October 6, 2011 Comments Off on Richie’s Last Shot by Gay Degani
A sharp wind whistled under the freeway and ruffled the wiry hair on Richie Bertram’s chin. He shivered and checked his pockets. Two bills and a handful of change would buy him a brewski and since Halloween was a bad night for those living rough, he tucked his “Will work for beer” sign into his sweater and shambled on his way.
At the Aztar, a paper skeleton and the smell of booze welcomed Richie. He elbowed his way through vampires, zombies, and werewolves to get to the bar where a shabby grim reaper slugged down a smoking green concoction. Richie wondered if maybe he’d be safer on the streets, but then he spied the bartender.
She shimmered in front of him, an angel, foil halo above her pale hair, pale skin, white lipstick, her low-cut top tight and sparkly. Exactly his type. Or used to be when chicks were all over him and not just for his money. One had even leapt from the Colorado Street Bridge, but her death hadn’t been his fault. She should’ve known that love was like Russian roulette.
The bartender leaned so close, Richie could smell the wintergreen on her breath. “Best bum costume I’ve seen all day,” she said. “I’d give you first place.” He frowned at his dusty pea coat, doubtful, but there she was, slipping a shot glass onto the counter and pouring him a generous amount of Jack.
Flashing his famous Richie Bertram grin, he held the glass to the light, then to his lips, and let the amber liquid burn down his throat.
She took his beard between her scarlet-tipped fingers and tugged. “I’m on break in ten minutes.” She lined up three more shots, blew him a kiss, and went back to mixing drinks.
The whiskey tangled his feet as the bartender led him into the back room. She pressed against him, her tongue hot in his mouth. He fumbled for her zipper, but she whispered, “In here, Richie,” and opened a door, nudged him in.
He barely noticed the chill on the other side, her fingernails running along his cheeks, raking his grizzled hair. She said, “I want you.” A fleck of doubt niggled his brain as he steadied himself against the slick cold wall. She worked fast to remove his clothing, his shoes, even his socks.
He said aloud, “How…how do you know my name?”
Suddenly her warmth was gone.
“Wait. Angel? Where’d you go?” He reached into the darkness, scrambled around the space, but there was nothing there, no bartender, no clothes.
“You can’t just leave me here.” He hurried to the door. Found its icy handle. Tugged. It was locked. He hammered against the heavy steel, hands stinging, teeth chattered, until he dropped to the floor.
Blowing on fingers, he coiled his body tight, and rocked back and forth. “Why are you doing this to me?”
A soft, laughing whisper came out of the darkness. “This is your bridge, Richie, to the other side.”
© 2011 Gay Degani
Gay Degani has published in print and online. She is co-editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles and an editor at Smokelong Quarterly. She has a collection of stories out called Pomegranate and blogs at Words in Place.