Thursday, October 20, 2005

Tales of the Stranger, Ep 3

Well, after a long delay, here’s episode 3 in the Tales of the Stranger series. Since probably most have forgotten, the last ep was back in April and the first was in January. Now that I’ve got the full story in my head, maybe I can crank a few more of these out without half a year going by. This one’s a little shorter than the other two, but it’s more of a bridge towards the rest of the story. Anyway, enjoy, if you can…

Hundred Proof Memories, by Eaglewing

The night was cold as winter was making a last ditch effort to hang on before ultimately giving in to spring. There were still spots of snow on the ground in that one stoplight town as the tractor trailer rolled to a stop outside the local Gas 'n Go. The driver and passenger climbed down and took a look around. The passenger shook hands with the driver, thanking him for the ride, before heading towards the only other place open, which was the local watering hole.

He hadn't planned on it, but he was feeling low tonight, and needed some relief. Things were getting heavier the closer he got to going back and even though he knew what he had to do - and was making progress towards it - it didn't make the doing any easier.

So in he walked to Joe's Saloon looking at no one and everything. He parked himself on the stool at the end of the bar, ordered something with permanent memory erasing in a glass, drank it, and ordered another.

No one there had seen him before, but they all were familiar with the method, if not the man.

He ordered another with a nod and a jerk of his hand, then all he said was "Leave the bottle." The barkeep did.

No one bothered to even look at him again. They figured to leave him to his own brand of painkiller. After all, they had their own pain and personal medications to deal with.

But there was one who looked straight at him. There always was.

She was looking good and looking at him. A blonde beauty, dressed to kill and putting it on display. She wore her shirt wasting buttons and showing more than enough to clear most men's minds. It was a hell of a package, and she was pointing it straight at him, waiting for the affect to take effect.

He finally looked in her direction, but he was looking through her instead of at her, and she started to get impatient. So she moved a little closer.

She got his attention when she slid slowly and softly onto the empty barstool next to his. Her voice was honey-coated sweetness as she drawled "Buy me a drink, stranger?"

He nodded, motioned the barkeep for another glass, and poured her one; all without a word. She smiled at him before knocking it back, then had to cough at the unexpected kick. He was drinking one hundred proof, that was for sure.

"What are we forgetting tonight, sugar?"

"I don't remember." His reply was short, ground out with a voice like tires on a gravel road.

"Oh, well then, what are we drinking to?"

"Tryin' to forget." He raised his glass in a mock toast, and fired back another round.

"Well, sugar, there are better ways to forget what you don't want to remember. I'm really good at helping people do just that. I can ease all your pain, baby." She slid a warm hand along his arm as she finished. It was a sales pitch not one man had turned down yet.

But there's a first time for everything, and even the barkeep had stopped what he was doing to see if this man had what it took to turn down the best there ever was. The barkeep shook his head at the sight - a man with that many shots in him should be putty in her hands.

The stranger didn’t do much of anything for a few moments. Just his eyes narrowed as he stared into the shot glass of dark liquid in front of him as if seeing something or someone not there before. Then he finally lifted his head up and fixed the beauty with steady eyes.

"You're a hard easy to say no to. I'll give you that. But I'm not here to make any new memories, I'm here to get rid of some old ones. If this night goes well, I may not remember what I'm tryin' to forget, but I'll remember the forgettin' and your practiced lines and touch won't be anywhere in the memory. Nice try, darlin', but try it on someone a little less sober and a lot more forgetful."

Surprised, then quickly angered, she replied curtly, "Your loss, sugar. I'm the best you never had."

She slid off that barstool, drew herself up to her full height, walked across the room and out the door making sure every eye in the joint was on her and spelling it out with every click of her high heels what the hard drinkin' man at the bar had just turned down.

The barkeep couldn't stand it. He walked to the end of the bar. He just had to ask.

"Are you nuts, man? She don't offer that to just anyone. How the hell did you turn that down? And why?!"

"Really none of your business," mumbled the man before pouring another shot and downing it. "But since you asked, she's not the best I never had. I've already had the best and better than what was here tonight. A cold gray morning and something else took it away and I've spent a lot of time trying to forget it."

His hand moved to the bottle again, and he surprised himself by continuing. "Truth be told, I haven't once yet. I've even emptied a few of these bottles in the effort and that doesn't work either. There ain't nothin' that'll do it. Pain like that makes it damn easy to say no to a self-proclaimed painkiller interested in other things than me. So, I'd rather remember the forgettin' than another new memory I'll have to try to erase. I guess it's all in how you look at it. I may be carrying a heavy load, but I'm used to the weight. Why add more?"

He started to lift the bottle to pour another shot, then stopped. He stared at the bottle for a long moment, then set it down.

"Why add more?" he said quietly, then paid what he owed, and got up.

The barkeep just shook his head again as he watched the man get up and walk calmly out the door. He went back to cleaning glasses and wondered what kind of pain could blind a man to pleasure like the blonde beauty was offering tonight. He was sure he didn't know what, and was damn sure that if such a thing did exist, he hoped he would never know it. There were just some things that should not even be.

He needed to clear his head, so he poured himself a shot from the same bottle the stranger had been working on. He poured it down his throat and gasped for air as the burn hit. A couple of the other patrons glanced at him as he worked his way through his coughing fit. Definitely strong stuff, he thought. Another shot might put him on the floor. Then, as he set his glass down, it hit him. Incredulously, he looked at the door where the stranger had evenly walked out of and then back at the bottle.

There were just some things that should not even be.

The End.

Comments on "Tales of the Stranger, Ep 3"


Blogger The Original LRU said ... (October 22, 2005 3:46 PM) : 

"Why add more?" he said quietly, then paid what he owed, and got up.

That's my favourite line. Shows he's aware of himself and not completely lost in his troubles, and not completely self destructive.

This story sounds a lot like the proverbial country song though. I hope there's a plot twist coming. :-)

Nice work, I'm staying tuned for more!!


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