11 Nov


Heidi threw her head back to laugh and you could see her beautiful milk-white throat. Gij couldn’t tell whether there was mockery in the mirth. “Did you ever change your name Heidi?” she asked.

“Nooooo!” Heidi shook her head emphatically as if it were a preposterous assertion and drained the rest of her Long Island Iced Tea wrattling the ice cubed water to request another. The night was parched, decalescent. Heidi felt the booze but her voice was always sharp. “Why would I change my name to ‘Heidi’?” Gij bore Heidi the timid respect of the fundamentally groundless for one who has perfected the art of keeping poker faces.

“I like Heidi, I think it’s a cool name.”

A cleaning truck passed by, throbbing hot light flickers thru the raindrops onto the blue walls. It was hammering now. On this night, she drank gin. The rain’s machine-gun thump became suddenly loud as the door opened. The man was a stranger, you could tell. He’d never been in the bar before but he’d been in others. It was his way by family and friends. Temporary and intense relations on a strictly first-name basis. In many bars, many people told stories about the guy they never saw again.

“Here’s a man who lives a life of danger, everywhere he goes, he stays – a stranger. Howdy stranger, mind if I smoke?”, Heidi mumbled this and then lit the fat Gitane waiting in the right-hand corner of her mouth without waiting for a response. The stranger sat next to her. Heidi raised her eyes to heaven and it was Zach alone who caught it, he smiled, tried to catch Heidi’s eyes but they were looking at the blue wall like a woman who just received bad news in test results. Zach’s smile sank slowly back into the mask he wore as Gij sauntered up to the stranger to take his order, giving him her dangerous kitten stare steadily. Zach’s face sank at the corners, his eyes washed with rejection.

“Hi.” Gij started wiping the bar, “what would you like?”

The stranger had a pale face and dark eyes of course, they always do. His hair was a chestnut brown made darker, slick from the rain. His lips were just this side of masculine and the eyes were were both innocent and evil. He spoke, soft and low but something in it threatened. It had some kind of accent, could’ve been from anywhere. Hasn’t decided yet, it said.

Gij wiped his edge of the bar, taking care not put the wet rag anywhere near Heidi. She bent forward slowing down across the stranger’s torso to the other. This practically obliged her targets to look down the front of her shirt. She liked to catch their eyes in the act and sometimes she’d smile, sometimes she’d drag the guy over broken glass. But when she looked up tonight the stranger was looking at Heidi.

“May I have a light?”

Heidi didn’t look at him she just reached over the bowl of Blue Ruin matchbooks and tossed one in front of him. Her Zippo lay on her cigarettes.

“Wet, isn’t it?” said the stranger to no-one in particular. He waved a finger at Gij who’d wiped her sulking way back in Zach’s direction. He caught her eye and ordered beer without speaking, lit a cigarette and sat smoking. The beer came and he passed over a large note using courtesy as a weapon. His ‘thank-you’ put others at his disposal and came them at bay. He turned around to the silent chess game behind.


Zach put another record on, Masgani’s Callaveria rustica. He poured himself a drink and sat watching the turntable. Gij started to clean the glasses. Nothing else moved except the white knight from the board, the drops of water on the window. The stranger’s eyes were fixed on the pieces. Claude had cleared the white pieces from the board. Only a few remained like scattered Spartans.

The guy with the beret hunkered down over the board examining the pieces as if about to draw them. He breathed in slow and held the air, adjusting his headgear, his head coming to rest as he contemplated the inevitable defeat like a puzzle that could be solved with adequate concentration. The stranger walked his beer over to the chess table and sat down uninvited.

“You should lay the king to rest, it’s over”

“He never gives up,” said Claude, his face budged into what might’ve been a grin if it had been allowed to live. The guy in the beret said nothing.

“Fancy a game after?”

If Claude heard you wouldn’t know. Heidi let a chuckle escape, it was too late to grab it and put it back in its place. The stranger turned to her.

“He’s good?”

“Yeah, no-one ever wins”

“I don’t mind losing.”

“Yeah I can tell.”

The stranger laughed, “I don’t think life is a game to be won or lost. I think it’s a series of experiences. I try and have interesting experiences.”

“What are you doing here then?”

“Hard aren’t you,” the stranger snapped back as if well-rehearsed, “the type that’s always hard on the outside”.

“And on the inside, even harder.” She lifted the toothpicked olives from her cocktail glass and drew them off with her teeth.

The guy in the beret moved his bishop across the board, check. Claude swept it off with an unseen knight. He still had his knights. The guy in the beret inhaled again and went back to meditation. The stranger moved back to his place at the bar and finished the beer, putting it down and searching for eye contact with Gij who was busy lifting Zach out of his sulk.

“Why are you here, then?” the stranger said. “So boring.”

“I didn’t say it was boring. It’s just not interesting but I like it here. I like its unreality.”


“Yeah, we’re not real people, we’re just characters in some hack screenwriter’s notes. The decor is mythological. And we’re all merely cliches.”

“I’m a cliche?”

“The original cliche, a strange man walks into a bar,” she stubbed out her cigarette. “Whatever you do don’t tell us your name. It’ll ruin it.”

“Maybe I should, I wouldn’t be a cliche then.”

“Oh yes you would,” she lit another. “The worst kind of cliche, the lonely guy who hasn’t anything better to do with his time or money then get drunk.”

“Harder on the inside ey?”


The stranger took out his wallet and drew out five $50 notes. He stood and walked over to the chess game. The guy in the beret still hadn’t moved. With precise decision he laid out the bills one by one. “These say I beat you next game.”



One Response to “THE WRONG PLACE III”


  1. THE WRONG PLACE II « STILL CHAOS - November 12, 2010

    […] Cont […]

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