Grit’s Pub is not a fancy place. The office used to be bigger, then Grit put in the garage. The front room used to have six booths, then Grit put in the pool table and the juke box. Now there are four booths, one which gets used more than the others. Not a whole lot of folk fit at the bar, but not a whole lot of folk come into the pub. For those who do, there is an extensive selection of fast-pouring hard liquors and slow-flowing brews on tap. Grit won’t make you a cocktail, but he has a machine that will. It’s a good place, Grit’s Pub. Grit’s real proud of it.
After the lights are flicked on and the jukebox is kicked into playing a tune, Grit unlocks the front door. Four girls are waiting there, and they stay waiting there. The eye contact is fizzy, bubbling with knowing. After a moment Grit nods. So do the girls, one by one. They all file in. Grit watches them sit in their booth, then closes the door.
Grit gets to cleaning glasses.
The girls don’t order a single thing for the first hour, nor does a single human being come through Grit’s Pub. This is nothing out of the ordinary, the rest stops usually take in all the traffic on this stretch of the highway. Business has never been booming at Grit’s Pub, but that’s just how Grit likes it. The girls are regulars, but there’s a reason for that. There’s a reason for most everything in Grit’s life, come to think of it. He’s not a careless man, never has been. The girls know that. Hell, that’s probably the only reason they’re still around. They know the risks, they know they don’t have to be here, but they choose to come anyway. Maybe they trust Grit. Maybe they want to help. Maybe they have nothing else going for them.
“Lord knows that’s the only reason I’m still here,” Grit says under his breath to the audience of himself. The girls hear, one of them even looks over, but he pays them no mind. It’s not like it’ll change what’s going to happen tonight, it’s much too late for that. Certain gears have already been set a’churn; all he needs now is the proof.
Grit cleans the glasses four times before the girls decide to start drinking. They all order Gritty cosmos; while the mixer makes the sauce, Grit goes into the garage and fetches a full jar from the box next to the crate of castor beans. He almost steps on the mattress while he’s in there, almost ruins the whole thing. If the mattress has always been there, why would someone step on it?
Grit takes a breath and straightens himself out, then turns the lights back off. He returns to the front room with a jar of moonshine clenched tightly in his right hand.
Four cosmos sit in four glasses before four girls standing at Grit’s bar. He uncaps the jar and makes each of the cosmos Gritty, looking the drinkers dead in the eyes as he pours. He recaps the jar and sets it down loudly, then puffs out his chest.
“This is your last chance, girls. You can all leave right now.”
As if they practiced it, the girls simultaneously take up their Gritty cosmos and drain the glasses. In answer, Grit uncaps his moonshine and takes a swig. It goes down smoothly, though he won’t be able to taste anything for the next two days.
“Very well,” when the jar is capped once more. “To your booths, then.”
Three of the girls go to their favorite booth. The fourth sits alone in the one next to the door to the garage. Grit gets to cleaning glasses.
Six drinkers come and go through Grit’s Pub without hassle, some without uttering a single word. The seventh is more talkative.
“Jeffers!” honks the oily man as he bursts through the front door hard enough to dent the wall with the handle. Three girls ignore him, the fourth leans out of her booth at the sound of his voice. Grit takes his final breath of clean air, then turns around.
“Devyn Lind, as I live and breathe.” Grit walks out and meets the oily man halfway across the floor, uncomfortably close to the booth harboring the three girls. “I didn’t think you’d come all the way out here!”
“Sheeiit, and not see my new buddy’s place of work?!” The oily man slaps Grit on the back; in the flurry of motion, Grit catches a whiff of crude oil and hot slag. He has to fight himself to not double over on the spot. “You must be outta your head!”
Grit shrugs, admits such is a possibility, then leads the oily man to the bar. They talk. The oily man drinks and peeps at the girls. Grit gets to cleaning glasses.
The Night Continues
The night continues without another patron. The girls all drink liberally, especially the one sat alone. From a distance, the oily man keeps pace.
A Place to Stay
“Another Jager, Dev’?”
“You know what, Jeffers?” hiccups the oily man. “You pour me somethin’ light. I’m’a go check out that gee-rahge yous was tellin’ me about. Go ‘head an’ pour the beer now.” He sniffles loudly, then wipes his nose with his sleeve. “I won’t need long.”
Grit nods. He pulls out one of the clean glasses and fixes it beneath the nozzle of the Michelob Light tap. As the beer slowly flows, Grit watches the oily man approach the fourth girl. He points at her stack of empty glasses and they laugh. He offers her his hand. She takes it. As soon as the garage door closes behind them, Grit unscrews the Michelob Light tap handle and slaps the bottom of it against the palm of his hand. A small capsule falls out, no thicker than a hair tie. Grit breaks the capsule and lets the white powder dissolve into the slow stream of beer. Grit then tosses the empty shell into the trash, washes his hands, and refastens the tap handle. Ten seconds later the beer finishes pouring. As Grit is placing the glass next to the empty one on the bar, the fourth girl slowly lets herself out of the garage and walks swiftly through the bar, tears streaming down her face. Two of the other girls follow her out. The fourth looks at Grit for a time, then leaves the bar.
Grit takes the beer over to the garage and knocks on the door. He leaves the beer for Devyn to drink, and Devyn thanks Grit for giving him a place to stay for the night. Grit locks up and walks outside. The girls are gone. The ride home is a long one.
Hello Commons, this has been Gritty Cosmos, the flash fiction story attached to the Michelob Light beer tap handle from rePurpp, the official store of The Hillside Commons. Click here to go to the store and check it out for yourself.
I also write fiction books, all of which you can read for free on my website. Click here to see the list.
Be well Commons~