Which Stupid Bastard Gave Charlie Manson Another Drink?

Slow nights are the worst. Don’t get me wrong, I hate work as much as the next guy but if you’re going to be somewhere for 12 hours, it’s nice to have a little something to do. Nights like this, you’re stuck at the bar serving whatever sad weirdo lays claim to a barstool. You’re topping them up with cheap swill. You’re listening to their bullshit. You’re marvelling at how anyone can lack such a basic understanding of human interaction, how they can ignore your screaming disinterest, how they can be socially dyslexic. Most people, even half-crazy hobos, they’ll piss off once they realise you’ll only give back monosyllables and grunts, no matter how inspired they consider their tedious observations on life to be. Barflies though, they just keep on yammering. And tonight’s is lord of the fucking flies.

He looks like Charles Manson, if Manson was a Russian used car salesman. That’s Manson who’s Russian, you understand. His cars are from wherever. Mexico. Fucking Delhi. Mr Manson, he’s real intense. He’s got too much hair and wears too much cologne. He’s way too loud and way too close, practically mounting the bar to get near me. A real personal space invader. Breath like an abattoir next-door to a brewery. A smell that hangs around like a beaten dog. His accent is a blanket European. Greek, Italian, maybe Romany or whatever. And he just keeps on talking. He segues from politics to TV to musicians to actors to parenting to work-shy youth, and most recently, to fucking street performers.

“So they just stand there! How is that work?”

I sigh and Charlie nods eagerly.

“Am I right? I’m right! If you are going to be a performer, you must perform! Not just dress like a crazy and stay still.”

“Another?” I say.

He empties his glass, nodding again. Flat beer spills out, soaking into his stupid, twitching rug-face. On a good night I’d cut him off. Kick him out and get some room at the bar but it’s been a shitty week and if I’m going to make rent, I’ve got to squeeze as much as I can out of Mr Manson. As I pour his beer I imagine those freaky human statues on the high-street staring me down. All dead eyes and stiff limbs. Unfolding themselves in the dark. Glassy and still with eyes on them and jerking madly whenever no one’s watching. With haggard, paint-peeled fingers that crack and splinter and claw at your back as soon as you turn.

“Man, they creep me out.” I mutter.

I instantly regret it.

He almost jumps over the bar.

“You see! You get it my friend! It’s no good, this statue act. It’s boring and like you say it’s…ah! Unsettling!”

He’s shouting now, punctuating his words by slamming his hand on the bar top, so proud to have understood and labelled another human’s emotions. Well done Mr Charlie fucking Manson.

He sits there till closing. He keeps on talking. He’s back the next night and the one after that. Fucking great. Fucking perfect. Now I’m Charles Manson’s favourite bartender.

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Sometimes it’s Hell Just Getting Out of Bed

It’s the second clock that wakes the thing. A slant, warped box of thirteen crimson letters set about a chipped, slate face. The sound of steel striking bone. Infernal, arrhythmic punctures that dance between the pendulum’s metered silences. The manic, staggered metronome somehow growing, resonating and layering with tick over stop over tick over tock over is over not.

A breath crawls up the thing’s shrivelled throat and ribbons of rotting tissue flutter between the jagged ivory jutting from its maw. A mob of sleep-stuck eyes writhe under tallow skin. Misfiring piston coughs shake the meat of it and rattle the iron bed. Tender, raw flesh snags against the rust-peppered springs, galvanising the putrid mass into waking. Its flank of crust-glued eyelids strain and, oozing, tear themselves open to the gloom; goat/squid pupils snapping at the thin, grey morning, edged flame by the streetlight peering in through the barricaded window.

Then the thing on the bed begins its screaming.

Trudge

The wanderer’s pack cut a ragged line through the dessert. Dragged by calloused fingers locked about it’s rough loop, broken straps trailing and stroking either side of an ever-growing trench, stretching back to that dark horizon. The straps’ palsied clawing at the furrow’s edges agitates the sand; a pathetic attempt to hide the wanderer’s progress. Though progress is an all too optimistic label for her trudging.

Just onward, forward and away.

This journey’s purpose lies lost, somewhere back down the line; a necessity or desire that gropes at her from her beginnings. Whys and becauses now, all but dried up. Reason, cracked and crumbled and trampled into the sands behind. Whether hers was pilgrimage or flight, she can no longer remember, only sure that she has to keep on, toward the constantly setting sun. On she walks, out of her dark forgetfulness . Her mouth raving and her mind reeling. Her skins empty and her face peeling. She walks on. Dragging herself into that ever-dying light.