Lab Rat 29

Posted: February 13, 2011 in Fiction, Mental health, Test Subject

I step out into the smoggy air. I’d breathe deep, if there were any chance of it being refreshing. More likely the smoke would send me into a fit of coughing. I start walking. About halfway between here and home is my favorite bar. It’s my favorite mostly because of location. I seem to recall it being kind of a dive. No matter; I think I’ve earned a drink and a game of pool. I know it’s tough to just have one drink, but every once in a while I manage it anyway. I have testing to do tonight so I have incentive not to get hammered.

I sigh loudly and get moving. Taryn. Damn it. It was a lot easier to shake those kinds of thoughts when she was only Doctor Allison. We all lust after movie starlets and the like, but in that abstract oh-man-are-they-hot kind of way. Actually knowing someone like that and having them in arm’s reach on a regular basis is a whole different animal. It makes a man want to do things. I’m not so good about looking before I leap, but I have the leaping thing down. Dad warned me about mixing work and play. I’m pretty sure he still does it, and he always has some new scar to show.

About twenty minutes of swimming through the exhaust choked air brings me within sight of the place. It’s one of the last wooden buildings in the entire city. Actually, it’s probably not wood. It’s got paneling that apes the look pretty well, at the very least. Browns and blacks run horizontally around the little square building, and a neon red and blue sign hangs from one pillar of a plastic green awning. The windows of the place have blackout tinting and rusty grating bolted over them. No such thing as too safe, right? The door squeaks on its hinges as I yank it open. I always pull harder than I need to, but I hate looking like a chump when I don’t pull hard enough and a door stalls me.

It’s a lot darker, but the air is just as foul inside. I weave through the beat up wooden tables and chairs to the bar, and order a drink. I don’t get carded here, even though I’m not the barfly I used to be. I put down cash and point toward the pool table. “I need change,” I tell the bartender. She doesn’t say a word, but gives me quarters. I wind my way over to the corner and pull out what I think is the least bent looking cue. I’ve never been anywhere where you could actually get a straight one. I get the balls racked, then take a long drink from my bottle. The beer freezes my tongue and the carbonation scorches my throat as it goes down. Billiards is a terrible game to play by yourself, so I wait.

I nurse my beer, and think hard about anything other than work. Naturally, I fail and start thinking about work. Taryn said she’d killed me, and the video sort of confirmed it. I know it’s sort of accurate to say that someone has died once their heart stopped, but they don’t start filling out paperwork until they can’t bring a person back. I take another drink. I hadn’t thought to check the clock or ask. How long was I out for? Some people say they could have a reality show about their lives. I need one to help me keep track of what happens during all that time I spend unconscious. I frown and take another drink. I wonder if there’s something I can do about that.

More people are trickling into the joint. I tip my bottle vertical and swallow the last of it. Hopefully by the time I get another, I’ll have someone to play with. I head to the bar and get another round. I make my way back and see a round, middle-aged man holding a cue. It’s nice when the world throws you a bone, even if it’s as small as this one. I nod a greeting to the man, and recover my cue. “First game’s on me,” I tell him. He steps up to the table and lines up his break. I watch carefully. I don’t mind playing for money once in a while, but I don’t like being hustled. He takes his shot, and breaks up the balls competently. I take another drink.

 

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