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ordinary lives

Same old shit

Carla lit the end of her cigarette and sucked in deeply. The tobacco tasted spicy on her tongue. She pulled the smoke into her lungs and let it warm her chest before blowing blue clouds out through her nose and mouth. It was bitch-cold tonight. She took another drag. Time to go in before her snot froze all the way to her brain.

Stubbing the butt out with her boot, Carla swung open the bar door. She sidled up to a stool and scanned the chalkboard for specials.

“Gimme a Bud,” she ordered, flicking a coaster down the empty counter. Longnecks for a buck, not a bad deal. She looked around the dimly lit room, the puddles of shadows, the cracked jukebox blasting Hell’s Bells. “Either this place is a real pisshole or you got an advertising problem. How the hell do you stay in business?”

The bartender picked up Carla’s coaster and plunked a beer bottle on top of it. “Oh, it’ll pick up later in the night.” He pointed to a sign as she pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “There’s no smoking in here.”

Carla dropped the pack on the counter. “What kind of bar doesn’t let you smoke?”

“Sorry,” he shrugged. “So what brings you out tonight?”

Carla took a swig of her beer. “Dunno. Just got sick and tired of the same old shit, I guess.”

“Yeah, I hear you,” he answered, racking a crate of empty bottles. “You wouldn’t believe how much I get that around here. Same old shit — it’s not much of an answer. My shit’s different than your shit’s different than the shit sitting out on the road.”

“Nobody’s that interested anyway.” Carla reached over to a basket of pretzels on the table next to her and crammed a handful in her mouth.

“Try me.”

“Not much to tell,” she mumbled, swallowing. “Caught my old boyfriend cheating on me with some ho. Bastard gave me AIDS — well, HIV really. But it’s not gonna make no difference seeing as how I can’t afford any of them pills.” She reached for her cigarettes.

“Wow, that’s some deep shit,” the bartender replied, taking the pack from her. “So what happened to the boyfriend?”

“You ain’t from around here, are you, Bar Boy?” She gulped another swallow of her beer and reached for more pretzels.

“Why do you say that?” He put the cigarettes down and turned to get her a fresh basket.

“Too many damn questions. Like I said, people ’round here aren’t into each other’s shit.” Carla pulled out one of her cigarettes, lit the end of the stick while his back was turned. “So, where you from anyway?”

“L.A.,” he answered. “Used to be a waiter in Beverly Hills. Talk about the same old shit — whole lotta silicone junkies and lap dogs, all of ’em pumped up on drugs and booze so they can cope instead of live. I wanted to meet some real people, people who weren’t just existing, you know?” He turned and placed the basket in front of her. “So I came out here.”

“And?” she wanted to know.

“And,” he mused, taking the cigarette from her mouth. He put it to his lips and took a deep drag. “And.”

Vanitha Sankaran  is presently writing a collection of vignettes, to be titled Ordinary Lives. Her recent work can be found online at Prose Ax, The Independent Mind, Orchard Press Mysteries, and The Paumanok Review. Her current print work will appear in upcoming issues of Mindprints, The Guild, and FUTURES. She is also an editor at the new e-zine flashquake.