Flash Fiction | An Evening With Mr. Barrington
So there's this penguin...
Ok, so this might sound weird, but since I was a little kid, I’ve had this six-foot tall penguin, Mr. Barrington, following me around. I was super excited at first because what little kid doesn’t love an imaginary friend? However, as middle school crept up, and my childhood began to morph into adolescence, I decided that Mr. Barrington may not be an imaginary friend after all. No way was I going to tell anyone that a giant penguin followed me around everywhere I went. I decided to just keep quiet about it. My brain would grow up and he would go away one day, right?
It’s not like Mr. Barrington did anything either. He was just always in the room watching whatever I was doing and the environment around me. Whenever I walked anywhere, he toddled behind me silently. When I went to sleep every night, he quietly walked into my bedroom closet and shut the door. He really was no trouble at all. He was just a giant omnipresent penguin.
Middle school passed, then high school, college, and now here we are in adult life, and Mr. Barrington has never left my side. I have gotten drunk and screamed at him, I have swam out to sea so far I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back, I have done more drugs than I should have…
He never leaves.
I can’t be insane because everything else in my life is just fine. I have a career I love, a nice apartment downtown, and I don’t have any trouble getting dates. I do have a ‘staring problem’ I guess because there are times it looks like I am staring off into space, but I’m really just seeing what Mr. Barrington is up to.
He’s observing. It’s always the same.
I guess I just have a giant imaginary penguin companion that will quietly observe every corner of my life until I die. I suppose there could be worse things in life.
Anyway, there he is, sitting in the corner while I get ready for a date tonight with a guy I matched with on an app the other day. His name is Tyler, and we have been chatting for a few days and decided that the chemistry is good enough to go out for drinks and meet in person. Of course, Mr. Barrington will come with whether he’s invited or not. He’ll sit next to me in the cab, and then find a corner at the bar. It’s what he does.
Once we get to the bar, I see Tyler waiting and say hello. He and I head over to the bar, and I see Mr. Barrington waddle over to a dark corner by the dining area.
“Wow, you look great,” Tyler says as he pulls out a bar stool for me, “But I have to ask, what’s the deal with the penguin?”
I almost passed out there on the spot.
“What penguin?” I ask, nonchalantly.
“Uh, that one standing in the corner that got out of the cab with you? I think you’re great, but I’m not into anything like that.”
“Wait,” I stammer, “You can see him?”
“Of course I can see him,” Tyler laughs, “It’s a six-foot penguin in a bar.”
Before I answer, I flag the bartender down for a vodka soda. Make it a double. Please.
When my drink arrives I take a giant gulp before I begin explaining. Well, trying to explain, anyway.
“Tyler, it’s not anything kinky, if that’s what you’re wondering. Mr. Barrington, the penguin, is something that I have seen since I was a little kid. At first I thought he was an imaginary friend, but here I am in my 20s and he’s still here.”
Tyler silently took a pull on his bottle of beer, “What?! How do you know his name is Mr. Barrington? And why can I see him? What kind of weird game is this?”
I take another drink and a deep breath, “He wears a nametag. Anyway, let me prove this to you. Ask any three people in this bar if they see a giant penguin standing in a corner.”
Tyler accepted the challenge, first asking the bartender, then a couple of other random people, including the hostess. He even went to the corner and shook Mr. Barrington’s flipper, which I’m sure looked positively bananas to the other patrons. They probably thought he was on drugs at this point.
He made his way back to me, leaving my penguin friend in the corner.
“I have to be hallucinating right now,” he said before ordering another beer, “Like, that’s an actual man-sized penguin here in a bar that nobody but you or I can see.”
“That’s true, but I’m afraid you’re not hallucinating,” I said.
Tyler clanked his beer bottle against my glass, “Well, this can only mean we’re about to have the weirdest night of our lives, the best night of our lives, or a little bit of both.”