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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