By Kelly Mahan Jaramillo, August 27, 2012
Ahead of her was a road, freshly paved and painted, one lane each way. She sprinted across it and began scanning for cars, nothing on either side. She stayed to the side of the road leading away from the house. The house beckoned, full of beauty and promises. She turned away, choosing to take her chances on wherever this road led.
She slowed to a walk, that stitch in her side threatening to vomit. Glancing over her shoulder, she had put a decent distance between the house and herself, and her shoulders started to relax a bit. It was quite nice out here, rolling green hills dotted with oak trees, blue sky with fat fluffy clouds moving slowly, casting random shady spots on the ground, a slight breeze that seemed to rise and fall with her breath which was slowly returning to normal.
The road wound sharply to the left just ahead of her, then dipped down to what appeared to be houses. Small ones, but it was hard to tell the distance, really. They might wind up being huge by the time she got there. The more she got her bearings out in this wide open space, the more it looked like a little town out in the middle of Nebraska or Montana. She had no sense of how far away this group of houses were, but the scene was bucolic, and it seemed she had successfully morphed her dream. She didn’t want to admit that nothing back at the house had been threatening, either, she just did not want to be in a dream where she was dead. It had never happened in her dreams before and it had spooked her.
However, no one from the house was chasing her, the scene ahead felt friendly, and Lisa turned in her sleep. Scratching, she stretched, pet the cat and happily rolled into the next dream.
The side of the road became a sidewalk, the road itself became a cobbled street, and bingo! Just like that she was in what would appear to be a quaint little Irish town, complete with a pub not three doors down.
She smiled. Now we were talking.
She pushed open the door and made her way straight to the back, where the pretty redhead behind the bar completed the picture. Lisa had glided into a brand new dream where she was not going to be dead, but she was going to be dead drunk. She was okay with that.
“Hello, luv,” the bartender said, reaching for a bottle of single malt scotch and pouring a hefty shot. Lisa was pleased to notice that she even had a slight brogue to go with the wavy dark reddish hair and friendly freckled face. It was a comforting cliche, and Lisa accepted her drink.
“Hi,” Lisa answered, sliding onto a stool and picking up the glass. “Join me?”
“Don’t mind if I do,” the bartender wiped her hands on the front of her spotless green apron and deftly poured another shot.
“Cheers, luv,” she smiled.
Lisa threw back her shot. Ahh, the wonderful burn of a good scotch. She felt her eyes water slightly as she let out a smoky fume filled breath.
“How did you know I preferred single malt scotch?” She asked, sliding her shot glass towards the bartender for seconds.
“We’ve been expecting you, Lisa darlin’. I’ve got a plate of corned beef and cabbage all ready for you to dig in, just say the word, luv.” The bartender held up one finger and walked towards the end of the bar, where Lisa could vaguely see in the shadows someone gesturing.
She sipped her second scotch, feeling her head get a little lighter and unreasonably content. The bartender reminded her of a neighbor down the street when Lisa was a kid, what was her name? Mary, Mary McNicholas. She swiveled her stool slightly to the left and watched Mary down at the end, talking to a young scruffy blond man. They had their heads bent closely together, both looking at something on the bar. The blond kid jabbed his finger hard, Mary leaned in closer, shaking her head slowly. She straightened up and pulled open a cooler, cracking the top off of a bottle of beer and handing it to the blond boy. He looked familiar, but it was just dark enough thatLisa could not pinpoint it, and she did not want to stare. The bartender walked back towards Lisa, her expression neutral.
“Did I drive you nuts, being at your house all the time?” Lisa asked, finishing her shot and sliding the glass towards her.
“Oh, no luv, not at all.” Mary shook her long red hair back and refilled both of their shot glasses, leaning forward onto her elbows.
“You were a good kid, the only time we had an issue was when you stole Angela’s ‘Chrissy’ doll. But, I knew you weren’t a thief at heart, you just wanted the same doll. And maybe a little more attention from your own mother,” she sipped her drink.
“Mmmm, I dunno, attention from my mother? I wanted to stay out of her way. The last thing I needed was for her to know that I tried to steal Angela’s doll. It was nice of you not to tell her.” Lisa downed her shot, the room answered with a lurch.
“Did I apologize? And why didn’t you tell my parents?”
“Eh, you were ashamed of yourself, there was no need to go further.”
“Still, you never told my mother.”
“Ahh, Jeannie had problems, and she was too quick to take them out on you. I knew it, the whole neighborhood knew it, but back then there was nothing anybody could do, it was a private family matter. Nobody stuck their nose where it didn’t belong.”
She refilled Lisa’s shot glass. “So, I see you died without the two of you ever managing to patch things up.”
Lisa jerked away, her hand knocking over the glass of scotch, while she flailed about trying not to pitch backwards. Mary calmly took the rag out of her waist tie and wiped the bar as Lisa steadied herself.
“Don’t worry about it, everybody goes through the same stuff on the first day. I’m going to bring you some food, I’ll be right back. Kurt,” she hollered, “come down here and walk her through it, I’ll bring you a sandwich, too.”
Lisa put her arms and head down on the bar, shut her eyes, concentrating on ignoring any more activity in the bar. This was getting ridiculous. She heard the stool next to her scrape the floor. This was not a good sign of waking up, but she was not budging. She squeezed her eyes tight, and for good measure, stuck her fingers in her ears, but it did no good. She could hear him light up a cigarette and take a swig of his beer.
“Don’t talk, please, just don’t talk,” she said without lifting her head up. She was about to cry, that stupid, maudlin, self-pitying kind of crying that only showed up when she was thoroughly drunk. It irritated her, she was nowhere near drunk enough to start being a blubbering fool.
“I really don’t want you to have to go through what I did when I got here, it’s such a drag. Especially since I am the one that will have to convince you. Man, I have to go find Pete when this is over and apologize to him for being such a pain. This just blows.” He sighed and took a long gulp of his beer. Lisa turned her head and rested it on her arm, keeping her eyes shut. Silence stretched until she could not stand it anymore.
“Pete?” She asked.
“The guy that was doing the job before I got here. He was an actor who shot himself in 1971. Pete Duel, he starred in some T.V. Western -”
“Alias Smith and Jones!” She lifted her head too quickly, everything slid from one side to the other.
“Yeah, right, that was it,” he nodded and took a drag off of his cigarette.
“I loved that show when I was a kid, man, I cried when he killed himself! I cried when you killed yourself, too,” She added hastily, not wanting any hurt feelings. If she was going to be dream lunching with people who had killed themselves, she didn’t want to make them wish they could do it twice. She looked around for Mary, but it seemed there was no one in the pub at that moment except Kurt Cobain and herself.
“Yeah, it was way before my time,” Kurt got off of his stool and slipped around to the other side of the bar, helping himself to another beer.
“It was a good show,” Lisa mused, remembering New Year’s day, always nice in her household, a peaceful hangover induced quiet. That New Years had been different, the news was blaring in the living room, she was standing in front of the television not understanding a body underneath a Christmas tree. An ernest man with a microphone.
Her father trying to explain that her favorite actor on her favorite television show had blown his brains out on New Years Eve. How did a father do that?
“Honey,” he had said, his eyes unfocused, his voice uncharacteristically soft. “Alias Smith and Jones won’t be on t.v. anymore.”
He did it that way. Oh. Lisa picked at her face.
Despite the t.v. being on, the house was more quiet than Lisa could remember, ever. Sitting woozy at Mary’s bar, she could feel the color of the first name of each somber breath in that living room.
Did she ask questions? She must have, with the television continuing it’s droning recounting of the event.
“Look, Lees, here is the deal,” Kurt slid back onto his stool, startling her.
“You were in a car accident, a guy ran a red light, he was speeding and having an argument with his girlfriend on his cell phone and he plowed into you when you made a left turn. If you do not believe me, and you probably don’t, then I am going to have to show you the footage of it, and seriously dude, it is really gruesome. I am kinda hoping you will just believe me, it’ll make this whole thing easier on both of us.”
“Easy for you to say, I am the one having the shitty dreams. This is starting to feel like too much pizza and beer, honestly.”
Mary came through the swinging half doors, plopping a plate of corned beef down in front of her, and what looked to be a French Dip sandwich in front of Kurt.
“Any luck?” She asked him, as he took a huge bit of his sandwich. He shook his head no, his mouth too full of food to answer. She sighed and looked at Lisa, hands on her waist.
“Put something in your stomach, soak up some o’ that Scotch,” she said, handing over a fork. Lisa dug in, it smelled delicious, she was starving.
Drunk in a dream, hungry in a dream, really?
Lisa gave up. She was drinking in an Irish pub with a neighbor from forty-two years ago as the bartender, Kurt Cobain as her drinking buddy, and a bunch of people telling her she was dead. Fine. Whatever. At least the food was good.
“So,” She turned slightly to face Cobain. “You are friends with Pete Duel – is this some kind of town where all the suicides turn up and I am in the wrong place? ‘Cause I am pretty sure I did not turn into an oncoming car on purpose.”
“I didn’t kill myself. At least, it doesn’t look like it on my tape, but it’s really dark and hard to see,” he trailed off and took another long swig of his beer. “I don’t know. We’re still trying to figure it out.”
“Me and the old man. He said he would try to help me understand what had happened, but there were a few glitches in my death. It happens sometimes, even with him.”
“The old man?” She asked, feeling the palms of her hands get clammy. “What old man?”
“God, up at the house.” Cobain polished off his beer and Mary, who had been standing with her arms crossed not saying a word, handed him another one. “Which is where you and I are going to be going as soon as you finish your food.”
Lisa stared down at her plate.
“I don’t believe you,” She said, not looking at him. “I want to see my tape.”