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Friday, March 07, 2008

Fiction Fridays: Shouldn't Have Ducked

The long coat dropped carelessly on the bar stool beside him. A moment later, the owner sat down on top, expensive wool pants crushing seams into the Burberry lining. Joel looked up from his contemplation of nothing. Atop shoulders draped in an Armani jacket, the dark-haired man sported a spitcurl on his forehead.

Joel blinked. His new neighbour didn't seem to have noticed him.

"What'll it be?" the bartender asked.

"Whatever's on draft." The man paused for a second, not quite considering. "And a shot of Tequila."

"One boilermaker, coming up."

Finally, the richly dressed man looked over at Joel. He clearly wasn't noticing Joel for the first time.

Joel blinked again. He was favoured with a smirk, the kind that seemed to be laughing at you, but not in a bad way.

"Mind if I sit here?"

Joel looked around the pub. Most of the tables were full. The booths all looked too big for just one person. The bar itself was more than half empty, but from where he sat, Joel had the best view of the TV behind the bartender.

Joel shrugged.

The smirk waggled at him again, this time with less friendliness.

"Don't talk much, do you?"

Joel shrugged again. "I talk when I need to."

The man slapped a ten on the bar as the bartender brought his order with a double clunk-clunk of glass on polished oak.

"Keep it," he said, reaching for the shot glass. A quick jerk dropped the contents down his throat, and the man followed up with a long swig from the frosty mug. Then he turned to face Joel again.

"An economy of words, huh? I wish I heard more of that at meetings. Know what I mean?"

The man chuckled to himself, then took a quick appraisal of Joel's dusty canvass jacket, faded jeans, worn leather boots.

"No, maybe not," he said quietly. Then he smiled at Joel again, pulled at his draft with a sharp slurp, and turned to watch the sports news on the TV.

After a minute, he turned back. Joel sighed. Clearly, this guy wanted to talk.

Joel gave him a raised eyebrow. It wasn't much of an invitation, but if the guy was looking for someone to jabber at, it wouldn't take much to get him going. He didn't really see the point of making the guy wait any longer.

The eyebrow was all the man needed.

"Y'ever get the feeling you missed something?"

Joel kept his eyebrow raised.

"Like you've dodged the bullet of destiny? No? Maybe?"

Joel took a sip from his rye and Coke.

"Like the other day, I was at the bank, and I had this strange feeling, like maybe something was supposed to happen... and I was there to do something about it."

Joel cleared his throat. "That's pretty vague."

"Yeah, but it was, y'know? Nothing specific. No details. And then it was gone, and I was stuck waiting in line again."

Joel shifted slightly on his stool, getting comfortable.

"And twice now, I've had this urge to, uh, go into phone booths."

Joel raised the eyebrow again. "Phone booths?"

"Yeah, I know what you're thinking. But not like that. There was nothing else, just the feeling I should go into one. And then it was gone."


"Yeah, I know."

Joel finished off his drink, and signalled to the bartender for another.

"Hmm. Ever stood on the top of a tall building? Just stared into the clouds, watched the seagulls soar, and wondered about it?"

"What? No." The man seemed shocked. "I'm not crazy. I wouldn't... I'd never be a jumper."

Joel shook his head. "Not what I meant."

The man struggled to hide his embarassment. "Oh, heh, yeah, sure."

Joel shrugged, took a sip of his fresh glass. The Coke fizz tickled his nose.


The two of them sat in silence for another moment, one sipping rye, the other finishing his draft beer.

"I had a dream about it once. About being on top of a building, and there were clouds all around. It was a really high building, and I could feel the wind on my face. It whistled past my ears."

Joel took another sip.

Abruptly, the man got up, shaking the wrinkles out of his coat, looking at his watch. Rolex, Joel noticed.

"Whoops, got another meeting in ten minutes." He smirked. "I wish they all talked as much as you did."

Joel looked up at him.

"What'd you say your name was?"

"Clarkson. Kent Clarkson."

Joel held out a hand.

"Joel Schuster."

Kent shook his hand. "Nice to meet you, Joel. Nice talking to you."

Joel watched as Kent pushed the pub door open, and stepped out into the grey afternoon. Without hesitation, the man turned, heading back to his office. Just before the door closed to block his view, Joel saw the man's hand reach up to his face, absently twisting the lock of hair on his forehead.




At 9:08 PM, March 24, 2008 , Anonymous Frank Byrns said...

You had me at spit curl.

Reminds me a bit of Busiek's "Secret Identity".


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