The acid laced judges threw up their 6 and 7s, as Valium-laden dancers left trails on the floor, scores hitting a glass ceiling, remnants of the chaos their bodies left on the center of the universe long after the last leg pirouette.
“I loved it”, one judge opined, “but they were just not emanating the life we were looking for…”
Panning out, the drunks and romantic lovers stared intently at the muddled and illegible network logo at the bottom corner of the TV screen. A television that, at its peak – the long ago baptismal first broadcast – was the undisputed pride of the inebriated community, but has since been buried by the canyon-carving march of time, technological progress, and dust – yes, volumes and volumes of dust – which, in conjunction with gravity, serves only to further weigh on the low-definition relic’s usefulness. It’s role diminished with a purpose now only to act as the moderator for semi-daily arguments of politically incorrect patrons debating the airwave programming selection the way the dancer’s judges do their place in the competition, in judging history and in the world of importance and relevance.
“Pass me another..”, it was heard, as an empty glass of lost time clanged the wooden bar top that has seen one president murdered, another nearly, and another at the height of pleasure, on her dress a famous Clinton pearl. It’s pores, time capsules of smoke and broken dreams, tears the catalyst that locked in their permanence, if only cries from a hapless mouth missing it’s mark. Local outsiders pass through, their worn and desperate eyes addicted to strangers, waiting for the inevitable word that they aren’t welcome – a reception not unlike the scores of those through the airwaves, reality but this time for real. Regulars stared blindly through the thicket of their ever-deepening, seething hate at the joker seated across the range from them, lining up their sights on the trespassers taking up their space.
The hired magician worked the corner like it was Carnegie in the flesh, to empty seats, deaf ears and cares on not one face.
“This is my life,” he silently lamented, “so why don’t they give me my respect?”
As expected and on schedule, if not excruciatingly late, the rabbit appeared and the woman sawed in half clapped for the lonelies. The bartender, required to show their love, gave out the drinks and more, with bloody noses and itching shells, and bugs – my god, this place was infested with skin insect cronies. To each their own, and why should it be any other way? But it never is, not in here, the tavern where you’ll forever stay.
By now, as the clock perfects the practice of it’s religious reincarnation, the moon above crawls to the finish line, the laughs are belly deep, the conversations as shallow as the mushroom pond landscape, and the vibe as eclectic as the world’s musical playlist. Weathered wing-men and out of work rodeo clowns save the endangered, inserting their borrowed souls to allow for the escape of those who’s connection just missed.
All the while, hidden in a back room just beyond the searing eyes of those on the outside, the gambler plays his last hand, not knowing it is destined to be a fateful losing one. The grins begin to take shape, the ‘I-told-you-so’s’ muttered under collective breaths of unrepentant stubbornness, and the chips begin to fall how they always do – hard and at their own discretion. For the gambler – just like for the dancers, the judges, the drunks, the romantics, the magicians, the regulars, the strangers, the wing-men, the rodeo clowns, the card sharks, the desperate, the lonely and all of the other nobody’s still looking back at us in the mirror – the jukebox music stopped long, long ago, and the landing was always going to hurt. As the gambler stood up and threw his 52 chances against the wall where on this night lived the writing, he came to the only sense he had left within the shell of his former self, recalled a distant memory of a smile, and proclaimed, “You and I – it just wasn’t in the cards…”