No Smoking

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(636 words)

They should have known people weren’t really reasonable when they saw they’d buy at a joint what they could get for 1/10 the price at the grocer. Maybe they go for the motion of the bottle lifted from the shelf and poured into piled saucers and brandy glasses. Maybe the sound and the sight of that alone is what achieves the necessary effect.  No. At least with the food, you could say, the chef he brews up something special but with the unmixed drinks it’s the same and it is not reasonable.  There is nothing added but the motion from the hand which pours in what could have been gotten anywhere. That’s when we knew, or should have known, for sure, that the people weren’t going to turn out reasonable.  It is the same all the way down or up.  They should have known it when war kept up after what they called an enlightenment and even increased, definitely increased, until it came crumbling down and really did for lots of folks.  But the boys kept them up even when it made no sense, especially when it made no sense. The women too, with the desire for children, when you know all along its going to be just as hard as it was for you.  They are doing it today, the unreasonable things. You like to say they.  They drive everything on petrol and it only takes a child’s brain to see the math.  It’s an easy dollar and if you don’t play someone else will. But there will be consequences you can be sure.  There are many era-making, epic mistakes that don’t compute in hidsight, already on the books. American chattel slavery is one. They kept that up even when it had to be clear there’d be hell to pay, to say nothing of the evil in it. A bad war came and almost everyone lost someone but they must have seen that one coming, too.  Maybe the death wish is true, he thought. But we still think people behave reasonably and if they don’t that was then and this is now.  But what you can’t see now they couldn’t see then.

What are you thinking about?

Nothing.

Aw, come on, what?

I’ve been thinking about how this is my favorite place in the world, he said in all honesty.  Well maybe all except one.

What’s that?

It isn’t there anymore. 

What happened to it?

We moved on.

Is it still there?

Yes.

So it is still there.

It is but the drinks aren’t the same, anymore.  And I’m not fast.  I just stand there and take it.  That’s all I’ve got.  I’d run but running doesn’t do me any good, anyway, because everything is faster so I just stand and take it. 

I’m not sure I follow you but, if I do, you might be depressing me. 

Above the wall of bottles, an old black and white movie played with the sound turned off and with subtitles. He wondered how long until phones were banned in these places, like smoking was.  I’ll bet they thought at first that would kill the industry when they thought about it. Of course it didn’t.  It grew it.  More of us came after they got the smoke out. What kind of place is this, anyway, he thought.  A holy one, came his thoughtful reply.  You are thinking more clearly.  In here you must believe in God.  You have to to believe in the fiction that 9/10 of the drink’s value is in the expression on the bartender’s face or the attention he pays, or doesn’t, if that’s what you’re into. It could be, also, the lights and the jazz sound and the three beat rhythm. 

Now what are you thinking about?

He told her and they ordered two more drinks.