“Gift me with another darlin’”He exclaimed while slamming the bottom of his bottle on the bar so hard it made his hand shake. He was easily on his fifth beer this evening and three empty shot glasses sat beside his resting elbow. He watched through swimming vision as the bartender sighed and reached into the cooler for another beer, popped the top and strode his way her hips in the rhythm of a natural erotic sway.
She placed a full beer in front of him snatched up the bottle and shot glasses and retreated quickly. “What; You don’t want to talk to me today Beula?” He chortles and takes a long swig of his beverage.
“You know I don’t associate with you at this point Merritt. You’re legless and I don’t care to hear what foulness comes out of your mouth.” Beula snaps at him from the middle of the bar washing out the shot glasses.
“Mmm” is all Merritt can retort with as his eyes drag down her shapely form. He thinks Beula was an unfortunate name given to her by a spiteful mother at the radiance she must have exuded at birth. Such a beauty didn’t grow into that body- she always had it.
“Don’t leer at me like that Merritt- I’m warning you- I’ll cut you off!” Beula stomps over to another customer leaving her empty threat hanging between the long distance between them. Her rump bouncing pleasantly with every step and hips perfect for resting a palm on, she could be a goddess.
“Admiring your bartender can be taken too far, you know.” A female voice suddenly next to him makes Merritt jump- some of his beer sloshing out the top and onto the bar.
“Geeze lady where the hell did you come from!” Placing a hand over his chest Merritt wills the tightening panic to dissipate through his drunken state.
“Outside.” She simply answers. Merritt looks her over through squinted eyes and a sweaty brow. At first glance she was beautiful, at second glance stunning, at third glance- out of place.
“What’s a pretty little lady like you doing here?” Merritt asks the mystery woman through slurred speech.
She smiles at him, considers resting her elbows on the bar, and then decides to do otherwise. “Looking for you”
“For me huh? Must be my lucky day.” Merritt takes another long mouthful of his beer holds it there then gulps it down. What was it with women these days? The beautiful become bartenders in a shit hole in the wall and prostitutes.
“Can I get you something?” Beula asks the other woman eyeing her suspiciously. He wasn’t the only one that questioned her speaking with Merritt or why she was in a dusty old tavern in the first place.
“Water with lemon and lime please, if you wouldn’t mind.” She gleams at Beula with straight white teeth.
“What’s your name?” The woman directs her attention back to Merritt.
“I don’t have money.”
“Hello I don’t have money, my name is Serenity.” Merritt studies Serenity noting her white lace dress rose tinted pearls and slicked back bun.
“Hi.” How can she be a prostitute and look so damn classy? Baffled Merritt raises his hand when Beula returns with the water. “A shot.”
“Not three? Or a please like your lady friend here?” Beula retorts. Obviously she isn’t pleased by the turn of events or his curt drink order. She never was one to keep her mouth shut about business that wasn’t hers to come by. Beula stamps heavily away fiery as ever.
“You dun pissed Miss Beula off somehow.” Merritt comments chuckling.
“No, I do believe you have Merritt.” Serenity reminds him. He can only shrug; making Beula angry was a part of their daily flirtation.
“Why you still talking to me?”
“I don’t know what you mean. You seem as if someone to talk to could you do well.”
“I don’t have money.”
“So you’ve stated.”
Merritt sighs and accepts the shot Beula sets in front of him. She walks away before he can thank her suddenly self-conscious about his demeanor though he doesn’t know why. Better wash the bad feeling away- down goes the shot. He shivers and chases it with his nearly empty beer.
“Are you happy here Merritt? Do these activities bring you joy?” Serenity inquires.
“What kind of questions are those? Go away.” Merritt never liked people that poke their nose into anyone else’s business when they aren’t involved in the slightest. At least Beula sells him drinks never cuts him off and listens to him rant whenever she has a moment to lose. She’s an odd girl.
“What if I told you that I could help you find Serenity?”
“Seems Serenity has already found me.”
She smiles and pats the back of Merritt’s’ hand light like a dandelion seed drifting in the wind. “It seems it has.”
“Sweet cheeks” Merritt begins twinging his eyes down towards her caboose to emphasize the statement “You’re a gorgeous miss and everything but I’m about positive I couldn’t afford you. Go visit that guy in the corner booth I see him leave with more of your kind than I could count on my fingers and toes.”
“I’m not for sale Merritt. I’m for free for those who seek me out.”
Merritt guffaws. “Alright then let’s go. Beula! I’ll pay now!” Merritt finishes his beer claps his hands together and grins lopsidedly at Serenity. “I don’t live far.”
“Merritt I was not implying that I was going to have intercourse with you.” Serenity patiently corrects.
“Then what exactly do you want!” Merritt slaps his hands down on the table. “What the hell are you doing here disturbing my little sanctuary? Sure it’s dank and filled with strangers I wouldn’t consider speaking with in a million years but this is where I go to get away from prissy little bitches like you.” Beula steps up to the bar.
“Something the matter?” She casts her judgment over the two- hand out to take Merritt’s credit card.
“Two shots.” Merritt demands without taking his eyes off Serenity. Beula leaves with another one of her infamous sighs.
“I don’t frequent these types of places. But I thought you could use my guidance.” Serenity asserts wearing a serious countenance.
“I don’t need anyone’s guidance. You can leave now.” Merritt grumbles. Beula quick on her feet as always has already laid the shots in front of Merritt. She knows from experience they are both for him. He shoots one back.
“What if I told you that your liver were about to fail and I could give you the gift of a merry moment before passing over.” Serenity decrees. This gives Merritt pause.
“How would you know something like that?” He skeptically looks Serenity over again. She couldn’t be an angel. Could she be the devil here to take his soul? Could God really be a woman? He would be eternally damned if that were the case.
“Would you accept my escort Merritt?” Always afraid of death Merritt never cared to ponder on the amount of damage he did to his liver every day for all these years. He figured he would simply die in a drunken slumber one night and not even know it. Posed with the ideal of death within the walls of a rotting old bar he decided this wasn’t where he wanted to die.
“What do I have to do?”
Serenity smiles fondly and takes Merritts hand within her own the sensation like silk. “This is all you have to do. Hold my hand back Merritt.”
“Okay.” Dumbfounded he grips her hand. He isn’t sure how firm his grasp is but he hopes it’s with the might off all the strength of his youth. Her smile doesn’t falter.
“Do you have a cigarette Merritt?” Serenity drawls out her breath smelling like clean linens drying in a summer breeze.
“Yeah.” Merritt responds eyes beginning to water.
“May we smoke one together?” Serenity prods.
Merritt sits a moment longer thinking on the shot, then nods his head raising his bloated self from the bar. His stomach sloshes and his vision wavers but he’s here almost every day and has yet to tumble to the ground. Stumbling into walls is different. He waves a hand in the direction of the door through the gloom of grime and tacky- everything. If he were to die of liver failure he would rather do it on the sidewalk with a cigarette in his hand then on the beer slicked floor he was known to be at every night.
Serenity leads the way walking like she doesn’t quite touch the ground- the smoothest walk he had ever seen. A marching band would be jealous of her graceful stride. Merritt swings the door in and Serenity reaches for his hand again- he takes it greedily. What then?
Together Serenity and Merritt step out the doorway into a surprisingly bright sky- and that is all.