Published in Lattice Magazine
Every hour the doormen switch from the front door to the back gate, where there are fewer IDs to check. Most patrons come in through the front on Shattuck while the waiters, runners, and bartenders go for their cigarette breaks out on the back alley of Allston. The Jupiter's employees neurotically inhale coffin nails a I play solitaire on my IPod, shuffling through most of the deals, only accepting a quarter. An ace or two with an even mix of black and red cards must show up before I start; if you're gonna play with yourself you better have a good hand.
At 1:30 one of the darkly dressed bartenders will emerge from the bar, step out to the patio and shout last call. I lock the gates, close the windows, and pick up random pint glasses. By quarter of two, most of the patrons have left. Those that haven't get a second warning: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."
Matt, my twin brother, closes the bar a couple times a week. Monday night, after I turned off the patio lights, he poured me a Racer 5 and finished stacking the glasses.
"This spring I’ll graduate with an Economics and Business Management degree, Matt. Soon there will be a job, a house, a car. I'll be a slave my student loans, my mortgage; there’s no hope for another summer of climbing. I’m fucked.”
"No complaining at the bar," Matt wiped the wood counter.
"But that old man sat here sobbing earlier."
"The guy at the end of the bar, Phil? The human walrus? He's a regular. You could wring a pint of Red Spot out of his mustache." The upstairs lights were shut off; the bar darkened. "He was ordering a beer and got teary cause the keg of Red Spot dried. Besides, I'd cut my shoulder off before I'd let him cry on it."
"Oh.” I drained my beer. “But what am I gonna do? There's no way I could actually rock climb or even write for a living. I’ll have to get a job, sitting in a cubicle working my fingers to the cuticle."
Matt snatched my glass, tilting his swollen nose down at me. Two days prior he'd been in a Muay Thai fight. Though he'd fought well, he'd received a TKO; he'd been bleeding profusely from a broken nose. Bad call by the referee. "Life's a disappointment." He placed two beers on the bar and drank with me. "And in the morning it's a hangover. Let's check out the Pasand Lounge.”
Fortunately, the other bar hadn't closed yet. The bar stool swayed as I straddled it. A pale thirty year old relived his glory days, singing the Cure on the karaoke stage. A head fell onto my shoulder, and an arm caressed my bicep.
"Someone likes you James," Matt smiled. Next to me, a girl wobbled on her stool, using my arm for support.
"Hey?" my mind shuffled through a library of bad pickup lines. "If I told you you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?"
Matt's eyes rolled and the girl wrapped her fingers tighter around my bicep to keep her from falling off the barstool.
The bartender stared at her."I think you've had enough," he took her beer, placing it behind the bar.
"You, you can't take that!" She exploded, siezing an empty pint glass, and throwing it with Nolan Ryan speed at the mirror behind the bar. Glass sprayed across the room. With a broad swipe of her hand across the countertop, the girl knocked over another half dozen glasses.
"Get the fuck out of my bar!" The bartender fumed, staring at the kaleidoscope of broken glass and a bouncer grabbed the girl, dragging her to the street.
Matt plucked a piece of shrapnel from his beer, and downed the rest. “Let’s go, there are a couple of pale ales back at the house. Besides, you couldn't afford a condom anyway." He tossed an extra bill to the bartender. "Be thankful this shit doesn't happen at Jupiter."I stumbled along, happy that, at least for a moment, life was exciting.
James Lucas is a native New Englander, transplanted to California six years ago to pursue rock climbing. As a senior at the University of California in Santa Cruz, James Lucas hopes to find a nice, attractive, rich girl and then marry her mom. He’s taking classes in geology; he’s gonna be a gold digger.