Adam strolled into the Neon Cathedral as had become his usual manner. The watch on his wrist beeped. Another hour had just passed. Three days in a row he had appeared at work in the same suit and shirt. He nodded at the bartender as he walked across the parlor to the counter, his eyes closing as his head dipped. The young boy nodded back at him taking out the chewed-in-half toothpick from his mouth. A sign of respect. This was their manner.
It was only two more beeps before the stool began to spin by itself.
“Frank, you need to fix the damn stools”, Adam blurted out amidst gurgles. Although young, Frank had tended bars long enough to know from the eyes when a man is tipsy, sleepy, drunk or hammered. “It’s all in the eyes”, he would say to his friends.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” He asked, even still proceeding to top off the glass cup in front of the man. There was free advice for every booze bought. This was his way.
“I won’t come here anymore if you don’t fix these stools”, he paused, turned his face right, left and then right, perhaps to garner some support to his protest. “No, no, no, don’t pour me any drinks. You can’t persuade me to stay here with some butterscotch colored rum. I’m leaving”, he announced pausing after every three or four words.
Frank left the bottle on the counter top and continued to wipe glasses. Adam who thought he meant every word that he had just said tried to leave, but realized that the seat covers had been doused in a good amount of glue to make sure he doesn’t leave the bar.
“I’ll just take this”, he grabbed the bottle off the counter top, fumbled about with it midair and began to gulp. Frank didn’t worry; Adam was the kind of drunk who always had money to pay. And this was a business after all.
No sooner had he began to drink from the bottle did he begin his usual sermon. Anyone who had visited the bar any evening in the last week would be familiar with this tale. He would talk loudly about how his father used to tell him there were three kinds of people. The sheep, who are the cowards, are always bullied, who are too scared to take chances, who never stand up for themselves, who couldn’t stand and fight an adversity. Then there were the wolf folks, who are the bullies, denying people rightful opportunities, feeding off the sufferings of others. Then sheep dogs, who fight the oppressors and bullies. They fight for what is right and what is theirs. They are the brave and courageous ones. Every night he would preach this sermon and then end by affirming on a louder note that he was a sheep dog. This always happened right before he passes out.
However, the ending this night was different.
“…And me? I’m just a sheep. Worthless, pathetic and weak. My wife kicked me out of the house and so I don’t have a home to go to. Even when I lived there it wasn’t a home. I don’t even have a change of clothes. I hate my job but I’ve been doing it for thirteen years…” his voice lowered into mumblings. There was silence in his head. A young woman walked up to where he sat at the counter. She stared at him for about five seconds.
“Do I know you?” He asked, his heading bobbing from back to front. She looked from his face to the bottle and then back.
“You need help. You should talk to someone instead of drinking yourself away like this”.
“Like a pastor? Isn’t this a cathedral? Aren’t we all spirit filled? Frank here listens better”. He chuckled and gulped what was left of the content of the bottle and in the sudden manner in which his demeanor had become subtle, it changed again.
“I am a sheep dog!” He shouted and passed out.
Adam woke up a couple of hours later, somewhere in the shadowed corner. He knew he was losing his job in the morning and that he was losing his house and kids in the divorce. He was a man who never quite had anything and was about to lose some of nothing. It didn’t matter much.
He sighed, “It can’t get any worse. It can only be better”. He was still dull, but he could think a bit. Maybe he was right that it couldn’t get worse or maybe he was wrong.
His story was being written by an author, Sarah Patrick, who always kills her protagonists. So in many ways, Adam’s idea of better was different from his creator’s.
Sarah Jennifer Patrick smiled as she wrote the last word that marked the end of her book. Like her many other books, the protagonist died a chapter ago. This one was not special. She was certain it wouldn’t win her any awards but was also sure it would fetch her quite some money like the many others.
What she doesn’t know however, is that her own story is also being written by a younger writer. He would do a jig and a scratch his overgrown hair each time he made her kill her protagonists. He would rub beard too if he had one. This was what writing meant to him; playing god, being the master of a universe, being the sole reason why everything existed. Creator and destroyer, hero and villain he becomes each time he puts pen to paper.
But his story is also being written, and he has a pretty good idea who’s writing it.
About the author