Happy Thursday, Internets! How about a free story to celebrate this day before Friday?
This week’s story is one I wrote under my Kris Sparks pen name. LAST CALL is a mainstream fiction story featuring a con man, a kitten, and one last shot at redemption.
Published by Thunder Valley Press
Copyright 2011 by Kris Sparks
Last call. How many times had Jake heard that in his life? He’d lost track, just like he’d lost track of a lot of things.
Years ago he used to say it, towel draped over his shoulder, last clean glass lined up in its place beneath the bar. Back in the days when he wasn’t drinking more than the paying customers. Before he started borrowing money from the till to tide him over until payday. Before a lot of things. Now he heard last call from the other side of the bar along with all the other hardcore, late-night drinkers.
Jake drained his glass and eased off the stool. He stood still for a few seconds, cigarette dangling from between his fingers, while he waited for the room to right itself.
This place could have been any of a hundred other bars he’d been in. Smoke hung heavy in the air, moving in lazy currents over the booths along the wall and the tables in the back. The smell of alcohol and cigarettes mingled with the odor of cheap perfume and aftershave, and to Jake it always smelled like home.
“See you later, Harry,” he said to the bartender. He didn’t know or care if the man’s name was really Harry. Jake figured the bartender didn’t care either.
When he’d tended bar, all that mattered to Jake was that his customers paid their tabs and left without causing trouble. The rest was an act, well-practiced listening without really hearing, just keep the customers happy and pretend to care. He’d been good at it. He still was; it just took more effort these days, and most people weren’t worth the trouble.
Harry, or Joe, or maybe the name was John nodded in farewell and turned back to polishing the already shiny dark wood of the bar. Jake had been dismissed. It was time to leave.
Time to figure out where to spend the next few hours until this or some other bar somewhere opened again.
Jake grabbed his duffel and headed for the door, gradually gaining control over his obstinate feet. All he wanted to do was sit some more, and then lie down and go to sleep. But Sheila had kicked him out and Jake had nowhere to go.
Sheila was the last in a long line of spectacularly bad girlfriends, memorable only for her warm bed, her easy generosity when she was high, and the occasional home-cooked meal when she wasn’t. Even Sheila had grown tired of his act.
“Son, you have a problem,” he muttered in his best drunken imitation of his father. Wouldn’t the old man love to see him now, just wet himself over the mess Jake had made of his life. “Too bad you’re not around anymore, pops. At least I’d be good for a laugh.”
A laugh, maybe. A belt across the face, more than likely. Jake’s old man used to have a funny sense of humor.
(read the rest of the story here)