The setting is an old worn down bar, the town is an old French settlement located in the Hudson Valley of New York State. The cold slowness of the incoming winter weather made the enclosed four walls of a bar quite alluring to any number of drunken locals. The town itself made it easy for people to in a sense, take their hands of the steering wheel and let their troubled, boring lives lead themselves on towards nothing in particular. You see reader, what happens to a lot of people who come from the big city to a small quiet sleepy town, is that they think there is going to be some renaissance or some great rebirth of thought, the very thought that they lost amongst the hustle of the big city. After awhile of inactivity and carelessness, this thought becomes crushed and the heart grows cold but still there is something way down deep that makes a man think that one good bounce or an advantage can make it all better, that the reason they moved away to the quiet comfort of a small mountain town wasn't so much in vain but was for some good.
James and Scott were sitting towards the end of the bar, the side closest to the door, well you know for an Irish exit, if one was needed. Anyways, these two were childhood friends, both twenty five years old, both were part of youth that had failed them. Both had ideas and aspirations for themselves that laid unfulfilled at the present. But, both were hopeful, the weight of failure hadn't quite crushed them yet.
"Is there a purpose to the written word as it applies to me? Is there any reason as to why I should pursue the same old worn out dream as many others have before me? What if I did get published, the critics would kill me for not have any style or for writing themes about things that didn't appeal to them. What about the people and themes I would write about, would those drunken heroes even pick up my book or care even the slightest if I had included a caricature of them?"
Scott looked up from his beer and said, "What, oh, I don't know dude. What does it matter so much?"
James pushed his empty beer bottle forward on the bar and asked the bartender for another. He spoke, "No, I suppose your right it doesn't matter none. But how long do you think it will take me before I really believe it doesn't matter?"
"Have you written anything recently?"
"No, I haven't for a long time."
"So, where's your problem, dude?"
"No problem, I just want to write something that some kid a hundred years from now will read and understand. Something that is relevant to them even though it was written a long time ago."
Scott took a long pull from his bottle of beer and got up from his seat. "Let's go have a cigarette out front. But one question, how will you know if anyone, let alone a young kid will read your stuff? It's impossible to judge something like that. I think you have some talent James but you get too rapped up into what people have done before you. Bukowski wouldn't have been as good a writer as he was if he'd have given a shit about some kids like us reading his poetry or short stories and wanting to become writers like him."
Scott and James started towards the front door of the bar and walked out on to the snow covered sidewalk. The sun was up and bright for a winter day in the mountains. It was hard on days like these to smoke a cigarette outside. James just could not shake this idea that was brewing in his head.
"Well, you see it is like this, I want to be known as a writer not as some guy who has read and is knowledgeable on the giants of literature. I want to be one of those masters but the only problem is that after I have written something really good, something really smart, how do I know that it will have any lasting presence, how do I know if what I am doing is worth a damn? Did Goethe know how great he was or how great he would be looked back on as? You know if I was considered on the same plane as him I'd be content."
Scott took a pull from his cigarette and spoke, "Alright, but your no poly-math."
James laughed after Scott had spoken, "No, your right but what does it matter. I'm just a phony writer, you know."
Scott threw his cigarette to the ground, "Jim, you are a good writer and yes I haven't read all your stuff but come on and get off it, neither one of us is ever going to be considered on the same level as Goethe and there are very few people who are or ever will be. So, let's get drunk and forget about it. What do you say?"
James' cigarette had burnt to the filter and burnt his finger a little. He tossed it into the street and mulled something over in his head. "Alright, maybe we will turn in a performance for the ages tonight. Or maybe we will be kicked out of the bar."
Scott walked back in to the bar but his words trailed behind him, "Either/Or, my friend either/or..."
A few hours will have passed in this story by the time you finish this line and move on to the next paragraph.
Scott was sitting by his beer and talking to a young woman. She was a woman that lived in the same apartment complex as James and Scott. She couldn't have been much older than 30 and her name was Georgette. Short brunette hair rested on her head and her face, well her face was her best feature, I mean it was one of those faces that just looked like it had seen some things, you know tired or rundown but there is something noble about a young woman with such an expression of haggardness. One could tell that she had no one and would take the first chance to hop in a car and drive off to California and like hell Scott wished he could but he had not the money or car for such a thing.
But anyways, James came over and sat next to Scott and whispered in his ear, "Shit man, she's gonna bite this evening."
Scott just kept on as if he'd heard nothing. He knew James would say something like that and disliked him for it because shit how could he possible know anything about what Georgette would do or say, I mean its unclean if she even exists, if not only in my head. Georgette came into existence and she went out for a smoke and they joined her.
The sun was now going down and snow was beginning to fall a bit. So, the three of them stood out in the snow smoking their cigarettes. James was feeling pretty good at this point and just sort of stood outside and peered into the distance. Scott and Georgette were heavy in discussion about the meaning of art and how truly to represent it. Georgette was an artist that is she did bizarre visual art. She had once showed Scott and James a video she had done for her art school that showed her in a room with red string strung across and criss-crossing all over and in it she was naked and moving slowly in between the sections of space that were produced by the string.
Georgette spoke, "Art, well it's something special you know. Not anyone could do it. I mean you have seen my work and I don't think it could be redone by someone else or anyways redone to an extent that would be to my liking."
"No, probably not but really nothing could be redone to its original intent or feeling. It's that sad fact that an emotion or idea when tried to replay over and over again in the mind loses its meaning. As soon as a thought is thought, well you might as well forget it because it's lost, I mean its sort of a dead meaning or memory that yes it exists but no it's not to its full intent."
"Yes, I see what you mean but then why would anyone try anything. Not only art but living, why then even try?"
"You know I can't answer that because I am not sure myself. I am sorry but I feel like this conversation is more about my helplessness or inability to function than about your art."
"Well, don't you want to be anything? I mean what do you want to do?"
"Remember when your were a little kid in school class and the teacher went around and asked all the children what they wanted to be when they grow up, they all said a doctor or a policeman or a baseball player and when it got to me I probably said something to that effect but I didn't really believe it, I didn't know then and I don't know now. I forget now but some author once finished his first book with the line, "All I know is myself that is all."
"I think I said I wanted to be a pilot but either way who really cares Scott, who really cares who said what and how they actually turned out. It's really of no consequence."
"No, its not. I suppose I really don't care myself. But hey where did James go?"
"He went where we should go, back into the bar."
They walked back to their seats and ordered another round. The barmaid came back with their drinks and spoke to them, "Hey Scott you know who James is talking to over there?" and she pointed to a short woman who was a little overweight and had very fine blond hair and she was looking at James with a bit of wildness in her eyes..
"No, Jen I'm not sure who that is. Has she been in the bar before?"
"I don't think so. I only ask cause James is talking his literature shit and trying to force down her throat that Dos Passos was the greatest American writer and I don't want him to scare her away, you know a customer and all."
"Damn it, he does this shit all the time. He is probably just a bit toasted but look Jen it's nothing a couple of locals like ourselves can't handle. If he gets to out a line, I'll take him away."
"No, Scott its not that, its just that that sort of intellectual talk doesn't really make sense at a bar like this. I will always shake my head and laugh about him, its as if he wants to be like these sorry folk who dwell in bars but then wants to separate himself by knowing more shit than them and make them smaller. But in reality he is just like them, worse cause he knows better."
"I'd argue he doesn't though."
The barmaid walked off to attend another customer. Scott finished off the last of his beer and walked towards where James was. As he approached he could tell that James was trashed, his voice was proud and boisterous. He put his hand on James' shoulder, "Jim my boy, what has become of you? I left you for about half an hour and this is what happens, your harassing this nice young woman."
"No, screw that. I ain't hurtin a hair on Violet's head. I'm just trying to point out some good shit to read."
Scott turned to the woman, "You must be Violet or at least I hope he got your name right and hasn't been calling you something he shouldn't be."
"No, he's alright and as it turns out my name is Violet so whether it may be coincidence or not, it worked out in the end. And I suppose you are his friend?"
"Yeah, my name is Scott and that girl over there is with me and her name is Georgette. I hope he's not given it to you too thick."
"No, actually I am going to the college here for American literature, so he's just given me some people to look out for."
"Well, alright. If he gets too crazy I'll be over here at the bar."
James spoke in a drunken voice, "I'll be alright man. You go to back to your girl and I'll take to mine, alright?"
"Alright, I'm just checking because you almost got into a fight with that drunk Earl last time because you tried to pickup his girl and he didn't like it."
"Fuck it, that guy is like 37 and his girl is like 20. I can't help it if his girl wanted to party with me."
Scott walked off back to the bar. James and Violet continued their conversation on American literature.
James woke up with a bang. His head hurt badly and he was in what appeared to be a dorm room. He craned this neck around the room to see what was going on, it certainly was not his room. His first inclination was to get the hell out of there but he decided to have a cigarette, the open window was giving a cool breeze. As he threw his legs around to get out of bed, he felt someone stir next to him. He kept quiet but looked to see who it was. A plumb little blond haired girl emerged from under a cover and tumbled in the bed for a bit before settling down with her young sleeping eyes gazing up at the ceiling.
"How much did I have to drink last night?" he thought to himself. "I kind of remember this girl but not entirely, no not really at all."
James lit a cigarette and moved towards the open window, there was another girl sleeping in the room across the way. He could only surmise that he was indeed in a dorm room in what he could only guess was the town's university. He finished his cigarette and started to get dressed. He must have been a bit loud because the plumb little blond haired girl started to toss around in her bed, she even used her right arm to feel around for what seemed to be a search. The ridiculous nature of the situation finally hit James and he began to panic a bit. His clothes seemed not to fit him so much when he was putting them on and his shoes seemed different, to the point that he tried to reason with himself that this was not a product of anxiety but something more metaphysical, that he was no longer himself or that maybe he was dreaming of being someone else and in return the clothes did not fit properly. Either way he was clothed and ready to go.
As James was about to approach the door, he heard the girl's voice, "Are you leaving now because I thought we were going get breakfast in town together. I know this place Hoffman's around the block on the corner of Main Street that makes a pretty good breakfast. Plus that's where all the students go."
"I don't know."
"Well, what's not to know? I thought we had a pretty good time last night and you had said to me that after spending the night, we could go get breakfast in the morning, well its morning and your still you and I'm still me, so what gives?"
"Nothing seems clear to me anymore. I mean I don't know how to talk to you really right now."
She was now sitting up in her bed, "What does that mean?"
As he saw more of her, some splinter fragments of memory shone brightly in his head, "I don't know. I mean I'm not good with this stuff, it's pointless to pursue. Don't you see, I'm a screw up?"
Her face grew red, "I still don't know what you mean James. Do you mean that you don't really like me or that you don't really like the situation with breakfast? We could do something else if you want."
"No its not you and I'm sorry but I need to go for a walk and get some air."
She furrowed her brows and said in a weak voice, "Will you come back later on today for me?"
"I don't know. Give me your phone number and I'll ring you up later tonight."
"Okay but don't mess with me, your heart may be cold and unable to love anyone but mine is not, rather it is a kind of lukewarm and looking eagerly for a shooting star. So, here it is and call around 5 or 6."
"Alright but say I was a star in the sky and I was way up there and you loved me for being a bright spot and all, how would you be able to tell if I hadn't burnt out yet."
She laughed and said, "Why you silly boy, I wouldn't know. How could I?"
"That's just it you wouldn't and most of them are phony anyways as they have burned out millions of years ago and it only appears that they are still there. The human heart often overshadows conscious thought, perception is skewed."
By now she had sunk back into bed and was nodding off. "I'll see you later James."
James was finally able to open the door and walked out into the dormitory hallway. It was fairly early in the morning, so no one was around and he was able to look around a bit before going out into the campus. He walked a bit around campus and came to a stop over by the library, he sat down and lit a cigarette. He thought to himself, "What the hell am I going to do? Damn it, it shouldn't be like this not for me anyways. Hell I dreamt of situations like this and how I would act and now this. I thought these stories didn't make it to the morning after or that they were covered in the epilogue, which no one reads. No there it is laid out before me." He threw away his cigarette and started towards town. He really needed a drink but at this time of day it would be hard to obtain.
James made it back to his apartment around 9 in the morning and was hoping that Scott would be up to help him with what had happened last night. He also hoped that there was some beer in the fridge to hold him over till noon time. Scott was home but he was still in his room with the door closed, so James let him be. He walked to the fridge and stood with his hand on the handle for a few seconds and then opened it. James didn't believe in God but he did believe in beer and to his surprise he found himself believing in the former when a perfectly cooled 12 pack of Bud bottles were resting ever so nicely on the top shelf. He took two of them out and popped one open and walked to his room and shut the door. He opened the window and peered out on to Duzine Avenue and brought into existence all its features and people. He lit a cigarette and stretched out on the bed. The beer felt good and it lifted his spirits. After he finished the first bottle, he opened the second and downed it in three gulps. His head and heart felt better. "So, this is it. A bottle of beer is a better friend to me than that girl. Screwed up as I am, this makes more sense to me and no one could tell me different right now." James walked back out into the kitchen for two more beers. As, he was walking back a certain pang hit his heart and he felt like shit, life had failed him or he had failed life. His mother had warned him of this, she said "Don't become a no good bum, do good and the rest will follow" and at this moment from where James stood he could see that he had failed her. Everyone back from where he had come from thought that he was doing well and was a success, he never let anyone visit him and so this notion continued on. He popped open the third beer and drank it vigorously.
After a couple hours of drinking it was now two and a strange thought came into his head, "Maybe the dream is dead for me. Really what can I do or say that will really make a damn of a difference. I lost the prize that I promised myself. When my grandparents came here, they had something to prove, something to live for and now here I am two generations later and its dead for me, I failed, I guess its time to give up trying to be a writer, its time to stop thinking I can be remembered for generations to come because I don't want it anymore." James passed out after this thought and slept for sometime. He was awakened around 8 by Scott. He wanted to see if James wanted to go down to the bar.
"Shit, James you drank near all the beer. We gotta go to the bar."
"What time is it?"
"It is a fine Saturday night my boy, around 8 I think."
"Alright, let's go. Do we have to work the Sunday shift tomorrow?"
"No, that is unless you want some overtime."
"It's alright, let's go to the bar."
They were about a five minute walk away from the bar. On the way James asked Scott what happened last night.
"How did you make out with Georgette last night?"
"Alright, there's something there. I think I am kinda falling for her a bit. She is probably going to be at the bar tonight, anyways I asked her to meet us there. We really hit it off last night and I think she likes me as well cause she let me kiss her last night."
James remembered what had happened to him last night and this morning and all he could muster was, "Cool man, it sounds good for you." He then thought to himself, "That poor girl, shit how could this be that I have already forgotten about her and I wonder if she waited for me? She probably didn't and she shouldn't." Before Scott went into the bar, James spoke to him, "Hey, you have already won, you're a better man than me."
James lit a cigarette and waited outside the bar as Scott walked in. He was eager to see if his girl showed up, she hadn't. Scott came back out to see James, he lit a cigarette and just stood there looked up to the stars. He cursed them and thought about how they made more sense than the human spirit, that is they weren't aimless rather they had some purpose. They finished their cigarettes and went in.