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“So anyway, yeah, this here place been here some a couple hundred years or something I think. Used to be a railway station when the train come through here.  But then the Factory closed down, and when the Factory close down, the train stop coming in. So the bar, it stuck around as couple rooms upstairs and stuff.  After all, ain’t no other place to drink in town nowdays.  ‘Specially when it snowin’ like it is now.

He looks out a window to the dimming greyness outside.

“This place here used to be your run by a guy named Tank. Ain't his rightful name of course, but we all call him that cuz he was the fullback on the local high school football team.  Back when he was a kid, his daddy own this place, he did all right with it.  Tank and he got his self one of them scholarships to State on account a’ being such a good football player.  Now, Tank and me, we graduated high school together.  Tank, he weren’t no good a student no-how.  Neither was I, so I start working for his daddy in this kitchen here.  So Tank, he flunks out of school, so he join the Army, and goes to Vietnam.  So he go over there and he came back, and he got an injury to his leg and his foot.”

He points to the Purple Heart award framed on the wall behind the bar.

“So anyway, I don't recall seeing you around here.  You new in town or something, Miss?”

“No I'm just passing through, and I thought I'd stop for a drink.  It’s snowing very hard” says the young stranger.

“Well, you dressed kind of like one of the locals, so that's why I thought such you know, what with them tight jeans and that, what's that on your shirt? That’s what, a Grateful Dead skull thing, or something?”

“Yes, that's what it is” she says, looking around the room.

“So yeah I figured it was.  Well, if you don't mind me saying so, young lady, you know it's kind of tight too, and you know some of the fellers ‘round here, they might get the wrong idea and such, you know.  What with you being so, um, busty an’ all.   I'm just saying.”

“Oh, don't worry about me- I can take care of myself.  Besides, last I checked, it was just you and I here, and I won’t be staying long.  Does that jukebox still work?” She points at the Seeburg’s Select-O-Matic against the wall to the right of the bar.

“Yeah, it does.  Need change fer it?” 

She shakes her head, smiling. 

“Ok... So anyway, as I was saying, oh what are you drinking again? Okay yeah, I remember. I'll get you one on the house.  Tell you what, I’ll leave the bottle of Jack here on the bar, and you refill when you’re ready.  So, a lot of people, they jealous of Tank. His daddy he left him this building, and Tank, he run it. He was running it when the Factory closed, and then when the railroad stop coming through. Tank he manage to keep this place going somehow, I don't know.   Hold on, gonna take me a Tums.  Not feelin’ right.  Huh.  Aint heard this song in a while.  Fact, I thought I took it out of there.  People’d play it just to make the cowbell joke.  ‘Needs more cowbell!’  Tell ya it got old right quick.”

“I like Blue Oyster Cult, and this is one of my favorite songs,” she said.

“Huh.  You know, your shirt reminds me a sumthin’.  So this is about oh I don't know 20 years ago at this point. I'm here one day cuz Tank, he let me eat at the bar, since I still was cook here.   It was a hot summer day, and it's me and Tank, and I'm sitting out here at the bar because no customers, and then in walk this business looking guy with a crew cut, wearing a short-sleeve shirt and a black bow tie what looked kinda loose.   With that tie, it almost looked like his head was a floating above his shoulders.  Heh.

Now Tank, he decorated this place with all his football trophies and all these pictures of the local high school and such, and he also had some, you know, summa his stuff from State.  And basically the locals start to call it the Tank Museum, you know kind of like where you go and see tanks and stuff except it was... but anyway, in come just guy and he come in sit down.  

Tank says “what you have mister?” The guy he says ‘I'm just passing through and thought I'd stop for a drink.  Jack neat, please.’  Tank, he says ‘Long Way to the city,’ gets him a beer, and looks at the guy funny.  Tank says ‘Ain’t I seen you before, mister?’ Guy says he been to town here now and again, but the last time was some years ago.  ‘You in town for business?’  Guy says ‘Yeah, but I'm just stopping by.’ He ‘got to pick up a couple a things,’ he said.

Anyway about a couple years afore, Tank lost his wife Delores. See, he got a little heavy on account of he couldn't exercise no more.  So Delores, she been going behind his back with some guy named Dutch.   Dutch live a couple town over, and so Tank he was pretty upset with this, but he don't show it much.  I knew it on account I just know Tank.  You know, this Dutch guy used to come here all the time.  That's how he met Dolores, since she work here too.  But Dutch he ain't been back here since he took the Tanks wife.”

He pauses a second, thinking.

“You sure you don't want something to eat?  Jack on an empty stomach ain’t good.  Okay.  Anyway, so this Dutch guy he never come in.  Miss, you sure don’t want food?” 

 “No I'm just passing through and I thought I'd stop for a drink...” she says.

So Dutch come in and Dutch says to Tank ‘I hear you been talking to a bad about me around here.’  Tank says “What do you expect you steal my wife’ and Dutch says ‘That's cuz you can't even perform like a man anymore’ and Tank says to him, he says ‘Well, I'm more man than you ever be.’  He pulls out the shotgun what he kept behind the bar, but Dutch, he had a gun too.

I don't know what to do, cuz I'm scared out of my mind, and this city guy, he just sitting there minding his business, watching the two an smilin’!   Next thing I know, the guns go off, both a them!  Tank he slumps back behind the bar, and  Dutch, he had his chest blown off by the shotgun-  he just get blown back all the way to the wall. That wall right there where you see that picture.  Yeah I put that picture there to cover up the hole made by the rest of the shot.”  

He points to the opposite wall at a faded photo of a train next to the building from the early 1900s.

“Huh, is it hot in here, or is it just me?  Sweatin’ like a pig” he says, wiping his forehead with a bar towel.

“So any-such the City guy, he sit there like nothing happened and I say ‘you see that?’ and he said ‘yep, I guess this is my pickup.’ He puts the beer down on the bar, and he says ‘thank you kindly,’ closes his eyes for a couple a seconds, then opens them again.  He says ‘I think you better call the police, cuz I got what I come to pick up.’ I thought this was pretty weird, but then the guy I swear on Christ Jesus that this guy, I thought for a second his face turned into a skull! I weren't even drunk or nothin!’ So this guy, he says ‘I see you again sometime, but you might not know it’s me.’

Now the folks around here, I tell them this story, and they're like ‘oh, there’s old Benny, he exaggerating again’ so on account it’s so weird a story. Now, Tank he buried in the churchyard ‘bout a mile down the road.  And, he had a will, and he goes and wills the place to me, on account a he got no kids or wife.  I been runnin’ it since.”

Benny nods proudly.

“Dutch, I don't know what happened with his body, cuz Dolores, she died a year ago.  So anyway, so that's the story.  So where you say you’re goin’, young lady? Wow, My chest feel funny.” Oh wait, you just passin’ through and stuff, you said that.  Oww!” 

“I'm just here to pick something up.”


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