Rocks Bar and Grill
As I watched the ambulance pull away from rock’s bar and grill, I thought about how some problems go unnoticed for so long…until they come to an end…a dead end.
Pat was a good worker. Best bartender I knew, so I hired him. Always on time, the money always matched, and the people really seemed to like him a lot. His scruffy hair slightly receded at the forehead made him look a bit older than he really was. He had a constant look of breaking a sweat, his eyes sort of glossy, with one occasionally drifting off to one side. It was the grin that got me…kind of a sideways grin that showed of something evil inside, yet he was just so sweet I always brushed that off as my imagination. He always remembered people’s names and what they drank. All around good guy, but there was still this undertone of something a little weird, even mysterious about him.
I never thought about how hard it must be to work in a place where others are living the social limelight.
It must have been hard to see all the guys’ approach the girls he admired from afar and knew he could not have.
He wanted that life more than anything.
One evening, I saw him laughing and having what seemed to be a good time and a successful conversation with a girl at the bar. He walked over towards me to get change for the register, with a wild look in his eyes like an excited little boy.
“Do you think I should ask her out…?” He asked. Of course I encouraged him to go for it, but when I looked over his shoulder at her, there was another guy moving in on her, asked her to dance. I’ll never forget the look on Pats face when he turned around. It was a Dark, hollow, empty look. I was actually sort of frightened of Pat for the first time since we had met. I knew this hit him hard, but it was business as usual for Pat as he resumed a normal routine, masking his disappointment once again.
The next couple of nights I watched him closely. Something was changing. He spent a lot of time talking to some strange, dark looking character that I had not seen in here before. We had our usuals, but this guy was definitely not in the same genre as the rest of the crowd. I figured this might be an ok thing for Pat, having a friend to talk to…to keep his mind off of the girl from the other night. As I was watching them at the bar, out of the corner of my eye something on the TV caught my attention. There was a gruesome murder of some young girl near here. My heart fell to my feet…oh my god! It was her, the girl that was talking to Pat the other night.
My stomach went into convulsions. I looked over at Pat. It was that evil sideways grin. No way. It wasn’t him. It just wasn’t.
For the next couple of weeks, Pat and the Dark Stranger were getting to be good friends. Rides home. Football games. They would look at girls and laugh…who knows about what, but they were laughing as if they knew something no one else knew. All the things that good buddy’s do together, but for some reason I was suspicious. The whole thing just didn’t seem to sit right.
There were three or four nights when Pat showed up late…this was not like him at all.
Then it happened again. A girl…smiling, talking to Pat, like there was potential for a date. I listened in for a moment. “So…” Pat asked, “how about you and I go for an early breakfast when I get off?” Good for him, I thought, he finally got up the nerve to ask her out. “Well…” she said, “I was actually waiting for my boyfriend to show up, but if he doesn’t, then why not? It’ll serve him right for leaving me here alone” she smiled, flipped her hair and giggled a little. Pat walked, no…floated, back to the bar.
About 1:00am, I told Pat to go ahead, I would close up. The boyfriend still had not shown up yet, so what the hell. Pat was elated. Just before they stepped out the door, sure enough, the boyfriend showed up. He delivered a half-assed apology followed by a lame-assed excuse, and somehow swooned her into forgiving him. She looked over at Pat, gave a little shrug and mustered up that “I’m sorry” look. Pat whirled around at the boyfriend and began a shouting match, being very possessive of a girl that was not even his. I’d never seen Pat so aggressive, so assertive. Wasn’t like him at all. Then, out of the corner of the bar, came the Dark Stranger. He grabbed Pats arms, and his shouting ceased almost instantly. He stared into the eyes of his Dark friend. He was so hurt. His eyes seem to be pleading his Dark friend for comfort, to take the pain away. They left, and disappeared in to the fog past the cobblestone walkway.
I locked up, but couldn’t stop thinking about where in the hell that Dark Stranger came from that night. I didn’t even see him come in.
The next night, once again, the TV News catches my attention. A young couple killed in a car crash just about a mile from here. You guessed it; it was them, the young couple from last night. I looked over at Pat. There was no reaction whatsoever. He just continued washing glasses, staring in to the bottom of the sink. Then, the grin…I know I saw it! He shot a look towards me. It wasn’t him at all. His face was that of a distant soul. Pat was just no longer himself. I walked outside, felling suddenly short of breath. I had a smoke in my pocket, tried to light it but my hands were shaking too much. Then, the flick of a lighter and a flame to the end of my smoke appeared. “Thanks,” I said. I turned to look and my smoke fell from my hand. It was the Dark Stranger, but as I looked at him closely, I saw Pat!
I closed my eyes really tight, and then opened them. He was gone! I looked down at my burning smoke on the ground, retrieved it and finished it up.
For a couple of months I would have to admit I did my best to avoid Pat at all costs. I just couldn’t get the night of the cigarette out of my mind…even contemplated getting my own head checked. There were two more deaths in the area. Although I wasn’t there to see Pat talking to them, I knew…I just knew.
Last night, I had to go in to work to get the deposits for the week. That’s when I saw Pat sitting at a booth talking to a girl instead of watching the bar. I looked over and saw his Dark friend, mixing drinks like I had never seen before. He was entertaining the customers and tossing bottles like a professional! I walked over to Pat and asked to speak to him.
“I’m taking the night off.” He said. He turned and resumed his intimate conversation with the girl at the booth. He was ignoring me, and I found myself too intimidated to say anything. I swallowed hard and just stood there. “Pat, go to the bar and finish up the night. I will talk to you tomorrow.” There, I said it. I turned and walked to the office, my legs felt like rubber. Apparently Pat got up, went to the bar and relieved his Dark friend, resuming his lonely routine. Later on, his Dark friend replaced Pats place at the booth with that girl. He was apparently getting too close to Pats new “girlfriend”.
Witnesses say the two of them argued and went outside. The Dark Stranger kept reminding Pat of the “deal” they made. A deal with the devil I wondered? Pat refused to heed the warnings of the Dark Stranger, and for that he is now resting in the back of the ambulance I was staring at. As it drove around the corner and out of sight, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I turned around and my whole body flushed with fear. It was Pat! He gave me that sideways grin and let out a hollow laugh as he turned and disappeared into the fog. I never saw Pat…or the Dark Stranger, again.