Jim Meirose

Gone to the Barroom

               Ok. What do you want from me now, huh? What are you looking for? What do you need? said Ben Creighton, the murder suspect, to the beefy detective on the other side of the cold steel table in the precinct interview room. As the detective answered, he slid a yellow legal pad and pencil over to Ben.
               Here’s what I’m looking for. Just write down how you killed them. You already told us you killed both of them, but now you need to write it down. Take your time and write it all. We’ve got all night, and the pencil’s sharp.
               Biting his lip, Ben leaned forward, took the pencil and began to slowly write. As he wrote, he murmured what sounded like nonsense words, in a voice hard strained and low.
               Light housekeeping was all it was, he droned, as the pencil moved. He kept going, muttering, A house cleaning business, damned light housekeeping cleaning business was all it was—that’s all it was that’s how it started—
               As the pencil moved, and the murmuring flowed from the tiny speaker in the adjoining room on the other side of the one-way glass window, the two detectives who had arrested Ben stood ignoring the window and speaker and went on with their hushed conversation, which was almost already a full hour in length.
               I don’t know why my wife never talks, said Detective Mark. Like I’ve been telling you, I think she’s pissed off all the time anymore. I work too many hours. We never see each other, and, when we do, it’s too, too quiet. You know what I mean?
               His partner, Detective Mary nodded, her arms folded.
               Yes. I know what you mean.
               Suddenly, the strong voice of the detective in the interview room boomed from the overhead speaker, turning Max and Mary to the glass.
               What the hell are you talking to yourself about, Ben? Too damned much talking I think. What are you writing? Are you still writing? Here, let me see—give it here!
               Snatching the pad from Ben, he looked at it quickly, shook it, and yelled.
               What the hell is this? You’re talking nonsense and writing down nonsense! This is all the names of different kinds of liquor and shit that you’d find in a bar; gin, vodka, rum, whiskey, wine, tequila—what the hell is this? This is what you been writing for the last fifteen minutes? This silly shit? I told you what to write, why didn’t you write it?
               Gosh, sorry sir. I—I kind of forgot what you said to write. I kind of forgot is all, and all that just started coming out my pencil. Just all by itself. said Ben, in a small voice.
               Damn you! yelled the broad-backed detective, ripping the page off the pad, and crumpling it to the floor. Write who you killed and how you killed them! We need your damned confession! Don’t play with me! Here, damn you!
               The pad flew back at the suspect. All right, he said, waving the pencil, I’m sorry, all right. I’ll do it right this time. I promise; then he stuck his tongue between his teeth, hunkered down, and began to write once more. The beefy detective sat down hard, as Ben wrote slowly, and began murmuring once more, in time, with the slow fluid movement of the pencil.
               What the hell is he saying? said Max to Mary, behind the glass. His lips are moving—what the hell is he saying?
               I don’t know.
               —keeping light house. House should be light to be able to keep—what does a house weigh does anybody know what a house actually weighs let’s see—
               As he droned on writing, the wall behind him slowly formed to a wall of shelving, holding multicolored bottles of every kind of liquor a good bar would have behind the bartender’s workspace, but no one could see it; it was just in Ben’s flowing murmur of words, but it was there, as real as anything that could be seen. The writing and murmuring went on, as, on the other side of the one-way glass, Max once more turned and resumed crying the blues to detective Mary, about his severely troubled marriage.
               Anyway, Mary, tell me what you think. Do you think I should get out of this business? Is it too much? When I made detective, I was glad, but the hours, my God, no one told me about the damned hours. Not good for a married man.
               Goes with the job, shrugged Mary, arms folded tighter. I guess I’m lucky being single. I get pissed that I have no life besides this job. I suppose that your wife might be real pissed. I would be if I were her, probably. Yeah. Real pissed—
               Instantly the speaker boomed, rattling on the wall, turning them to see the beefy detective waving the pad at Ben, yelling, Jesus Christ, Ben, God damn you! What the hell is this? This is just another list of damned bar equipment; can opener, corkscrew, cloths, bar towels, cutting board, mixing glass, cocktail shaker, God damn! A whole list! Jesus Christ! Here! Do it over and do it right this time! he yelled as he once more tore the page from the pad, crumpled it, and threw it in Ben’s face, saying, Stop playing with me, let’s get this over with, write down plain and simple how you killed them. Do it! And keep your damned mouth shut while you do it, or I’ll go get the duct tape! What? Are you stupid or crazy or something?
               Yes, sir! I’m sorry. I am very, very, stupid. I’m sorry, I am, please don’t yell please I am very scared, I—
               Shut up Ben! Just write!
               Ben bent forward and began writing again. His lips moved silently as he wrote; he dared not let out the words any more, but they piled up in his mouth, and he could hear them very clearly. The detective sat down, pleased that Ben had at last shut up. The pencil flowed fast.
               —housekeeping, light. How can a house keep light? People exercise to keep light, but a house can’t exercise. A house just keeps getting heavier and heavier as the people living there get more and more things—
               And up around them, all unseen, all the equipment that would be needed to run a great bar appeared on shelving, in cabinets, under countertops, and all around the room; shiny chrome plated, brand new; unseen, but as real as anything the detectives would see after work, if they decided to stop for a few. Max turned to Mary, again in the silence, past the glass.
               Mary, what were you saying? You’re saying you think I probably shouldn’t keep this job? You really think that?
               —a house just keeps gaining weight gaining weight—
               No, no, wait Max, no. I can’t tell you what to do. I’m no counselor or doctor or clergyperson or whatever—I don’t know your wife, but if it was me, I—”
               The speaker boomed out, Jesus Christ! and spun them toward the window.
               The beefy detective shook the pad wildly in Ben’s face, yelling, What the hell is wrong with you, asshole? What’s this list; beer mugs, brandy snifters, champagne flutes, shot glasses? Jesus Christ Ben. Lord God, Jesus Christ!
               I’m sorry, I can’t help it! cringed Ben, hands up for protection. I am very, very, sorry—it just comes, I can’t stop it—Lord God I am so sorry—
               The beet-faced snarling detective tore, crumpled, threw, and yelled, just as before. Quiet settled again, also just as before, and Ben resumed writing, but now, the words forming silently in his mouth came flowing into the pad as lists of unseen glassware of all kinds, lining the shelves that came hanging above, behind, and all around the room, unseen but as real as the room was real; and the words kept coming into the suspect’s mouth, unheard, silently guiding the pencil point across the paper.
               —light keeping house—keeping house can keep one light—its good exercise great exercise fine exercise you know—
               I don’t know what to do, Mary. Maybe I should talk to the Chief? What do you think? Would you? Maybe I ought to take a week. Yeah, a week off might help. Do you think?
               Sure, maybe. And I’m sure the Chief will listen. He’s a good guy. Yes, do that.
               Yeah, I bet. That’s right, I’ll—
               Jesus Christ! rattled large loud and hard across them again, turning them to the window.
               Give me that fucking pad! What the hell are you writing now? Here, what—how to mix drinks? Shaking, straining, stirring, muddling, blending, building, layering, and flaming? Jesus Christ where the hell are you getting all this shit how do you know all this? Why aren’t you doing what I say? I could slug you! Here, give it here!
               Ripping, crumpling, throwing, shouting, the scarlet-faced detective spat at Ben, “Write your damned confession now! Write it correctly! Just say you killed them! Write your dopey bullshit one more time, and I’ll jump this damned table and kick open your balls!
               Max said to Mary, Maybe we should go in there and help. Come on—
               She took him by the forearm and held him back.
               No Max, no, Jim’s handling it. Listen Max. I want to help you somehow. It hurts me seeing you feel bad. I want to help.
               I know. You’re a great partner, listening like this. I bet it’s pretty boring. I’m sorry.
               No, please, don’t be sorry. You’re not boring at all. I love listening to you. Keep on, stay—I love it—
               “Jesus Christ Ben! boomed the speaker, rattling and shaking the room, yelling nonstop, I have had it! What’s this about a commercial ice maker? Refrigerator? Blender, Mixer—sink? A damned fucking sink? All right you fucker—here the hell I come!”
               The table flew aside; the equipment that had flowed into the room stood set up all around; and as the red-faced sweating detective reached for Ben’s neck, the one way mirror glass blew clean out, shattering a hail of shards all across; the wall of shards came at into and through the detective and the suspect, and Mary and Max fought to resist the gale of suction produced in that instant, and the mirror reformed behind the bar, hung up as majestic as any wild west gold rush TV movie great barroom would have, and the beefy detective disappeared gone behind the mirror and the barroom appeared at last visible; all the liquor and glassware and appliances and bartender’s tools and the suction of the blasted window formed a fine brand new bar from the sill of the window, the lights came dim from above, everything turned glittery golden and quiet, and Max and Mary sat alone at the perfect bar, everything brand new and shiny, suddenly making them both desire to become very, very, drunk.
               Hey wait, Mary, slurred Max. It’s been a day. You know, it’s funny; I don’t remember why we decided to stop for a few after work.
               Neither do I—well, oh well. I guess the day flew by. But what the hell! The party’s just starting! Barkeep! Over here!
               The bartender, Ben Creighton, came at them from the dark and spread his hands on the bar top, saying, Yes Ma’m? Another round?
               Yes, she said. And stronger this time.
               You got it!
               He turned to get the refills and squeezed past the large broad-backed old man bus boy who had worked here forever, that they didn’t even notice any more, who bent with a dustpan and broom cleaning up what remained of what apparently had been a major broken-glass mishap behind the bar earlier as they were preparing to open the joint for the day.

Jim Meirose's work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Calliope, Offbeat/Quirky (Journal of Exp. Fiction pub,), Permafrost, North Atlantic Review, Blueline, Witness, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards. Published books include: Understanding Franklin Thompson (Experimental novel - JEF pubs (Recent - deal being finalized)), Inferno (E-Chapbook - Underground Voices), Mount Everest and Eli the Rat (Literary Novels - Montag Press). Visit www.jimmeirose.com to know more.
previous page     contents     next page


Post a Comment

<< Home