"A Local Bar" by Tabitha Miles
The doors of the pub swing open and a man walks in, accompanied by a frigid winter breeze. The man touches his forehead and winces -- he had just hit his head on a light post outside the pub, capping off an irritable day. He'd woken up on the wrong side of the bed, arrived late for work, and had an angry wife waiting at home. The light post was the turning point, and he needed a drink.
Gingerly holding his head, the man stumbles through the room towards the barkeep. He glances over into the corner to see a few women talking, and then a couple of men sitting at the bar. He sits down between the two men, a few stools empty on either side. The one on his right is wearing a straw hat, and the one on his left is tall and lanky. The man signals the bartender and asks for a bag of ice, turning his head to briefly listen to the loud conversation amongst the women in the corner.
One of the women, a brunette, asks her friend after sipping her drink, “So, what happened at the doctor’s today? You seemed to be in a lot of pain the other day.”
“Oh, it was the strangest thing -- I go in and tell him that I feel excruciating pain every time I touch a part of my body, and he just laughs!” the blonde replies.
“How horrible! That sounds extremely unprofessional!” Exclaims the woman with deep, red hair. "What did he end up diagnosing you with?”
“Well,” continues the blonde, “Apparently I had a broken finger -- I still don’t understand why everything hurt.”
The man rolls his eyes just as the bartender sets a plastic bag full of ice chips in front of him. The man takes the bag, thanking the bartender before resting it on his head. The cold felt good on the goose-egg beginning to form, even though the bar was drafty. The man glances over at the old-timer in the straw hat just as the bartender strikes up a conversation.
“Why the long face?” asks the bartender as he polishes a glass.
The old-timer removes his hat, revealing a forehead lined with wrinkles of hardship and worn by the sun.
“Well, we had been expecting it for quite some time now, but, Johnny died just last night,” replies the old-timer, exposing a noticeable twang.
“Your horse? My condolences, sir. He was a fine horse.” The bartender drifts away as the tall and rugged man on the opposite side of the bar orders a drink. “So, how’s the weather up there?”
The rugged man takes the drink from the bartender before replying sharply, “Pretty damn cold.” The bartender nods before he continues, “It even snowed at one point! But, still to this day, I haven’t regretted moving up into the mountains. It’s just so quiet and peaceful up there.”
“I can drink to that,” the man says as he holds the ice to his forehead, “I’ll have what he’s having.”
The bartender nods and pours another glass. The man takes it and lifts it toward the mountain man, “To peace and quiet.”
The man takes a sip and sets the glass onto the counter just as a construction worker sits beside him. Allowing the alcohol to ease his nerves, a smile grows on the man’s face. His body begins to feel warm against the frigid air and the pain in his head begins to subside. The man turns to the construction worker and asks, “Hey, wanna hear a joke?”
The construction worker nods and waves down the bartender, “Sure, what’d ya got?” “So, a guy walks into a bar...”