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Authors: William Vitka

Bartender

BOOK: Bartender
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Bartender

Book One

 

William Vitka

 

A POST HILL PRESS BOOK

 

ISBN (eBook): 978-1-61868-900-9

 

BARTENDER

 

Hey Bartender Book 1

© 2015 by William Vitka

All Rights Reserved

 

Cover Design by Najla Qamber Designs

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.

 

 

 

Post Hill Press

275 Madison Avenue, 14th Floor

New York, NY 10016

http://posthillpress.com

 

For NYC.

You’re an unforgiving bitch.

1.

 

Another shitty day in paradise.

He rubs his face. Tries to get some of the hangover out.

In goes mouth wash. Tooth paste. The brush with bristles so worn down they feel like fabric in his mouth.

He spits.

Sees her hair.

It slides down the drain like a worm. Long.

Blonde.

He’s got no idea how it’s there, considering that bitch’s been gone near three years.

He nudges it with his finger.

Encourages it on its way.

So glad she’s gone.

2.

 

The little kid says, “Where’s Mommy?”

The bartender, this kid’s dad, would like to say: Hopefully, the bitch’s rotting in a ditch somewhere off the interstate. Or better: Hopefully, she’s getting her throat torn out by a rabid dog in Brooklyn. Maybe five or six rabid dogs.

The bartender, this kid’s dad, says, “I don’t know, bud.”

He doesn’t say: She ran away.

He doesn’t say: You scared the shit outta her and I didn’t help.

The kid’s four. Going on five. The kid’s mom left when he was shy of two. Old enough to remember that at some point there
had
been a mommy.

3.

 

Kieron Palmer ain’t a respectful man.

Ain’t a
respectable
one, either.

He was a smart kid. Then a decently smart teenager.

Then a very fuckin stupid twenty-something punk.

Got bored when he got outta college.

No jobs. No family. No prospects.

No. Nothing really bad happened to him. Just the usual shit.

He was one of these:
Fuck the system and fuck the job market and fuck the president and fuck everything cuz who cares anyway.

Drugs are fun. Perfect thing. So awesome they’ll kill your dumb ass.

He worked his way up to heroin. Smoked it. Needles freak him out.

Perfect clarity. Perfect relaxation.

Then sleep.

Then vomiting.

Then sleep.

Then needed more and more and more.

Cuz of the clarity. Cuz of the calm.

Then there was Rebecca Sherwood.

This chick. A goddamn angel under a shock of yellow hair. Skinny thing in jeans and Doc Martens and a black Cure shirt.

They’d met somewhere on the Lower East Side. Where he’d been hanging out with his dealer. A Russian asshole from Brighton Beach who never got into his own stuff.

Kieron and Rebecca liked each other. Enough, anyway. There was the sex. Fucking. Hard and amazing. He felt every cell of his cock when he was inside her. She felt every tingle inside her pussy when she took it.

He loved her. She loved him.

They said.

Had they fucked in front of the dealer...?

Kieron can’t remember.

Probably
. Since the sicko liked it and he gave em extra junk for the show.

Had the dealer...?

That psycho Borovinsky. This crazy successful dealer who knew everyone. And who sometimes liked to cut people up when they didn’t pay. Or shoot em and then burn the whole damn building down to get rid of bodies.

Yeah, Borovinsky fucked her.

Fucked her while she was comatose and Kieron Palmer watched. And Kieron Palmer would’ve been jerking off except he was five years into the habit and his dick didn’t work like it used to and he loved Rebecca and he didn’t really want to see this except...

Except it kept the drugs moving.

He never tried to stop this shit.

Just watched.

Rebecca got pregnant.

Impossible to tell who the bastard’s father was.

Kieron quit smack when he heard. When he learned. Not cuz he felt remorse for what he’d done or hadn’t done. Not cuz he felt like he couldn’t be a dad while doping.

Nah.

He quit cuz he didn’t want to feel like he owed that Russian prick anything.

 

***

 

Kieron gave himself up to the state. The cops. The pigs.

He had priors for robbery.

Told the prosecutors he’d robbed only to feed the Russian. Money for the monkey on his back. The big H he’d been trying to shake off. But he needed help.

He
wanted
to get clean.

He made a plea deal.

He told em: “I’ll give you the most connected dealer in lower Manhattan.”

I mean, shit, how could they say no to that?

 

***

 

Four goddamn months.

Methadone while a pregnant Rebecca was waiting who knew where.

Probably still getting fucked.

Nightmares.

Spiders. Not biting him. Spiders.
Tugging
with their mouths. Clamping down on his skin. Pulling his flesh in different directions. Till he tore open. Till his red insides were laid bare.

Month one: Anger.

Month two: Screaming.

Month three: Depression.

Month four: Pathetic acceptance.

The kid. That little thing growing inside Rebecca.

Maybe Kieron did give a shit.

 

***

 

He quit.

She couldn’t.

They spent a month in squalor.

At the end of that month, he had Rebecca committed.

Kieron told the city: She’s pregnant.

Told the city: She can’t stop.

Told the city: Help her stop.

Help
us
.

 

***

 

The hospital didn’t like em.

He watched the way the doctors’ eyes moved and the nurses’ eyes glared.

Yes.

They were utterly fucked.

They deserved the stares. Deserved the mistrust.

He wanted to do better.

He held Rebecca’s hand.

She squeezed his. Hard enough to snap the bones.

 

***

 

The doctor told Kieron: It’s a boy.

Kieron thought:
I gotta do right by this creature.

Rebecca looked up at him. A different kind of dope in her eyes.

A dope sanctioned by the white coats and the MDs and all the people who made their investment bankers happy.

She smiled.

 

***

 

The smile lasted for a few days. The days when she was in the hospital getting that good, doctor-sanctioned dope.

They decided Aaron was a good name.

Aaron Palmer.

Baby Aaron sucked Rebecca’s tits. Drew the milk from them.

Kieron excused himself. He liked seeing Rebecca’s tits. Didn’t like seeing someone else chewing at them. Gnawing the nipples.

He knew it was a strange feeling. Knew they’d written about it in psychology texts. The urge to kill a male new to the family cuz it might be a threat.

A tingle in the reptilian part of the brain.

Kieron excused himself to the hall. Went outside. Had a cigarette.

Thought:
Need to quit this too
.

He still hasn’t.

 

***

 

Yeah.

Rebecca lasted a while. Then she wanted smack. She remembered the high. Missed it.

Kieron told her to fuck herself.

No way was he letting that back into his life.

 

***

 

A week after she left, Kieron was up with Aaron.

The kid wouldn’t stop crying.

Kieron thought about the absurdity of a man offering a nipple.

 

***

 

The rest of it, yeah. The rest of it just kept being shitty for a while.

4.

 

“Thing is... Dude’s kid’s retarded. Heard it around the bar. Dude’s kinda fucked and so’s his kid.”

This shit’s spoken inside a dive called THE THING on Houston and Avenue A. Brick and mortar outside around big front windows. Fading blue neon sign. Dirty, beat up, dark brown wood on the inside. The place looks and feels old—looks and feels run over by a few trucks.

One Russian thug says it to another at the bar. They’re the only two here at three o’clock. The story-telling thug’s trying to be quiet but he ain’t exactly whispering.

Kieron always thinks of these guys as Boris and Fearless Leader from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” Two cartoon jackasses.

He hears it. Doesn’t look. It’s better to listen. And they’re wrong anyway. Aaron ain’t retarded. He was born small. But he grew. The boy survived birth from a junkie mother. That alone’s a miracle. Yeah, Aaron’s a little messed up. He’ll admit that. Kid’s got trouble sleeping and no attention span and he’s a little slow... That don’t mean he’s retarded.

Kieron keeps his mouth shut. Cleans out a glass and checks the register. Listens while older Russian thug Fearless Leader explains how the bar works to younger Boris.

They’re regulars, but Kieron can’t be bothered to learn their real names. They ain’t up high enough on the mafia ladder to earn that kind of attention. Just some goons outta Brooklyn who show up between running drugs or money or contraband from Brighton Beach to here. Gofers haulin for the commies. Thinking they’re tough since their bosses got guns and some influence.

Been that way for a long time.

Fearless Leader says, “The owner here, he’s a fuckin softie. But a sorta smart one. He’s involved in some stupid step-up program thing where if he hires an ex-junkie con he gets tax benefits from our mayor.”

Boris chuckles into his beer. “Yeah.”

Fearless Leader spreads his hands. “So this guy shows up with his retard kid. Yeah? Perfect sob story. Cunt girlfriend disappeared cuz she can’t kick smack. Responsibility scared the piss outta her. So you got this asshole hauling around his kid.

“It’s perfect. Perfect.”

“The owner hires the guy. Gives em the apartment upstairs. Free room but he don’t make dick. Meanwhiles, the fuckin owner’s getting tax breaks and writing any wages he gives the dad off.”

Boris says, “Dude, that’s a good racket.”

“And it’s fuckin
legal
man.” Fearless Leader polishes off his beer with a gulp. “
Hey
,” he shouts. “Another Baltika.”

Kieron nods like he hasn’t been paying attention. He grabs a bottle outta the ice. Pops the cap off with an opener. Slides the Ruskie a cold one along the bar top.

Fearless Leader catches the beer and smirks. Says to Boris, “That’s why I love this guy. I mean, hey, shit’s cool. Who da fuck you know still slides beers down the counter like that?”

Boris says, “Don’t know no one.”

“Right? It’s cool. Y’know, like in the movies.”

“Gimme one too.”

Kieron repeats the trick.

Boris catches the speeding Baltika but spills some.

Fearless Leader laughs. “Man, you can’t do anything right.” He waves Kieron over.

Kieron grins. “Boys. Howzit goin?” Bullshitting nice. Hoping for tips. He still needs to take Aaron to a doctor. A specialist. Another bill on top of the ones for the therapist he can’t afford.

Aaron’s been having trouble. Might be attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD plus the slowness plus the medicine plus the little pills to help the kid get through a full eight hours of sleep.

Fearless Leader says, “How you do that? Slide the beer down the bar?”

“I wax the wood.” Kieron tries to think of a dirty joke. “Like jerkin the bar off every night so stuff slides on it real good.”
Fuck. Idiots. Gimme some money and leave.

Fearless Leader and Boris laugh.

Fearless Leader says, “Yeah that’s good.”

Boris says, “Yeah I like that.”

Fearless Leader says, “Man, we’re in here a lot. Remember us?”

Kieron says, “I remember what you drink, ain’t that all that matters?”

The two laugh. Again. Sounding more like they enjoy the acknowledgment, not the joke.

Fearless Leader puts a fifty down on the counter. “Keep it.”

Their tab was thirty-six. Together. Good tip. But they’re just showing off. At least Fearless Leader is. Like he doesn’t care about the money, cuz he doesn’t
need
to care about the money.

Kieron smiles. Gives a little bow. “Appreciate it.”

“Hey, you just remember what we wanna drink,” Fearless Leader says. Smiles. Checks his phone. “We gotta get back down to Brighton. Boss is bitching.”

Kieron says, “I hear ya. Adios.”

The two thugs put their leather jackets on with grunts. They check their pockets. Head outside. Grab a gypsy cab. Leave.

Kieron pockets the fifty and pretends they were never there. Bar owner’s so cheap he only paid for one camera outside. Nothing inside.

Kieron’ll tell the boss he dropped a six-pack of Baltika. Broke it. That shit’s not worth much anyway and the owner’s kind of a prick as it is.

A coupla hipsters wearing hoodies and tight pants with holes in em and thick-rimmed glasses wander in.

Kieron smiles. Says, “Boys, what can I get you?”

These idiots he’ll surcharge.

Spoiled trust-fund shitbirds.

Anyone who
pays
to look poor deserves to get fucked.

 

***

 

Kieron ushers the remaining scum out at 4am. Kids looking for an unknown bar so they can say they made it known. Fuck em.

They tip like shit.

Got all the money. None of the empathy.

4am and Kieron’s wondering if Sarah’s all right upstairs. The babysitter. Her with Aaron. The kid can be a bit much. Finicky and tough to put to sleep.

Yeah, Sarah. This tough-looking chick. Studies at one of the CUNY schools. Got soft features but a hard look and a harder laugh. The kind that wakes you up and makes you pay attention. He hears it a lot, this chick basically living at the apartment when he’s working cuz his hours are fucked and she doesn’t care anyway.

She treats Aaron pretty damn good. That’s what matters.

Kieron grabs a couple small glasses and a bottle of Buffalo Trace whiskey. Walks outside. Locks the door. Pulls down the metal shutters at the windows. Locks those.

He walks five feet over and opens the door that leads to the apartments above the bar.

 

***

 

Sarah’s got a textbook open in her lap. She’s on the couch. Legs crossed. Dark brown hair pulled back in a sloppy ponytail. She’s wearing a Hanes under shirt and pajama bottoms.

She looks good. Healthy. Not emaciated. Hips. Curves.

Her brown eyes meet Kieron’s blues when he walks into the living room.

She says, “Aaron’s asleep.”

Kieron nods. He sets down the Buffalo Trace. The glasses. Says, “You’re good at that. Feels like most days he can’t sleep for shit. Then y’know... He’s in my bedroom asking me to play LEGOs or action figures or Nintendo.”

“You guys don’t have anything made by Nintendo. You’ve got an old, refurbished Xbox I bought for like thirty bucks.”

“Whatever. All the same to me.”

“So what do you do?”

“What do I do when?”

“When Aaron comes in and wakes you up and asks you to play.”

“I play with him.”

She smiles. “Of course you do.” She puts the textbook on the little table in front of her. The pages split. There’s a lotta words and diagrams of stars. Equations. Math. Astronomy.

Kieron points. “You’re studying stars?” Then pours an inch of whiskey into each of their glasses.

“Astrophysics.” Sarah takes her glass. “And why not study em?” She sips. “Grad work is boring. Might as well challenge myself if I’m gonna go anywhere.”

“Just seems like it’s got nothin to do with life.” He drinks. A hefty dose. “Y’know, the here and now. What we gotta deal with.”

She says, “That’s a stupid way to look at things. We’re
all
made of star stuff. All the little things that make you
you
. They came from out there.” She points out the window. Into the dark.

Kieron grunts. “Got some shithead stars out there then.”

“C’mon, you’re smarter than that.”

“No, I
used
to be smarter than that. Then I got dumb for a long time.”

“Maybe you should work on getting undumb.”

He grunts again. “Yeah, maybe.” Looks at her. “What keeps you coming back here, anyway? Been over a year now. Is it my charming personality?” Kieron winks.

Sarah shakes her head. “Mostly it’s the free booze.”

 

***

 

Aaron wakes Kieron and Sarah up three hours later. The two naked and wrapped under blankets. Not sweaty or hot and heavy. Just tired, the both of em.

Aaron keeps a hand on the doorframe. “Guys, I wanna build something.”

Sarah squints against the light from the hall. “What do you want to build?”

Kieron says, “C’mere, bud.” Rubs sleep from the crunchy corners of his eyes. He’s still a little drunk. So there’s no hangover annoyance—yet.

The boy climbs into the bed. He sits between the two naked adult bodies. Not knowing it. Says, “I wanna build a spaceship.”

Kieron says, “We can do that. Sure. We can do that.”

Aaron looks at Sarah. “Maybe we can find Mommy. Do you wanna help us find Mommy?”

Sarah says nothing.

Kieron turns Aaron’s head around. “Give us a couple minutes, bud.”

 

***

 

Kieron thinks:
Okay. I’m gonna save some money and get a house. I’m gonna save some money and move and maybe Sarah will come with us and then maybe Aaron will stop this weird bullshit about a “Mommy” and we can all live in peace.

Or I could get a bunch of money and buy a fuckton of smack and die.

That itch. Still. Forever. Never goes away.

Sarah hands Kieron part of the spaceship cockpit. This LEGO monster that Aaron’s constructing. She grins. Says, “According to Aaron, the Intergalactic Explorer is supposed to sit three.”

Three.

All of em sitting there.

Sarah acts like she already forgot about the “Mommy” thing.

Or maybe she’s thinking she could be a Mommy, after all.

Kieron digs through the pieces scattered on the floor.

He needs to find another seat. There’s only two.

He thinks:
She’s gonna get hurt.

BOOK: Bartender
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