Bare light bulbs hung from the ceiling piercing the darkness and casting halos of yellow light through dense stagnant air, the only obvious window boarded up and pinned proudly with pictures of the town in its heyday. High tables and bar stools filled the room, peanut shells dusted the bare wood floor absorbing any spillage. The bar itself formed the centerpiece of the establishment, an enormous cedar log stretching the length of the back wall, carved in the likeness of a totem pole. Surveying the room Caspar set his sights in the direction of the cedar bar.
Being Saturday night the bar was fully staffed setting the number of employees at three; one leathered biker type and two indigenous barmaids. Biker type, an enormous bald-headed Spartan, was clearly the owner as he spewed abuse on an underage patron, but did nothing to discourage his cash contributions to the bars bottom line or healthy rate of liquid consumption. Barmaid one was either the owner’s wife or in training for the honor by keeping up in both leather and ballast. Barmaid two did not belong.
Tallish and lean, the young girl’s raven black hair was tied up in a bunch pinned together by a pair of bone needles, leaving the length undetermined. She glowed with healthy light brown skin, and possessed wide-set eyes with a depth that appeared to look at everyone twice, her knowing smile confirmed that assessment. From behind the bar and behind her back, aided by a wall tiled with hand stenciled mirror, the girl watched Caspar part the doors, evaluate the room and approach the solid wood bar. Carefully appraising this stranger as he edged for a stool, more curious than business she inquired for his ID.
Absorbing the California license, “Twenty-seven tomorrow, what brings you way up here?”
“Canoes,” was the one word reply that could just be heard over the bellow of biker type’s spouse to be.
Head tilted in query and with some concern, “You want to kill yourself on your birthday? You do know there’s a storm on the way?” Most ill-timed deaths in this neck of the woods were from alcohol or drugs, what this thoughtful looking stranger seemed to want to accomplish was new and curiously unexpected.
“So what are we drinking birthday boy?”
With second thoughts on a beer, “Water please.”
Adding burger and fries to his request for water, Caspar sat quietly wrapped in his own thoughts, staring blindly into an infinity of vodka bottles mirrored back through reflective shelves. At some point in his reverie the girl had refreshed Caspar’s water, setting the glass just off-center of a soft blue notecard folded neatly down the middle. ‘Off at midnight’ in tidy block printing.