Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight
She struck the match, cupped the flame and bent her head to light the cigarette. It was her last one. She’d either have to bum her next one off some random person or steal a pack from whoever was too smashed to miss it. Jesus it was cold. Every time, she looked forward to a smoke warming her up, hoping a grey nicotine cloud would envelop her like a blanket. And, every time, she was disappointed. But only at first. Then the rush would kick in and she’d decompress instantly and rest her eyelids. Carcinogenic bliss. Followed closely by an urgent need for the bathroom. The predictability of the habit was comforting; disgusting, admittedly, but reassuringly familiar.
She headed back inside to make a coffee before her break ended. Of course, the pot was empty and the basket full of spent grounds. Bloody pigs. All of them. She put on a fresh brew – just enough for herself – and smiled at the spitefulness, relishing the petty victory. She cleared the glasses off the bar and wiped it down to kill time. The barely-lit room in front of her was full of millennials, expertly coiffured dames and dandies with slick outfits of oiled mustaches, tattoo sleeves, patent shoes and pants rolled up to ankles.
“Hey Lolo, give us a dirty basil martini and a huckleberry gin and tonic, thanks,” Sawyer (of course that was his real name) ordered over the din.
“Good thing you’re a genius drink-slinger, Lolo. You’re not winning anyone over with your personality, that’s for sure.”
“Thank you for your kind compliment, sir, now piss off and deliver these to the pretty young twats who ordered them,” Lolo replied.
Lolo’s manager, Sawyer was also 15 years her junior. That didn’t make her old, exactly, just a lot older than her workmates and clientele. Thank god for the tips. They made the job worth it. Lolo should’ve been a chemist, or a chef, with her knack for mixing substances to create bespoke flavor combinations that rendered drinkers silent, initially, and then willing to order more concoctions, drop impressive tips and make offers of marriage.
She didn’t drink the stuff herself. Never really had. She tasted what she made but didn’t finish the glass or even partake of an icy beer on a hot day. Caffeine was her medicine. And cigarettes. And running, as well. Lolo was devising a route for tomorrow’s morning jog when she felt a pelting of small, feathery projectiles glance off her back.
“What is going on …,” Lolo turned to identify the source of the straw attack. To the side of the bar, a man was sticking half his face through the door that lead to the backpackers’ hostel upstairs.
“Yeah, um, hi,” the face said. “This is going to sound strange but I really need your help. I got locked out of my room and my situation’s a bit delicate.” Lolo went to open the door but the body below the face slammed it shut.
“Look, I don’t know who you are or what’s wrong with you but you need to open up right now or I’ll call security,” Lolo demanded.
“OK OK, just wait! I’m sorry! My name’s Adam and I’m naked because my room door locked when I stepped outside to use the washroom. I don’t have any pants, let alone a phone, and I just checked in today so I don’t know anyone. Can you get me back in?”
Lolo didn’t respond. Lolo couldn’t respond. The pub was suddenly drowned out by the deafening shrieks of a fire alarm. Hipsters started running for the single point of entry. Lolo looked for Sawyer, but he was busy directing traffic and there was no way he’d hear her even if they did make eye contact. She grabbed a couple bar towels, yanked off her apron and flung them at Adam.
“We’ll go out the kitchen,” Lolo yelled at the nude backpacker, pointing down the hallway behind him. The pair dashed between the steel countertops and busted into the alley behind the building. An explosion blew out windows on the floor above the pub. Flames danced as though they were curtains defying gravity. Onlookers screamed.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Adam managed, through chattering teeth, as charred pieces of paper and snowflakes fell onto his goose-bumpy skin and the surrounding cobblestones.