Writing Prompt #34 — A Widow and Her Bartender

Prompt: As a bartender at a seaport, you hear a lot of stories from all over, but nothing compares to the widow who describes how her sailor husband was killed. But what’s really interesting is that halfway through her story, you realize the killer was you. 

It’s a Wednesday, and evening is settling in. The soft glow of the lights cast the bar into a soft, dark ambiance. Rain hits against the window as I clean the already clean glasses. The door opens, taking me by moderate surprise — no one ever comes in on a Wednesday — and a thin, pale woman comes in.

The dark blue dress she wears stretches past her knees, and her long, black hair is behind her ears. She tosses her smell purse onto the bar counter, and takes a seat. Now that she is sitting closer, I can see her eyes are green, which takes the attention away from her ghostly complexion.

“What will it be, miss?” I ask.

“Scotch, on the rocks.” Her voice sounds like she had just finished sobbing, but yet her eyes weren’t red-rimmed.

I nod, take a glass from the lower counter underneath the bar, place three ice cubes into it, take a dark bottle from the shelving behind me, and pour her her drink. I set it before her, the ice cubing clinking. She takes a small sip, and moves her purse closer.

“Drinkin’ on a Wednesday night… Bloody…”

“It’s all right miss, people can drink whenever they want — no shame.”

“No… There’s shame all right. I wasn’t like this before… It wasn’t like this… before.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, but before what?”

“My husband’s life, it was taken five years ago. Was out walking down the road at night, you see. I told him— I told him not to go for his damn nightly walk that night, I felt something that night. It was like the air smelled wrong, it tasted sour.” She takes a drink. “Did he listen? No, of course — stubborn bastard, he was. So he goes out and, uh…” She takes a deep breath, takes another drink.

“Never comes back. It isn’t until the wee hours of the morning I get a knock on my door from the police. I didn’t go out looking for him, because he was a queer fellow — though I loved him to death. He would walk for hours, enjoying the sights underneath the moon. Sometimes he would just find a nice plot of grass, and plop himself down and stare up at the stars for hours on end. I thought nothing of it, you know?

“But they say they found a body out on the road, about three miles west of my— our home. The man, they say, had his driver’s license and… and… You can figure out the rest.”

She finishes her drink, taps it on the counter and I make her another. “I’m sorry to hear that, miss,” I say, “did they say what he died from?”

“No, but they suspected it was a drunk driver. Some bloke just rammed into him, and kept on going. Didn’t look in his rearview mirror, didn’t even think that maybe that animal they thought they hit was a person, was my damn husband.” She shakes her head, drinks.

“But,” she continues after a moment of silence, “even though the police chalked it up to that bloody excuse, I couldn’t let it rest, I couldn’t… just let my husband’s death be some accident made by some cunt. So, the next morning, I made my way into town and asked around the one gas station we got, and any other businesses that were open around that time.” She begins laughing. “Must’ve looked like a loon that day. Wide, teary eyes; wiry, unkempt hair; pale as a ghost and hardly able to form a sentence between the sobbing, but they helped, everyone helped.”

“Did you find who it was?” I ask. A rippling image appears in the back of my mind, faint. It was night, the headlights lancing through the darkness, the road hazy, swerving, bending as if it were a snake rustling through the grass; I shook my head to clear my vision, but the alcohol was too much to get rid of; there was something ahead, it was moving, raising what I thought to be horns into the air— A cold sweat forms over the back of my hands, and goose flesh raises on my arms.

“Aye, aye I did.” She drinks, nodding. “Couldn’t believe it at first, took me a while to accept the fact. Also, I was bloody mourning. Every day was a new, horrible day in that house. Every time I came into the kitchen, I would smell him cooking on the stove, though obviously he wasn’t there. Hell, the stove isn’t ever on. I’d go into the sitting room and smell his cigars and old, musty books. I’d go outside and see the knee-high grass and remember how he use to cut it, wearing an old battered band t-shirt he got back at Uni and shorts that were a bit too high for a man, but he liked them all the same.

“But… finally, after five, long, terrible years, I got the courage one night to meet the bloke who took my love away. I put on the dress I wore on our first date, though the curves I once had were long gone, and took the handgun he had kept underneath the bed, — just in case, he would say when asked why we needed one, — and put it into the handbag he got me for our three year anniversary. Then, I took the long walk into town, into this bar, and sat before the man who took him away, and ordered a drink.”

It feels like a ghost settles over me, wrapping me in a frigid blanket. I take a step back, but the bar is behind me, stopping me. My eyes grow wide, and when I try to speak, nothing comes out, but my jaw hangs open either way.

“You probably don’t remember that night, it was so long ago — and like the police said, the driver was drunk. Ironic, sort of, isn’t it? A barkeep, a drunk.” She laughs, then finishes her drink. She opens her bag, pulls out the handgun, and points it at me.

“I—” I start to say, holding up my hands, “I didn’t mean to! It was dark, late. I had a couple of pints at the pub at a town over. Then I got a call— something, I can’t remember, happened at the bar— I had to be here. I got in my car, drove. Thought I hit a deer, but was too worried about the bar to look back.” Tears swell over my eyes, slide down my face. “Please, don’t shoot me, please! I’m sorry for what I did, truly! If I could go back, I would!”

She cocks the gun. It trembles in her hand, as she begins to cry. “Sure you do, I’m sure you are, and I’m sure my husband wished he wasn’t hit by some bastard, but here we are.”

“Please, don—!”

Read my previous prompt, “Even Demons Will Play With Dolls.”

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