The bar is half full when I yell last call. Credit cards and cash appear and I start the close-a-tab shuffle.

“Did I pay you?” Jesse asks.

“For the seventh time, yes.”

Del, gimme a hug!” says Erin.

“I already did.”

“Can I still use the bathroom,” asks Jeff peering in the doorway with a cigarette in hand.

“Make it quick.”

“I gotta go too,” says another following close behind Jeff, followed by another four dudes.

“Guys, I already did last call.”

“Just one!”

Two more smokers come back in the bar.

“You still serving?”

“No, time to go home.”

“I gotta use the bathroom,” one of them pleads.

Three more people walk in behind them.

“Shots!” The group demands, showering the bar with crumpled dollar bills and bags of cocaine.

“This is it. And please, put that away.”

“Jesse is passed out in the bathroom!” Someone yells.

I book it under the pass and bang on the bathroom door.

“Jesse, you in there?”

I jimmy the door with a credit card and find Jesse passed out under the sink.

“Someone help me out here!”

“Only for a free shots!”

I slide Jesse out and hoist him into a booth. I turn to see six more people walking in and Erin behind the bar serving beers.

“What are you doing?”

“Del, gimme a hug.”

“Hey what’s going on here?”

It’s a cop, followed by his two partners.

“You can’t serve this late.”

“Trying to close, Officer.”

The three cops take off their caps and sit down at the bar.

“Well, how about three 7&7s, then?”

I serve until the sun comes up. Morning commuters pass by on the street, looking in with horror and envy. 12 construction workers come in and order 14 Coronas. ER nurses in OR scrubs file into a booth and order double Bloodies. A box of two dozen bagels appears on the bar with tubs of cream cheese. Good Morning America is on. The day time crowd then shuffles in for Happy Hour. Nine hours after last call I bum a cigarette, stuff my pockets with tips and an old bagel, slide out the back door with the place still full and go home. I wake up that night to text messages and missed calls, selfies and videos. Jesse texts there’s no more Jack Daniels. Erin says come back and give her hug. The nurses are doing body shots. Jeff wonders if I can pick up limes.

The party is still going on from what I last heard. It’s been weeks now. I’ve since changed my number. It’s the end of the road for me. You can go elsewhere, but you can’t stay there forever. Or maybe you can.

8 Comments

  1. Bud Smith

    Haha. This was amazing. It had me smiling big. It was about real life and i know this has happened to you many times but it also had a double poignance to it that reminded me of a parable like done in that film Mother. You ever see that? It’s about a hose that is out of control and people who cannot be stopped and cannot be ejected. So good. By the time the police show up here I was like, ah fuck here’s the turn, but you zigged when I thought you would zag and the cops get served and the sun comes up and its ER nurses and everyone else. My god. Great work. I just thought the final few sentences could be cut: “The party is still going on from what I last heard. It’s been weeks now. I’ve since changed my number. It’s the end of the road for me. You can go elsewhere, but you can’t stay there forever. Or maybe you can.” Great work here!

  2. Benjamin Niespodziany

    The speedy beginning dialogue is hilarious and love how it progresses into further absurdism and stretches of time, going from a few minutes to a few weeks. Really well done. One of my favorites I’ve read this weekend. Makes me miss bars!

  3. Jack O'Connell

    I liked the whirling confusing dialogue at the beginning, it made me think of Robert Altman movies, not quite hearing everything or who is saying it. And I got a real cozy feeling that everyone just kept going there as it moved slightly into the absurd. It had a great sort of traffic jam feeling.

  4. Ben Saff

    Really well done! I agree with Bud. The last lines felt like trying to tidy up the honest and chaotic traffic jam of a story that this is. But other than that, I’ve nothing to contribute. Some of the best drunk dialogue I’ve read as well. Would like to read more bar stories like this.

  5. Kara Vernor

    This is so dead on and relatable. It had a sort of “Hotel California” vibe but I liked it a thousand times more than that song. I love that the premise keeps upping and upping through the whole piece all the way to the end where the party is coming at him through his phone. I agree that you could drop the last paragraph, but otherwise I think this is there.

  6. Jesse Wilson

    HA HA HA. I felt like I was there.
    “Nine hours after last call I bum a cigarette, stuff my pockets with tips and an old bagel, slide out the back door with the place still full and go home. I wake up that night to text messages and missed calls, selfies and videos. Jesse texts there’s no more Jack Daniels. Erin says come back and give her hug. The nurses are doing body shots. Jeff wonders if I can pick up limes.
    The party is still going on from what I last heard. It’s been weeks now. I’ve since changed my number. It’s the end of the road for me. You can go elsewhere, but you can’t stay there forever. Or maybe you can.”
    Maybe THAT’s the whole thing. But I’m just brainstorming.

  7. Bill Merklee

    Tremendously fun read! I love how it just keeps escalating, like that famous Marx Brothers stateroom scene. Love Erin always asking for a hug. Reading this was such welcome relief — I can imagine this scene playing out when we’re done with all the pandemic lockdowns, people just piling into their favorite watering holes and never ever wanting to leave. Agree with others on changing up the ending.

  8. Rachel Pollon Williams

    So fun. Ahh, a moment in time we all kind of miss to varying degrees. I picture someone like Sam Elliot in The Big Lebowski thinking back as his time as a bartender.

    Just spitballing, and totally not necessary but a thought – realize Jesse is sort of let go of – I was worried about him! But I guess he slept it off in the booth. Is there some ending with the bartender taking Jesse home?

    Thanks for the smiles!

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