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Brian the Writer

The Blob

Brian McCorkle

Stuck in a bar. Whose dream is that?

There I was, sitting at one end of Mr. Luckys’ horseshoe shaped bar, sucking down the last of a too-small seven-ouncer. Before me was the big question; whether to buy a pitcher or super mug. Figuring out of the cost per ounce was just plain draining.

Jackie and her daughter Patty sat directly across the bar from me. Patty was busy counting ones, fives, and tens. When she finished a count, she announced the amount and purpose to Jackie. “Three hundred. Rent. Forty dollars. Sears.” Jackie would write on an envelope, put the money inside, and place the envelope on the stack.

James roosted near the door, at the curve of the bar, watching the process intently. He picked up the pad of paper and pen that he kept handy. Jackie suddenly stared unwaveringly at James.

“What you looking at. This ain’t none of your business.”

“I told you already. I’m going to be an author. I observe life and write down what I see.”

“Bullshit,” Patty exploded. “You’ve been in here for at least as long as us. I never saw you write anything down. You just want to be nosy. Well look.” She waved a sheaf of bills. “See.” Patty turned to Jackie. “Thirty-two dollars. Telephone. Who made all those calls?”

James put the paper and pen down, looking hurt. “Just wait. You’ll see.” He ran his hand through his oily brown hair; then took a swig of beer.

Alvin perched midway between Patty and James. A sketch book with charcoal stick on top, sat near his glass. He took a sip of beer and quietly pulled his book closer to his body. Alvin seldom spoke. Every day he came in, set his sketchbook down and poised the charcoal over it for a moment, waiting to get served. Then he placed the stick carefully across the book. James got the idea for the notepad from him.

Alice was enthroned two stools away from me. Since we all know she is a slut, I won’t sit near her. I’m just not that hard up.

The day aged in late afternoon sun. Our bar would gradually fill with the coming of darkness. Then camaraderie, except for the occasional fight or two, would reign. Mr. Luckys was always a great place to be.

The Gimp was owner and the bartender. Sometimes we could get him drunk so he would give us drinks on the house. He was a cagey one though. “I know what you’re trying to do. It won’t work.”

He got his name after taking a beating from the town sheriff. Seems that one night, while the sheriff was drinking here, Gimp made fun of him. The lawman hid in the darkness after closing to teach Gimp a lesson. The five-foot eleven, two-hundred-fifty-pound sheriff did a good job. The five-foot four-inch, one-hundred-thirty pounds of Gimp didn’t have much of a chance. His left leg was too shattered to heal properly. The Sheriff’s Department issued a statement to the effect that Gimp asked for the beating.

So there we were; a happy group, doing what we do, and doing it well.

That’s when the tragedy struck. The door opened. Sunlight blinded me. There was only a dark blob wavering in the doorway. In unison, all eyes turned toward the brightness. The blob stiffened.

Jackie shouted, “Close the damned door. I can’t see!”

Patty added, “Were you born in a barn?”

Seconds passed. The blob fell forward. The door closed part way and bounced a few times. We stared at the door and then looked from one to another.

Jackie and Patty looked at each other and then at the rest of us. Patty stood on the bottom rungs of her stool and tried to peer over the end of the bar. James stared down with a quizzical look on his face.

The Gimp looked toward the partially closed door and toweled a glass with his mouth part-way open. He slowly walked to the curve of the bar, pulled himself up a little and peeked over at the blob. “What happened?” He looked at James.

“I don’t know. It just fell.”

“What should we do?” asked the Gimp.

“Don’t look at me.” James stared downward. “How should I know what to do?”

“Maybe you should try to get it, um, that person up.”

James continued staring downward. “That could be a woman for all you know. I’d be arrested and sent to jail for touching it if it was a woman.”

Gimp turned to the mother and daughter. “How’s about you two helping?”

Patty said, “You gotta be kidding. If it’s a man, it’ll try to cop a feel. Or I might make it get excited.”

“Besides. Our reputations will go to hell if we turn a man over,” Jackie added.

Alice snorted. We all looked at her.

“You turn it over,” Jackie demanded.

“I don’t want nothing to do with that.” Alice pushed both of her palms into the empty space in front of her. She picked up an unopened pack of cigarettes and tamped each end on the bar for a series of seven taps each. She opened it, took a smoke, and set the pack next to a half-empty pack. “Huh, I forgot I had that,” she said staring at the packs.

I pulled a cigarette from my pack and lighted up. Alice turned and blew a smoke ring toward the propped open door. She turned and flashed a smile toward me. I quickly looked into my big mug.

As twilight passed, a few regulars showed up and poked heads through the partially open door glancing down at the blob. “What’s going on?”

Jackie, James, or the Gimp took turns: “It just fell over.”

“Did you call an ambulance?” Marcy, a pretty blond, asked.

“No, I don’t want to have to pay for this,” Gimp said. “I’m broke enough already.”

Marcy knitted her brow. “I hope things get better for you. Well, I guess I’ll go over to the Jeweled Alcove."

Marcy was usually a nice person, but she could turn mean and nasty. Once she cold-cocked James as he was sat on the stool next to her. She stood abruptly and punched him right in the temple. He lay on the floor for a half hour. None of us regulars sit next to her anymore.

Marcy waved, “Hi James. Want to come over to the Jeweled Alcove?”

“No way, I like my head.”

Marcy looked confused. She shrugged and left.

Jackie asked for the shake of the day. She lost her dollar. The Gimp made the rounds to ask each person if they wanted the shake. Alice asked how much the pot was. “No, if I win, I’ll pay more than that for a round of drinks. Wait till it fills up.”

I started counting my change as Gimp turned toward me.

“That’s right. You never play. But, you take the round from the winner, don’t you?” Gimp put on one of his disgust faces as he put the dice cup under the bar and the money into the shake jar.

He sauntered to the bow of the bar. He looked down toward the blob shaking his head. “Isn’t anyone going to do anything?”

Patty said, “It’s your bar. You do something.” She laughed. “If we can’t get out at closing time, I’d guess you’ll have to just keep serving us.”

“In your dreams. You know the fine for after hours. That asshole sheriff would just love to get some money off me.”

James continued staring toward the blob. “Well, if no one can get in, how’s the sheriff going to do anything?” He looked up and gave Gimp a questioning look and looked downward again.

“There ain’t gonna be any free beer. Just get that out of your heads.”

“We could vote,” Alice said.

Gimp curled his lips, furrowed his brows, and squinted his eyes at her.

“Just a suggestion,” Alice said as she looked toward the partially open door.

“And a good one. Majority rules they always say,” Patty said.

James sat up straight and tried to say something, but his words got stuck. The rebellion quietly died.

Alice coolly blew a smoke ring then demurely gulped the last of her beer. She clunked the glass down, signalling for a refill.

Darkness was clearly visible through the partly closed door. A few more regulars stopped by to find the door was stuck in place by the blob. They asked what was going on. One of the internees would reply, “We can’t get out. Wouldn’t you like to be stuck in a bar?” After a while, no one else came.

I could only use the woman’s john. Alice, me, and James were stuck on that side of the bar, blocked by the blob. Jackie, Patty, and Alvin had the men’s can on their side. The Gimp used that one too. We each loudly announced that we had whizz or something like that and a well that was good when we returned. The Gimp tried to walk in on Patty. Jackie moved quickly and grabbed him by his collar. “Don’t ever try that again mister. You’ll be a double gimp.” The Gimp claimed forgetfulness and retreated behind the bar.

At closing time, the Gimp turned the lights off. “We can’t see,” James complained. Gimp turned the under bar lights on.

“Last call.”

We each got a couple more beers for ourselves. Later, we all complained so Gimp relented and sold us more beer.

I became very tired and had to lay on the floor for a nap. I spotted a quarter before I dozed off, telling myself to get it later. I woke to find Alice using my leg for a pillow. I hoped no one would see. I had to piss really bad.

I opened my eyes in the morning light. I had a terrific headache. The floor stank. I gently pushed Alice’s head off my leg. Her head bounced on the floor once, quietly. After I pulled myself up, I brushed bits of cellophane, butts, and ashes from my pants and ran to the john.

As I came out, Alice rose to a sitting position, then crawled around before standing. She brushed the back of her skirt absent-mindedly. “What I wouldn’t get for a good shower.”

Gimp giggled. “What you wouldn’t get?”

“Oh, you know what I mean. How am I going to get out of here? That thing, whatever it is, is in my way. I think it’s starting to smell.”

James was still staring down. “Hey look at this.”

 Alice and I walked to the curve and peeked downward. The Gimp came over and peered over the edge. A fissure seemed to open at the blob’s neck. A vague cloud issued. The odor was gagging. James jerked his head backward. “Wow, that was a good one.” It looked like areas of clothing were puffing up and falling down.

Patty and Jackie cushioned their heads on the bar with their arms. Patty looked up through slit eyes. She pushed herself up and yawned, and stretched her arms to her back. “Any beer left, I hope?”

Jackie jolted upright. Her bar stool kicked over. She staggered and fell.

“You OK, mom?” Patty asked, “Geeze, what stinks? Who died?”

Gimp looked over the bar at Jackie. “Don’t even think about suing me. We’ll all testify that you were in a bar all night.” Then he laughed silently, his shoulders convulsing and his eyes watering.

Patty helped her mother up. “Come on mom. I’ll buy you a beer.”

Gimp started refilling the glass. There was a lot of foam. It took a while to get mostly beer.

Patty said, “Nurse that one, mom. Pretty soon, we’ll have to buy bottles.”

Jackie ignored her daughter and gulped the beer, “Wow, that was good.”

Patty scowled.

There was muffled knock at the door. “Hey Gimp, you in there?”

“Yeah, who’s there?”

“Beer man. You want some new kegs?”

Gimp said, “You bet, I’m almost out. I got a bunch of lushes in here.” The grin left his face. “The door’s blocked. How you going to get in?”

“Unlock the back door.”

We all stared at the Gimp.

He shrugged. “I forgot all about that. I hope I can get it open.”

We all watched with interest as the Gimp disappeared through a curtained opening. We heard him yanking on the door, and then the squeaking of hinges There were metallic scrapings and the beer guy appeared with some kegs, which he stored behind the bar. After Gimp signed the receipt, the man said, “See you in a week,” and left.

The Gimp smiled, “Hey, a round on me. I just forgot about the back door. Didn’t anyone else see that?” We each took a glass of beer while glaring at the Gimp.

“Hey, I said I forgot about it. In fact I’m forgetting about it right now.”

“Yeah sure. The least you could do is buy us one more.”

We sipped in silence for a while.

Alvin stood, stuffed his charcoal in his shirt pocket, and buried his sketch book under his left elbow, He finished his beer and without a word turned and marched out the rear.

A little later, Patty stood. She looked at Jackie. “I guess if beer comes in we can go out.”

Jackie looked surprised. “Yeah, I guess.”

Patty scooped up the envelopes. One dropped on the floor, and she left without it.

I made a mental note to grab the envelope when I had a chance.

Alice spoke to the emptiness in front of her, “You know, that’s a good idea.” She looked at me. “Time to move out, don’t you think?”

I nodded dumbly. She climbed on the bar and swirled her skirt out a bit. “You want me to take your picture?” She leered at me.

Gimp peered, “You can take my picture any time.”

Alice pulled her skirt tightly around her knees. She minced around the bend of the bar. Carefully, gingerly, she got on her knees and backed down the rungs of a bar stool, staring at Gimp the whole time.

Alice called, “Hey, bring me my shoes.”

I looked down to see her pumps; one crossed over the other. I was grateful for a reason to get to the other side. “You want your purse too?”

Alice raised her eyes and pursed her lips tightly. “Of course dear.”

James glanced and hooted, “Of course dear.”

Gimp looked at me with a gleeful smile. This was getting out of hand. I grabbed the shoes and purse. As I crawled the bar, I had to push them forward and then crawl a little way and then push them on again. After making my way around the bend, I handed them to Alice. When I tried to scoot down a bar stool, I fell. Alice helped me up. She scooped her arm through mine. I tried to shrink so no one could see.

“I think they went that way.” Alice pointed with her chin. She walked in the direction of her chin dragging me along. We went through the curtain, into a dark, dusty vestibule. A door with a window was at the other end. It looked far away. Alice dragged me the four steps to it. She stopped.

“Well, aren’t you going to open it?”

I felt eyes piercing my back. I jerked around to look and saw only the curtain. I turned back and opened the door. The morning sunlight was blinding. Dark shapes merged and finally a short stoop appeared. We went down the steps and got our bearings. As we headed left to get around the building, a woman passed us with a box full of potato chips, beer nuts, and pretzels. That made me hungry. I wanted to turn back, but Alice dragged me on. Finally, we were at our car. I fumbled with the keys and got them into the ignition while Alice opened the door from the passenger side. After we drove off, I had a sinking feeling. I forgot the envelope, and all it could buy.

That afternoon we drove to Mr. Luckys. I saw the Blob still laying across the doorsill. It appeared to be even bigger. There was one other car in the parking lot. I could barely make out James, with a glass of beer at his mouth, staring downward. The Gimp stretched over the bar, looking at the Blob.

I had a moment of panic. I wanted to be there; at my place. Shaking, I drove to the Jewelled Alcove.

I waited in the car a few minutes after Alice went in. After all, I do have a reputation to keep up. After stepping into the bar, I found a spot that was a couple of stools away from her. She was pounding a pack of cigarettes on the bar rail.

The bar here was a rectangle, and bigger than the one at Mr. Luckys’. Patty and Jackie were there, on the other side. There were several other Mr. Luckys’ regulars as well. Alvin stood, charcoal poised above sketch book, patiently waiting for service,

Patty looked at me. “Did you happen to see an envelope at the other place? We can’t find it.”

“Oh, yeah, I saw you drop it. I was going to get it and give to you. Forgot.” I shrugged. “Sorry.”

Jackie looked at me. “Bull. Why didn’t you tell us then. Maybe we should search you.”

Patty added, “You wish.”

I sat and carefully placed some change on the bar and arranged the coins in stacks. As I peeked around, I found Marcy sitting next to me. I quickly gathered my change and beer before moving to the other side of Alice.

I looked to the right. Blinding sunlight streamed through the front windows. I looked around and could not see. Everyone turned black and fuzzy. Their outlines seem to swell a bit.

I quickly looked down to arrange my bar change. My hands were amorphous spots. The more I stared; the more they grew. I closed my eyes for a moment. Then the blobs slowly coalesced into hands. I made out shadows of stacks of coins. I looked to the left there was the mirror behind the bar. A white puffy face peered back; a trick of the light I’m sure. I carefully looked around. Everyone and everything was normal again.

Now I sometimes drive past Mr. Luckys’, craving the old days. Life at the Jewelled Alcove is all right though. I just have to remember not to look in mirrors. And, never look to the light.

First Appeared in Ego Trips Number Two (Autumn 2003)
Experimental Literary Journal of the Fox Valley Writers Club (Wisconsin)