Entering the lounge, he snaked his way between the tables to the nearest empty stool. Blind to his surroundings, his only intent was to satisfy the hunger stirring in his belly with a couple of steak fajitas, and cold draft beer. The road could wait, now that his stomach was calling.
On the road for six hours straight, this little watering hole seemed the perfect place to rest his blood shot eyes. Having traveled this route many times in the past, he was surprised he hadn’t noticed this bar before. Sitting alone, along this stretch of barren pavement, The Sooner drew him in like a helpless moth to the flame.
Walking through the double, wooden doors, boisterous laughter to the tune of Witchy Woman was swimming eerily in the background. A single tear formed at the corner of his left wrinkled eye, as memories of his fiancée revisited his heart. This was her song.
The screech from metal in need of oil was barely audible, as the stool rotated from the impact of his weight dropping down on it. The brass piping which followed the sleek contours of the bar provided a comfortable foot rest. Elbows stabbing into the bar top, hands caressing his cheeks, Bill was finally able to relax.
Turning to view the grand mahogany encased mirror behind the bar, distorted figures danced in the shadows, while reporters recounted automobile accidents along this stretch on the small television behind the bar.
“What’ll it be?”
“Hmm, Coors light…draft. You have a menu?”
“Sorry, kitchen’s closed.”
Damn…Bill’s thoughts turned inward as his stomach started to knot with hunger.
The bartender was a funny looking fellow, nice enough, but something was eerily strange about this character. Thin framed, just under six feet, he appeared to be around 49 years of age. Wearing lime green with white stripped shirt and matching green pants, Bill couldn’t help but think he must have been one of the Joker’s minions from the original Batman series.
“You ever act?” Bill asked with a smirk on his face.
Filling the tall, slim glass, the bartender replied as he turned his bald head to the side, “Naw, and you?”
“No…you just kinda remind me of an actor, is all.”
“Well, you know, the ladies do tend to get me confused with Tom Hanks…sometimes.”
Bill could barely harness his laughter at hearing this. The frosty glass now slid towards his direction, foam peeking over the edges, enticing Bill to drink it in one swallow. As the wet, cold glass touched his lips, a distant memory poked its head out, a vision of her, as if trapped in the great mirror. Tapping the empty glass on the counter, she disappeared with the beer.
“I’ll take another, please.”
As Bill brought the second glass to his blistered lips, a stranger approached.
“You’re not from around here, are ya!”
“Nope,” Bill replied as he sat the empty glass down.
Cocking his head toward the stranger, Bill asked in a jokingly fashion, “are you?”
“No…I’m here on business, I have a client who just went through a horrible break up, she’s meeting her ex one last time here…I’m Joe, and you are?”
“Bill, good to meet ya…wanna drink?”
Joe was torn with the possibility of a drink, it had been so long since the taste of alcohol had passed his lips, but he knew it was impossible.
“No, but thanks anyways.”
“So what brings you here?” Joe questioned.
Turning to face the man he only met minutes before, Bill felt compelled to share his tragic story.
“I’m on my way to my fiancées funeral,” Bill managed to reply while his throat collapsed under the weight of invisible hands.
“I’m so sorry for your loss…must be tough for ya.”
“Yea, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.” Looking down at the worn bar top, a vision of Jill lying in the bathtub, lifeless, with only her newly pedicured toes sticking above the water now haunted Bill.
“I would give my life, to bring her back,” Bill said looking up, his eyes now dancing with Joe’s.
Not knowing how to respond, Joe simply stated, “So tragic…I wish I could help you. If only you hadn’t killed her…I could help you.”
Before Bill could finish his sentence, Jill stepped into view from behind Joe. The tavern and all that were in it began to spin wildly as Bill’s reasoning fought for balance.
“You can’t be…?”
Yes…it’s me,” Jill spoke softly, her emerald eyes filling with the sadness of the truth.
“I only came to say goodbye, and to tell you I had given my heart and soul to you once,” Jill said as she stared at the very hands that ended her life in the bathtub.
“This can’t be…?”
“My only wish is that you are able to find your heart again, allowing you to save your soul, goodbye Bill.”
Jill disappeared as her voice fell silent. Joe was visibly upset at having to confront Jill’s murderer.
“What are you?” Bill asked, dumbfounded by the events.
“I am Joe…and I am a Guardian.”
“Where am I?”
“Where you belong…in hell. You were in a fatal accident, until your heart heals, here you will remain.”