‘Risk It All at the Spitdown’ by Gregory Yelnish

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Sitting at a bar on the corner of Hastings and Veil, a bar named “The Spitdown”, he hovered, staring at the russet countertop, his eyes tracing the patterns within the wood, and wondered how, why, who would’ve named an establishment something like that.

It took two-hours, trapped in a darkened car in the freezing rain, to convince himself to go in. Maybe the name fit, he thought to himself. The bar was rough, to say the least. Two double doors hung, half-rotted, below a blinding sign that read “T-e S-it-own”. The smell of liquor and furtive sweat permeated the room; it whisked itself across the bar through columns of stale smoke, angry at the trespasses of forlorn feet. There were small booths and an open floor area for dancing, multiple drunks attempting to give it purpose as best they could. Lights chased each other over walls and a pounding music, rap, he supposed, blared so loud it was a wonder this place hadn’t been shut down. He sat on a swivel chair with the back snapped off, a cracked cushion under him felt like he was sitting in a pool of blood. He was wearing blue jeans and a white t-shirt, sunglasses and a beige hat from his job, the stockroom at Walmart. He hated his job. But his job was safe, secure. His life had been the same, by design, always safe, always self-preservation above everything else. His wife, Barbara, was one of the safest women he had ever met. Unattractive, almost completely devoid of personality, faded blonde hair that never glimmered like the models’ on T.V. Loving a model was perilous, loving Barbara was like a fortress that was not only impenetrable, but one that nobody wanted to penetrate. He winced at the sexual pun he had accidentally made and thought about Dr. Freibowitz.

Freibowitz had been a staple in his life for years now, and for years he had always harped on the same thing. “You have to take a chance,” he would say, “You have to live, Adam. Living and merely existing are terribly different things.” Adam liked his doctor, respected him, but disagreed. Until today’s session, when Dr. Freibowitz issued an ultimatum. “Either go do something out of your comfort zone, or don’t come back to another session, Adam. And I’m serious.” The fact being that the doctor was the only reason Adam was even half-way stable mentally, he reluctantly accepted to do something out of the norm. He would have a drink at a shitty bar in a bad part of town. He never drank and never went out (unless it was with Barbara to a well-lit restaurant) and so he decided that he’d drive his Chrysler Pacifica to “The Spitdown”. Freibowitz agreed, thought it was a wonderful idea and that it would improve his mood drastically. Adam didn’t understand how risking your life was living. He could never sympathize with soldiers, firemen, police officers, fighter pilots. How idiotic were they to pick a life like that? He picks his head up and looks down the bar to see a man in a powder blue seersucker suit, staring into the bottom of a half-empty glass as if it held some answer. As if the glass could tell him why he had given up. That is the visage of the risk takers, Adam thought, and he shuddered and turned away. “Ay, stab a mothafucka today, today…” echoed from the scratchy speakers. Behind the garbled curses of the rap a softer, much more amicable sound reached his ears. When he finally looked up and across the counter, two soft-pink lips, and then two hazel eyes stared back at him.

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