“You’re a dead man.”
Charlie glanced up from his near-empty drink at this proclamation, mildly curious. Toward the front of the room a thin, leathery woman cackled and dance-walked away from the bar and the man behind it who had misgendered her with his threat. The shimmying woman formed a skeletal smile with half less teeth than ought to have been there. She threw up double middle fingers and left the bar backward, using her bony ass to open the door as she left. The momentary intake of night air did little to improve the odor in the establishment.
Charlie turned back to his drink, wondering why BDB was always saying people were a dead man. He’d never actually seen a dead man here. Except for that one time Shithead Steve drank himself to death. But that was a slow process and Charlie only saw him for a few minutes when he was actually dead. BDB didn’t say it then, when it would have been appropriate.
He slumped, his forearms resting on the wooden bar that had been carved and mutilated by thousands of knives, forks, glass shards, and metal pieces over the years. Names and insults and forgotten jokes now served to soak up spilled beer and vomit. Charlie’s left arm covered the “s is hel” in “This is hell,” while his right rested on a punchline: “And that was the easy way!” He had searched for the setup on many a drunken night, but it was buried or erased by other names, shitty jokes, or random symbols that meant something to people long since dead. Sometimes he thought that there never really was any setup at all. Just a punchline that begged for a beginning. He knew the feeling.
Charlie leaned back, the rusty metal legs of the barstool creaking softly, and looked around the bar— his bar, as he thought of it often. The red neon lighting seemed dimmer than normal tonight. A couple of rough-looking characters played a game of pool way off to Charlie’s left, under a green-glass light that hung from the ceiling on chains. The sole pool table in the joint was about as lopsided as that crappy tower in Rome, or Italy, or wherever. Such things didn’t really matter, especially not now. Such things as Italy were beyond his realm of worries or concerns, if they were ever even there to begin with.
Charlie turned the other way, looking toward the front door, and saw a couple of geezers shivering at a dark table in the corner, their eyes darting around the near-deserted bar, a dozen beer bottles standing like sentinels before them. Charlie wondered where Buck was and reached for his phone to check the time. His friend was two hours late. He’d never known Buck to be more than an hour late. He glanced at the door again, willing his pal to show up. It was a dangerous world out there. Yes, it was.
The bartender, a guy named Big Dick Bill, hovered around his cash register, next to which, Charlie knew, he kept a locked and loaded shotgun. Big Dick Bill was a slab made out of pure shit. The hard kind of shit that junkies get when they’re constipated. The shit that feels like a brick coming out, and is liable to crack a toilet if your sphincter is powerful enough. At least, that’s how Big Dick Bill liked to describe himself.
Anyway, that slab of shit was named Big Dick Bill because— you guessed it— he had a bulge in his pants the size of a cat-scaring cucumber. Charlie didn’t know if Bill’s dick was really that big, or if he stuffed his pants. Neither would’ve surprised him, but he spent an unnatural amount of time wondering about it.
Bill wasn’t a bad guy, but he’d fuck you up if you messed with him. Yes, he would. Charlie called him over and ordered another beer and a shot of the good whiskey— he knew the price. Cash only, of course. Charlie took his wallet out and slapped down two hundred-dollar bills, covering the words “shit heel” carved into the bar. Just then the front door opened, and in walked Buck.
Charlie let out a little sigh. Then he noticed a strange look on Buck’s face as his friend took a seat next to him at the bar, but strange looks were the norm as of late. Bill came over and nodded to Buck, who ordered his usual in a distracted manner. As soon as Bill left to fix his drinks, Buck turned to Charlie and said, “Holy shit, dude. I think I’m dead.”
Charlie was drunk. “Yeah, I feel you, brother,” he said. “We all feel that way these days.”
“No, you don’t get it,” Buck replied. “I was in the outskirts and… And I was fucking killed. I’m dead, man. I’m fucking dead.” As Buck said this, he looked down at the bar and read the same words he’d read there a thousand times before. “Fuck You,” the bar said up at him. And for the first time in his death, Buck felt really and truly fucked.