Monday, April 7, 2014

Flash Fiction by Alan Catlin

            The stillness of the bar after last call.  All the bodies at rest.  Some with their arms tilting back that last frothing pint.  Others holding their hands about the glass, considering what lies inside: the dissolving head, the melting ice, the dregs, the hours lost.
Above the bar, tract lightings reclusive glow amid dissipating clouds of cigarette smoke, blackening ashes spread across the dulled sheen of the bar top, so many times resurfaced by forgotten butts rolled from their glass moorings onto the wood.  Or scratched by ashtrays sliding across scuffed surfaces pushed by a careless,  drunken hand. Or gouged by broken bottles, glassware struck against wood in anger, jagged ends thrust in fury into an unsuspecting face, an equally as aggressive drinker, bearing his own weapon.  Blood stains no longer visible beneath the daily wear and tear, the cursory repair.
But the impact scars remain.
The ghosts of wars fought, contained in the very stillness of the colored by pollutants, air, wrapping the drinkers tightly into a hypnotic state where dreaming, and living and drinking are all one frozen motion; a thought about to be blinked away into nothingness, drained away in the stainless wash sinks or the spill plates where the loose beer taps leak and the dead soldiers spit there, thick as mucous, remains.
Neon beer signs harsh bright lights reflected in the tarnished backbar mirrors, their unnatural red and green aura a glowing pit in the eyes of the drinkers, a flash of artificial life covered by a patina of not yet completely dry, tears.  Gradually hardening, sealing the heat source, the heliotropic bouquet of plastic flowers tight against the ungiving surface where light meets tissue leaving only the bright afterimage of the killing tracer rounds inside.
The immovable clock hands pinned against the worn-to-almost-nothing, facing; glass front panel scratched and grime encrusted, shellacked with an impenetrable coating of nicotine; years of chemical infusions, a useless ornamentation at last call and beyond.
All the spaces between the sound of incessant, dripping faucets. The dull metallic ring of water on stainless steel, once shiny, now a collective of black mold, indeterminate growths: fading grey on a mound of black, on a living surface where the once rinsed glasses wait.
Hands collected in their individual suspensions: pressed against the dull shine of the smeared jukebox facing, liver spotted, ravaged, arthritic, not part of the selective process of sound but propping up the misused, diseased body of man in his formal, last decline.  Others used for propping up the all-too-heavy head, paused in the futile signaling for what may never be delivered after the end, others reaching out in the night for what will never be there, still others grasping at the invisible fabric that separates them from what lies beyond, the evanescent place, the not to be avoided, compelling call that summons all to bars for the reckoning; to be fulfilled or denied in turn.
As the spirit wills.
As the silence fills stilled lives, the picture window facing the deserted street, the trees burdened with a weight of dark leaves and spread shadows, as the false dawn reconfigures the pavement and the glass and what lies within and without; a smear of light on glass disfigured by elective signs, the stillness more alive, more animated than the bar life trapped inside.
Last call an unnecessary formality, nothing is moving.
Nothing at all.
Alan Catlin has been been publishing since the seventies earning him the  title Venerable Bard, not toe be confused with the Venerable Bede, an entirely different kind of writer.  He has published a number of chapbooks and full length book including a chapbook of surreal poems illustrated by collage artist Michael Shores titled, “The Insomniac’s Gift”, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Book Award.

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