The prompt was to write about an old-school tavern, and to include one of six random objects. 1000 word limit.
I went with them all: iPod, shawl, broccoli, fake flowers, glasses, and a bookmark. Why not. I'm not sure how well this one worked. It's different. 903 words.
The Tavern's Menu
The morning sun struggled to penetrate the tavern windows, covered with decades of smoke, dirt, and spider webs. The large room was empty in the morning light, tables still pulled into groups by last nights patrons, some chairs overturned, some broken. Last night had been busy, a lot of work for all. Yet the take had been less than expected. Energy levels were low this morning, but the empty quart bottles, glasses, crumpled chip bags, and dirty plates still had to be cleaned up, lunch had to be prepared. The tavern found the strength to send out some Billys, round shouldered, slow moving, but dependable. They vacantly worked their way through the room with brooms and mops, wet cloths and disinfectant spray, empty beer cases and kitchen dish bins. They opened some windows, to clear the smell of beer and sweat and old socks, and they set out some fake flowers. At a few tables there was a pile of rumpled clothes on the chair seat, and old empty shoes underneath. Those were collected for a charity.
Within an hour, the room was relatively clean, the windows closed, and it was time for the lunch crowd. Today's special was a half-price quart and a roast pork sandwich, plus cream of broccoli soup. It was really a loss leader, but hopefully some would return that night for the band, maybe some would stay after. The tavern hoped so. There was a big crowd today, office workers and labourers, bragging of last night's conquests and today's deals, cell phones in one hand, a beer in the other. Half a dozen Kims spread out to serve them, with teased hair, short skirts, tattoos, and attitude. The tavern had honed that attitude into just the right mix of flirty and bossy, accessible and indifferent. They could break a 20 for you, or a finger.
By 2 the crowd had thinned out, with just a few regulars: retirees with nothing better to do than and yell at each other, an older couple in the corner, wrapped in their shawls, and of course Highwater. He sat for several hours, swaying back and forth as he listened to his Walkman—no iPod for him. He sang quietly, out of tune, lost in his own world, nursing a mini-pitcher of draft. Eventually he carefully counted out some change, stood, yanked up his pants enough to show his sock tops, and headed for the door. That was the signal. The tavern dimmed the lights in anticipation of the evening, cranked down the temperature to pre-cool the room, and cranked up the canned music. The afternoon crowd knew it was time, so they paid up and left.
The band showed up at 7 for their setup. The members varied from week to week, but it was always the same music: classic rock band covers, 60′s to 80′s, good to dance to. Played not that well, but with enthusiasm. They often spend an hour balancing sounds as if playing in a concert hall, a huge concert hall.
After a break for a free supper and some quarts, it was show-time. Tables were already starting to fill up: the regulars, a birthday party, a few singles, some wide-eyed couples from the suburbs, The houselights went down, the band′s lights went up, and they led off with ″Mustang Sally″. Show time. With some whoops and whistles, everyone piled onto the small dance floor.
As the crowd grew, the room got hotter, the air more humid. Clothes were loosened, skin was flaunted, glistening in the bump and grind of the packed dance floor. Couples, singles, the whole birthday crowd, all danced together as one pulsating organism. The band cranked out fast tunes, one after another, all blended into one long cacophonous medley. The drums beat out a jungle rhythm, the bass rattled drink glasses, guitars screeched higher and higher, and the singer′s eyes bulged, spittle flying, as she whipped the crowd into a higher and higher frenzy. There was fighting in one corner, with grunts and groans and cries of anger, the smash of broken chairs. In another corner, grunts and groans mixed with cries of delight, as a couple followed their passions. Flashing lights, screams, a cacophony of mind-numbing music, all building to a climax—then it stopped.
One am and all went quiet.
The band collapsed to the floor, the house lights went up. Sheepish glances were exchanged, clothing gathered, and after everyone filed out, the lights dimmed back down.
As hoped for, there were a few that lagged behind, heading for a corner for a quiet smoke, for one more drink. And shooters—courtesy of the tavern. There were more stragglers than usual, a cause for celebration.
Once again daylight crept into the tavern, empty yet again, the bodies of last night′s stragglers absorbed, leaving a sad pile of clothes behind.
Except for one table. The tavern watched the man lift his head from his arms, run fingers through a shock of white hair, and stretch.
″Hello? Anybody there? Any chance I could get a coffee to start the day?″
The tavern sent a Kim out immediately with a steaming hot mug. The stranger took a sip, and lit a cigarette. He opened his notebook at the bookmark and took out a fountain pen.
He was just a fellow connoisseur of people, absorbing not their bodies but their dialogue and their actions.