He took a cigarette out of the pack and bounced it’s butt on the bar top. Taking a long look up and down the bar, he saw that he was alone. Popping the cigarette in his mouth he fished for the lighter in his shirt pocket.
 “You shouldn’t do that.” A voice came across the bar along with a lit match.
 He lit his smoke, and then exhaled. “I know.” He said to the bartender. “No smoking in bars that serve food.” He took another drag, “but seeing how it is just us in here and you brought me out an ashtray and all, I thought it might be okay.”
 “No,” She laughed, busying herself wiping off the bar, “cancer dumbass.” Bartenders, he found, never really stopped moving, even when the bar was empty.
 “Oh that,” he nodded grimly, “yeah. I’m not too worried about that.”
 “You planning on quitting?”
 “No,” he harrumphed, “Never. Reckon that I’ll never get around to it.”
 “Why is that?” She asked. Then, pointing to his empty scotch, “one more?”
 He nodded. “You believe in premonitions?” He watched her as she pulled the Johnny Walker Blue Label from the shelf and poured him a new glass.
 “Not really.” She answered, leaning over the bar to wipe the condensation from the bottle off the counter. He watched the little show as he took a sip of the scotch. Smiling, she threw the bar towel over her shoulder and leaned on the opposite counter.
 “Good.” He returned her smile, “Me neither. But I got this feeling, something I can’t shake. I don’t know what the hell you would call it, except maybe a premonition.” He took another long pull off his cigarette. “See, I don’t think I am going to get another birthday.”
 “Why is that?” The bartender asked coyly. She started washing out his old rocks glass in a little sink behind the bar.
 “Don’t know, it’s weird, and it happened on my last birthday. I woke up and a voice deep inside of me said that this is the last one. I’ve felt it ever since.  This is my last year, ain’t going to see another birthday. Every day it gets stronger.”
 “And you believe that?”  She said, drying off her hands. “You really think you are going to die.”
 “I don’t know.” He let out a nervous laugh. “I really don’t know. I can tell you that I am going to be thrilled when my birthday rolls around again next year and I’m still here to see it.  But I don’t know. Every day when I wake up that voice is there, and it was never there before. I keep thinking about my old man telling me that some of the guys in his unit used to know the day they were done for. He told me one of his best friends confessed it to him the day he got his head blown off.” He took a big pull on the scotch and swallowed it down, hard. The alcohol burned his throat and gut.
 “Really.” The bartender replied skeptically.
 “Maybe.” He answered with a wink.  “It’s all a big joke anyway.”
 “What, your premonition?”
 “No. Not that, that’s no joke,” He took another drag, “that ain’t a joke at all. Life. Life is the joke, a cruel bitch of one too. You start out life thinking that you are something special, the hero of your own story. You are sure you are going to do something worthwhile, something great.”
“Yeah.”  She nodded in agreement.
 “Yeah.  Then as you get older you start realizing the things you aren’t going to be. In high school you don’t make varsity baseball, so you cross playing in the majors off the list. You smoke some pot and do some blow and there goes your shot at President. You flunk out of college and realize you aren’t going to be a doctor, lawyer or even a two bit suit on the corporate ladder. But that’s OK, you think, because you’re still young and fuck it you got the world in front of you. You never really thought you were going to do any of those things anyway, right.”
 “Right.” She answered, refilling the drink that had emptied in front of him.
 “But then you start losing the little shit. You get too old to run away to Hollywood and become a rock star or an actor, not that you even planned on it but suddenly the option is gone. You look at the list of ways of getting rich or famous shrink a little every day. I’m too old to join the army and be a war hero like my old man. Too old to even start a family.  The worst part is the smaller the thing you cross off the harder it is to take. It bothers me more that I’m never going to learn how to golf than the fact that I’m not going to be an astronaut.”
 The bartender giggled. She said, “Sorry, you don’t look like a golfer.”
 He grunted and continued. “Every day you have to take a little more shit and see life a little more clearly and cross one more thing off the list of shit you ain’t never going to be. You are just a meaningless cog in a purposeless machine, and your tiny candle ain’t enough to light a monkey fart. The older you get the less chance you got at being somebody, I am down to winning the lottery, but seeing how I ain’t long for this world, I don’t really think it’s going to happen for me.”
 “Well that’s a pretty shitty way of looking at things.” The bartender sighed and returned to polishing the brass edging of the bar. “You know I hear a lot of depressing shit in my job, but I have to say that tops it.”
 “Thanks,” He tipped his glass in mock salute.
 The door opened and he watched the two young men enter. They couldn’t be twenty one, he thought, not that he was any good at guessing age anymore but they had baby faces under their hoodie sweaters and he was pretty sure they weren’t there to drink.
 “Help you boys?” the bartender asked cautiously. She looked tense behind the bar.
  “Yeah,” the taller boy answered, he swayed as he talked, like a metronome. “Me and my boy here, we’d like a couple of shots of tequila.” Neither boy sat down, both standing at the edge of the bar.
 “You got ID’s?” the bartender asked, unmoving for the first time since he had come into the bar.
 “Yeah, we got ID’s” The taller boy answered pulling a pistol out from the back of his pants and cocking it.
  Here we go, the voice in the man’s head said quietly, and he nodded in agreement.
 “How you like this mother fucking ID?” He shouted.  “Give us our drinks bitch, and all the fucking money in the till.”
 The man calmly stood up, took a drink of his scotch and began walking toward the boys. The shorter boy displayed a matching piece and steadily trained it on the man. “You need to sit the fuck down.” He shouted.
 “Really,” the man replied, he continued walking toward the boy, he was sure he couldn’t be over sixteen. “You really know what you are doing to yourself son?” he asked.
 “What the fuck you talking about motherfucker, I’ll fucking kill you.” The shorter boy replied. Now the tall boy was training his pistol on the man as well. 
 “You get caught for this you’ll never even get a chance to cross shit off your list. It’ll all be gone whenever they catch you, and they will catch you son, they always do.”
 The tall boy turned to the bartender. “Is this guy drunk or what?” he yelled.
 “You should listen to him.” She replied.
 The man jumped forward tackling the boys. He wrapped his arms around them and fell with them to the ground. He used his weight to pin them down. He tried to pull a pistol from one of their hands.
 The sound of the gunshot startled all three of them and they froze in place. He was looking into their confused faces when he saw the blood flowing out from underneath them, pooling on the checkered tiles.  He coughed, blood sprayed onto the boys terrified faces. Shit, it’s me, he thought and the voice in his head agreed. He could hear sirens in the distance.  The bar got darker as he felt the boys squirm out from under him. The door chimed as they ran out into the street.
 “How much in the till?” he asked the bartender. He could barely make out her face as she stood over him crying.
 “You really want to know?” She asked.
 “Yeah.” He answered. “Don’t lie to me.”
 “Cross hero off the list.”

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 9:44 pm  Comments Off on Premonition  
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