Prose Header


by Hector Duarte Jr.

The bartender poured me a pint while the band set up at the opposite end of the bar. I thanked her and took a swig; it was piss warm. I'm not tipping her, I thought.

Looking around, I realized what I'd stumbled into. Most of the women had their left arms completely covered in tattoos, mostly Polynesian style scenery, flowers, colorful birds; bright blue, orange, and yellow colors: what you'd expect to find out West.

The men's faces were covered in unkempt, overgrown facial hair. Almost all wore black tee shirts, bearing random text, like, “Hip hop is dead,” or a picture of Satan with the caption underneath stating, “God is busy. Can I help you?”

I was staring down at the red shag carpet, wondering about the origins of the many stains littering it. Old, stale beer? Perhaps. Old, stale beer regurgitated by old, stale patrons? Most likely. My contemplation was interrupted by the loud twang of the mike. The dreadlocked, Mexican singer introduced the band. I don't remember their name but I do remember it had the word murder in it. My first murder? Murder me now?

Anyway, I was too preoccupied to remember, distracted by the woman who sat next to me. Her hair was brown, shoulder-length with highlights scattered throughout. She wore a tight-fitting, short sleeve, plain black shirt. Her arms were immaculate, not a speckle of bright ink visible anywhere.

“I'll have a Newcastle, please,” she told the bartender.

“It's piss warm,” I called out.

She said nothing, nor did the bartender. Rather, they offered me strange looks before the woman said, “I'm thirsty anyway.”

The bartender walked to the tap and poured a pint of the caramel-brown ale. She came back and propped it in front of my neighbor.

“Cheers,” I said, raising my glass.

“Cheers,” she said, awkwardly clinking my glass.

“This first song is called ‘Broken’. It's about all the poor people out there struggling right now,” said the front man.

Immediately they broke into a barrage of crusty heavy metal. The guitarist swayed back and forth, rocking his hoodie-covered head to and fro. The red-headed drummer banged away while the lead singer began pouncing around, his long dreads swinging wildly, seemingly about to whip the bassist across the face at any moment.

I was interested in hearing what the vocalist had to say about the plight of poor people, but the message was difficult to understand. His grunts and guttural screams were the only audible sounds.

I looked at the band again, and their friends hollering them on in the crowd. Suburbanites, all of them, brought up their entire lives in the affluence of middle class, Western suburbia. It was the closest they could come to addressing the plight of the lower class: screaming out indecipherable verses while the instruments drowned out the rest.

I looked at my bar neighbor. She was looking at the band but I couldn't tell if she was truly feeling their vibe. She tapped her right foot every once in a while against the stool.

“I'm sure Bob Marley has a lot to say about the plight of his poor brothers tending the vineyards,” I quipped.

She looked over at me and cracked a sliver of a smile. I capitalized on the opportunity and extended my hand. “I'm Danny. What's your name?”

“Lola,” she said.

“Lola, how do you know about this band? Did you just stumble onto a rock show?”

“No. Bob Marley...” She pointed to the end of the bar where the lead singer wailed into the microphone, inches from swallowing it whole. “Is my boyfriend,” she finished.

Saying nothing, I swung around a quarter of the way and faced the bar. The wall behind the shelf of drinks was mirrored. I looked at myself, wearing a flannel shirt, my brow sweating now, and completely out of place.

“Have a good night, Lola,” I said, before quickly chugging down the rest of the backwash that remained in the pint glass.

Her only response was a slightly raised right pinkie finger, which she quickly tucked back down against the pint glass.

As I made my way over the stained, red shag carpet, the lead singer started talking again. “This next song is about love and finding the right girl.”

The drums kicked in and, soon, more grunts and indecipherable verses.

Copyright © 2009 by Hector Duarte Jr.

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