Six years ago today, my husband of 19 years died. In honor of his passing, I have decided to share a portion of a chapter from a work in progress. The title is “A Bar Called Always”. Though it is a novel, it is a novel in short story form. I hope to finish one day, but wanted to share the following, as it illustrates what I hope death is like for me one day: calm.
Mort Says Goodbye
Mort stood in the middle of the bar, drying a glass. He was staring at the door, thinking. For the past year, the door had been slowly turning black. He was the only one who noticed. Though Chauncy had seen the initial mark, the one that showed up after the caveman died, he had not seen anything else out of the ordinary. Mort wondered about that for a long time, as the door continued to look as if it were burnt.
Now, as he stood on the wrong side of the bar drying a glass that had not one drop of moisture on it, he wondered. What did it mean? Why did the door look burnt to him, but normal to everyone else? He wasn’t sure, but he wanted to understand.
Mort finally reached out and placed the glass on the bar, then threw the rag over his shoulder. It was done absentmindedly. At the end of the night, he almost always had a rag over his shoulder. He walked a few paces closer to the door and stopped. He was now maybe five steps away. From this distance, it no longer looked like the door was burnt. It looked like a void; darkness and nothing else. It filled him with peace.
The bartender took a few steps back. He had been in A Bar Called Always for a long, long time. He had no idea how long. It was his home, but it wasn’t. He had returned to the 1500s a few times, to see if he could live in his time again. He always found a replacement, but he always came back. Things just didn’t work for him in the 1500s, but he was tired of running the bar.
A year ago, he started taking short trips to other times, and his own time. He knew it was a year ago, because some of the people wished him a Happy New Year. It occurred to him, at the time, that he had heard that phrase maybe ten times since he came to A Bar Called Always. Ten years on the outside, no discernible time in here. Days passed pleasantly, but Mort wasn’t sure he wanted to be immortal. He felt like he was. Time did not affect him. He wasn’t going to die, not if he stayed here. He wasn’t going to age or get sick, or change in any way. At the beginning, he didn’t mind, but now, well, he wanted something different.
The void of a door felt like a way out.
Mort stood in the middle of the bar for a long time and contemplated the door. Every so often, he took a step closer. He would move forward then stop and think for a long time before taking another step.
Eventually, Mort was at the door. He reached out, and though there was nothing to touch, felt like there was indeed something there. It wasn’t threatening in anyway; it was peaceful, as it had been before. Mort sighed. It was time to make a decision. Heidi, a newcomer from about six months ago, was in the second bedroom. He had started showing her the ropes when she arrived. She was looking for work. He hadn’t thought to ask her story, just offered her a room and a job. He told her how the place worked, and she seemed excited to be here.
The bar had a bar tender, two in fact, and only needed one. Mort sighed again. He didn’t want to be here any more and the bar knew it. It was giving him an out. He didn’t know what he would find on the other side, but he reached for the knob and turned it.
The door opened as always, but it was not the 1500s as it had been previously. This was a dark void with a pin prick of light at the end, like a tunnel. He stared at that light, thinking. He knew if he went through, there was no coming back. He didn’t know where this would lead, but he wanted to find out.
A smile on his face, Mort stepped through the door of A Bar Called Always, and walked into his new life.