The Case of the Pilfered Pilsner
A short work of Fiction by Philip Lombard (C) 2011
Uh hem. My name is Angus. Yes, I’m a senior citizen. No, I don’t want your goddamned AARP or Medicare. By day I was working at a gas station, the Fast Gas, Treats & Eats. If you ask me, the name sounds like the story of my digestive tract these last few years. I’m sure when they named the place they thought they were so clever, idiots. The whole Eats thing is a joke anyway. We had some old-ass, shriveled hotdogs more wrinkled than my ass spinning on one of those silvery rolling doodads, hot pickled sausages, nachos, and a fountain drink machine that only produced carbonated colored water. Anyway, I’ve got a glorious silver ponytail, enjoy wearing plaid shirts and corduroy pants, and like to drink beer. Want to know more? Too bad. I’m not going to tell you another stupid detail. What do you think this is? The internet? Damn kids and their Facejournals and Squeekers.
Let me tell you about what happened last Thursday night. I had finished waiting on all the hoodlum customers at the gas station, and had just settled down at Byron’s. That’s my bar. Well, I don’t mean that I own it or nothing, but I might as well. I’ve been going there just about every night for the last thirty years. It’s the only joint left in the neighborhood that isn’t overrun by drugs and gangbangers. So it was about eight at night, and I’m sitting there at the bar watching an old rerun on the TV trying to keep up with the subtitles. I’m on my fourth or fifth Golden Stallion. That’s my favorite brew. It’s what keeps the hair on my chest curly and the gleam on my ponytail. There weren’t many people there yet. Old Mack was behind the bar, and we had been talking about how we thought the football playoffs would hash out. Old Mack was the only guy I knew that had been around longer than me. He was seventy six. But you wouldn’t know it the way he was always skittering around the bar polishing this, or filling that. Guy reminds you of a mouse with no sense of smell running around looking for a piece of cheese. He had lost his hair about a decade ago, but still managed to pull off a respectable mustache. It was snow white, very thick, and looked like two tiny box cars parked under his nostrils.
Like I said, I was on my sixth or seventh Stallion when duty called. When you get to be my age, you either answer the call of nature, or it takes matters into it’s own hands. Uh hem, seeing as I was wearing my favorite brown corduroys, I drank off the head of my beer, and slapped my snakeskin shoes down on the gritty tile floor. I stood at the urinal doing what I had to do thinking about how that bum kicker we’ve got couldn’t put the ball through the uprights for a field goal at thirty yards Monday night. I figured if I could still hit the porcelain from ten feet back at my age that jerk had no good excuse. Probably threw the game, the idiot. I zipped up, checked the flow of my ‘tail in the cracked, foggy bathroom mirror (you never knew when some babes with good figures might wonder in), and headed out of the latrine.
On the way back to my stool, the third one in from the right wall, two things became absolutely apparent. The first was that three jerky looking slobs in ripped up jeans and leather jackets had occupied the corner table, and were laughing like uncouth hyenas. There were two guys, both had long, dirty looking brown hair. Probably hadn’t been washed in weeks, from the unhealthy grease-shine it gave off, I figured. The other one was a girl with a hundred tattoos and a stupid looking piercing through her nose. She had hair as short as a marine, except it was a sickly, unnatural shade of blue. I nearly gagged at the sight of their noxious strands. They seemed to be having a real hoot from the looks of it.
The second, horrifying, realization I made was that my beer had vanished from the bar.
“Say Mack, you didn’t pitch my Stallion did ya? Sheez, I was just putting out the fire!”
“Huh? Whadya say, Angus?”
“I said, what happened to my beer, goddammit?
“Dunno, Angus. I didn’t see nothin’ ‘cept those young kids wander in here. I carded ‘em and all, but to tell ya the truth I wouldn’t have known if they was showin’ me their IDs or their fay-vert baseball cards”
I should’ve known. Old Mack was as blind as a bat and didn’t have the hearing to make up for it either. I sat down on the same stool I had been sitting on for decades. I swear it’s got a groove worn into it in the exact shape of my narrow ass. So, I leaned back, pulled out a Golden Hawk from my pack, situated it between my dry lips, and lit it. I considered the entire room behind a plume of smoke. If Old Mack said he hadn’t thrown it away I believed him. One thing the geezer had left was his memory. Mind like a steel trap. Something or Someone else had happened to my brew. I took another long, blistering drag. My throat contracted against the stale smoke. It felt acrid and dry like a dusty old pair of work boots you find in the attic long after you’ve retired. I shook my ‘tail to bring some clarity to my mind. Further down the bar sat Frank and Joanie. I had known them forever. Went to school with Joanie. They were good people. Came in a few nights a week for a couple drinks. Back in the day, Frank and I used to have quite the competition around the dart board. Now, he was retired from a lifetime of construction work, and mostly wanted to be left alone. And who was I to ruin a man’s peace?
Down the other side of the room, beneath the milky yellow lights were a couple of locals I knew by face, but not by name. A couple of working middle-aged stiffs they looked like. Probably just trying to drink away their ball-busting bosses. God knows I did my fair share of that kind of thing when I was their age. Two booths down, an impressively built man with artistically parted blonde hair sipped on a bottle of lager as he wrote purposefully on a yellow legal pad. I didn’t recognize him as anyone I had ever seen before, but based on the intensity of what ever it was he was working on I figured he had no time to steal people’s drinks. And that was it. Except for the damn kids of course. They were still howling incessantly from the corner. I stared at them from across the room, my mind verging on apocalypse.
I lifted my old bones up off the stool and started walking in the direction of their table. As I drew near, their raucous conversation dropped. They sat there with smug expressions smeared like sewage across their faces.
“Uh hem, you kid’s havin’ a good time tonight? I said.
“Maybe we are. What’s it to you old man?” one of the boys said. He couldn’t have been any more than twenty five, and was only identifiably different than his male counterpart by the marijuana leaf brightly depicted on his t-shirt. The other one also wore a black t-shirt under his studded jacket, but his had more sophistication in it’s design. Rather than a simple image it offered a philosophical statement. “Mean people suck. Nice people suck. You all suck.”
“Did you or your friends touch my beer, ya little shit?” I said to Weed Leaf. He was taken aback and then started to laugh uncontrollably. Probably on drugs, I thought. I hated the way his teeth looked as if they had some kind of film coating all the way across them.
“Why don’t you fuck off before you start something you’ll regret, geezer? Sassy Miss Blue Hair quipped from between the men. She had one of those voices that opera singers dreamed of. The kind that could shatter glass at will. I flipped my ‘tail over my shoulder to show the kids that I meant business. It caught every scarce wave of light in the place, and sparkled it back into their hateful, little eye sockets like a galaxy of stars striking out into the cold, blackness of space.
“The beer. Give it to me,” I said.
At this, Everyone Sucks jumped up on his seat. His hair didn’t so much as shift. It was nothing more than a putrid, tangled mass. It made me furious.
“You don’t want to do that…” I began, but before I could utter another word he had leaped from the creaking booth and landed less than three feet from me. He reached into a ragged slit in his dingy coat and flicked out a switchblade that gleamed a single, focussed ray of light into my eyes. I could feel my ‘tail flutter and pulsate against my shoulder. I wished that he wouldn’t take the whole thing any further. All my ponytail wanted was it’s nourishment, the Golden Stallion, but these little brats just couldn’t allow it that simple necessity. They deserved what they got.
“Whatcha got to say now, old fuck?” Everyone Sucks’ words hit me in the face with tiny, foamy dots of saliva.
“I wouldn’t do anything stupid,” I said.
“Oh, no? Whatcha gonna do about it?” Everyone Sucks mocked in an identical tone as he made the mistake of flicking his blade up even with my lumpy, gnarled nose. In an instant, the ‘tail shot like a whip, flicking the knife from his hand, sending it clinking across the floor.
“What the…?” Weed Leaf said staggering out of the booth.
“Did you see that?” Blue Hair stammered following his lead, but being certain to remain well behind him.
The ‘tail lifted again and hit Everyone Sucks across the cheek. A spray of blood lifted off his torn flesh like mist from a spray bottle.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhh!” Everyone Sucks screamed as his hands shot to his face in a failed attempt at keeping his blood from flowing out of the deep gash that cut from the edge of his eyebrow, down his cheek, to his chin.
“Now, it has a taste for blood! Does anyone else want to piss it off?” I demanded.
“N…No…” Blue Hair struggled while Weed Leaf could do nothing more than stare in wide-eyed horror at the attack my glorious ‘tail had just wrought on his comrade’s face.
“Okay then, Where is my beer.”
“Muh…Mister. I. Swear. To. God. We didn’t touch your beer. You have to believe me. Please!” Blue Hair pleaded. Something in her soft green eyes which she had tried so desperately to sully with a smearing of pink and black eye makeup made me sad for a moment. I believed her, but I knew that the ‘tail did not.
“Oh… Shit…” Weed Leaf said in a far away voice as he gazed, mesmerized at my shoulder. It was the ‘tail. It had lifted and coiled back like a snake prepared to strike.
“Mister!” Blue Hair cried.
Crack! Crack! Swoosh! Crack!
The ‘tail deftly sliced through the air, and tore through the throats of the three young people. Blood spilled in three great frothy rivers across the gritty floor, and into the rusted drain in the middle of the room.
Old Mack had locked the steel door that lead out back onto the street.
“No one is gonna say nothing about any of this! You got that? We stick together around here, and Angus is a good guy. We all go way back, an’ you know that. We help clean this up, take care of the bodies, and no one ever hears a word about this outside dee’s here walls, got it?”
Everyone concurred with nods all around and a low, guttering symphony of “uh-huhs.” I leaned over the fallen bodies for one of the draughts still bubbling on the table and threw it back to satiate the ‘tail. Nature sent out another S.O.S. so I started for the bathroom, but before I could make it halfway, the man with the neatly parted hair held out a big, sturdy hand. My ponytail flexed and rippled, ready for attack, but I willed it back. I squeezed the man’s hand, and then he spoke.
“Good to meet you. Angus, right?”
“Uh hem, yeah, that’s me. You aren’t going to say anything are you? You’re the only one I don’t know here tonight and…”
“Oh no, nothing like that. No need to get that thing worked up again,” he said half frightened and wholly amused.
“I’d like to offer you a job,” he said with a wide, clean smile. “Oh yeah? Already, got one,” I said.
“Oh? Doing what?”
“Do you like it?”
“Like it? I fucking hate it.”
“Good, when you decide you want to do the work you were born to do. You know, use your power for good, not evil. You give me a call, hmm?” he said, sliding a business card into my palm.
“Okay, I’ll think about it, but if you don’t mind, I’ve got business to attend to,” I said sliding my feet along the worn tiles to the bathroom door.
Once inside, I unzipped the corduroys, and flipped the card over in my hand. It read:
Leaning back, releasing my bladder I mused over the implications of calling that number. Who knows, maybe it would be fun. It’d have to beat Fast Gas, I thought. That’s when I saw it. Up and beyond my golden arc, something caught my eye. It was sitting atop the urinal that I was using. The same one I always used. A draught of Golden Stallion three quarters of the way full. So that’s what happened to my drink, I thought.