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I had been drunk for days when I finally fell, and it was one of those spiral-tumbles that clears your head for a moment, leaves your ass sore and your body aching while you reassemble your pieces and search for the breaks before unbending the awkward bends. God, what a fucking joke I was, pulling myself upright again and bumping along my way, trying to establish which bridge I was under, what street I was on, what specific area of town I was in, before finding my way back through the Projects. I was limping slightly, soaking wet with both ears ringing, and smelling burnt feathers, but it wasn't the worst night I'd ever had. No one bothered me as I strode with my eyes down, making my way through dark threatening streets that were all but empty now, the few people left out in this raw evening hurrying a different direction than mine. My water-logged steps were heavier than usual, my shoulders weighted down with a sheet of ice forming on my overcoat, but I hunched them and kept moving, half-afraid of freezing to death because I didn't feel especially cold when I really should have been shaking. Eddie's Bar was only a few minutes away. I was already tired of walking, the backs of my legs slapped heavily each step of the miserable way by my frozen flapping coat. Why did God even make a hell, when New York is so conveniently placed for easy-access traveling and comes with such dreadful winters? It seemed a wasted effort to me.
Eddie's tavern sign was the same, but the faces had changed. I knew there was a problem immediately when I walked through the door and didn't recognize a soul, including Eddie, who had been replaced by some huge-nosed Italian in a wife-beater undershirt, black slacks and suspenders, pouring drinks.
"Well, boys, we got us a newbie," he grinned, puffing his cigar in my frost-bitten face as the glasses slid down the counters to their waiting patrons. "What's your name, toots?"
"It's not fucking Toots, and where the hell is Eddie?" I jerked at the coat savagely as I sloughed it off, letting it hit the floor like a frozen orange peel, almost losing my balance sliding on the leather-padded stool.
"Careful, Angel, don't trip on those wings." He had stopped smiling, leaning forward now, clamping back down on the cigar stump with his teeth. "And Eddie is no longer with us, as you can plainly see. I am the only bartender here, so what you want, you'll get from ME. Respectfully, or you're out on your pretty ass. Got it... Not Fucking Toots?"
I leaned into his face, staring with all focus into his left eye, Premi-style, as we locked our cold gazes. "Got it... Not Fucking Eddie."
"Oh, this one!" he laughed now to the scattered crowd, pointing at me. "This one is going to be fun. What's your name then? The first drink is on me!" He snapped his bar towel dramatically over a beefy forearm, rubbing his hands together briskly.
I glanced around, noticing that no one else was talking, all staring at me, before seeing the wings -- the huge, wet, dirty-feathered wings that were behind me, stinking of singed smoke and river water, attached firmly to my shoulder blades. I fell for the second time in the same evening, this time backwards, this time with a terrible scream, reaching back with my hands to grab at them, the pain of trying to pull them off causing more distress. People were ignoring me now, politely, staring into glasses, returning to their conversations as if ignoring someone who had just gone mad and was best overlooked. Even Not Fucking Eddie rolled his eyes, staring down at me. "You didn't notice those before now? You didn't know you DIED? Jesus Christ, what are they sending in here these days? Get the hell up and stop sniveling!"
"But what happened???" I pulled myself upright, self-conscious that I had apparently made a disgraceful scene but still too distraught to control the squeaking in my voice. "How did I die, what happened to me?" My knees still were shaking too hard to stand steadily, and I didn't want to sit.
"How the hell do I know?" he shrugged, searching the mirrored bar, selecting a bottle of whiskey and heavy shot glass, then turning back to pour me a drink. "They don't give us a list to go by... We usually have that information from whoever comes in. For instance, Charlie over there," he nodded to the dark old man who was sleeping, "Just fell asleep."
"He's dead right now???" I gasped, staring at the man snoring a few barstools down from me.
"I said, he just fell asleep.... but yeah... he's dead. And, ironically enough, he just fell asleep... get it?" he chuckled at my horrified expression, then said, "I suppose that was a confusing example, toots... sorry about that. You must have taken a helluva head crack. Vito! Hey Vito, come here!"
A tall, broad balding man approached with almost a threatening manner, and I scrambled backwards away from them both. "Vito here was a mob hit in 1962. Just look at that face," he grinned, grabbing the not-so-happy-looking Vito's cheeks and squeezing them into a fish-mouthed pinch of affection, twisting his features closer to the nearest overhead lamp. "He took a lead slug straight through the forehead..."
"He looks fine," I said doubtfully, inching forward and seeing no damage, watching Vito return the fish-mouth squeeze to his friend. Both were grinning now and clapping each others' shoulders like old men do when telling a good joke.
"Of course he's fine, he's better than fine! He's dead! You'll be fine, too, you just wait and see... drink up, toots, you're still looking dazed. You must have just landed... you been on life support or something?" He pushed the drink toward me again and this time I took it, swallowing quickly.
"That machinery fucks you up," Vito said solemnly, and Not Fucking Eddie nodded in serious agreement, chiming in, "It really does. They don't know if they got you going or coming, by the time they get you to breathe... 'Fuck it, keep your hands off me,' that's what I told'em, but my wife Marlene? Goddamn bitch never listened to anything I said anyway. Especially once I was dead."
"Don't bad-mouth the living now," Vito warned, "She might show up any time..."
"Oh hell NO, that's the day I will pack up and leave..."
I made it back onto the stool, interrupting shakily. "Excuse me... is this heaven?" Both stopped, looking at me rather surprised, rather thoughtful.
"Heaven? Uh huh, little sister, whatever you want to believe. After all, you're the one with the wings." Vito laughed curtly, giving me a hard finger-thump to the bone-framed feathers before returning to his seat.
"Where are yours?" I asked Not Fucking Eddie, suspiciously, staring at his seemingly smooth back.
"I got rid of mine. They kept knocking down the bottles. I couldn't move very well back here with them, now could I?" He stepped back behind the bar again, spreading his arms to show me the limited depth, and I reluctantly agreed; they would definitely have taken out a few shelves with the wrong turn.
"Mine feel heavy."
"No shit! The bigger they are, of course they will be."
"Why doesn't Vito have any?"
"We really don't talk about the wings here," he said, casting me a warning glance while cutting me off, his voice dropping slightly. "And we especially don't talk about Vito's wings. It's a sore subject. Just have another drink. On the house, toots." He poured the whiskey again, his voice now sincere. "You'll have a long time to figure this all out, no need ruining the fun on your very first night dead. There will be plenty of time for these things."
"So, I'm really dead now?" I shot the whiskey again, feeling calmer with the familiar burn in my throat and with Not Fucking Eddie's affirmative grins.
"I swear to God, you're morgue-bound somewhere right now... your mama is probably crying and chanting rosary..."
"My mama is Baptist."
"Oh. Then, she'll never believe it," he laughed, and I had to agree. There wasn't a postcard in heaven or hell that covered anything this weird.
"So... where are we really? I mean, I don't remember seeing a light or anything... which way did I go?"
"No light? Really?" He leaned in close again, as though we were sharing a serious moment. "You're at Eddie's Bar. Isn't that where you wanted to be?"
"Yeah... I wanted to be here." I had been walking, wet and frozen, confused, until I remembered Eddie's and decided to come for a drink. That's when I began to regroup my thoughts and began finding my way. "Is that all it takes?"
"Sometimes, if it's what you need." He was happy, smiling again, refilling my empty glass. "The rest of it... don't matter so much, toots. You'll figure it out, just like you'll figure out what to do about those wings."
After my third free drink, I decided Not Fucking Eddie was probably right. Answers aren't always so important, once you stabilize the questioning and calm the ever-lasting Need To Know off which our cancerous curiosity feeds.
There are some things you don't have to learn in a day, or even in a single death.
(Repost, circa 2009)
| I generally don"t read stories but this flowed very well and managed to capture my attention. Well done, it|
leaves you wondering...
|| Posted on 2011-01-10 00:00:00 | by Blue Monk | [ Reply to This ] || Now except for leaving out all the sex this in just like the urban fantasy books I have been reading lately. Of course you could still get around to the sex there is most likely a handsome demon hanging around the bar maybe he will stroll out of the restroom and catch her eye while zipping up his fly. He might even offer her work as a succubus the possibilities are endless at this point||| Posted on 2010-12-19 00:00:00 | by DaleP | [ Reply to This ] || Not f%^ng shabby! Of course, the details are as fictional as can be and bear no resemblance to any reality anywhere, but the storytelling is brilliant. Write a series, have it filmed, you could and probably should be famous.||| Posted on 2010-12-18 00:00:00 | by Lelik | [ Reply to This ] || you know what, you are the antihero. yup. i just decided that. but the best possible way kinda antihero. you're the character that you just can't help feeling for, rooting for, finding your heart beating for. |
this should be set to one of those movies. i can't think of the name - but the one bruce willis, micky rourke and jessica alba were in.
you know the one.
so ya. you go on now - you antihero, you.
|| Posted on 2010-12-18 00:00:00 | by isabella | [ Reply to This ] |