Ed Note: From time to time, I'll indulge my darker side and blast out a writer's challenge. This time, prolific writer and all-around bad-ass crazy person Chuck Wendig has put forth a challenge. This is my response to it. You may wish to avert your eyes.
At one-thirty I told the bar-back to start putting the chairs up on the tables. Normally, the boss would throw a fit if he saw the chairs up before two am. But, since there was nobody left but the two ladies at the end of the bar and Earl nursing his Bud long neck in the corner, I figured I was safe. I began the nightly ritual of ‘clean everything’, hoping to get out of there by two.
I was tired. I wanted to go home.
Well, not home, really. Anywhere else would have been okay, too. My little box of an apartment would do in a pinch, but there was usually a better choice out there. Looking around, I was resigning myself to the cold doom of bachelorhood and left over pizza, when one of the ladies at the end of the bar lifted a hand.
Taking the pint glass I was wiping dry with me, I covered the five paces to their end quickly enough. As I landed with a smile in front of them, I saw Earl getting up out of the corner of my eye. He tipped his Stetson in my direction and headed for the door.
Now, I know you’re thinking, “What the fuck is a guy in an Upstate New York bar doing wearing a Stetson?” and you’d be right. I’ve found myself thinking the same thing on more than one occasion. But, there’s nothing more to it than this: Earl likes being a cowboy. Jeans, boots, hat, knife on his belt… the whole thing. It’s his schtick, and who am I to tell him otherwise?
So, Earl is heading for the door when one of the ladies says, “Hey, do you know how to make a Contusion?”
“Contusion,” I said. “Like, as in, a bruise?”
She nodded. Her friend giggled that slightly-drunk-woman giggle, like she was channeling Betty Rubble. I lifted a fist with the first joint of my middle finger raised up a bit. “If you punch somebody like this,” I said with a grin. “You’re sure to leave a contusion of some sort.”
“Oooh,” said Betty before she giggled again. Her friend leaned closer to the bar, which she obviously thought would bring her closer to me. Her head was merely closer to the actual bar. “No, the drink. A Contusion.”
“Nope,” I said cheerfully. “Never heard of it.” I waited a beat, to see if that was the end of it. We both knew it wasn’t.
“Well?” she said in a whisper. “Do you wanna know how to make it?”
Betty was silent now, staring at me with those big eyes, like a child in a black velvet painting. She was kinda cute, in that cougar-ish way. She had dark hair to match her eyes. It was bobbed, pixie style, but you could tell it was done in a salon. Her cohort, who I had named Wilma in my head, was also in her forties, wearing that cougar-red lipstick and sporting a blonde mop that looked like she went at it with a pair of garden shears during a crying fit.
Her blouse had popped a button or two, and she was watching me, waiting for my answer.
I had no idea what their names really were. I usually assign people cartoon names based on my first impression of them to help remember what they’re drinking. Yogi’s having a Coors light. Jane Jetson over there is having a martini, and so on.
“Hang on,” I said. I scanned the bar room for the bar-back, who was just putting up the last chair, where Earl had been.
“Pete,” I said. “That’s it. I’ll lock up.”
“You sure?” Pete said doubtfully.
“Yeah, I got it.” I said.
Apparently, Pete saw something in these two that I didn’t. He looked downright disgusted.
“Wouldn’t your parents be proud.” he said, shaking his head. “Okay, man. I’ll see you on Wednesday.”
“Yup.” I said with a nod.
With a last glance at the two women, Pete slipped through the swinging door that led to the kitchen. A moment later I heard the time clock ka-thock, and then the back door slam.
Wilma had her elbows on the bar, squeezing her breasts together in that ever-so-distracted way, as if to say, “Oh , I sit like this all the time. It’s not like I’m trying to get you to look at my breasts or anything.” So, I was trying really hard not to look at her cleavage, which was ample, and quite frankly, pretty nice.
“So,” I said, setting my glass and rag down and moving to the other side of Betty. “What’s in a Contusion?”
“I could tell you,” Wilma said. She blinked slowly, but one eyelid went back up faster than the other. I stifled a laugh.
“But, I can make them better.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “I am fairly good at this. Try me.”
“Ok, “she said. Wilma thought for a moment, and then waggled her fingers at Betty. “Tell him.”
Betty swung her head in my direction, one eyelid slightly droopier than the other, and said, “A shot of rum… the good stuff, like 1800. Not that well shit.”
“1800 is tequila.” I said.
“What did I say?” Betty asked.
“Rum?” Betty threw her head back and giggled like her namesake. “Who the fuck drinks rum?”
“Ummm, pirates?” I offered.
They both giggled like their namesakes. I was beginning to feel like I was trapped in some twisted version of The Flintstones.
“So, tequila, then?” I asked, tentatively. “Yes! That’s it! Tequila!” Betty yelped. “Then, a dash of sweet vermouth and a dash of blue, uh, blue…” She turned to Wilma. “What’s that blue shit?”
“Curry cow.” Wilma said, followed by her lifting her glass of Chablis and draining it.
“Blue Curacoa?” I asked. This is gonna taste like shit, I thought.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s it.” Wilma said. “So, it’s a shot of tequila, a dash of sweet vermouth, a dash of that Blue stuff, and a splash of club soda. Pour that over an ice cube or two and you’ve got it.”
“So, basically,” I said, trying to show off my understanding. “We’re making purple tequila.”
Betty smiled. “Which will look like a bruise, or a …”
“Contunsion.” we said in unison.
With a shrug, I grabbed a shaker and scooped up some ice. “Too much!” Wilma barked. I hastily let most of the cubes dribble out of the glass, leaving two cubes at the bottom. I held it up for inspection. “Perfect.” Wilma said.
I grabbed the Tequila from the shelf, along with the curacoa. After measuring, splashing and adding the vermouth, I gently swirled the concoction around. Grabbing the soda gun, I blasted the mix with a quick dose of club soda. Swirled again, and then strained into a martini glass.
“Garnish?” I asked, my eyes flicking from face to face. Wilma waggled her fingers at me to demonstrate that she didn’t give a shit about garnish. Point taken, I set the glass between them and stepped back.
Wilma took a sip. Betty followed after watching Wilma for a moment. Wilma motioned for me to come closer. Before I could get there, Wilma’s depth perception failed her and she spat her sip toward me in a spit take that would have made Uncle Miltie proud. “Augh! That’s awful!” she cried.
Betty shrugged and drained the glass.
“Yeah, that was pretty bad.” she said. “You have no idea how to make a Contusion.”
I looked from face to face again, and grabbed up the glass. I headed for the other end of the bar, tossing, “Alright, closing time, ladies!” over my shoulder.
“I think we hurt his feelings.” Wilma said. She was whispering really loudly. Betty giggled again, and called out, “Oh, come on! Don’t be like that!”
I sauntered back to their end after placing the martini glass in the rack under the bar. “No, it’s all good,” I said. “It just is,” I pointed a thumb over my shoulder, “ time to go.” I headed back to the other end, and opened the register with a bang. I totaled and printed out their tab, and walked back.
I folded it in half, length-wise, and set it down in front of them. I walked back to the other end, and made a big show of finishing the washing and cleaning. I covered the garnish trays with plastic and put them in the cooler beneath the taps. I washed the last of the glasses and put them away. When all but the register was closed, I made my way back to them.
They were huddled together, whispering. I could tell by the fact that they were the loudest whisperers ever that they were discussing taking me home with them.
I’ve done worse.
“Ladies,” I said as smoothly as I could manage. “I have to close up. I have to close out the register.” They both looked at me blankly. “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I need you to pay your check.” I said sweetly.
A great flurry of activity began, as they rifled through their purses, taking out checkbooks and wallets and combs and all manner of things I didn’t need to see. Finally, Wilma dropped a crumpled $50 bill on the bar. I locked eyes with her as I scooped it up. She smiled in a very devilish way.
As I walked over to the register, I imagined what might happen if the three of us went home together.
I punched in the check number.
In my mind, Wilma was on her knees, while Betty was working me out of my shirt and tie.
I punched in the total of the check.
Betty was topless now, and Wilma was going for it like it ain’t nobody’s business.
I hit ‘Total’ and unfolded the fifty.
The drawer popped open. I felt a fingernail tapping me on the shoulder. I turned my head in time to see Wilma swinging a pint mug by the handle.
I felt the cartilage in my nose give way as the glass shattered. I staggered back, clutching at my broken nose and bloodied face. Betty was pulling all of the bills out of the register while Wilma followed me down to the floor, bashing me in the head again and again with what was left of the mug in her hand.
Her knees were on my chest. There wasn’t much left of the mug besides the handle now, but she was still swinging it at my head, trying to catch me whenever my guard went down.
I heard Betty growl, “Let’s go.” Wilma was up in a flash, climbing up onto the sink in order to vault over the bar. “Let’s go!” I heard Betty say again.
“That’s how you make a bruise, motherfucker.” Wilma said with a snort. “That’s a fuckin’ contusion.”
I lay there on the floor behind the bar, holding my nose and listening for the sirens. I was sure then, and I know now, that Betty had no idea that the last twenty dollar bill in the drawer was rigged to the silent alarm. All of us bartenders knew it. We all knew better than to pull that last twenty.
I struggled to my feet, slipping and stumbling in what was my own blood. I heard the two ladies crash through the double doorway into the street just as the first of the cop cars rolled up. I couldn’t see much of what was going on outside. Both my eyes were going black and blue right there under my hands. I could feel it.
Later, when the cops dragged them both in for a positive ID, I nodded. When the detective started asking me what happened, I asked him if he didn’t think it might be a good idea to get me to a fucking hospital. I figured that I would be picking glass out of my face for a while, and I wanted to get a head start on it.