9 birds hang in an ancient sky

Ancient Skies

He surveys the dimly room from its reflection. Flashes of the night coast in and out of his mind: the impromptu dancing; hurried rushed laughter; spontaneously combusting egos… this is the filth that remains after the crowd leaves.

He loosens his tie and locks the door. He grabs a bottle of whisky, the night’s recipts, and a hidden tumbler. He tosses the folder on a table—the corner one he made sure was wiped down before the crew left. He kicks a chair out and in a single perfect motion leans back, pops off his shoes, and props his legs on the table. He takes a drink and fishes out the night’s big haul—the brass zippo he took off a Freud.

He examines the old and battered thing under the sconce light. Its engraving is too intricate and worn to make out. Its hinge is slightly out of whack. He eases it open and chuckles in the wondrous sound: kari the brass lid scratches against the windscreen; kan the cam engages; gan the cover slams shut.

He grins like mad memories kari kan gan and lunatics chant in the shadows. He pours another drink kari kan gan and the shadows twirl into the open just long enough to hear their feet pound out drastic measures tonka-tonk

The bartender slams back a drink and throws his body into the dance. His shoulders shudder against an uncertain wind, his legs jilt and jolt and his feet pound tonka-tonk, his left hand feverishly thumbs the lighter kari kan gan tonka-tonk

He throws back another drink and hurriedly wipes his mouth and forehead with a bar towel. He leans back and looks through the ceiling at nine birds hanging in an ancient sky. He takes a slow deep breath and grins.

He doesn’t look down; he already knows what he’d see: regret, disappointment, sorrow. Endless possibilities. A gridwork connecting layers of the past with the present, with gaps forming where vertices don’t line up.

In this constantly shifting landscape it’s the motionless birds, then, that draw sole responsibility for keeping the bartender grounded. The rock outcropping churns in constant flux, the cold desert dunes swirl time into foul monotony. All this under an ancient sky twisting divinity into strands of rough rope. Only the birds are stationary, only appearing to shift gently between the folds of bellowing yellow clouds and red sky.

The grid work below sends out new orthogonals raking in chunks of the past and forming it into something ugly and unkind. The rocks settle into his back and he focuses on the only constant in this landscape—black smudges against yellow and orange hanging motionless over the jagged outcrop of the expanding scaffolding. kari kan gan

He stands and slips back into his shoes and wipes them down. He gathers the paperwork and places it under the counter. He smooths the towel flat on the bar and slowly rolls it up lengthwise. He wraps it around the base of the whisky bottle and secures it with rubber bands. He leaves it centered on the bar while he tidies himself in the bathroom. He dries his face with a rough paper towel and arranges shirt and tie.

Satisfied with his reflection he retrieves his jacket from behind the bar. He makes a martini dirty and shaken. He arranges his cuffs and tie, and smooths his hair back. He pops an olive into his mouth and kari kan ignites the rag and hurls the bottle at the rack.

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