Seeing Red

The bell over the door tinkled as Jonah stepped out of the night.  The bar smelled as if stale beer and Lysol had a baby, but he didn’t care.  Jonah shrugged out of his jacket and shook it to get the powdery snow off of it before hanging it up on the empty coat rack.  His thick black curly hair, a gift of his southern European heritage, held onto the snow, giving him melting snow highlights.  He walked over to the bar, rubbing his hands together.

The bartender smiled a warm smile as she pushed a stray strand of blond hair back behind her ear.  “Still snowing out there?” she asked.

“It’s snowmageddon,” Jonah said.  “I almost drove off the road like six times.”  He sat down on a stool at the slightly sticky looking black counter and looked at the myriad of taps in front of him.

“Why did you come out then?” the bartender asked.

Jonah looked back at the bartender, a whole lot of hurt in his eyes.  “I needed to get out,” he said.  “Can I get a Guinness?”

The bartender grabbed a glass from under the bar.  “Sure can,” she said.

As the bartender reached for the tap though, Jonah stopped her.  “Not a glass.  A pitcher,” he said.

The bartender shook her head.  “Really?  Are you sure?” she asked.

Jonah nodded his head.  “Don’t worry,” he said as he threw his keys on the bar.  “I won’t be going anywhere for a while.”

The bartender nodded and put the key on the shelf behind the bar.  “Okay.  I just don’t want to see you get killed in this crap,” she said.  She deftly filled the pitcher with the perfect amount of head and placed it and the glass in front of Jonah.  Jonah moved the glass and put the pitcher to his mouth, downing a quarter of it before coming up for air.  “Boy, what’s got you so bad?”

“My girlfriend of three years dumped me,” Jonah replied after wiping his mouth on his sleeve.  The bartender put a napkin on the bar.  Jonah dabbed at his now clean mouth sheepishly.  “Thanks.”

“De nada.  So pretty bad breakup?  What happened?” the bartender asked.

Jonah took another drink, but this time he held back a bit.  He used his napkin to wipe again before speaking.  “I can handle breakups.  I mean, I’m a guy.  It happens all the time,” he said.

“I thought you said you had been going out for three years.  That sounds pretty serious,” the bartender said.

Jonah laughed.  “Well, it was getting there, but like a year or two of that was more Netflix and chill than boyfriend and girlfriend.”  Jonah paused and watched the bartender’s face for a reaction, but when she kept it neutral he decided to continue.  “Well, she decided she wanted to make it more official and I was like I don’t know, but I decided why not.  She’s an awesome girl, way out of my league.  But then she met him.”  To punctuate the end of his sentence he took another long pull on the pitcher, almost finishing it.  He let a burp escape from his soul.  “Excuse me.”

“Who is ‘him’?” the bartender asked.

“This old dude,” Jonah said.  The bartender was about to speak, but Jonah cut her off.  “No really, the dude is old.  He’s got to be in his seventies.  The dude smelled like a zoo too.  He must have a hobby farm or something.  Though he does have an epic beard, let me tell you.”  With that he finished the pitcher and handed it out to be refilled.

The bartender put the pitcher behind the bar.  “That’s enough for a bit.  Let’s see how the first one settles,” she said.  Jonah looked like he was going to protest, but then the anger and anxiety melted like the snow that was in his hair.  He deflated and looked defeated.  The bartender poured him a Coke.  “Here,” she said.  “Now if he was old and smelled like a zoo, what do you think your girlfriend saw in him?  I mean, you are pretty good looking.”  The bartender paused, leaned forward, and took a deep breath.  “And you don’t smell like a goat.  Did you cheat on her?”

Jonah raised his hands up in front of him.  “No way!  I wouldn’t do that,” he said.  The bartender gave him one of those looks.  “No really.  Remember, she was out of my league.  I wouldn’t want to screw that up.  The old dude, he was always there, making her laugh, giving her gifts.  It’s like he knew where she would be all the time.”

The bartender shivered.  “I’ve met some guys like that.  Heck, I have restraining orders against some of them,” she said.

“I know,” Jonah said.  “I once asked him what was his deal, and he had the nerve to tell me he knew when we were sleeping and when we were awake.  Now doesn’t that freak you out?”

“Hells yeah!” the bartender said.  “Didn’t your girlfriend feel the same way?”

“No, she thought it was funny,” Jonah said. “I was like that guy gives me the creeps, but she was fine with it.”  He downed his soda in a gulp and let another burp escape.  The bartender filled the glass with Guinness.  That made Jonah smile.  He lifted the glass in salute.

“So when did you find out about the two of them?” the bartender asked.

Jonah put the glass down without taking a drink, but his eyes never left the frothy head of the beer.  “Today,” he told the beer.  “I went down to his import/export business.  I wanted to give him a piece of mind.”  He looked back up at the bartender.  “He runs some sort of special needs employment there.  He had a ton of midgets there working for him.  It’s almost like he has a height problem and wants to be the big man on campus.”

“Okay, that just sounds creepy,” the bartender said.  “You sure this guy isn’t some sort of Willy Wonka?”  She waited to get a laugh, but Jonah wasn’t in the giving mood.

“Nah, he’s more of the ‘I’ll eat you out of house and home’ type of guy,” Jonah said.  “Anyhow, I got there and marched into his office to see my girl sitting on his lap.  I couldn’t believe it.“  He picked up his glass and chugged it.

The bartender waited for the expected burp, but it was not forth coming.  “So what did you do?” she asked.

“I confronted the two of them.  He just laughed, but she was trying to give me some sort of story about she was just telling him what she wanted or some other bullshit.  I really didn’t listen.  My eyes told me everything I needed, so I stormed out of there and drove till I saw this place,” Jonah said.  “I don’t want to go back to our place.  Not yet.  I just want to forget.”

The bartender was about to say something when the tinkle of the bell over the door announced a new patron.  Jonah physically winced when the snow covered figure laughed, “Ho, ho, ho.”

Jonah turned around.  “Really?  You couldn’t leave me alone?” he asked.

The old man’s blue eyes twinkled.  “Come on Jonah, let’s get you home,” he said.

“I’m drinking, Nick!  Leave me alone,” Jonah said.

The bartender couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  The old man in his red suit put a hundred dollar bill on the bar and a small wrapped present on top of it.  “There you go Jessica.  Just forget what happened tonight and close up.  No one else will be out on a night like this.  I know,” Nick said with a wink.

Nick placed his arm around Jonah and got Jonah off the stool and steered him towards the door.  Jonah began to cry.  “I don’t want to go.  I’ve got my car and my jacket, and…”

Nick cut him off.  “Don’t worry.  Tomorrow you will have a massive headache, a new coat, and a new car.  It’s the least I can do.”

Nick reached for the doorknob, but Jonah stopped him.  “Why Nick?  Why?”

Nick smiled and his eyes twinkled again.  “She’s on the naughty list and you’re on the nice,” he said.

Jonah shook his head, but let Nick take him out of the bar and into the snowy night.  Nick yelled back inside as the door closed.  “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

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