A Property of the Universe

A barkeep lays some wisdom on a whiny soul.

“... fair.”

I wasn’t paying attention, so I didn’t catch the beginning of whatever the guy had said. Also because he said it while his upper body was slumped over the counter with his face buried into the fold of his arm, the end of which held a shot of whisky. He raised his head at the end of the sentence and punctuated it by drinking the shot.

“Two years. Two years. You know what you could learn in two years? Tons. I spent them learning about the plight of the Hadahudululi tribe. Ever heard of them? Of course not. But it’s more likely that you’ve heard of them than of the film I made about them.”

He wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular, probably expecting someone to take an interest, at which point he’d direct his attention to them. But since the patrons who weren’t ignoring him were moving away from him, he picked someone to tell the whole sad tale to.

“Do you go on YouTube a lot?” he asked me.

I pretended not to realize he was talking to me.

“Hey. Barkeep. Do you go on YouTube a lot?”

I shook my head no without looking at him.

“But you do know YouTube?”

I shook my head no again. He wasn’t drunk enough to believe it.

“Don’t be ridiculous. Everyone knows YouTube. Everyone knows it’s full of cat videos and stupid comments. What everybody doesn’t know is that it’s full of gems nobody watches. My film is there. Been there for three months. It’s got six hundred views. Sounds like a lot? It isn’t. Two spam comments and three ‘likes’. One is by my mother.”

He stared at the bottom of his glass as if he could see a miniature of himself in there, trying to climb the wet seamless walls.

“Meanwhile the most viewed clip, in the same week I uploaded mine, was of a guy who got two balls on strings, each string pierced to each nipple. He’d move his pecs and get the balls to dangle around and bounce on each other. He’s a Hollywood actor now.” His hands started to shake. “I don’t get it. I worked so hard. Two years. And all I get are six hundred views. Two comments, one saying my video is sponsored by Apple and the other linking me to a penis enlargement website. Which gave me a virus that killed my computer.”

I had to ask. “You clicked the link?

“YES I CLICKED THE LINK,” he spluttered. “AND I BELIEVED APPLE LIKED MY MOVIE TOO.” He broke down crying. “I was upseeeeeet --”

The guy kept sobbing and didn’t seem like he had it in him to say anything else. But of course he did.

“I don’t huh get it uhuh huh I worked so huh hard huh huh huh I deserved better huh huh --”

He buried his head in his arms again. Sighing, I came up to him as I cleaned a glass.

“Dude, I’ve a degree in Physics.”

The guy stopped sobbing. I calmly waited for it to sink the rest of the way in. Then he raised his head to look at me.


“Yeah, me. The barkeep. And I didn’t memorize Planck’s constant so I could make you drinks while listening to your problems, yet that’s where I ended up. Here’s a handy property of the universe for you to learn: it doesn’t owe you anything.” I filled his glass again. “On the house, if you shut up.”

The guy looked frozen for a bit, then nodded resignedly and drank the shot.

Two more shots later, he was drooling onto the counter, eyes half-lidded and unfocused.

“It... just ain’t...”

And he fell asleep.

The End

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