Strangers in a Bar

Like in a bad joke, three guys walk into a bar.  All three were wearing dark suits, white shirts, dark ties, like Mormons from hell… alright that’s redundant.  The point is, these guys would blend in in any downtown setting in any major city in modern day U.S.A.  But this is not a bar in a downtown in some big city.  This is a bar in bumf**k New Mexico, lost in time somewhere in the middle of a barren desert.  Actually, the bar is kind of the town, it might be the only permanent structure for a couple hundred miles.  This is the sort of “town” where people live in trailers, and occasionally take pot shots at the census man if tries to come around.  Needless to say, these guys stand out like a cold sore at a kissing booth.  Even if their wardrobe didn’t set them apart, the fact that they were the first strangers to come into this particular dive bar in over a decade did.

            This place, Jeffe’s, or Jose’s, or some other such ethnically named mistake, was almost empty.  Still, this was probably as crowded as this place had ever been.  There was a couple at the bar, with maybe four teeth between them, and they were apparently spending their weekly welfare checks on warm domestic beer.  The bartender didn’t even glance up from the crossword he’d been working on since the 60’s when these guys walked in.  His disinterest in the strangers may seem odd, you’d probably think he would pay attention, but not here.  This is the sort of bar where people go out of their way to ignore you.  This is more a place to be forgotten.

            A third patron lingered in a dark corner booth tucked in the back.  Trying to hide in a place like this really says something.  Even though the strangers came looking for this guy, they nearly missed him.  He knew they were there though, he knew they were there before they came through the door. 

            One of the well dressed strangers walks to the bar to order a beer, a decision he will regret soon enough.  The other two pass by the bar without even acknowledging the existence of anyone but the man in the booth.  They approach his seclusion with caution, like they were walking up to a feeding lion in the wild.  A stranger sits on either side of the man, without being invited to do so.  The taller stranger speaks first,

“We’ve been looking for you for awhile Tom.  Cliché or not, you’re a hard man to find.”

“Apparently I did a sh*t job of disappearing, the people I was trying to get away from are the only ones who found me,” the man known as Tom slyly retorts.

“Why would you be trying to hide from us, we’re all friends, right?” asks the shorter suited man.

“I don’t  need to hide from you, Dave, I just wanted to get away from the sh*t we pulled back in Florida.”

“The problem with hiding from the past is that it always catches up with you,” Dave posits in a lame attempt to sound profound.

“I suppose that’s why you boys are here, something the matter?”

“Yeah, this bartender’s been bottling warm urine from the bathrooms and calling it beer,” says the approaching third stranger.  The nauseous look on his face said that he really believed what he was saying.  As he sits, he tells the shorter man, now known as Harry, to scoot over.

“Well, John, you can deal with that problem real easy, just put down the beer, turn around, and go find a good beer, preferably someplace further away than Texas,” Tom says without even trying to mask his discontent over the appearance of these three men from his past.

“We didn’t come all this way just for the beer, we want to talk to you about a little job we got planned. Get the band back together, that kinda sh*t.”

“Last time was the last time man.  Besides, you forget what happened last time we all got together and went on tour?  I don’t think we really need an encore,” Tom might be taking this band analogy a little too far. “why the f**k would I want to work with you bunch of teenagers again?”

“It’s not like we’re kids, ya prick.” Dave fires back, apparently being deeply offended by the ageism. 

“I’m old enough to be your father, ya little punk.  Hell, I might be, got a picture of your mother? One from the back’ll work best.”  To say that this comment made Dave tense would be somewhat of an understatement.  Before he can even try to draw down on the old man, John grabs his arm, and with a meaningful look puts Dave at ease.

“Look T, why don’t you let me tell you what we have planned, if you don’t like the setup, we all go away.  We’ll leave you to die in this sh*thole and find someone younger to take your place.”

“Don’t tell me anything boys, just get out.  Leave me to drink stale beer till my liver explodes, and I can die alone like I always wanted.”

“I think you should at least hear him out, man,” Harry says with a hint of cautionary concern that arouses something in Tom.  He knows these guys are cold-blooded killers, serious guys, so when he hears Harry sound concerned… well he knows something’s up.  A cautionary tone just isn’t enough to change his mind though.

“Not interested, fellas, have a good trip to wherever the f*ck you’re going.”

“I really wanted to be polite T.  You could have just listened, made it easy, but you’re being rude.  That means I gotta be rude too.” John’s view of polite society was always skewed a little to the dark and violent side, so his threat of being rude fully piqued T’s intentions.  Tom started moving his right hand to the Glock 19 tucked in his waistband.

“What, you gonna try to cap me for staying retired Johnny?” At this point Tom is just distracting the men at the table so they don’t notice him pulling his piece.

“Just stop reaching for it man, we’re not going to kill you, but you did just put your daughter’s life up for grabs.”

The End

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