Jim calls Ron over and pays him fifty bucks for the food and the drinks the ladies order and tells him to keep the change. He gets up and exits the bar without another word; Lucy and Kayla are bewildered yet intrigued.
Sometime in March Jim walks into the bar at ten o’clock and sits in his usual spot, he sighs and leans heavily on the bar for support. Ron sees Jim and gives him the once-over, then pours a glass of scotch on the rocks and slides it over.
Jim doesn’t look up when the glass gets to him and simply holds out his hand and grabs it. Jim’s breaths are shallow and quick, his shoulders bouncing up and down with each breath.
He picks up the glass with shaky hands and takes a sip of the scotch them puts it back down without much grace; the sound of the glass hitting the bar reverberates and earns Jim a few glances, but that’s all.
Sweat drips from his temples and runs down the back of his neck and he leans even more heavily on the bar, it gets to the point Jim puts his head down to rest for a moment; Ron notices but decides to let Jim catch a few Z’s, just a few. The clock hits ten-thirty and Ron looks over to see Jim sprawled over the counter, he goes over.
“Jim,” Ron shakes his shoulder, “Jimmy, you alive, my man?”
Ron checks Jim’s pulse. It’s faint but it’s there.
“Oh my god, he’s bleeding!” A female walking by with her boyfriend places a hand over her mouth.
Ron comes from behind the counter to see what the girl is talking about and his eyes widen at the sight of blood dripping beneath Jim’s stool.
“Someone call an ambulance!” Ron goes over and lifts Jim gently off the counter, spinning the stool around; the young woman’s boyfriend gets Jim’s legs and they pick him up and lay him on the ground gently.
“We gotta put pressure on the wound,” the woman’s boyfriend says, placing Jim’s hands over his wounded abdomen and pushes down, “what happened to him?”
“You got me on that one,” Ron says, “he came into the bar as usual but seemed a bit under the weather, so I slid him a scotch on the rocks, on the house. I saw him put his head down for a bit and I decided to let him catch a few,” the barback hands Ron some towels and he props them under Jim’s head, “thirty minutes later, he’s sprawled out and now this.”
Lucy and Kayla come into the bar and see Jim on the floor bleeding, they rush over.
“Jim!” Kayla looks on in horror, “What happened to him?”
“No one knows,” Ron says, “he came in as usual and thirty minutes later–when he usually leaves–he’s sprawled over the counter secretly bleeding to death.”
Kayla is in shock.
“Did someone call an ambulance?” Lucy asks.
“I did,” the woman who spotted Jim bleeding says, “they should be here in two minutes.”
The sound of sirens permeated throughout the bar and everyone looked in the direction it was coming from, the ambulance pulled up in front of the bar and the medics got out and went to the back in a brisk fashion and pulled out the stretcher; someone sitting in the front went up and opened both doors for the medics to come in and they race straight to Jim.
“The name’s Cory, Cory Chase.” The first medic says, “Does anyone know what happened to him?”
“Nope,” Ron says as Cory lifts Jim’s shirt and goes to work on stomach wound, “he came into the bar, as usual, thirty minutes later he’s sprawled out on the counter and this woman here spots him bleeding to death.”
“Seems like he’s been shot…and bitten?” Cory says, “get his jacket and shirt off. And close those doors, it’s freezing.”
The second medic comes around to where Ron was and gets Jim’s jacket and shirt off; Ron goes to close the doors, “Whoa…”
“Yeah,” Cory says, “this guy’s been through a lot and that’s an understatement.”
Lucy, Kayla, and the others in the bar look at Jim’s body in shock and horror. The sea of cuts, scars, and lacerations on his chest and arms suggest Jim should’ve been dead long ago.
His dark skin is tinged with an ashy gray and blue-black bruises run along his left breast down to his rib cage, a long, deep, sewn-up cut runs down his right side to his hip. His arms are littered with cuts going all the way down to his wrists, just above the wrist bone.
“It’s like something out of Frankenstein,” Cory says, “how is this guy still breathing?”
Jim’s chest expands and contracts imperceptibly, but it expands and contracts nonetheless. Cory puts a finger under Jim’s nostrils and feels a faint, hot air come out of them. Yes, Jim is still breathing.
“Alright, let’s get him to the hospital,” Cory says while he and the second medic lift Jim up and put him on the stretcher then place the blanket over his body and left the bar without another word.
Lucy and Kayla run outside and watch the paramedics drive off; Ron stays inside and tells the people the bar is still open because they’re going to need drinks after seeing something like this.
The barback returns with a mop and bucket and gets to cleaning the blood off the floor and counter, Ron goes back around the counter and fills orders for the rest of the night.
Lucy and Kayla remain outside.
Jim was in the hospital for a month, during that time the incident became something of a legend within the bar, people saying Jim was shot and bitten by rabid dogs, that he was shot and attacked by a pack of wolves, that he worked for the Mafia and tried to get out.
Ron often shook his head when he heard such talks but, nonetheless, he let them go on, it was good for business if nothing else.
Lucy and Kayla continued to come on an almost regular basis and talked to Ron, asking him had he heard anything about Jim, how long they’ve known each other, what he thinks happened to him. Ron gave short and deliberate answers to these questions: ‘haven’t heard anything’, ‘going on twenty years’, ‘who knows, could’ve been anything’.
Jim returns to the bar some time mid-April at ten o’clock, as usual. The bar goes silent when he comes in and sits at his usual spot as if nothing happened, Jim isn’t fazed. He takes a long, deep breath and leans back in the stool, the silence is long and deafening and the atmosphere is cold and thick.
The eyes gazing upon Jim are ones of wonder and horror, fear and fascination, bewilderment and intrigue.
Ron looks over at Jim for a long time, remembering how he was sprawled over the counter secretly bleeding to death, the cuts, bruises, and scars that were all over his body, the ashy gray color his skin took on, and the shallow, raspy breathing.
Ron steels himself and pours a glass of scotch on the rocks and slides it over to Jim, he holds out his hand and grabs the glass firmly when it gets to him and drinks it as he did before the incident. Ron smirks and nods his head, good ole Mr. Regularity.
He goes over to Jim, “How’s going, Jim? Everything alright?”
“Yeah,” Jim says, “sorry about bleeding out on your bar, man,” he continues, “I heard from the nurse who was taking care of me that there was a commotion.”
“Naw,” Ron says, “it was more like people just staring in open-mouthed horror.” Ron adds, “Speaking of, just what the hell happened to you?”
“I guess I owe you that much,” Jim starts, the rest of the bar remains silent, “I ran into a little trouble and got clipped is all, got too close to the forklift at the warehouse and got poked.” Jim continues, “Good thing I jumped back before it was too late or else I would’ve been a goner.”
Ron looks Jim in the eyes and Jim knows Ron doesn’t buy it, not for a second. Nevertheless, Ron nods and says, “Well, hope they at least paid your hospital bill. Good to have you back Jim.”
“Good to be back,” the atmosphere loosens up and people return to their conversations. The DJ puts the music back on and everything is just as it was before the incident. Jim drinks his scotch on the rocks and orders a veggie burger with fries.
Lucy and Kayla come into the bar at ten-fifteen and see Jim sitting in his usual spot and rush him immediately.
“Jim!” Lucy says and Jim looks over to the women, “What happened to you? Are you alright? When did you get out of the hospital? What did the doctors say?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Jim chuckles, “one question at a time, ladies.”
“What happened to you?” Kayla asks.
“Okay,” Jim starts, “got a little too close to the forklift and got poked, I pulled back in time before it lifted and took me with it. I patched it up and thought it’d be fine but that didn’t turn out to be the case, did it?” he continues, “I heard from the nurse there was a commotion of some sort but Ron told me it was just people gathered around looking on in horror.”
Lucy and Kayla glance at each other then look at Jim.
“Okay,” Lucy says, “that’s your cover story. What really happened to you?”
to be continued . . .
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