The Cat Dragged Inn Chapter 4

The Cat Dragged Inn Chapter 4

A Chapter by Montilee Stormer

 

Chapter 4

 

 

The man in the corner has been quiet enough to blend into the wallpaper, nursing his drink, watching the tableau of barkeep and patron play itself out as it has in a million other bars in a million other cities. His mind is a whirl of thoughts, most of them his.  Others are echoes of something older and disconnected and foreign. The thoughts turn on each other, tripping over periods, fragments running into verbs; over and over in his mind, the overriding need to be here has been supplanted with a soapbox of rants – or rather just one rant.

He watches the older, wet woman request something from the younger dry woman (girl) he would have walked through glass on his knees to see, and the younger dry woman (child) gives it to her. Just like that. How hard was that transaction?

Approach, ask, receive, repeat. It isn’t so much the product as the service, alcohol being legal nearly everywhere with the proper ID, it isn't as if bars serve a special kind of alcohol not available in any store.

I see that, I want that, you will give it to me.

It's the idea of walking into a place and asking for something and then getting it, even if the product in question turns the brain to mottled cheese and the liver the consistency of coffee grounds.

I need, I want, I must take.

It's basic customer service, and yet it's dying, it's been dying, its death rattle reverberates throughout the world.

That, mine, now

Without the customer there is no business, and in places so small there is but one proprietor of any sundry, the customer might very well choose famine over feast, if only to prove a point. There are other cities (towns) and other bars (roots) to patronize. I walk into a bar (botanica) and ask the barkeep (doctor) for a beer (root) and d****t I get it. We don't haggle over why I want it (love) and I get it, I pay, I go home (caroline) just like that. And when I return the next time there is no question over what I want. I want, I need, you will give me now. (I ask for root, you give me root, I leave). Really, it's simple business sense, I can't understand why the concept seems so damn difficult to follow.

And on and on. A crowd of thoughts growing darker and blacker by the word, the world growing more muted and disconnected by the thought, and the sightline becoming a narrow pinprick of light focused on one single (girl) person.

*****

Callie has seen the man in the corner nursing the same drink, mumbling to himself, occasionally snorting to something unheard but terribly funny, and has dismissed him as a meth-head riding the Stardust Express. He'll probably find himself lying next to something with the breath of a landfill baking in the August sun, and a raging case of something requiring several courses of antibiotics strong enough to render him temporarily sterile. Where she comes from, those kinds of people don't mix with polite society. They know their places, sticking to the missions, the back roads, the sort of alcoholic dives frequented by those with a death-wish. Where she is from, towns can very easily say that they do not have a problem with the indigent. The indigent simply become the invisible. It is better that way, not inflicting their hardships on everyone else.

Detroit is a new town for her, miles and cultures away from larger cities with bustling populations and thriving industry. It is not the city she'd read about in the news, not teaming with crime or hookers or … people for that matter. It is empty, a patchwork of new and old, new developments next to condemned properties. Callie has confined her business to the school, Wayne State University, and was horrified to discover that its "campus" was sprawled out over a section of the City – no gates, no guards, just open space where anyone from anywhere can wander in and cause problems. Then she met Brett and Chloe and learned to navigate the maze that was campus living, getting the routines of the local street people down. She'd hoped that hanging out in the Inn would keep her isolated from "them" but even "they" managed to find the warmest non-descript joints. "They" apparently had no sense of class.

Callie dismisses the tweaker and resumes her interest in the woman with the buttons and the warming smell of cinnamon and poached whiskey.

The woman sips at the drink and sighs contentedly. "This is just how my grandmother used to make them".

"Was your grandmother a barmaid?" asks Chloe.

"No," says the woman, with an embarrassed grin. "She was a dyed-in-the-wool alcoholic --"

"Brett, mind the counter. I need to change the record." Penda's voice steps over the woman as one might tread on a piece of paper on the sidewalk and she heads for the office. It's cool, this detached demeanor, this careless indifference. Customer service isn't dead at The Cat Dragged Inn, it's never brought to term. Callie believes that Penda might feel the same way she does about street people and their place, only for whatever reason, Penda chooses to stay here, live here, while Callie plans on ditching this town as soon as she has her degree in hand. "Record?" the woman asks.

"Apparently they are these grooved disks made of vinyl our ancestors used in tribal mating rituals -- "

"Shut up, Brett," says Penda, slamming closed the office door behind her.

"I know what they are," says the woman chuckling. "I just would have thought she'd have piped in music or maybe CDs."

"Penda doesn't like the sound. She says it has no life. The crackles remind her that those voices belong to people. She says CDs sound like the void between this place and Hell." Chloe cracks a crooked smile. "I guess she's been there."

"Don't mind our girl," says Brett. "She's always cranky around wash day. Every Thursday morning, she opens up shop and does this top to bottom cleaning with that bucket and some funky smelling water. She washes the sidewalk, the floor, the tables, the bar and finally the glasses." Brett gets up and slips behind the counter, a forbidden pleasure, and he snatches a sideways glance at the office door. The bucket sits abandoned on the back counter, a grayish liquid with a grayer cloth lying next to it. Brett takes a sniff. "Gah – it smells like chamomile tea with a pee chaser."

The patron in the back, a man they'd come to pretty much forget is there, makes enough noise with the scraping of the table and the shuffling of his feet to draw their attention back to him.

With an over the top flourish, Brett grabs a clean counter towel, drapes it over his arm and approaches the man as he rises from his booth, "Is that all for you then? Perhaps one for the road?" The man shoves Brett hard, one meaty hand into the chest, and Brett is sent backwards to the bar. He grabs the counter, reaching for something that might stop his descent. His flailing hands find a tray, but it not being bolted to anything, it slides easily, propelling Brett quickly to the floor.

All three women at the bar stand, and Callie screams, the only one to make a sound. The man rushes the bar and grabs a stool, raising it high over his head, and brings it down hard over the counter, tearing the vinyl on the seat and bending the drunk bar along the edge. Now, all  of the women scream as the man raises the stool over his head again.

"Those are MINE!" he bellows, and it really is a bellow that shakes the walls causing the glasses to tinkle nervously on their shelves.

This is how Jack felt when the Giant caught him looting the goose, Callie thinks, raising her arms above her head in a futile attempt to ward off the coming brain damage. That man hadn't seem so big when he was just sitting there minding his own business, but all of him with chair and girth and anger, his essence seems to fill the bar squeezing out all possible air.

There is a much smaller bellow which doesn't shake much of anything as Brett bodily tackles the man, sending him and his stool sprawling. They roll around the floor, the man easily outweighing Brett and crushing him as he rolls on top. The man, his face red and enraged, draws back his arm to completely put out Brett's lights.

"What the hell is going on out here?"  Penda stands at the office door, hands squarely on her hips, glaring with not anger, but irritation, as if attempted murder was just one more kink in her daily plans.  She throws a glance at the bent bar and the irritation on her face deepens towards the threshold of anger.

Something passes over the man's face (joyhateloverelief) before he stands, letting go of Brett and brushing off his pants. He even rights the chair he’s dropped and pushes it in under the nearest table.  He lets out a laugh filled with relief.

“You,” says the man, the relief on his face tangible.  He jams his hands into his pockets pulling out a piece of paper, worn and creased where it had been folded and refolded many times.  He holds it out at arms length, jamming it with his finger. “I thought you were an urban legend, a myth, but they were right.  You’re real.  I’m not going crazy.”

“I am a myth,” Penda says with a voice so void of feeling the temperature in the room seems to drop a few degrees. 

Chloe, Callie and the woman begin speaking at once, but it is Brett that is the voice of clarity and reason. "We were minding our own business looking at this nice lady's button collection, when this … gentleman comes crashing in yelling nonsense about his property and then the throwing started."

The man speaks, this time quieter than a bellow, but still rumbling in his chest. "Those are my buttons. Give them to me."  He sticks his hands in his pockets and relief is replaced with panic.  “My buttons.”  He looks around on the floor, retracing his steps back to his booth.

"Call the police. He's been trying to kill me." The woman hides behind Callie.

“Oh my goodness,” says Callie.  She pulls out her cell phone and after glancing around nervously, sticks it back into her pocket.

“No, he hasn’t.  If there’s one thing I can’t abide in my bar, other than bums who don’t pay their tabs, it’s liars.” Her accent is thicker, more Southern wrapped in something else – something that sounds Cajun but isn’t.  Penda calmly surveys the scene, sizing up the situation, the people and whatever else she has to do for the rest of the afternoon. “I see. Well, I need you and him out of my bar."

The man has returned from his booth, cradling his buttons like a man holding a found baby bird, just in time to hear he was not getting that second drink.

Everyone is shocked into silence, except of course Brett. "Are you mad? Did you just hear what she said?"

Penda has heard them and she doesn't care. This has been one of those afternoons best ended early before things she gets a headache. "And take your buttons with you."

Brett does something he's only dreamed about but never actually had the guts to pull off, however at this point, rational is trumped by shock. He places a hand on Penda's arm. The skin is warm but vibrates underneath, like a well-tuned 340-engine. This will register later, but for know he only assumes she's just as scared as the rest of them. "Please, be reasonable."

She snatches her arm from his grasp but not before giving him a look of absolute malice, full of sharp daggers. She has already turned back to her bar, turning to the stepstool and champagne glasses. "You can take Brett with you. Better even, everybody out. We're closed." She has barely crested the first step, and the music overhead has begun to skip and Etta James has the hiccups. She curses under her breath. "Thanks for stopping by, now get out. Lock it up please." The office door once again slams behind her.

There is silence in the bar.  Everyone too shocked to move and too afraid of each other to speak.

Brett takes a deep shaky breath and once more plays the happy concierge, albeit a little more subdued and very hollow. "Alright folks, allow me to show you out."

The man is also is shuffling towards to door, a defeated slump in his shoulders. Callie falls behind a few steps to Brett who has stopped near his table to knock back the rest of his beer. "We aren’t really leaving?"  The man and the woman exit, she at more of a run, and at a slight lead. Brett notes them leaving. "You heard the lady. She wants them gone, and I still have my beer to finish. Besides, things seem calm now."

Chloe gives a nervous titter. This is the most excitement she's has in too long, and she doesn't like it. The adrenaline makes the room very bright and very cold  "I don't want to get involved. I come from a long line of not getting involved."

Callie stands it almost mute shock. "I don't believe you people." She stomps towards the door, pausing long enough to look both ways on the other side before existing into the rain.

“She’s new here,” says Brett to Chloe, taking one final gulp of his beer before ushering her towards the door.  “I can’t believe you’re running us out like this,” he says hopefully loud enough to be heard on the other side of the office door.  “It’s still daylight out and my liver isn’t even damp.”  When there was no answer, he leaves, closing the door firmly behind him.

*****

You’re not getting off that easy, not by a long shot.  You think this is over for you, but the voices in your head, the ones that speak in an accent you’ve never hear before, but sound so familiar they practically sing in your bones, have plans for you and those plans involve .  There’s a place around the corner, barely a little alley.  Wait there for a bit and the voice in your head will let you in on a little secret.

 

 




© 2008 Montilee Stormer



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Documentation
4/5/18
2:53 PM U.S. CST
"My Review of The Cat Dragged in Chapter 4 by Montilee Stormer, a Fellow Writer's Cafe Author"
by PB Jacobs (www.writerscafe.org)

Dude!

Way to go! From what I have read, so far, you have a nifty dive bar anthem going on here. I'm engaged in reading your work, already, as I had a few thoughts about a dive bar in Minnesota, a while back. The whole dive bar concept really amuses me! I'll read some more of your work...

Your thoughts seem to center around coverage, as in covering what's what in the dive bar. Not bad, as your coverage writing paint's an environmental and atmospheric picture in my mind. So far, so good...

Yeah, I just had a look at the picture you are displaying, and the person in the picture looks for real, yet tempermental. Gee, has the person in the picture had one too many bad day's? The person in the picture might have to get better at screwing people over in writing, instead of getting all emotional. Yeah, just distracted. Back to my review of your work...

I'd change the name of this to Dive Bar Drama, as you might just get people to perk up a tad more. I see humor in this, as well, but that's just me.

I'm probably kind of ticking you off, as I'm the spiffy, yet mealy-minded worm type that you despise, I'll bet. Could this be a Referential Integrity Fantasy from an Astral Juvie type? Maybe a lack of grace somewhere in your life, as someone screwed you over, and out of it?

I don't know, but I'm having a great time rambling on this afternoon. No big deal, it's just me, and if nothing else, it's just an a*s covering and a review, all rolled up in one.

I love your work! I'll give you a good score, as you deserve it! Have a great day! All in good dive bar drama!

PB Jacobs



Posted 8 Months Ago


Ahh that last part! I dislike myself for a sec for taking so damn long 2 get here:) I love that last part!
Same as willie just editing stuff
but your pace in this one and the claritiy in all the disjointed stuff is tiight:)
I was not lost once thanks very much:)
I want penda to show me why shes so frightening but im down to wait, something about her reminds me of the landlady in kung fu hustle- love that movie.....

Ok good one. no major hang ups, good energied complete flowing interesting chapter. next?

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I want the secret! Mine, gimme, now! :D

This had a really disjointed feeling to it that seems to have served the scene quite well. I am so deathly curious, I can hardly stand it.

A number of typos, etc., you should see to, but otherwise, I loved it!

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on April 25, 2008


Author

Montilee Stormer
Montilee Stormer

Royal Oak, MI



About
Short Version: MontiLee Stormer is a troublemaker, writing acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. Her interests wander from abnormal psychology and serial killers, to lost loves and.. more..

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