LAST CHANCE LOVE • by Mickey J. Corrigan

His head hung low over the bar, bobbing like a turtle’s from its protective shell. He’d had too many shots of Wild Turkey, too little sleep. Through squinting eyes, he watched the barmaid. Tall, broad, and middle aged hard. But she had a kind smile and youthful energy. A beautiful set and gorgeous honey-colored hair.

Your mind is a crooked hall in a dirty one-hour motel, he told himself. You are aiming for the filthy basement and the hair shirt, the barbed whip. His head drooped lower as he reached for his glass. What, are you trying to drown the sunlight with booze, he wondered as he finished yet another Bud.

His thoughts piled up, a train wreck in an alcohol storm.

Still, the sexy bartender hovered in the distance like a rainbow. Like a vision of what he could never reach.

When the last call bell sounded, she came down to his end of the bar. Her face was flushed, she’d worked hard all night. She smiled at him, her crooked teeth adding to her earthy allure. “Jimbo,” she said. “You’ve outdone yourself tonight.”

He shrugged, embarrassed. Drunk, horny, alone. That sad barroom song.

“Why don’t I drive you home?” she offered. “No sense getting in more trouble with Sheriff Dickhead. He’s already got it in for you.”

He was flattered. Excited. She knew of his troubles, she knew him. Maybe she cared about him?

You are giving substance to shadows, his mind scolded. You wake up every day in a different comic book. How much of you is just repetition?

Jim raised his beer mug in her direction. If she was driving, maybe he could have one more for the road. But she shook her head, and left him there to close out.

He slumped in the familiar pose of barflies everywhere. He was the first to admit it, he was a mess. She should kick him out and refuse to serve him ever again. He didn’t deserve her attention, her kindness. The woman was a saint. A saint with the finest rack this side of the Grand Canyon.

He thought about her deep crevices, her mountainous terrain. He closed his eyes. Blindly, he felt his way along the smooth map of her pale skin, basked in the waterfall of her long hair when it fell across his face.

Before he knew it, she’d kicked out the last hangers-on and pocketed the keys he’d left sitting on the bar.

On the drive home, he fell asleep in the seat beside her. His dreams were haunted by mountain lilies and bar smoke, fresh cool springs and soft skin. When he awoke, he was on his back. Naked. And the woman, his beautiful honey-haired barmaid, was on top.

He closed his eyes again, hoping he would never wake up. If he did, her face might crack down the middle like a vase breaking at the point of impact. Like a fault line in the logic of his ruinous life. The woman just a wet dream in a sad man’s head.

Mickey J. Corrigan writes pulp fiction, literary romance, and psychological thrillers. Her stories have been called “delightful pulp,” “oh so compulsive” reads, and “bizarre but believable.” Her short fiction has appeared in Akashic Books, ELJ Publications, Big Pulp, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, and elsewhere. In 2017, Salt will release her crime novel Project XX.

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Rate this story:
 average 3 stars • 20 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • JD Evans

    I found this to be more like a chapter from a book than a complete story. There are some lines that stand out – “Your mind is a crooked hall in a dirty one-hour motel” – caught my attention. For a 1000-word piece, to me it needs tightening and more of a purpose than

    A guy gets wasted.
    A bargirl takes him home.
    He wakes up from a blackout getting his ashes hauled.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    The writing was good, but I felt the literary detail got in the way of the action, preventing the story from progressing.

  • Teacher

    There were some lines that didn’t need explaining, but which the writer chose to:

    Still, the sexy bartender hovered in the distance like a rainbow. Like a vision of what he could never reach.

    That ended up taking me out of the story a little. As well as some of the comparisons that didn’t match up in my head, but might have in the writers.

    I’m also a firm believer that a story should be worth telling. In my mind, this read more as a usual drunken night extravaganza than anything unusually interesting.

    The relationship between the barmaid and the MC was interesting, but not enough to hold my attention this time around.

    • JD Evans

      For me, strong noir shouldn’t require a line of text to be clarified by a second line. Combine the two for a strong statement. A writer should perhaps ask, “Why am I adding this explanation?”

      Male writers sometimes get blasted for not being to write with a woman’s voice, regardless of the character’s social class. I got the feeling this happened the other way around. Some lines seemed forced. “Sheriff Dickhead” is one example.

      On a technical point, I have never met a guy who could come out of a blackout/passed out situation ready to rock and roll.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Your last sentence here–I thought this was merely a continuation of the MC’s fever-dream and not a literal attainment of the goal.

  • I am going to rate this from an entertainment perspective only. I am a big fan of connections where a reader has to think for a second to get it. There was enough of that in this story to make it fun for me to read.

  • S Conroy

    Found this quite compelling. There’s the drifting dreamlike quality interspersed by analytical self-awareness – drunk, horny, alone. A lot packed into such a short space. Thanks for the read.