Thursday, April 29, 2010
Clark as in Bar
This is my #FridayFlash story for week 49. I am open to critiques and comments.
Shellie sat at the bar sipping her Stoli on the rocks following with a swallow of water with a wedge of lemon floating in it. She always ordered her liquor on the rocks with a glass of water on the side. That helped her keep track of how much she drank. The band would be starting soon. She only went to clubs that featured live music, preferably rock.
Now that her divorce was final she fantasized about what direction her life would take. Perhaps she would flee this city and start out fresh assuming a new identity. Maybe go back to using her full name, Michele, and her maiden name enabling her to disappear from her past.
The air stirred and she glanced to her right as a man pulled out the bar stool next to her and sat down. He waved at the bartender and ordered a Michelob. Shellie stared at her drink, picked it up and took another sip, another drink of water. As she put the water glass back on the bar the beer was delivered to her new neighbor. He reached for it and she saw the black leather sleeve with a ragged tattoo peeking out. She glanced at her cell phone next to her drink to check the time. As usual the band was late. She turned toward the stage and saw that they were at least standing there pretending to adjust amps and equipment.
Before her body swiveled back toward the bar, she felt fingers on her wrist. They tightened instantly. It happened so fast she didn’t quite absorb the feeling of foreboding danger. When she looked up to her right the man in the leather jacket looked her in the eyes. His greasy black hair was hanging down over his temples, parted in the middle. He had a firm grip on her now and he spoke very quietly. Then she heard that sound. She recognized it from the stairwells in high school so many years ago in northern New Jersey. Click! It was the unmistakable sound of a switchblade.
“We’re going to get up quietly and walk out of here together smiling. Understand?”
She couldn’t speak or move. He pulled up on her wrist. She looked at him trying to figure out what to do. Scream? It was pretty loud around the bar. Would anybody hear her? The bartender was busy mixing margaritas. It finally occurred to her that she should be scared but somehow her body didn’t register fear. After her violent marriage it seemed like all her fear had been used up.
He was standing now tugging on her arm. She felt the point of the knife through her tee shirt. The smile on his face was glaring at her as if he had already claimed his conquest.
Suddenly the house lights dimmed as the stage came alive with music. She was frozen. He was sneering at her, standing next to the barstool, one hand on her wrist, the other holding the knife tip against her skin. She felt a tap on her left shoulder and turned away from her assailant.
“Hey, how have you been? It’s been weeks since you’ve been here. It feels like months. C’mon, let’s dance. If I remember correctly, this is one of your favorite songs.” She had never seen this blond man before in her life. Smiling widely he took her left hand to help her off the barstool. He looked genuinely happy to see her and she didn’t have a clue who he was. Could she have met him somewhere else when she was too drunk to remember?
Her right wrist was suddenly released. The pressure of the knife blade instantly disappeared. She peeked over her right shoulder as she moved toward the blond stranger. Leather jacket looked disgusted as he stepped down off the bar stool and headed for the door.
She forced her feet to follow this blond man to the dance floor. He put his arm around her back and took her hand in his and started to dance, holding her close but not too close. He looked into her face and smiled. She looked blankly back.
“I was waiting for the bartender to come over and I saw that guy pull the knife. You looked like you needed rescuing.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“My name is Clark Graham. What’s yours?”
“What?” She thought she must have heard him wrong. The music was very loud.
“Clark Graham. You know, Clark as in bar, Graham as in cracker.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope. Why would anyone make up a name like that?”
© Susan Cross, April 30, 2010