Bartender

            "Bartender!"

            She took the last burning hot gulp from the perfectly polished glass mug that was cradled carelessly in her hand.

            "Bar-" she cooed with a belch, "-tender!"

            The bartender caught the mug right on time before the girl impulsively swirled around in her stool yelling, "Wheeee!"

            The bartender instinctively flinched before jumping over the island and catching her mid-fall, her boa shedding feathers all over the floor and chairs.

            "Oh, you are so sweet, Mr.Bartender," she praised, "But I've got a- whoops!- I've had…"

            She squinted her eyes three inches away from his face.

            "You know, Bartender, you're awfully cute for a bartender, Bartender," she said a little bit too loudly for their proximity.

            She cooed another "Bartender" before submerging in a fit of giggles.

            The bartender combed the back of his hair with his hand and smiled so that the corners of his eyes crinkled.

            "You're probably the youngest looking old man I've ever met!" she hollered, "Lookit you! Owning a speakeasy all by yourself! Big bad bartender hiding from the coppers. You… are… a success, I bet."

            He laughed politely, "Miss, do you want me to hail a cab? It's getting awfully late."

            "How old are you, Mr.Bartender?"

            "I'm 24, Miss, but really..."

            "Whoa! Small world! Say, do you happen to play the piano?"

            The bartender grinned, "Well yes, I guess a little. But you really ought to…"

            "Play, play, play!" she chanted, clapping, "I swear I saw a piano here."

            "I really don't…"

            "Don't be shy! No one's here!"

            He opened his mouth to argue but later decided it was no use. He sighed in defeat, shrugging, and taking a seat on the dusty piano chair across the bar.

            "This'll be a party!" She sang out.

            He coughed and stretched his fingers unsurely as he glanced at her.

            "Well… go on!" she ordered, gesturing towards the piano.

            He cleared his throat, "Uhm, okay. Let's see."

            He let his hands float above the keys for a little while as she watched somewhat patiently. He began. Chopin’s Nocturne Opus 9 Number 2. His fingers played steadily with Bach-like precision, and his hands splayed out in different directions, not one note out of tempo just like his old piano instructor had taught. Every. Little. Key. Exact.

            But then an eruption of a terrible type of noise screeched out, clashing against the piece with such ruthlessness that Chopin himself must have cringed from the grave.

            The bartender abruptly stopped playing, slack-jawed and staring at the girl.

            "Was that bad?" the girl asked, drunkenly indifferent.

            The bartender quickly closed his mouth and asked dumbfoundedly, "Were you singing?"

            "Yes," she said with an air of sure confidence, "I was going for an Annette Hanshaw sort of style. Was that good?"

            He removed his hands from the keys and scratched the back of his head, "Wow. Well…"

            "Well, keep playing. Something a little fast, maybe?"

            He stared at her with partial confusion and complete curiosity.

            "Like… what exactly?"

            "I don't know. What do you think you should play?"

            "Are you going to sing again?" He asked a little worriedly.

            "Yes. Play!"

            The bartender did as she said and played. This time the song was fast. It was a lot different from the first song. This one was uneven and wild and jazzy. He let his body relax, crouching a little in terrible piano posture. The girl giggled as she got up and danced with the music. She pranced around the tables and chairs, doing the Charleston and singing from the top her lungs with made up lyrics about pianos and handsome bartenders.

            And like his first bottle of beer, the bartender learned to love the power of her voice as she sang. And though rough it was, the bartender thought she sang beautifully.

            So beautifully in fact that he found himself swaying along and tapping his foot. Together, the girl and the bartender produced a melody way beyond any song ever made.

            And as the song reached its finale, the girl jumped into his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. She smiled at him brilliantly, and he gave a nodding bow.

            "You won't remember me tomorrow, will you?" the bartender asked.

            She tilted her head, sobering up long enough to respond with a kind but solemn, "No, Mr.Bartender."

            He looked down at his hands, crest-fallen.

            She added bluntly, "But, this has been a real love, hasn't it?"

            He grinned, "Yes, it has."

            He lead her to the couch and helped her make a call. The bartender finished up his polishing a few feet away.

            "I sang today," he heard her mumble to the receiver, "When you pick me up, I'll sing to you. Remind me, okay? The password's coffee cream, if I remember correctly. Goodbye!"

            The bartender laughed to himself and called out to the girl, "Oh! Before I forget, what's your name?"

            But when he returned to the room with two glasses of water, she had fallen into a deep sleep. He stared at her unsurely, but then kissed the top of her head.

            Years have passed since that night at the speakeasy, and yet the lady in the boa had never left her mind. The bartender had given up his life of bathtub gin in exchange for his piano with the jazz band. In fact, he and his band were to perform at Radio City. And as he strolled around over in downtown New York- the afternoon before his show- he finally saw her, looking at sunflowers outside a cozy little flower shop only a few yards from where he himself was standing.

            He stared at her, stunned. She's even more beautiful than he remembers.

            He rehearsed his words to himself, before even daring to talk to her, "Uhm, hi, remember me? Oh, no, no. That doesn't sound right… Can I get you a drink? Because… you know… I was a bar- No, that's not right either."

            He sighed. It seemed to him that the more he stalled, the worse he was going to be. So, he decided to just go for it. No rehearsals.

            And right as he goes in for the big finale, a moment he's only dreamed of since that night in the speakeasy; a man with a handlebar mustache makes his way to the girl, interlocking his fingers with hers.

            "Right, darling," the man said, "We better grab a bite to eat before the show tonight."

            "Grand," he heard her say. The drunken slur had long gone from her voice.

            The pianist stepped aside to let the couple pass. She smiled at the him politely without the slightest sign of recognition.

 

© Aeia Abas

 

Bio: "Aeia Abas, wherever she may be, commits to a life of spontaneity with her pen and forever unfilled cup. She writes for her own well-being, though happy to inspire. She can be contacted at aeiaabas@gmail.com."