He sat uncomfortably. The stool had a leg shorter than the others and his spine creaked in protest every time it wobbled. He was lonely, hence the bottle of rum in his midst. It was a ‘not-so’ sleepy night in December. The city and bar were abuzz with celebration and happiness— After all, it was the holidays!
Johnny wasn’t one with the city in this way. He had already lived through his highs (or so he thought) and was now experiencing his lows. The city flexed with him as he flexed back into the shadows.
His head hurt, his heart ached.
“What did you say to me?”
“I said fuck off. Who do you think you are ‘Fast Eddie’? The blonde with big tits doesn’t want you to keep ogling her with those Neanderthal eyes of yours. You get it, buddy?”
Johnny’s head and stool hit the dirty barroom floor.
“You sonuva—,” his low ball hit the prick’s head full force and broke into a million little shards that reflected the neon signs and the street lights of Division. The wheel spun in the background as girls laughed hysterically— Obviously oblivious to the fight breaking out in the background. The tables were full, but like all bars the patrons’ heads were elsewhere.
In a moment, the two were in tussle of feet, fists, and fury. By the scruff and his assailant’s chest two bouncers split ‘em before too much blood was spilt.
Johnny hit the pavement with a dull thud. His ‘friend’ landed beside him and stayed there. Johnny brushed himself off, gave the “prick” a swift kick, and staggered off into the night. Traffic was light—but constant—on Division as it led patrons to their northern homes.
“Fuck you,” he mumbled as he flipped off the bar in his last act of defiance.
He had somehow ended up with a bottle of rum on his way out, but his card was still in the bar. He’d have to settle up tomorrow. He didn’t really care. It wasn’t like he needed it anyways. He had his ol’ friend Bacardi right here in his hand. He smiled and took a swig.
Johnny didn’t care much about anything any more. Johnny was Johnny.
He lived in Browne’s, so his place wasn’t too far. Hopefully he’d make it, but even that sentiment was lost in the sweat and blood soaked clothes of Jonathan. Ugh, his mother used to call him that. He hated it.
He remained stunted and stumbling. He wasn’t really paying attention—after all attention had never provided a pound when he had thrown it a penny—and he inevitably got sidetracked. Instead of heading straight up to Sprague and cutting over into Browne’s, he drifted downward, and ended up in Spokane’s park of parks.
He sat. The bench was cool, lightly misted. His eyes closed, open, and then more slowly.
“Hey! Hey, mister…wake-up!”
He jolted awake and clutched his own arm.
“Yeah…yeah, I’m fine. Who are you? And, what are you doing out here so late? Am I being mugged…by a child?”
At that last part, he decided to get a better look. The boy was not really a boy at all. He was young, but not…not human. He was a fuckin’ bat! A flying, talking…bat!
Johnny was drunk. Johnny bolted. Johnny was quick. Johnny didn’t see the tree.
His skull (yet again) cracked into something hard and he toppled. Stars swirled, but amidst the metaphor he could see a black bat swirling with them.
“Mister, mister wake-up!”
Johnny scrambled, but could only prop himself up. This night had been unusually unkind to Johnny.
Wondering aloud, “How much have I had to drink?”
“Not enough from the looks of it, mister— No offense, but I’m on a time crunch here, Morgan gets mad if I’m late, so I’ll get to the nitty gritty: You are a drunk asshole who pities himself, I am the ‘ghost’ of Christmas past, Bacardi! Pleased to meet you.”
“Fuck, I never thought I’d die in a park.”
“You’re not dying, but you might as well be dead. Let’s go.”
In a flash…everything was gone. He was at Mizuna’s downtown. He was with her, but she was gone now…she couldn’t be. Why was she here? Where was he?
He returned to the table— Dapper, younger, more-confident than now.
“This is the night I proposed…”
“It is,” Bacardi whispered.
“Why are you whispering?”
“Because you were whispering.”
“This is you…years ago. This is that moment that you will always cherish, because to you…she is December. She is your warmth in the cold.”
“I love her…”
“We all know.”
Flash. They were gone. They were on a balcony overlooking downtown, just a scant distance away from Mizuna’s. He was kneeling. She had tears forming in the corner of her beautiful blue eyes. His heart was mended in that moment. It was the dance studio where they met and he had finally taken her back to that spot to propose. It was one of the few moments that he hadn’t been drunk…or needed to be.
Flash. He was back slumped against the park tree— Water spraying upwards in the distance and the carousel where his great-grandfather had worked to the right. The river was black and silent…as silent as Johnny.
“I am but the first. You will be visited by three ghosts— I the first, the other two…to come.”
Bacardi began to flutter away.
“Wait! How will I know?”
He looked back, “You’ll know.”
He didn’t know how he got home, but somehow he ended up on his couch. The cushions were rough, but they were home to him, though. He was a block away from a pub— The same one that they had celebrated at. He never went there anymore…
He dozed, yet again.
He was cold. He must have forgotten to turn on the heater. Wait…why was he wet? He was soaking. He was freezing.
“Ahoy! What have we here? A landlubber?”
His voice boomed. Johnny opened an eye. He was flat against ‘not-his’ couch. He was on the deck of ship, and above stood a man…no a Captain. Foot on barrel and cloak blowing in the sea breeze.
Johnny stammered, “Are you a ghost?”
“No, just your ghost— Now, lets get down to business. Yer a right down sad sack, but you have the opportunity to find a new bearing.”
“Yes. Your biggest crime is that you felt something more than most men feel in their entire lives and now that it is gone you think that you will never feel properly again.”
Flash. This time Johnny threw-up.
Swiping a salty cuff against lips, “No, too much…well, you.”
Captain Morgan grinned.
“Where are we?”
“We are here.”
Johnny looked around taking in more than just the blurry concrete that he had vomited on.
“I don’t want to be here.”
“Neither do I. Smith is a horrible first mate and can’t run a ship to save his life. If Bacardi hadn’t been so slow to get you here we might have been able to see this on my time.”
“How?…why?” Johnny screamed from the waiting room.
Johnny could feel the tears running down his cheek from that day and the gut-retching sorrow that still permeated Johnny’s life.
“She had aneurysm. There was nearly no chance of survival. We did everything that we could.”
She had died.
“Unfortunately, we have more to see.”
“No, I see the ‘more’ every time I close my eyes.”
Flash. They were there. One more thing that Johnny wanted to forget. They were at the funeral. The casket had already been lowered. This was the place where his family had been buried and now he was burying his wife. Johnny was 26. Snow dusted the gravestones. Johnny sat on his knees and cried. He cried till the tears couldn’t flow anymore.
Morgan put his hand on his shoulder, “You’ll never forget. You’re not supposed to. That doesn’t make you a bad person, son.”
Gasping. He awoke with the strike of thunder and rain. He was on his couch. The blue screen of the TV possessed a clock and it read, “2:00a.m.”
He cried, like he did that day all the months ago. He cried till his tears dried. He was still cold, but he found his way to the kitchen and took another shot— It warmed his throat and his belly. He—once again— staggered off to his bedroom…their bedroom. He collapsed onto a pile of sheets and pillows.
“Bacardi…not right now.”
“I’m not the silly bat. Get yer ass up, Jonathan. We’ve got the future to see.”
Tasting pillows was all Johnny wanted.
“I may be just a sailor and not a fancy-pants Captain like that asshole Morgan, but if forced I’ll kick yer ass and tattoo a pair of testicles on your face if you don’t git yer sorry ass outta that.”
“You’ve heard of me! Good, because I’m purposefully going to make this unpleasant and I want you to know it was Sailor Jerry doin’ the dolin’.”
Flash. Fuck, fuck…fuck! It stung like a million little needles piercing his skin.
“You done skirmin’? At least your stomach is empty from guttin’ all over that hospital floor.”
“Fuck off, Jerry.”
“Back atcha, handsome. Now look.”
Johnny finally gained his footing. He was at a house he didn’t recognized. Bay windows lit up the kitchen and he could hear murmurings from the next room.
“Is this where future Jerry shows me my own death to get me to not be depressed and an alcoholic?”
“No, this is present Jerry showing you that you’re an idiot and that this is the future you’ll miss out on if you don’t figure yer self out before you die of depression and alcoholism.”
At the moment, the murmur stopped and a pair of little feet could be heard running down the hallway. A man chased after him while they both laughed. The man scooped the boy up, kissing him all over, till the boy giggled to tears.
“That’s…that’s me? Is that my son?”
“It is. You never forget your first love, but—“
“Who is that?”
She was beautiful. She was different, but his heart leapt anyway. She grabbed the man…him…and their son. She kissed them both. Him and her touched heads and closed their eyes; the boy giggled.
Flash. Johnny reached for what he wanted as it all disappeared.
“You loved her and she loved you, but she wouldn’t want you to die alone of alcoholism.”
Sailor Jerry was gone. He awoke coughing into his own pillows. It was morning. He was still mourning. Golden streaks of sunlight stung through the half-cocked blinds.
Knock, knock, knock.
Someone was at his door. He was fucked. His clothes were in tatters, he smelled of rum, and he felt that he could drink an entire reservoir and then some.
“I’m comin’, I’m comin’,” he half-heartedly shouted.
He hit the door mid-knock and whipped open the door to see the same beautiful woman that he had seen in his dreams.
His heart leapt…again.
She smiled despite his appearance, “Coffee?”
The boy giggled.