Which Stupid Bastard Gave Charlie Manson Another Drink?

Slow nights, they’re 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. They’ve got you all to themselves. You’re topping them up with cheap beer. You’re listening to their bullshit. You’re marvelling at how anyone can lack such basic understanding of human interaction. How someone can ignore your screaming disinterest. How someone can be socially dyslexic. Most people, even meth-hoofing 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’ll just keep on spilling their asinine crap. 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 he’s way too close, practically mounting the bar to get near me. A real personal space invader. His breath smells like an abattoir next-door to a brewery and it hangs around like a beaten dog. His accent is a blanket European. Greek, Italian, Russian. Maybe Romany or whatever. And he just keeps on fucking talking. 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 exhale. Charlie nods eagerly, interpreting my breathing as agreement.

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

“Another?” I say.

He empties his glass, nodding eagerly. 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. He’s refused a tab, paying drink by drink, so the tips are dripping out good and steady. As I pour his beer I imagine these freaky human statues staring me down. All dead eyes and stiff limbs. Jerking around whenever no one’s watching. Folding themselves through impossible angles. Haggard, paint-peeled fingers clawing for your back.

“I gotta admit it, they do 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 shouts, punctuating the last word 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.

It’s goddamn impossible to keep quiet when some jerk’s spouting out stuff you agree with. You can’t hold out forever. You give them something eventually. It’s like we’re hard-wired to reach out to anything familiar, shitty people with our fucking in-groups. We make me sick.

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.

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. Infernal, arrhythmic punctures, steel striking bone, dancing between the pendulum’s metered silences. The manic, staggered metronome somehow resonating, layering tick over stop over tick over tock over is over not.

A breath crawls up the thing’s shrivelled throat. 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 flesh snags against the rust-peppered springs, galvanising the putrid mass into full 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 that peers through the barricaded window.

Then the thing begins its screaming.

Trudge

The wanderer’s pack cut a ragged line through the dessert. Dragged by cracked fingers locked about its rough loop. The sack’s broken straps trailing, gently stroking either side of the growing trench. Their staggered clawing at the furrow’s edges agitating the sands in some weak attempt to hide the wanderer’s progress. Though progress was an all too optimistic label for his trudging.

Just onward, forward and away.

He imagines a purpose to this journey, lost somewhere back down the line. A necessity or desire that gropes at him from his beginnings. His whys and becauses now dried up. Reason cracked and crumbled and trampled into the sands behind. Whether his was pilgrimage or flight, he can no longer remember. Only sure that he has to keep on, toward the constantly setting sun. He walks on, away from the dark. His mouth raving and his mind reeling. His skins empty and his face peeling. He walks on. Dragging himself into that ever-dying light.