[Ed. Friday short fiction, the first of what will hopefully become a weekly feature. I know today isn’t Friday, but whatever.]
The little bar in Dearborn County was gray and bleak and strangely familiar. He knew he hadn’t been here before. Had never been to Cincinnati and had certainly never traveled through Southern Indiana on I-74. But he still felt something about that bar, like something from a dream. He was familiar with its qualities, as if they shared something unspoken.
He didn’t like to travel. Preferred his comfortable hospital in Chicago. But as much as he hated driving, he hated his apartment more. It’s not like he had anything better to do anyway. The kids were gone, back to their mother’s, and his hobbies had grown worn and empty. So he would spend the weekend making an expensive trip (expensive for the hospital, anyway) to Anderson Mercy in Cinci. After fifteen years, doing rhinoplasties was easy now, especially the local anesthetic ones. This one was no different, a simple excision of the nasal hump. Two quick osteotome cuts to the bone, followed by a week with the metal splint. Good as new, as they say, or better.
There were very few people in the bar that late night. It was windy and snowy outside, the white flakes dancing and floating the the warm glow of the streetlight. He sat down alone and noticed the female bartender behind the counter, a pretty girl with very tanned arms and face. He ordered a Hendrick’s gin and tonic and sat there with it stiffly in his hand, thinking about the woman who had looked like that, tanned and proportioned. She once came to a job straight from the tanning salon, and when he asked her about it, she laughed. Tanning salons can get you laid, she said. He untucked his shirt and pulled the blinds down and turned off his Blackberry. How do you know? She just looked at him and smiled aggressively. What happened next was the answer, and people like him with lots of money and lots of time were the answer.
His wife had been tanned too, before the affair, before the divorce, before the crisis of wealth that couldn’t solve anything. Before. Now she was older and gone, and the gray hairs of his head testified to the comfortable struggle of his life.
The bartender asked about his drink. “It’s okay,” he said without looking up. He hadn’t taken a drink yet. “Yeah, it’s great.”