillness, total darkness, like an inter-dimensional vacuum.

All of the city’s outcasts and homeless found sanctuary there. Most of them were harmless, but sometimes there’d be clowns who chased kids with toy axes. Dirty old men who groped half-dressed coeds in high heels. And hookers—both men and women.

Renee heard a few whispers of rape on South Tatum during her Sophomore year, but nothing was ever officially released by the University, just recommendations for girls to travel in packs and carry pepper spray. South Tatum was at its worst during Halloween; those nights, Renee would insist they find someone with a car.

Come to think of it, that was how Natasha and Mitchell met. She’d flagged him down, in the middle of the road, and hitched a ride to the bar.

And now they’re getting married. Renee smiles to herself. She loves weddings. She and Bryan never had a real wedding of their own. One in a church, with bridesmaids and groomsmen, a flower girl and ring bearer, friends and family filling the pews, her father giving her away, her childhood pastor uniting them in holy matrimony.

Renee had just turned eighteen when she and Bryan eloped the day of their high school graduation. There was no star-crossed romance to it. They wed so they could have sex—Renee too afraid of her hellfire and brimstone mother to go all the way before becoming a wife.

Well, her mother wasn’t that bad. She wasn’t like those crazy Christian moms she sees on TV, who slap their daughters in the face with the Bible for saying a “bad” word, or wearing a skirt that doesn’t go past the knees. There was only one sin her mother wouldn’t tolerate under her roof: Sex before marriage. It was cheating on God. Looking back, Renee imagines any sin would technically be cheating on God, but there was something about the way her mother said it. The idea of her having sex with a fickle boyfriend who would dump her for the girl with the bigger boobs in the next class the following day juxtaposed with her body being a temple only for God—it terrified her enough to keep her legs closed, even in her horny, rebellious teenage years, at least until the night she and Bryan said, “I do.”

Renee turns onto South Tatum, and her white Sienna is engulfed in darkness. She can’t even see her hood, and Bryan just washed it yesterday. She considers making a U-turn and going the long way to Mother Goose’s, but the stop light is just ahead, and she can see the lit snowflakes hanging from the street lamps just beyond it. It’s Christmas, she reminds herself. What is there to fear on Christmas? All the decorations, the lights, the sonorous Christmas carols.

But before she can reach the intersection, she has to slam hard on her breaks, lunging herself forward into the steering wheel. There’s a man crossing the street, weaving between the neon pedestrian markers that separate the lanes, most likely drunk. He’s naked but for several cut-out white pillows that he wears stacked, one on top of the other, like a tubed wedding dress. She thinks he might be trying to look like the Michelin man. Then he turns his head, and she sees the carrot.

“Jesus! Frosty?”

When the man finally passes, she steps on it, running the yellow light as it turns red. Her phone, sitting in the cup holder by her thigh, lights up and vibrates against the seat. Thinking it’s Natasha calling, she picks up ready to bless her out. Nostalgia her butt, Applebee’s would’ve worked just fine.

But it isn’t Tash.

“I hate you so much.”

“Hey, Rita. How’s your fast going?”

“Like hell.”

“It should be the opposite.” Renee laughs at her own joke. “What are you doing?”

“Smokin’.”

“Rita!” Renee turns into Mother Goose’s parking lot, located behind the bar. Surprisingly, she finds an open spot directly in front of her, right at the end of a packed row. She eases into it, puts the car in park, and in her sternest “mama’s” voice, says, “Do I need to come over there?”

“Relax, it’s not weed. Just a cigarette.”

“You shouldn’t be smoking at all. And I thought you didn’t smoke cigarettes.”

“I don’t—” Rita breaks into a series of rattling coughs that echo into the phone. Renee holds the phone out away from her ear until the coughing dies down.

“What am I supposed to do with myself?” Rita asks, her voice hoarse.

“Think, sweetie. What goes hand-in-hand with fasting?”

“Torture.”

“Prayer.”

“Ugh! I’d rather drink. Where are you?”

“At Mother Goose’s.”

“Great, I’ll meet you.”

Renee can hear Rita moving around, throwing shoes into her closet, sliding a shirt over her head—the sounds briefly becoming muffled.

“No,” she says sharply, like she’s talking to her twin toddlers who think it’s a good idea to eat crayons and spread chocolate syrup all over the walls. “I’m meeting with Tash, and you have an appointment with Jesus tonight.”

“Ugh!”

“I love you!” Renee hangs up the phone and collects her keys and purse. She steps out into the cool air, walks toward the ramp on the side of the building and is almost bulldozed by a skinny Santa and two scantily clad overweight elves.

Really, Tash,” she mumbles to herself. “Here, of all freakin’ places!” She bundles up, raises her shoulders to her ears, bares the cold wind, and speedily marches to the front entrance.

—Nortina


Part of Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans
——
Previous: Distractions
Next: Seeking Righteousness

Thursday Night

“Tequila ain’t a drug,” he says. He tilts my head back, pours the shot down my throat.

I cough. “It tastes horrible!”

“The best do.” He whisks me onto the crowded dance floor, where the people barely dance. Women rhythmically arch their backs while men rub their crotches against anything female until the front of their pants become too tight.

I spot two couples stumbling toward the women’s bathroom. Nobody cares which is the boy and girl. I have the sudden urge to dunk my head in the toilet, but I keep grinding. I don’t want him to follow me.

word count: 100

—Nortina


moral_mondays_logoJoin Moral Mondays, a new weekly challenge to write a 100-word fable or story based on the moral/lesson provided in the prompt. This week’s moral: say no to drugs.

The 13th Couple

“U.S. Marshalls gunned down the poet turned America’s most wanted in this very bar.” The tour guide knocked on the wood of the pool table. “Some say his ghost still lingers.”

GG squeezed Rick’s hand. He wrapped his arm around her waist, pulled her closer, kissed her right temple. “There’s no such thing as ghosts,” he whispered.

“Why were they chasing him?” one of the tourists asked.

“Kidnapping and rape,” the tour guide answered. “She was only thirteen.”

“I heard he married her.” Rick lifted GG’s chin, winked at her.

“That’s disgusting,” a woman standing behind him spat out.

“Edgar Allen Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin. Was madly in love with her.” Rick bent down, kissed the top of GG’s ear. She purred under his touch, turned her head to the side, extending her neck.

“Poe was a creep too,” the woman muttered.

Rick dug his nails into GG’s hip, leaving pale crescent moons in her skin.

GG squeaked.

“Apologies.” He took her hand, guided her to the back of the bar where they disappeared.

word count: 175

—Nortina


photo-20160111132111179Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a weekly challenge where you write a story in 75-175 using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

Spilt Alcohol

Three people walked into a bar. They used to be friends. What happened next nobody will ever understand. Let’s just say that a fourth person was involved. Fact is that nothing will ever be the same again.

Bar-hopping with his fiancé and her best friend was not how Ryan had planned to spend his Saturday night, especially when the game was on. He needed his boy Steph to pull through with the win. He was sick of LeBron and his self-entitlement. History still hasn’t taught him that he can’t win a championship by himself.

Ryan dropped a crumpled five into the tip jar as the bartender slid him a Yuengling. Next to him, Adrianna and Heather shared a stool and shouted at each other over the heavy metal rock music and the people surrounding the bar. Ryan chose to ignore them. Petty female shit, he thought to himself, best to stay out of it. He turned up the bottle, finishing the rest of his beer and holding back a burp.

“Babe, isn’t that your friend Johnny over there playing pool?” Adrianna asked tapping his shoulder.

He shrugged.

“You didn’t even look,” she whined in that high-pitched, dog-whistle voice that he would have to get used to if he was going to go through with this marriage.

He looked over his shoulder to the right of the bar. Leaning on a pool stick with his arm around the waist of a blonde with a thick ass was his boy Johnny in a black and red plaid lumberjack shirt and a Bulls snapback hat.

“Yea, that’s him,” he answered flatly.

“Who’s the bitch with him?” Heather asked.

“I dunno.” He caught the bartender’s eye and held up his empty bottle.

“Gotcha,” the bartender said.

“Heather’s dating Johnny,” Adrianna said.

Ryan raised an eyebrow. “Since when?”

“New Years!” they both said.

Ryan stared at them. No way they believed Johnny was the type to have a girlfriend, more less, mess around with the same chick for five months. Johnny was the one who had told him that proposing to Adrianna was suicide. “She’s a cute girl and all, but she’s too needy,” he’d said. “You’ll get punished every time you leave the house.” He had to admit that Johnny wasn’t exaggerating. They’d only been engaged a few months, and that space he’d cherished so much while they were dating closed almost immediately after he’d popped the question. Adrianna felt the need to invite herself to every place he went. Poker night, game day, the bar, even grocery shopping became a couple’s outing. Living together wasn’t enough. They had to be attached at the hip, forever live up to their “Best Couple” title in their high school yearbook.

“Look, me and Johnny talk almost every day, and he’s never mentioned you.” Ryan said.

“When do you talk to him?” Adrianna asked, cocking her head to the side as if jealous of Ryan spending his time with someone other than her.

“He’s fucking kissing her now!” Heather shrieked as Johnny and the blonde swapped spit, wrestling tongues. His hand slid down the small of her back and cupped her ass.

Ryan turned back to the game on the screen, taking a second Yuengling from the bartender and nodding his head in a silent thank you.

“Can you do something?” Adrianna whined.

“I’m watching the game.”

“Heather’s my friend!”

“OK, Johnny’s mine, and I know him better than you think you do.”

“So you would continue being friends with a guy you know cheats on his girlfriend?” Heather asked.

Ryan nearly choked from laughing. “I don’t know what he said to you to make you think you were his girlfriend. It was obviously some played-out line to get in your pants.”

Tears swelling in her eyes, Heather jumped off the bar stool, covering her face, and ran for the door, nearly colliding with a server carrying a plate of 50 hot wings.

“Ryan!” Adrianna shouted.

“What? That’s Johnny!”

“Then you sleep on his couch tonight!”

She stormed off after her friend, but not before taking a shot glass of vodka that one of the pool players had sat on the edge of the pool table and throwing the drink onto the blonde’s exposed back. She shattered the glass on the hardwood floor and fled through the door before security even realized there was a commotion.

Ryan returned his attention to the game. One minute left. He’d missed almost the entire fourth quarter.

“So you’re riding home with your ‘cheating’ homeboy.” The bartender leaned over the bar and gave him an obnoxious wink.

“Nah, you see that ass on her? He ain’t giving that up for me.” Ryan said, downing the rest of his drink.

“Looks like I’m calling you a cab then.”

Ryan nodded and motioned for another beer.

—Nortina


This is in response to Finish It! #17 hosted by Author S B Mazing. It’s also inspired by the Daily Post prompt, Fill In The Blank

black-and-white-alcohol-bar-drinks-large