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A story about a boy and girl in a bar, and the fun and tragedy that follows.


Submitted:Oct 12, 2013    Reads: 22    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Gentle ambient lighting, classic blues songs birthed from a retro jukebox, and the symphony of colliding pool balls playing from five different tables constituted the ambiance inside the Southern Cross bar. Most of the people in the bar seemed to enjoy it well enough; personally, I found it so stale, so clichéd-so bloody hateful. I was in a foul mood, and my wonderfully frosty bottle of Guinness-which I had lovingly nicknamed Liquid Angel-was not soothing me as sweetly as I would have liked. Drinking, though, was somewhat of a bad idea as I was on the job. But then again seeing as I hated my job, it wasn't a pureblood bad idea. In fact, it seemed perfectly reasonable to consider it a lovable mongrel of a bad idea, which was pretty good as far as bad ideas were concerned. Yeah… that made total sense.

Anyway, I had taken my current assignment-which scored a monkey scrotum on my personal fun scale-because I needed the money to pay off some rather scary vacation bills and, more importantly, to help support my escalating addiction to Mexican Pizza, iced tea, and cocaine-such are the vicissitudes of sentient existence in the 21st century. Usually, I try not to let complaints about my job sneak into my head while I'm on said job, but some days I can't help wishing I had a sexier occupation.

My sexy dream job would have three vital elements: Japanese mountain castle, girls of questionable moral fibre, and a cellar filled with bottles of ancient vodka. My current job gifts me with none of those treasures, which just plain sucks. And sadly the suckage doesn't end there. I remember someone once telling me that doctors are the angels of the agnostic. Now, that's not the most accurate of metaphors, but it certainly has a delightful ring to it, and it makes for an excellent conversation starter. My line of work lacks such pleasant metaphors; sure it has its bright moments, but they are so few and so far between. And worst still, I find no pleasure in the tools and processes required for its execution; I'm like an accountant that's not aroused by calculators and bank reconciliations: I'm like a really sad accountant.

As I stared down at the bottle in my hand that surprisingly was now empty, I realized I was on a collision course with some serious self-loathing. And as sweetly melancholic as self-loathing could be, I'm of the belief that it should only be an occasional indulgence; like heroin or birthday cake. I needed a bag of peanuts; there's something very Zen about a bag of salty peanuts. When I raised my head, preparing to make my mighty trek to the bar counter, I saw a young woman walk into the bar with measured steps and fluid grace. Wait, no… that's not right; fluid grace makes her sound like some kind of slug. It was… assured grace, yeah. She looked profoundly comfortable inside her skin. She didn't slow or survey her surroundings as she walked; she just went straight to the bar counter and sat down on one of the barstools. Jackie-the bartender I could only describe as the anti-fan of all good natured fat jokes-gave her a smile and poured her a double shot of whiskey.

She picked up the glass and devoured the amber coloured liquid in an instant. She put the glass back down with a pleasure--coated grimace and gestured for another. Jackie poured her another double which she downed just as quickly. She ordered a third double, it was delivered, and quickly went the way of the first and second. On the fourth drink, she slowed her pace, opting for a more sporadic rhythm. She wore a black jacket over a white top with grey skinny jeans and a pair of custom canvas sneakers. By most accounts cute, simple, and completely ordinary; but for me she had fractured the uninspiring ambiance of the Southern Cross, and the fracture ached wonderfully. She finished her fourth double and got another. Damn.

I looked away from her and rhythmically taped my hollow Guinness bottle as I contemplated. I've never been good at talking to women; it's just not one of my skills. I have a long and colourful history of being told to fuck off by the opposite sex. Such is the severity of failures that I actually tried the whole 'can I buy you a drink?' routine once. The woman I posed the question to said no; no added drama, no intrigue, just a plain old no. It hurt a little. In light of all that, the best and most trouble free course of action available to me was getting another Liquid Angel and quietly sitting my ass at my table.

That was the best thing to do, but well thought out and carefully considered actions were never really my style. The thought of finally having a successful bar encounter with a woman was quite appealing, and made for a project worth undertaking. PROJECT: TALK TO WHISKEY DRINKING WOMAN IN BAR WITH REALLY CRAP AMBIANCE would be my main focus until it was time to get to work. I got up from my table and walked towards the bar counter. I casually sat down on the stool next to hers, placing my empty bottle on the wooden counter top. Jackie, who was doing bartender type things across the counter, looked up at me with all the warmth of a court appointed psychiatrist.

"I'll have another Guinness, Jackie boy," I said, trying to sound warm and friendly.

The look he gave me said, 'if it was legal, I would make you lick crushed glass off my bar-room floor.' He got a bottle out of the fridge and put it on the counter, leaving it closed. So I had to get it open with my teeth, which I managed with little grace. I took a sip and turned to her. She was focused on her glass of whiskey and not much else.

"Hi," I said.

She slowly turned her head to me, giving me one of the coldest and greenest stares I had ever seen. She turned her eyes back to her glass, picked it up, and took a quick sip.

"Tell me, Guinness drinking stranger," she said after lowering her glass, "was that 'hi' a prelude to some tawdry attempt at wooing me?"

"Umm-"

"'Cause I really don't have the patience for internet pickup lines," she said, "and a random bar encounter with Guinness drinking Pokémon fanboys strikes me as an omen of internet pick-up lines."

Okay… ouch. So the Pikachu T-shirt wasn't the greatest idea ever.

"... Okay… ah…"

I loudly cleared my throat.

"Alright, um, before I can properly reply to the wooing question, I'm gonna need a little elaboration on "tawdry"," I said as coolly as I could manage.

"Of cheap and gaudy finery," she said before taking another quick sip.

"Right, got it… Well I guess that throws the rhino sex joke right out the window," I said with a slight laugh.

She didn't laugh with me. Not even a giggle.

"Was it the whiskey?" she asked.

"I'm sorry?"

She sighed.

"I've had a lot of guys who smell of loneliness and inexpensive cologne come up to me because they think a girl that can shoot whiskey is so bloody sexy. I blame that damn Carrie Underwood song. Anyway, those guys have had their nights end in disappointment, and sometimes pain," she said.

"Ah… pain?" I cautiously inquired,

She took another drink from her glass.

"Yeah, apparently a high pressure strike to a nerve centre is more ouchy than sexy. But unless you have a poor understanding of personal space, you don't have to worry about it. So tell me, was my whiskey drinking the come-hither?" she asked.

I felt like one big cannon had sneezed inside my gut.

"Ah… yeah," I admitted. "I did find the whiskey drinking… alluring. But I also like ladies with red hair. It's a comic book thing... Jean Grey... X-men…"

"… Right," she said looking away from me.

She took a slow drink of her whiskey as I recoiled into my bar stool. The sensation in my gut changed to something akin to a snake in thralls of labour. Wait… do snakes go into labour…? Never mind. From everything I could see I was striking out rather pathetically. Not wanting to deepen my failure, I decided to bail.

"Umm, listen… I think this was probably one of my shittier ideas, which is really saying something. So I'm just gonna commence with the fucking off right now. I really don't wanna be a bother," I said before standing up.

"Abandoning your quest so soon? A little spineless, don't you think?" she asked as I stood beside her.

"Ah, well… it's just that I was striking out and I didn't wanna persist and come off as a jerk or creep or asshole or something," I said.

"Are you a jerk or creep or asshole or something?" she asked as she turned her emerald gaze to me.

I let out a breath.

"Ah, no, not usually," I said.

"Then what have you to fear?"

I scratched my head feeling like I had just lost a game of poker I didn't even know I was playing. Once the imaginary itch was well satisfied, I sat back down on the stool. I looked over to my beer and found it was about 70% full. I grabbed it and made it 0% full in a matter of seconds. I put the empty bottle down, composed myself and decided to give PROJECT: TALK TO WHISKEY DRINKING WOMAN IN BAR WITH REALLY CRAP AMBIANCE another shot.

"So… wanna see a magic trick?"

She looked at me with a raised brow.

"I thought I said no cheap internet pick-up lines."

I laughed a little.

"It's not a pick-up line, it's an offer. Do you wanna see a magic trick?" I asked.

"Your Guinness inspired strategy is to show me a magic trick?"

"Yup, I am really swinging for the fences here."

"… A magic trick?" she asked slowly.

"Yeah," I confirmed, with my confidence cracking somewhat.

"Do I look like a girl with a hunger for cheap wonderment?"

"I have absolutely no idea. I'm really crap at reading faces," I said.

She gave a quick smile and drank the reminder of her whiskey. She put the empty glass down on the dark brown counter and stared at it.

"Tell me, magic boy, is there anything more tragic than an empty whiskey glass?" she asked.

"Hmm, cancer and candy corn come to mind. Must be something about the letter C," I said.

She gave me another smile before turning the bartender.

"Another," she said.

Jackie came over and poured her another double.

"One of those nights?" he asked her.

"Always is on a Monday. Thanks, Jackie," she said as she took the glass in hand.

Jackie moved to the other side of the counter. She turned back to me.

"Alright," she said, "entertain me."

I pulled a small notebook and a black fountain pen out of my left trouser pocket and put them on the bar counter next to my empty beer bottle. I opened the notebook and ripped out a blank page.

"Oh, by the way, what's your name?" I asked.

"Impress me first, then maybe you get a nickname," she said before taking a healthy sip of her replenished whiskey.

"Okay, cool, awesome."

"What's your favourite flower?" I asked.

"The blue orchid," she replied.

"Huh?"

"Vanda coerulea: the blue orchid. Beauty incarnate," she said.

"Right... for the purposes of this magic trick, would you be open to going for, say, a rose instead?"

She looked at me so intensely I developed a sudden urge to cross my legs. She broke her intensity expression with a slow grin.

"My grandpa loved two things in life: booze and flowers," she said. "I share those two loves in the worst bloody way-I swear it's something genetic. When I was eight, he gave me a pretty blue orchid on Valentine's Day; he never really got the candy and dolls routine. Anyway, something about the petals of the orchid-the texture of them-made me… fall. And I've loved blue orchids since that day. In fact, love is too clean a word; obsession is somewhat more fitting. But regardless of terminology, are you asking for my unfaithfulness, magic boy?"

I promptly pulled my smartphone out of my pocket.

"Blue orchid it is," I said as I did a quick image search of the flower I'd never heard of before.

It took about 10 seconds to see what I needed for my trick. I picked up the pen and started drawing on the paper I had ripped from my notepad. She watched me with her glass in hand as I worked. I tried to make it look cool, as if I were da Vinci in the thralls of near painful artistic inspiration. Doubt I succeeded, but I had her attention, and that was definitely a good thing. I finished drawing and slid the paper over to her. She put her glass down and looked closely at the markings I had made; they must have appeared like some weird combination of geometric shapes and tribal designs.

"I gotta say, that's one ugly Vanda coerulea," she said.

I laughed and tapped the circle in the centre of the paper. Slowly, the paper started moving and folding and tearing itself into the shape of the desired flower. She leaned back as she watched the paper going through its motions-her head turning to give me a quick glance before returning her gaze to the magical happenings on the counter top. After a couple more seconds of folding and tearing, the paper ceased its unaided motions and sat on the counter in the exact shape of the blue orchid I had studied on my phone.

"Just for the record: I really enjoy it when people ask how I did a trick-it's so rewarding. So feel free to ask how I created the marvel before your eyes. I could really use the ego stroking, actually. Been a crappy week," I said, rather too honestly.

"I have a strict no stroking policy," she said, studying the paper orchid.

"That is tragic; I was so looking forward to satisfying your curiosities about magics. The answer to how it's done is actually quite simple," I said, lying through my teeth.

"I'm not asking the question," she said, still studying paper.

"Okay… so just in case, do you wanna check my sleeve?" I asked with a smile.

She turned to me with narrowed eyes.

"Yeah... not really funny, I get it'" I said.

She turned her eyes back to the orchid. About half a minute later, I decided to cash in. I knew that deep down she must have been awed.

"So, my name's Ryu. What's yours?" I asked.

She gave a resigning sounding sigh and turned to me.

"I'm not impressed enough to give you a name," she declared.

"… I'm sorry, what?"

"I'm not impressed enough," she said. "In fact, I don't think I'm impressed at all,"

My mouth kind of fell open.

"How-how can you not be impressed??"

"It's just a paper trick," she said, looking me straight in the eye.

"… The paper made into itself into a flower… by itself!! That's self-origami. How is that not massively impressive?" I asked.

"It's just paper. This sad little orchid isn't even blue. Magic is supposed to be about flare and spectacle, and this trick is flaccid in both departments," she said.

Flaccid… she had a painful way with words.

"But-but you spent like three entire minutes looking at it," I said defensively.

"That's because I was trying to see the magic. And going by this, I'm not sure you're deserving of the title of magic boy," she said.

"… But I love being magic boy."

She took another sip while she looked me over.

"You said your name's Ryu, right?" she asked as she laid down her glass.

"Yeah," I said.

"Japanese... means dragon, right?"

"Yeah," I repeated, a little surprised.

"Then how about you show me magic worthy of your name, dragon."

Her words were fire; every molecules of restraint I had in me was set ablaze. I got the fountain pen and drew two circles connected by an irregular cross on the palm of my left hand. She watched me casually as I worked; I made no pretentious artistic motions this time-this time I was serious. Finished, I picked up the un-blue paper orchid and placed it on the palm of my left hand. I looked around the bar searching for Jackie boy. He was at one of the pool tables having at a chat with some very hairy men clad in black leather. The counter area was pretty much empty except for her and me.

"Ready?" I asked.

"I can barely leash my excitement," she casually replied.

I took in a slow breath, preparing my Kora channels. As I exhaled, the markings on my palm came to life with muted scarlet light. Every part of the paper orchid slowly, silently began transforming into an orchid of smooth blue fire, all the while keeping the elegant shape of the flower without a stray flicker or murmur of flame. The orchid completed its transformation within seconds and rested on my palm with a weight and solidity foreign to most forms of fire. I adjusted the levels of energy in my palm, creating a web-like pattern of light and dark blue flame that mimicked the colour pattern of the naturally occurring Vanda coerulea near perfectly. Pure, uncut shock rippled through her subtle features. Her eyes sparkled as she drew in a deep breath and passed her right hand through her hair. I added an extra wave of energy to the sigil, making flame flower's petals grow and dance with slow, delicate motions. The flower looked almost sentient.

"So, what do you think?" I asked.

It took a moment for my question to move her gaze from the flower to my eyes. Her lips were slightly parted; her eyes wide with amazement. I couldn't help feeling so damn cool.

"So, what do you think?" I asked again.

"I… umm… it's…"

I smiled as she struggled to find the words. It was time to pounce.

"Do you trust me?" I asked.

She cleared her throat and drained her whiskey glass dry.

"Not in the bloody slightest," she said, her eyes moving back to the flower.

"Awesome, put your hands together," I said.

"… What?"

"Put your hands together-like you're about to receive a gift, 'cause I'm about to give you this orchid of blue fire,"

"What the...? No!!" she said.

"Trust me, this'll be fun," I said.

"Hell no."

"Oh, c'mon," I said.

"No a thousand times over."

"Why not?" I asked.

"I'm not nearly drunk enough to touch a-a moving flower thing made of fucking fire," she said.

"C'mon, where's your sense of adventure?"

"Wreathing in the straitjacket of my shaken logic," she said.

"Ah… I'm not sure that makes total sense," I said.

"That's probably 'cause of how crazy all… this is," she said, gesturing with her hands.

I looked down at the fire flower in my hands, and then back at her.

"Okay, so if we're grading the level of crazy here, would this be bungee jumping while biting on a skillet type of crazy, or a clown surgeon musical crazy?" I asked.

Her eyes moved from the flower to my face twice.

"Clown, surgeon, musical," she said.

"Wait… which one's worse for you?" I asked.

"I am not touching that bloody thing."

As a precautionary measure, I had created a mild cloaking field around us when I created the fire orchid. Anything short of us breaking into a naked Bulgarian folk dance on the bar counter would seem absolutely normal to anyone in the bar who happened to be looking our way.

"Your refusal to be intimate with this lovable abomination of nature is tragic news for its life expectancy," I said as I started tilting my hand.

The flower started to slide off my palm.

"It'll dissipate when it hits the ground… or set the whole bar on fire. It's always hard to predict these things, magic isn't an exact science," I said.

I chuckled to myself as the flower continued to slide from my palm.

"Get it? I said how magic isn't an exact science… classic,"

"Ryu!!" she loudly called.

"Last chance, lover of orchids."

The orchid slide off my palm and accelerated towards the floor. The part about the flower setting the bar on fire was kind of a total lie, but I needed to give her some motivation. A second before the flower could kiss the bar floor, she caught it. Her right hand held the flower while the fingers of her left hand had a death grip on the edge of the counter top to keep her tilted body from falling to the floor. She was really fast, and strong. With audible breaths, she lifted the flower, regained her proper position on the bar stool, and then held the fiery beauty in both hands. Away from my touch, the flame petals become motionless as they rested in the cradle of her hands. She took a deep breath before setting her icy gaze on me.

"Firstly, you are an asshole. A colossal asshole," she said.

"I will not challenge that assessment," I said.

"And secondly… wow… wow," she said looking at the flower.

She laughed a little.

"It's amazing... and so warm," she said.

I smiled.

"Comes with being made of fire," I said.

"But it's so… gentle. It doesn't burn or hurt at all," she said. "I was expecting at least some flesh searing, which would have been quickly followed by me putting my knee through your skull."

I smiled wider.

"While it may look like the flower is made of normal fire, it's actually made of special magic fire that can't hurt you," I said with great theatre.

She raised both brows.

"Special magic fire…?"

"Yes, I specialize in special magic fire," I said.

She laughed and turned her eyes back to the flower, slowly stroking the petals with her thumbs.

"God… this is so unreal. If this is some kind of amazingly realistic dream, I swear I will scalp whatever physical avatar of the sandman that exists," she said.

"… Okay," I said, pleasantly surprised by her sparkle of weirdness.

"So, has the magic boy done enough to impress whiskey maiden?"

She looked up and softly smiled.

"My name is Kara,"

"Oh yeah!!!" I said with a powerful fist pump.

"What… what the hell was that?" Kara asked.

"Oh-umm…. that…it was kind of a mini victory celebration thingy… 'cause I failed to get your name the first time but managed to get it this… time…"

"Wow, that completely sodomized the moment,"

"Wait, wait… we were having like uh, a, proper moment?" I asked.

"You made me a creepy, beautiful fire flower and called me the whiskey maiden, and I gave you my name. Trust me, we were having a moment, and you just soiled it with your mini victory celebration thingy," she said.

"Oh, crap. Can we redo?"

"No,"

"Double crap; not getting blown off is weird."

"So, about the flower…" she said, "how long can it keep, err… living… burning?"

"Thinking of taking it home with you?"

"That's a ridiculous idea," she said.

"It'll keep going for about three days before harmlessly burning out," I said.

"Good, I've got the perfect place for it."

"So, would that be living room or bedroom?" I asked.

"Living room, that way it'll freak out visitors. I hate visitors," she said.

I chuckled.

"I've gotta say, it's a little strange how well this going now," I said.

She looked at me with a raised brow.

"How well this is going? You make it sound like you strike out so often you've never even tasted the celestial nectar of third base."

I laughed at the naughty imagery she had injected into my head.

"I guess you could say my problem is one of frequency." I said. "The few successes I've had in the female department have ended… messily. I swear love is an art of alien colours."

"Wow, we're already dropping the L word, magic boy?" she asked with a smile.

I cringed.

"Oh… oops… ah, I didn't mean anything by it,"

"Really?" she inquired.

I thought about it for a second.

"Well no, I meant something, but I didn't mean that something to mean anything… umm… big."

"Uh-huh," she said slowly.

Yeah, this situation was pretty much hopeless.

"Damn," I said with slumped shoulders. "There's just no way of saving that one, is there?"

"You could keep trying," said Kara with a smile.

"Yeah… probably shouldn't. Guess it was a way too early to drop the L word," I said

"No, not really; I just wanted to give you a hard time about it." She said.

"Wow… you are-?"

"Evil?" she asked.

"Awesome," I said.

"My friends usually say evil."

"They're so wrong." I said.

She laughed sweetly. She was still holding the flame orchid in her hands, though the strangeness of the thing seemed to register less with her.

"Earlier you mentioned wanting to satisfy my curiosities; I think I've got one that's in need of satisfaction," she said.

"Oh, ask away."

"Which online poetry forum do you belong to?" she asked.

Dread tingled in my insides.

"… What? What makes you think I belong to any-"

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," she said. "That response smells of guilt."

"Sometimes I think that's just my general scent."

"Right, spill," she said with a smile.

Kara seemed... jolly. Must have been my magic and epic personality... or the whiskey shots she had had earlier.

"I... I'm on a site called the Poet Haven… it's very user friendly," I said.

"I see, and what's your username?" she asked.

"No, no, no, no way,"

"C'mon," she said.

"I plead which ever amendment governs the disclosure of possibly embarrassing usernames," I said.

"I caught the flower, didn't I? Where's your sense of adventure?"

I sighed and passed my hand through my hair.

"My username is... familiar_stranger," I said with a good degree of shame.

She laughed; loudly and emphatically. Then after she was done, she laughed some more.

"Oh, lord," Kara said as she wiped a few tears from her eyes.

"Okay, okay… why, oh, why did you go with… familiar_stranger?" she asked.

"The vodka and heartache made it sound pretty epic at the time," I said with a smile.

She merely nodded.

"That was quite the Sherlock-esque deduction," I said. "What gave me away? Was it the colour of my pen, or the somewhat bushy nature of my eyebrows?"

"You describing love as 'art of alien colours.' Had quite the whiff of poetry to it," said Kara.

"Oh, I guess that does have a 'harbours delusions of poetry grandeur' to it," I said.

"No, not really delusions," she said. "More like dreams."

I smiled at her.

"Okay, I get how you found me out as a would-be poet. But how did you know I was on an online-"

The sigil I had placed on the front door when I first entered the bar silently informed me that something very old and inhuman had just entered the Southern Cross. I slowly turned my head so I could see for myself. He stood less than 6 feet tall, his coal black hair was cut short and heavily gelled, his eyes were a very dark shade of brown. He was dressed in a black V-neck shirt and blue jeans with a pair of simple leather shoes; it all added up to make him look decidedly… human. But he wasn't human; he was Vincent Del Valle, second prince of the Old Blood vampires. He made his way to one of the empty tables and sat down. The snap of fingers broke my gaze.

"Hey, are you still with me, or am I losing you to the pretty boy in the blue jeans?" she Kara.

"Ah, no, sorry; thought he looked familiar," I said.

"Anyway, Sherlockian deductions aside, what do you say to another trick, Kara?"

"Well, given that the first left me with a flower made of fire in my hands, I say bring it," she said with eagerness.

"Good."

Jackie boy was still chatting with the shockingly hairy men by the pool tables. I pulled out a red permanent maker from my pocket and got to work. On top of the bar counter, I drew a parallelogram and encased it within a hex-decagon. I then drew a cross that split the parallelogram and hex-decagon into four parts. I added a wing to each point of the cross.

"Okay, this one looks… weirder. What's it do?" she asked.

I raised my head and met her eyes.

"… It makes goodbyes."

Kara's eyelids involuntarily bowed to the blinding light that erupted out of the sigil I had drawn on the counter. After the outpouring of light had subsided, chains of crimson and gold phoenix feathers flew out of the sigil and tightly hugged the legs and torsos of every person in the bar. Before fear could be properly birthed from the hearts of the shackled people, the phoenix feathers ignited with brilliant golden flame, burning everyone in the Southern Cross to ash nearly instantly; everyone except the vampire prince. Vampires are durable, and they like to struggle.

Vincent violently screamed as the feathers tightened around him, using the embers of his soul as the fuel for their fire. His dark gaze found me as the bar filled with death. He bared his white fangs at me, his screams turning into bestial roars that filled the bar and made the windows shiver. But it was nothing more than the life in him playing its final note; there was no escape, no hope. His body crumbled to the ground as flesh gave way to bone, and bone gave way to ash. The chains of phoenix features dissipated, leaving no trace.

I reached into my right trouser pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a match box. I took out a cigarette and put it to my lips as my eyes moved around the bar checking for any abnormalities. When I was satisfied that all was as dead as should be, I took a match stick and struck it against the side of the box. I lit up my cigarette, extinguished the match, and took in a long pull of grey smoke that went dancing into the meadows of lungs. I had completed my assignment in accordance to the parameters given by the client, though I had taken the liberty of using phoenix feather instead of dragon's kiss-the client was pretty keen on dragon's kiss. Both spells gave essentially the same end-result, but phoenix feather was faster, and as close to painless as a flame spell could get. It was important to me that humans in the bar not suffer… much.

I turned to the bar stool Kara had been sitting on. She was now a pile ashes nesting atop the bar stool adorned with a blue flame orchid. A lot of her had spilled onto the barroom floor. Her empty whiskey rested solemnly on the bar counter top; the sight of it roused a young memory: "Is there anything more tragic than an empty whiskey glass?"… Good question. Parts of the bar had caught fire, and pretty soon the entire place would be ablaze. But I was behind schedule, so I got another match out of the matchbox and lit it.

"Tekana," I said, tossing the match to the floor.

The match stick hit the bar floor and sent massive ripples of flame speeding over the floor and up the walls, turning the Southern Cross into a gallery of fire. I got up from my bar stool and made my way across the flame wreathed floor to the front door. Once outside the burning bar, I walked across the street to my yellow Mini Cooper and got inside. First thing I did was switch on the radio-always liked to listen to a little music after a job. Second thing I did was roll down my window. I exhaled a puff of smoke as I looked back at the bar, wondering whether it had been cruel or kind of me to have talked to Kara knowing I would have to kill her. After another pull, I decided it was pretty fucking cruel. The bar was vomiting a steady stream of smoke into the night sky as tossed my cigarette out the window and started the car. I took a last look at the bar and drove away.

THE END…





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