A Man Walks Into A Bar

by Randy Murray on October 4, 2011

It was the middle of the afternoon, but the way my day had gone I was done. Finished. So I found the nearest bar and walked in.

It had been so bright outside and so dark in that bar that I had to stand inside the door for several seconds, remove my sun glasses, and stand there, blinking, waiting for my vision to clear. The place was empty, empty except for one guy on a bar stool and a couple more in the back booth. The guy at the bar was leaning heavily on it. The two in a booth near the back were whispering urgently to each other. So I took a seat at the bar with a stool between me and the other guy. The bartender looked up at me from the sink where he was washing glasses. I ordered a beer and a shot of bourbon.

As he set the drinks in front of me, the man seated near me took a deep, noisy breath through his nose and sighed. I glanced at him and saw him staring at the bar in front of him and shaking his head. He licked his lips he said to the bartender, “Again.”

I looked away, threw back my shot and took a long drink from my beer. I closed my eyes, straightened my back, and allowed myself a little sigh.

“Yeah,” said the guy on the stool, “one of those days.”

I nodded without looking over at him. I could see him reflected in the bar mirror and he could see me.

“One of those weeks,” I told him.

He raised his glass, but it was empty. The bartender hadn’t made his a fresh drink yet. He frowned and shook his head. “Here’s to Tuesdays,” he said and sat the glass back on the bar. The bartender removed it and set a fresh drink on a napkin in front of him. The man chuckled a little and shook his head again, then took a sip from his drink.

“That really should be my last.” He signaled for the check and the bartender nodded at him and went to the cash register. I turned to my right to look at him and found him turned toward me on his stool, smiling at me.

“Back to work?” I asked, more to be polite than out of curiosity.

“Nope. Nothing much to do these days. He grinned widely, then reached out and picked up something from the bar. He held it up. It looked like a rectangle of glass in a black frame. He peered through it at me and winked. “I see you!” he said, grinning widely.

“OK,” I said and turned back to my beer.

“Franklin Schm-mm-e-er.”

I looked back at him. “What did you say?”

“Frank Schmit-e-miner-er-er. That’s you. Camden, Maine. You’re a long way from home, Frankie.”

He was too drunk to pronounce my name, but he knew it. I turned to face him. “Excuse me, do I know you?”


“Then how do you know me?”

“I don’t.” He put the glass thing back on the bar. “But you are known.”

“What did you say?”

He pointed at me and nodded his head with each word. “You. Are. Known.” He stretched out the word known into a growl. Knoooon.

“What the hell is this? Do you have something to say to me?”

“Nope.” He picked up his drink and practically poured it down his throat. He set it on the bar, wiped his mouth with his napkin and looked at me. He blinked several times, as if he were having trouble focusing. He reached for his wallet, pulled out a card, and handed it to the bartender, who swiped it and handed it back.

“That,” he stabbed his finger at the glass rectangle on the bar, “that is a hell of a thing.”

I glared at him, then turned back to my beer.

“No, really,” he said, “a hell of a thing. I look through this and I can see exactly what’s in this drink, the brand of Scotch, even where it was made and the in-greedy-yants.” He paused and took a deep breath through his nose. “Or people. Where they’re from, where they work, where they’re going.”

“OK.” I said and focused on my beer.

“And,” he started.

I turned to face him. “Look, I just came in here for a drink.”

“And you’re not gonna get that job after all. Sucks.”


“Doesn’t matter, they’re out of money. Won’t last another five weeks. You’re better off not going down the toilet with them.”

“Who the hell are you?”

“Me? Nobody. No one.” He picked up the rectangle of glass and looked at me through it again. “But you. You shouldn’t be wasting your time out here. Chicago. That’s where you should be. The one in Illinois.”

I reached out and took the thing from him. I turned it over, but it just looked like a piece of glass. I looked back at him to see him nodding and wiggling the fingers of his left hand at me.

“Touch control. Just my touch. But here.” He took it back from me, ran his fingertip back and fourth across the glass, then handed it back. “Now, you touch it.”

I held it at the edges, looked at it, then back at him. I set it back on the bar without touching the face.

“Suit yourself,” he said, then slid off the stool and managed to plant his feet and remain standing. He pulled his sports jack straight and searched his pockets, coming up with a pair of sunglasses. “But you should be in Chicago.” Then he walked behind me, patted me on the shoulder, and went out into the over bright day.

After a minute or two the bartender asked, “What’s in Chicago?”

“A job offer. Not a bad one. And maybe a girl.”

“So what’s keeping you here?”

I shook my head and finished my beer. “Not much after today.”

I looked down at the bar and there it was, the drunk’s little rectangle of glass. I reached out to touch it and suddenly it wasn’t a piece of glass. I could see that it was some sort of phone or something.

“Hey,” I said to the bartender. “It looks like that guy left this.”

He looked down at the bar and shook his head.

“You can take it. They leave those damn things in here all the time. I’ve got a whole box of them back here, all different.”

“What are they?”

He shrugged his shoulders and finished drying the glass, put it in a rack, and took another from the sink. “Hell if I know. I’m tired of ‘em leaving them in here.”

I left some money on the bar, put the piece of glass in my pocket, and walked back out into the California sun.

The A Man Walks Into A Bar by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill McAuliff October 4, 2011 at 10:54 am

Wow! I’ve just started visiting your website. Up til now I have only been read your posts offering writing advice. I really enjoyed this piece!



Randy Murray October 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Thanks, Bill. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

My training is as a playwright. At root, it’s all about storytelling, no matter if you’re writing for business or creating a piece of fiction.


Orin October 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm

You can write! Too bad Gizmodo couldn’t come up with something like this. They may not have copped so much flack. ;)


Randy Murray October 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Thanks, Orin!


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