Saturday, 27 July 2013

'The Truth' and other truths

Things I realised today:
1. I really like bowler hats
2. There is something unutterably romantic about gramophones
3. People can be surprisingly polite in the service industry (seriously, count how many times you/your friend/the waiter/waitress says 'thank you' next time you eat out)
4. There's nothing like a good jacket spud and beans after a long day
5. This blogging thing may be even tougher than I first thought.

I also finished a wee story I've been at for a while. 
I watched this video for a bit of inspiration: 
But I also had a prompt: A drunk man sits next to you in a bar, thinks he's your buddy and starts talking about 'The Truth'. Write about 'The Truth'.

Bryce walked from the abnormal heat of the July sun into a dusty and somewhat gloomy bar. He plonked himself dejectedly on one of the faded leather barstools and slumped forward onto his elbows, his youthful chin jutting out to rest on his balled fists. He was that confusing combination of frustrated and saddened. His girlfriend of four years, Sarah, had told him that they were finished. He hadn’t put up much of a fight because he knew they didn’t and couldn’t love each other anymore, but he was pained that they hadn’t been able to make it work. They had been sweethearts in school and after he’d come back from college they’d picked right up from where they’d left off. If he’d felt her feelings had changed for him, that her eyes weren’t full of that same hopeful future they once had been, he didn’t pay attention. And if she noticed he wasn’t as content as he once was with the small town, or as comforted by her caresses, she hadn’t said a word. Well, not until this morning.
He sat upright, smoothing his skinny tie against his short-sleeved, somewhat grubby, white shirt. It was a habitual gesture, and it bolstered him somewhat. He signalled with his hand to try and get the barman’s attention, but the guy sat behind the other end of the bar had a large, dull-looking newspaper hiding everything above his pointy, polyester -covered knees which protruded outwards from his own seated position. Evidently midday wasn’t the time for unfamiliar customers or good service.
Bryce turned at the low, raspy chortle that escaped from the older man sat a ways along from him. The man caught his eye and shuffled slowly forward, then sat down next to him, uninvited. He leant over conspiratorially and said quite jovially,
“Samson don’t pay strangers no heed son. The regulars get what they want themselves then pay up after.” Bryce flicked another glance towards the hidden figure of the barman then asked in a lowered voice,
“Shall I do the same?”
“I wouldn’t if I were you, he keeps Betty at the ready always.” The old man took a large gulp, emptying his tumbler of the amber liquid it contained.
“Who’s Betty?” Bryce asked. The guy wheezed another laugh out from between his crooked, yellowing teeth.
“Who? Ha, ha, ha, oh boy, you city folk crack me up. It’s a what, son. Betty’s his shotgun. Can’t be too careful with bandits and ruffians roaming about these parts.”
‘These parts’ was only a four hour drive from Bryce’s home in sleepy, wholesome suburgatory. It was sunny, and the last fifty miles or so had been looking increasingly lonelier, but it was hardly wild country. He didn’t bother to argue with the drunkard, he wouldn’t win, and it would serve no purpose.
“Yah. Sure. Say, would you mind?” He scratched his chin and motioned meekly towards a dusty bottle behind the bar.
“Oh. Sure kid, what’ll it be?” The old guy eased himself off the stool with another worrisome wheeze, then ducked and shuffled under the bar, crab-style. If it weren’t for the sound effects, you might think this guy was quite nimble for his age, but it was clear than most movements were fairly laboured.
“Just the Jim Beam, if you’d be so kind”
“No problem, think I might join you.” The guy filled the greasy tumblers generously, then leant across the bar, offering Bryce the drink. He reached for the glass, but the old man didn’t let go.
“Son, I’m gonna offer you some advice.” He rasped a rattling breath. “You look like a guy ‘could use some advice.”
 Bryce considered his options. He didn’t want to hear yet another person’s two cents. But he desperately wanted this drink. It was hotter than hell on a Sunday outside and this was the only stop for a goodly while. He didn’t think the old guy would let him get away without saying something. Best just to let him speak.
“Er, sure.”  Bryce took a sip as the guy waddled back under the bar and resumed his seat.
“Well son, you look like a guy that’s looking for something.” Not very eloquent, but he had a point. Bryce took another sip.
“You look like a guy that just cut and run, wanted to be somewhere new, wanted to see the big ol’ world. Ammirite?” Bryce nodded hesitantly.
The guy took a long look at him. From his slim fit black trousers to his skinny tie and square specs, Bryce looked like your average college graduate. Eager for something, but not knowing what. The old guy’s sigh was knowing.
“I’m gonna let you in on a little something I call ‘The Truth’.” He took another gulp of whiskey and Bryce watched as his hand spun the glass around, spilling drops on the faded beer mat.
“Y’know that something you’re looking for? Well…you ain’t never gonna find it.” Bryce grimaced. Here we go.
“Don’t screw your face up son, it’ll stick.” He gulped some more whiskey.
“What is it that you’re running from?”
From his slumped position he squinted into Bryce’s face. Bryce grimaced again.
“Ah, girl trouble I bet. You young boy’s have gotta buck up. It wasn’t so easy in my day y’know. You hadda court a girl for months before anything serious happened, then be on good terms with her pa so you didn’t get a hidin’ went you brought her home late.” He chuckled again and his whiskey-soaked breath almost misted on Bryce’s glasses before the heat hijacked the moisture.
“But seriously boy, go home and sort things out because you ain’t never gonna get over this girl. Folk never do.” For a minute the old guy looked almost sentimental. The crags of his face softened momentarily and there was something almost sweet about his expression. Then he belched.
“Yessiree, them broken hearts just follow you ‘round like shadows. I mean you’ve probably got ambitions, sure. And they’re commendable in young’uns like you but it just isn’t the same if you don’t have y’girl’s support.” He got up to shift behind the bar for a refill.
“College kid are ya?” Bryce took a sip, then found his voice.
“Yessir. Engineering and Business.”
“Well, whaddya doin’ out this way then?” The guy seemed genuinely anxious to know. After all, it was ‘these parts’ according to his reckoning.
“I’m on my way to New York. My pa wanted me to work at the oil refinery like him, but I’m not a chemist, y’know?”
“Sure now, that’ll be the one up in Tulsa?”
“Yessir.” Bryce was waiting for the rebuff. This guy was gonna tell him his pa was right. He shot a glance his way. He looked thoughtful, one hand on his creaking hip, one hand stroking his scruffy beard.
“Well son, you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Bryce sagged with relief. He hadn’t realised how much he’d wanted someone to say that. How much he’d needed someone not to immediately contradict him. He’d hated the inevitable outcomes his parents had sorted for him. They had his whole life neatly mapped out. He’d get a job at the refinery, move into another house on the block with another white picket fence, marry Sarah once the time came and raise a family of his own. It was so neat and ordered, so depressingly predictable it made his head throb with panic. He wanted excitement, adventure, intrigue maybe even a little danger. He wanted to see things, and do things, that would shock his frighteningly virtuous neighbours.
The old man rearranged his craggy face into something vaguely beneficent, and gestured towards the door.
“Well, I shouldn’t keep you from that big ol’ world son. Go on, git, before I decide to send y’back to pa. I bet he doesn’t even know where y’are, oh lawdy he’d probably skin me for lettin’ you get away.” Bryce didn’t need telling twice. He downed the dregs and slapped a few bills on the bar. Then smiled lopsidedly at the guy.
“Thanks. For the drink. And for the…well…‘The Truth’.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and ambled out into the sunshine and the heat.

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