a birthday to remember
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Sometimes It's Best Just To Be Left Alone
by Bradford Middleton




Jack has always enjoyed a drink, some of his friends would claim he enjoys it a little too much and right now, in the depths of his forty-first birthday, he knows exactly how it will play out.  Tonight, like so many before them, will inevitably end in a drunken mess, a night his memory will so easily forget but on this day, his special day, it has all kicked off a bit earlier than usual; the mainline to oblivion had begun at 4 that afternoon. He'd left his shop job with a box of beers and a quart bottle of own-brand dark rum before returning, almost inevitably, to his room.  It is always the same in his room, where a routine has been adopted that will ensure life never gets dull and this afternoon is no different.


The second he is through the door he is ripping at the box, desperate for a taste, desperate for the sustenance a good beer will offer his thirst, and soon it arrives.  Dumping the box on his floor he grabs a glass off his sideboard and immediately pours the largest of large rums he plans on pouring on this his special day.  After downing about three shots in one go he settles back into his armchair, the one piece of seating in his sparsely furnished room, and contemplates his next move.  Almost a nano-second passes before he concludes it is time to roll and smoke a joint.  The perfect threesome for a perfect Thursday afternoon.  Sparking the joint to life his mind and body rejoice into a calm beautiful mess and each toke is backed by a chug of beer until the joint is finally tapped out in the nearby ashtray.  Moments later and another phallanx of rum is introducing itself into the heady mixture that is currently ruminating inside Jack's head but despite all this he knows already how tonight will play out.  It will be just like so many other nights in this town by the sea, the town down the road from the big smoke that had priced him out a few years earlier, a night in which he would again experience total loneliness, total alienation.  


Even today, on his birthday, he knows his phone will remain silent unless his parents call, no one will knock on his door and no one will greet him when he goes to the bar later.  Rising from his seat he walks over to his laptop and loads up some music to keep him company, something to remind him that today is apparently a˜special' day.  A familiar guitar riff comes screaming through his speakers before a Scouse voice calls out to him.


You say it's your birthday?  It's my birthday too! the voice sings as Jack drinks from his beer, deciding it is time for another joint.  The music plays as the smoke is smoked and the drink is drank and the songs take Jack on an adventure through the blues, jazz, punk, rock 'n' roll and soul and it all makes him feel really good.  It is the music that soundtracks his life that keeps him strong, that keeps him going no matter how bad his job gets.  When the music works with the booze and the smoke it is magic and on those kind of nights he feels the need to test himself, test himself against humanity and only after hours of dedicated preparation does he know he is finally ready, the final piece of the jigsaw being the rolling and hiding of a few strong prepared joints into his coat pocket.  It is then he knows he is finally ready to deal with all that humanity will inevitably try and throw at him, all those damn people who cause all of his problems, those damn people he has nothing in common with, absolutely nothing at all. 


Stepping out into a balmy late Spring evening the warm breeze is pleasing against his face and looking up Jack sees no one, absolutely no one is around on this particular Thursday night, everyone is where they want to be, all except Jack who is rarely where he wants to be.  Tonight he takes his usual walk, his favourite thing about living in this town by the sea, a walk that some people travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to walk.  Turning right at the end of his street he heads south and moments later is staring out at the sea.  He turns to look up at the terraced housing and briefly lets his mind dream of what it must be like to live in a place like that, a place so completely out of his and so many others' reach.  He pulls a joint from his pocket as he steps out along the promenade and still there are not many people around.  A gaggle of homeless people are talking at the top of the steps leading down to the lower promenade but ignore Jack as he passes and soon after, just as the joint is reaching its final embers, he reaches the bottom of the street at which the bar is located.


Entering the bar he finds it almost deserted as well, a few old-school drinkers lurking in the corners, a gaggle of thirty-something punks pouring over the jukebox but most importantly no one sat in his favourite seat, the seat right by the bar, the place he can see almost everything that happens, the place from where he can interact with everyone or no one at all.  Either way it is the place nearest the drinks and that is his sole reason for being here, the two young good-looking barmaids merely an extra bonus.  As he sits back on the stool one of them turns and walks towards him.  She is young, Jack reckons she is early-20s, and blonde and big breasted.  Smiling as she approaches Jack merely tells her what exactly he wants and waits.  The beer is pouring as she prepares his large rum, neat as it always should be, and moments later they sit before him.  He hands over his hard-earned money and looks down at the drinks laid out before him.  Picking the beer up first he takes a long hard slug on it before placing it down, in preparation for that first exquisite taste of non-supermarket dark rum.  The drinks go down easily and a bit too quickly as he surveys the scene; the music is obvious and formulaic mid-90s punk and the dark corners just get darker until the inhabitant either slinks off home without a word to anyone or more occasionally merely slips off to sleep knowing home offers nothing better. 


"Hey lovely," he calls out to the other barmaid, determinedly not cleaning anything, and as she approaches a smile appears across her face before she leans in close.


"Yes my lovely, what can I get you?" she drools as if either drunk or horny or simply drunk on lust.  Jack gives her precise instruction on what drinks he needs and how he wants them prepared but almost immediately all that is forgotten as she turns her back to him revealing, at last, the most succulent looking peach of a bum he'd seen in years.  As she struts back to the spirit dispensers he can't take his eyes off her and as she pours a large shot into the awaiting glass he can't stop looking.  She turns and almost immediately, as his eyes ravage her tight young body, he spots her nipples brazen beneath her tight white t-shirt, as hard as bullets as she approaches him with his rum.  Pausing at the draft line she finishes off his order before placing them in front of him, that same sexy smile across her face.


"Anything else tonight my lovely?" she asks but Jack has no response, no response at all after so long without the company of women.  He merely hands her what he hopes is a 10-note, his eyes are still preoccupied, and takes a long pull on his beer before sitting back and pulling the glass of rum closer.  Examining it closely it is already clear that it ain't got long in this world, confirmed when he merely chugs on it, down in one swift mouthful and it's only a few seconds before he finds himself calling her over again, this time for another large rum, more ice this time he instructs her.  Watching her whilst simply nursing his beer he sees her take each ice-cube out of the box and then gently rub it against her t-shirt, right around those magnificent breasts she'd seemed so keen to show off and this time it is clear as she approaches him.  She is a demon woman, one who sees a poor soul out on the street and must have him, must make him love her more than anything he's ever experienced and then ruin him.  Take him from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of despair in the blink of an eye, the use of a few words and it'd be all over and Jack would know he'd never meet another like her.


Time drags on remorselessly, the minutes turning into an hour and then eventually the hours turning into almost the night being through.  She'd continued to flirt every time he'd ordered a new round of drinks but he still hadn't said anything, not even finding out her name but then a change in view came through the front door.  A woman Jack loathes and who he'd first meet here a good few years previously and who he'd never seen straight with walks in, her lumbering boyfriend behind and two 50-something metal rebels, both with immaculately groomed blonde hair and matching black leather jackets.


"Evening," she slurs, holding onto her boyfriends' arm for support, " ain't seen you in a while have we?  What brings you down here tonight?"


"I'm here to drink Ellen, to drink myself into oblivion..."


"Ok, wanna come outside with us and chat?"


"No, I'm here to drink, nothing else, get it?"


"Sure," she says, at last seemingly getting the idea that not everyone liked her. 


Her boyfriend begins ordering a round for the group of them, two other guys loiter at the back not speaking or even looking in Jack's direction.  Despite their leather jackets they glare long and hard at the 30-something punks and Jack can feel their waves of contempt flood the room.  Jack knows the best way to forget this whole situation ever happened is to drink more, all helping him forget it ever happening.   His arm waves across the bar at the young beautiful barmaid who comes sauntering over, her smile still fixed strong but her t-shirt now not bursting under the immense pressure her nipples exerted. 


"Same as before please sweetheart," he tells her and as she reaches up to the bottle of rum hanging from its dispenser her t-shirt rises and her magnificently pert bum is revealed for all to see under the outline of her tight blue jeans.  Jack's eyes are out on stalks and it is impossible for him to avert his stare and just as Ellen turns to say something to him he begins licking his lips.


"You dirty old fucker, she spits into the air upon seeing Jack salivating."


"What? What the fuck did I do now? he retorts, turning his eyes away at last giving his full concentration to the impending situation."


"You know who that is?"


"Nah, a new barmaid I guess?"


"Well kinda, that's Mike's daughter!"


"Really, oh shit.  It ain't going to please him that I've already fucked his ex-girlfriend and now I'm going to put the moves on his daughter, poor fucker!"


Ellen tugged on her boyfriends' arm, "Chris! Did you just hear what this old fucker said? He wants to fuck Sable! Can you believe it?"


"What?" Chris responds, unsure what he's just meant to have heard, unsure of anything besides how much he wants a pint and for his stupid girlfriend to just shut up for 10 blissful minutes.


"The dirty fucker just said he wants to fuck Sable!" she says again, a look of utter shock on her face as if to emphasis the hugeness of what is unraveling.  Jack turns his attention back to his beer and as he picks it up a voice appears up close and personal right in his ear.


"You fucking pervert, we don't tolerate your kind in here," the voice says before a violent yank on Jacks' shirt collar drags him from the comfortable confines of his stool and into a confrontation he really hadn't expected.  There are, he's learnt over the years, hell the decades he's been drinking in cheap bars like these, these kind of places which attract these kind of people which almost always means that something is going to happen.  This bar is certainly not one of those places but he knew from the first moment he'd talked with Ellen that here is a person who it could be very easy to majorly fall out with.  The violent retaliation from her entourage is a shock though as normally, in this coastal town, people who drink in bars like this can't be bothered to do anything, so often stoned, so often drunk. They merely spend their time waiting for something interesting to happen or waiting for death, most days not caring which.


"She's only 15!" an angry voice screams in his face, "are you some kind of pervert?"


With no time to respond a fist comes screaming through the air causing Jack to react quickly enough to avoid any contact and, as if on some kind of survival instinct, he downs his rum, smashes the glass on the bar and raises it to stand guard against any further attempt to attack.  Ellen and her group of pretty-boy rebels move back as Jack picks up his beer with the other hand, holding them at bay as he swigs from his beer.


"You psycho!" Chris shouts over the din of the jukebox as an hysterical Ellen begins screaming.  The older barmaid suddenly realises what is happening and rushes off towards the stairs, clearly looking for some experienced back-up in case the situation escalates into serious violence.


Another punch comes flying through the air and this time does just about connect with Jack's chin but all it does it knock him back against the bar where the young barmaids' hands rub against his chest over his shirt.


"You want to take this outside you fuckers?" Jack asks, finishing his beer whilst heading towards the door, knowing almost inevitably they will follow, some kind of retribution for his ruining Ellen's night.  Hell if Jack is honest he lives for moments like this.  His skill and the ease with which he could get her raging on just about any given subject provided him with some of the funnest moments of his life. 


As Jack opens the door to the bar the manager arrives at the bottom of the stairs, armed with a baseball bat but not moving as Jack walks on out the door.  Seconds later the immaculately groomed rebels follow with a punch to the back of Jacks' head.  He turns quickly and immediately begins running towards the biggest of the three guys stood before him.  They tumble to the ground and Jack gets in a few decent punches before the other two move in and try and grapple him clear but he punches his way out, all the way out of the mix and suddenly the young barmaid is by his side.


"I'm Sable, I'm Mike's daughter," she says as her face disappears behind the deepest jam-red blush Jack has ever seen.


"Hi I'm Jack," before he successfully repels another attack.


"Take me away Jack," she says as the redness subsides leaving nothing but her beautiful face.


"I'm 16 Jack, it's all legal..." she says, hoping her words get across to the three assailants seemingly destined to ruin Jack's best night in months, if not years.


As another attack begins Jack merely grabs the assailant and holds him. "Now listen you fucker, listen to this beautiful girl and listen good will you?"


"I'm 16 today and I love, oh, I love him..." and she grabs his hand, walking off into the distance, off towards a new life, a life spent knowing that sometimes when you find one like Sable it's best to just leave the rest of humanity well alone. 




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