‘Western Night’ by Rob Plath

I was in Manhattan at a bar called Smalls, but then somehow wound up in Brooklyn. It was 2:50 A.M. I needed a fucking drink bad even though I was drunk. I considered it to be late Saturday night, but actually it was Sunday morning. There is a law in New York called The Blue Law that forbids the sale of alcohol between 3 A.M. and 12:00 P.M. on Sunday. It’s a cruel fucking law. To deny someone a drink while they’re in the abyss of a Sunday morning. The blackest bracket of time in my book. Sunday morning, when everyone else is sleeping and then later eating breakfast together in bright yellow kitchens, drinking tall glasses of orange juice, and then then soberly celebrating the Lord in one of the many Houses of God. I was praying I would find a bodega before 3, or at least one that didn’t comply with the strictures of society. An outlaw deli that would take my money and hand me over a six pack.

It was a little after 3, according to my cell phone, when I slowly maneuvered my tired feet into this small brightly lit Korean owned deli. The lighting was inhumanly bright. It lit up the racks of shiny packages of cookies and chips. I got to the beverage section and grabbed a six pack of Corona. The bottles made me perk up. They were long necked vials of fucking holy water in my book. The old Korean man and what looked like his wife allowed me to bring it all the way up and place it on the counter and take out my wallet before he yelled,
“LOOK!” and pointed to the clock on the wall.
I looked. The fucking big hand had betrayed me. It was a little past the 2. It was 3:12.
“Come on, the place is deserted. I’m no cop,” I said.
“LOOK!” he yelled again and pointed at the clock.
“Don’t ring it up. Just take the money,” I said.
“WILL YOU SUPPORT MY WIFE AND CHILDREN?” he yelled.
I was confused for a moment, then I understood that he was afraid to lose his liquor license or getting arrested.
“I’ll pay you $20 dollars for the beer. It’s only $7.99,” I persuaded, ignoring his side of the story.
“YOU WILL TAKE CARE OF MY WIFE AND CHILDREN?” he screamed in broken English.
“I just want my beer,” I said.
He looked at his wife then at me. He was silent for a few seconds, looking me up and down.
“OKAY, I RING YOU UP!” he yelled.
A huge wave of relief rolled through me. I had broken him . It was easy. He started hitting the keys. It was an old register. The kind where the numbers flip up like there are small female models holding up numbered cards above their heads. He hit the button. The bell rang. The register read $10,000.
“YOU PAY NOW!” he screamed louder than before and stuck out his small wrinkled hand.
“TEN THOUSAND!” he yelled.
I started laughing. He looked dead fucking serious.
“YOU NO HAVE? he said loudly.
No,” I laughed.
He looked at his wife. She looked back at him with a tiny smirk. He looked at me.
“OKAY. NOW I REALLY RING YOU UP!” he yelled.
He punched the keys again. The numbers flipped up. This time the register read $1,000,000.
“YOU PAY NOW! he said, reaching his hand out. “ONE MILLION! he screamed.
I started laughing hard now. He was still serious.
“YOU NO HAVE?” he yelled. “NO BEER THEN!” he added.
“Okay, you win,” I said, laughing. I actually liked the guy.
He looked at me. His eyes looked straight into mine.
“FUCK AMERICA!” he yelled, stabbing the air with his middle finger. “FUCK AMERICA,” he yelled again.
His wife was silent. He looked at me. He looked into my eyes. I was laughing hard.
“You are great,” I said to him.

I reached across and offered my hand. He shook it without hesitation. Then he smiled at me. A wise little grin.
“Have a good night,” I said.

I waved as I pushed the door open, the bells tied to it jangling and I walked out into the cold and found another smaller place open about seven doors down. There was another man with a woman working the counter. They were younger. I walked up with the beer and they sold it to me me without any sound. I nodded and walked out into the dark. “Fuck God too,” I thought to myself and laughed. Then with my six pack and my belly slightly sore from laughing, I wandered into the remains of the Western night.

 

 Rob Plath is poet based in New York. More information can be found at http://www.myspace.com/robertplath.

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4 responses to “‘Western Night’ by Rob Plath

  1. Wolfgang Carstens

    This is a great story written in Rob’s trademark straight up, no holds barred, balls deep approach to the alphabet. We have all found ourselves in a similar situation whether it be booze, drugs, sex or trying to find a late night can of tomato juice after muching down a few grams of mushrooms. Yes, I can relate to the narrator quite well. I also relate to both vendors – pro and con. I love the rich humanity that drips, like pooling blood, from the sentences in this story. Well done, Mr. Plath.

  2. Plath is the man. Great story. Reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me a long time ago called “Terror at the Register!”

  3. Pingback: Parasitic Literature #1 « Parasitic

  4. this is great.

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