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A Bothersome Friend

A Short Story | The Bar of the Lost Souls

By Max AyalaPublished about a year ago 11 min read
2
A Bothersome Friend
Photo by Sérgio Alves Santos on Unsplash

The cold air flowed through the alley. A squealing rat ran and made a couple of empty cans rattle. At the entrance of the alley, Charlie groaned at the passing rat. He sucked on his cigarette and blew it to the side.

A metal door slammed on the distance. Footsteps approached Charlie, making Charlie bow down with closed eyes. Beth stepped in front of the alley and turned to Charlie. “There you are,” she said.

Charlie stared at Beth and lifted his cigarette to the air. “I’m busy,” he said.

“I finished mopping, and I need to go. Get inside and pay me,” said Beth. She stared as Charlie sucked the cigarette and blew over him. She tapped her foot on the ground and scoffed at him. She shook her head and walked away.

Charlie rolled the cigarette on his fingers. He stared at the alley and flicked the cigarette. With a weak cough, he followed Beth’s tracks.

He opened the metal front door and inspected his bar. There was no sign of footprints on the floor, the chairs were over the tables, almost all stools were lined up next to bar, and some glasses piled on the same. Beth sat on the stool furthest to the right, fixing her hair.

Charlie nodded and stepped inside. He walked next to Beth to get behind the bar. He took out his keys and opened the register. From there, he handed Beth an envelope. “Here. Now, good night,” he said, shooing her away with his hand after Beth took the envelope.

She stared at him without batting an eye. She opened the envelope, and Charlie turned around and walked to the sink with some glasses on hand. “Where is the rest?” asked Beth, eyes still on the envelope’s contents.

Charlie eyed her from the side. He turned to her and smiled awkwardly. “It’s a Monday night. Slow, as you know. I’ll pay you the rest on the weekend.”

Beth let out a deep laugh as she slammed the bar with her hand. “You know, if you made some effort, the costumers would stay for more than one drink. Or at least they would leave more than a measly tip.”

Charlie turned to the tip jar next to the register. He peaked inside and saw a couple of pennies. He returned his gaze to Beth, but turned away as he picked up more glasses. “My pay is affected as much as yours.”

“At least my second job lets me survive,” said Beth.

Charlie turned around confused. He raised an eyebrow at her.

Beth broke the eye contact and looked away, stuttering. “You have to admit, you look weak, fatigued, and act even more irritated than usual.”

Charlie nodded. He turned to the glasses on the sink. “Good night, Beth. See you Wednesday.”

Beth took a deep breath. She opened her mouth, thought of saying something, but just turned away and walked outside the bar.

Charlie washed all the glasses that piled on the bar, and set them on a tray. He kneeled to set the tray under the bar. He sighed and grabbed the bar to pull himself up, but he only close his eyes as a headache quickly appeared. He groaned and rubbed his forehead.

He took a deep breath, and the headache disappeared. Charlie opened his eyes and looked up. Glass was tapping against the wooden bar. He pulled himself up, slowly. He turned to the source of the tapping, and saw his friend Theresa sitting on the other side, tapping the bar with the tip jar.

Theresa smiled at him and peaked in the jar. “Empty again, huh?” she said.

“Shut up,” said Charlie. “And it isn’t empty.”

“It almost is,” said Theresa as she smiled and looked at the contents.

Charlie groaned at her and crossed his arms.

Theresa chuckled. “Don’t get mad. Tomorrow is another day, you just need to try harder.”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “If I got a dollar every time I hear that, I wouldn’t need this bar.”

Theresa shook her head. She stood up and leaned in the bar. “Nothing I say matters, does it?”

Charlie shrugged as he pulled a jacket from under the bar.

“Fine, but you better hurry up,” said Theresa. She pulled Charlie’s keys from the pocket on her hoodie, rattling them. “Unless you want me to take your car again.”

Charlie patted his pockets, and frowned at Theresa. “Oh no, you are not driving again.” Charlie turned around and turned off the lights. He surrounded the bar and followed Theresa out the bar.

###

Charlie walked into his apartment building. He passed the empty plant pots by the entrance, and walked towards the mailboxes to his left. He inspected the set of letters with shaking hands, and groaned at the sight of a red mark on the last one. Late Rent Notice.

He turned around and walked down the hall. At the end of the hall, he unlocked the door to his left and entered the dark apartment. He turned on the lamp by the entrance. Taking off his jacket, he danced around the room, avoiding the dirty clothes on the floor. He slammed the letters on the dusty and already busy coffee table.

He reached the couch on the other side of the room and sat down, letting out a deep gasp.

“Someone had a rough night.” A rough voice came from a silhouette standing on the apartment’s kitchen.

Charlie sat straight and turned towards the kitchen with open eyes and a hand on his chest. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Kal walked out of the shadows, smiling, and slowly waltzing around the floor towards the couch. “I felt like you needed me,” said Kal.

“How did you even get in?” asked Charlie.

Kal paused his movements, and looked at Charlie. He turned around the apartment, humming, thinking. He sat on the couch next to Charlie and smiled at him. “I know where you hide the key.”

Charlie stared at Kal for a couple of seconds. “I hate you.” Charlie relaxed and set his legs on the coffee table. “So much.”

Both Charlie and Kal laughed at the comment. Kal accommodated himself on the couch. “You look different today,” said Kal.

“How so?”

“You look thoughtful. Not so depressed.” Kal stared at Charlie and tilted his head. “I like it.”

Charlie sat straight, and rubbed his face with his hands. “What is wrong with me?”

Kal raised his eyebrows. He opened his mouth to say something, but just hummed with a smile on his face.

“Why can’t I ever her tips? I’m always fast with the customer drinks.”

“Fast service is not always good service,” said Kal.

Charlie laughed. “People complain of the wait, or complain of quality. There is never good service.”

Kal pursed his lips. “Well, you work at a bar, serving drunks,” he said, making Charlie groan. Kal smiled and gave Charlie a light push. “I get what you mean. Tell you what, I’ll see you tomorrow to give you some guidance.”

Charlie chuckled. He stood up from the couch and walked towards his room. “Sure! Whatever. See you tomorrow then, stalker.”

Kal stared as Charlie walked away, a smile forming on his face.

###

Charlie picked a bottle of dark rum, ginger beer and a slice of lime from the shelfs. He turned around and pulled a glass from under the bar. He prepared a dark and stormy, then turned to the waiting lady on the other side of the bar. He slammed the drink in front of her, spilling some of the drink.

“Have a nood- a nice- a good- a nice and good day,” said Charlie. An awkward smile grew on his face as he nodded to the lady.

The girl mimicked the awkward smile, picked up the drink from the bar, and walked away.

Charlie sighed and looked at the floor as she walked away.

Kal sat at the other end of the bar. He contained his laugh until Charlie approached him. “Please tell me that was intentional,” he said.

Charlie scowled at Kal.

“It’s even funnier that it’s not,” said Kal, slamming his fist on the bar. After some seconds, the laugh turned into a hum. “Alright, you are NOT the nice bartender. Having the initiative is simply not your thing.”

“What is my thing, then?” asked Charlie.

A drunk man stumbled towards the bar. He tripped but grabbed the bar for support. He shook his head, raised his arm, and called out, “Bartender.”

Charlie sighed and stepped towards the man.

“Wait,” said Kal. Charlie stopped and looked over his shoulder. “You know, some good bartenders are known for being good listeners.”

Charlie squinted at Kal, but Kal just shooed him away with his hand. He approached the man. “How can I help you sir?” asked Charlie.

The man groaned. “Sir… I need… give me another whiskey.”

Charlie nodded and turned around, inspecting the shelfs for the bottle. He pulled it out, and then a glass from under the bar. As he served the drink, he eyed the man, who was fidgeting with the ring on his left hand.

He closed the bottle, and picked up the glass. He looked over his shoulder towards Kal, who gave him a slight nod. “Is everything alright, sir?” asked Charlie, slowly handing the man his drink.

The man picks up the glass, eyes fixated on the drink. He sighs and puts the drink back on the bar. “Well, no. Everything is a wreck.”

Charlie gasped lightly. He joined his hands, and shook his head. “How, how so?”

The drunk man sat on a stool, then turned to Charlie. “I lost my job about a week ago, and five days ago, I came out this store and saw someone crashed and destroyed my car.”

“Oh.” Charlie leaned on the bar, nodding with wide open eyes.

“At least my wife’s still with me,” said the man. He showed the ring on his finger to Charlie, then played with it.

“That. That is good,” said Charlie.

The man groaned. “Who’m I kid’n. She knows I’m a failure. Bet she is planning to leave me too.” He leaned into the bar and covered his face with his hands.

Charlie opened his mouth but found no words, only light noises of confusion. He exchanged some confused looks with Kal, then looked at the man again. “I. I don’t… You sure about that?”

The man sighed and looked at Charlie’s confused face. The man sat straight and his whole face lit up. “You’re right, maybe not. I should go home. Make her dinner or something.”

The man gulped some of the drink and slammed the glass on the bar. He turned around but stopped himself. He turned around and reached inside his pocket. He pulled a five-dollar bill and handed it to Charlie. “Here, a tip for a tip. Thanks for listening.”

Charlie took the bill and stared as the man stumbled out of the bar.

Kal approached Charlie in the bartender side. He held the tip jar and set it in front of Charlie.

Charlie put the bill on the tip jar. “What was that?”

“Hey, you listened, he tipped. That’s how it works.” Kal laughed. He walked past Charlie and leaned on the bar. “See? I knew you could pull it out.”

Charlie laughed and picked up the man’s glass. “You are good at this as well. Why don’t you put on a uniform and help out?”

Kal chuckled. “You would like that, wouldn’t you?”

Charlie grabbed the Whiskey bottled and returned it to the shelf. “Why not? I don’t see you doing anything else but bothering me.”

Kal turned towards Charlie with a serious face. He tapped the bar with his fingers and looked away. “You know exactly why I can’t.” A slim stream of blood drips from Kal’s forehead.

“Kal, are you alright?” Charlie stepped towards Kal. He stopped as a strong headache appeared. He brought his hands to his forehead and shook his head. Gradually, the headache disappeared. Charlie looked up to see Kal sitting on a stool on the other side of the wooden bar.

Kal raised his eyebrow at Charlie. “Everything alright?”

Charlie pointed at the spot in front of him. “You were standing here just a second ago.”

Kal frowned and pursed his lips. “On your side of the bar? I would never.” He stood up from the stool and pulled a phone from his pocket. “You know what, since you finally made a decent tip, I shall call Theresa. She will be excited when you give her a ride today.”

Charlie frowned but only rolled his eyes. He rubbed his forehead as Kal walked out of the bar.

Young AdultSeriesMystery
2

About the Creator

Max Ayala

Maximiliano Ayala is a writer who specializes in action, adventure, and fantasy. He can be easily distracted by almost any type of card-strategy game you mention.

Follow me on my social media!

https://linktr.ee/dusaeimax

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