Tag Archives: time travel

Chauncy

The work was going well. They were expected to clear the area and get to the actual dig site by the end of the week. Chauncy was excited. It was the first time anyone had set foot in this area for a hundred years. It was too dangerous before then. Too many time ripples. The higher ups were worried that if someone were caught in a ripple, they would never be seen again. They might also damage the time stream.

This hadn’t happened as of yet, but Chauncy understood the precautions. He didn’t want to get caught in a ripple any more than his higher ups did. But the site was almost cleared for excavation and he and his team would be able to see what England 100 years ago looked like. It wasn’t that long ago, but the time bombs dropped on the site 150 years ago did some strange things to the area. Objects as small as breadboxes and as large as buildings were pulled to the then present or were shoved into the past. It created havoc.

The Time Stream Constables found most of the items some fifty years ago and repaired the time stream, but this site had been too badly damaged to repair. And all items that were removed from the time stream did not go back to their original points. They were stored in a warehouse for examination.

Most other parts of the city were back to normal. This place was the last remnant of the Mistake that caused all the time issues. The higher ups decided to examine it to find out what happened when an area was left to the ravages of the time bomb.

Chauncy looked out his window to the streets below. Even this close was safe. Just to the other side of the wall, was not. In a week, he would be going beyond that wall to find out everything he could. It was all a man could do to sleep.

*****

Chauncy moved the piece of wall out of the way and exposed a condemned building, or rather, it’s boarded up doorway. The wall was light. He suspected it was drywall from around the 20th century, in what used to be the United States. There were a lot of these walls, but no one knew why. This part of the London was the only area that had relics from other parts of the world. The other parts of London affected by the time bomb only possessed things from other times in England.

He left his musings for another time. The workers would remove the drywall, catalogue it and place it in the truck heading to the warehouse. For now, Chauncy wanted to see what was under the wall. Behind it was the condemned building and the boarded-up doorway. The doorway looked to be falling apart, the building around it looked brand new. The sign looked to be about fifty years old, the staples holding it in to the deteriorated wood, looked shiny and new.

It was like this everywhere in the Time Sector. Some parts were old, some were new, and nothing seemed to be of the same age. There was a car down the street that had at some point, four tires. One tire looked brand new, one had rotted away completely. The other two looked used, but not too used. The vehicle would be examined to see if all of the car was like this or if it were just the tires.

It all fascinated Chauncy, but he and the others still didn’t know why it happened. They did know that no other part of England hit by the time bombs had seen this type of variants. Most of the time, the object moved out of time was exactly as it had been in the time it was moved. For instance, the 14th century manor that ended up in the middle of the Thames 150 years ago looked as if it were recently built. When they returned it to its time, they found out it was recently built. Another building from the 14th century, a home, ended up in a farm field 60 kilometers outside of London. It looked old. It was preserved, but old. When the Time Stream Constables looked into it, they found it had been moved from 22nd century London. But all of it looked to have aged the right amount.

Here, there was old and new, mixed. A puzzle for the ages. There was speculation that the bomb that hit here was defective, and that it didn’t go off fully. No one really knew that, but that was part of the fun. Chauncy couldn’t wait to find all the answers. He took pictures of the door way and parts of the building then moved on to the next area. The building had been condemned long ago due to a weak roof. He was not going in until it was cleared.

*****

Chauncy sat in his room, looking out at the dig site, wondering if it was worth it. He had been here three months. This evening, after a long day of work, he had come back to the room to find a message from his wife. She was tired of being second in his life. She was leaving him for his brother. Lawrence had been kind and understanding and had listened to her everyday as she lamented Chauncy’s absence. Fine. He didn’t mind, well, too much. Soon Sheryl would learn why Lawrence could be there to listen all the time: he hated working. She would see her mistake, but she would probably not come back to him.

Sheryl was right: he preferred his work to his wife.

Chauncy sighed and stared out the window. His work was going well, but he didn’t want to be without Sheryl, despite it seeming the contrary. She was smart and understood when he talked to her. And she was pretty. He sighed again. He wanted a drink but knew alcohol was hard to find in this part of London. He looked out the window to the building with the condemned sign on it and frowned. The doorway was different. Even in this low light, he could tell that. Curious, Chauncy got up, slipped on his coat and went to the dig site.

*****

This close, it was obvious how much the door had changed. The wood was brand new, smooth to the touch and there was a shiny brass door handle. The condemned sign was nowhere to be seen. When he touched the door handle, he felt nothing but peace. He also felt an urge to enter. Chauncy looked around and opened the door. He entered and found himself in an old bar. Or maybe old, he wasn’t sure. From the history books, he found that most eras had a few things in common, restaurants and bars were amongst the top ten.

This one showed very little difference to the ones he had been in his time. There was a bar close to one wall, with space for liquor bottles and glasses to his right. It was a long bar, and there were some booths set up to the left, but most were in the back. He stepped in and closed the door. He looked to the ceiling and saw no damage. Somehow, he doubted he was in the condemned building, but he wasn’t sure.

As he walked further in, he looked around and found a few rooms in back. There was even a bathroom. Nothing worked, there was no electricity, but he had a feeling he could wire this place. As plans came to his mind, he pushed them aside. Why would he build here? No one was allowed here. But a name came to him and he had a hard time denying it. Always. This place was A Bar Called Always.

“Hello?”

Even from the back room, he heard it. The voice was shy and feminine. He went back to the bar and saw a woman with spiked hair leaning against the door. She looked at him with fear in her eyes.

“Hello. My name’s Chauncy. What’s yours?”

“Jersey.”

It was an odd name, but he didn’t question it. He felt it was a nickname. Jersey looked to be from the 1980’s, the punk era. She had spiked black hair, and wore a black jacket, black jeans and boot and a t-shirt with a picture of a screaming man on it. She also had black make up around her eyes.

“Are you open?” Her voice still sounded terrified.

“Truth be told, Jersey, I just found this place. I can’t offer you anything but company. You sound scared, are you all right?”

“I guess. Are you from England? You sound like you’re from England.”

He tried to hide his hesitation by moving forward, toward her. Technically, he was from England, but he was beginning to suspect it was more complicated than that. He decided to simply say, “Yes.”

“What’s an Englishman doing in Chicago?”

“That’s a very long story. Would you mind telling me something first?”

She crossed her arms. “Maybe.”

“How did you find this place?”

“I was running and I needed a safe place. I saw the door and came in.”

“What were you running from?”

She frowned, but decided to trust him. “It’s more who. I went to the wrong place and a group of guys decided I was an easy target. I think they were going to rob me. They tried to grab me, I decided to punch one of them. They decided to try and jump me. I ran out of the club and ran up the street. I saw an alleyway and this door at the end of it. I don’t think they saw me.” She frowned. “What’s your story? Why are we both in this abandoned bar?”

He looked away, took a deep breath to give himself a moment to think and decided. “Jersey, I would ask that you trust me for a moment longer. I would like to see what happens when you open that door. Would you do that for me?”

“Why? What’s going on?” She sounded curious more than fearful, and he saw that as a good thing.

“I have a theory, but I want to test it first.”

She looked him up and down. He was dressed in a white lab coat that covered most of him. She could see his pants, knees down, and his shoes. He looked like a scientist. Also, he just didn’t seem like a scary dude. She nodded. “All right.”

Jersey moved from the door, opened it and looked out. Chauncy joined her and they both saw the same thing: the alley from her world.

“Yep. That’s what I thought. That’s my world out there.”

“Close the door.”

She did.

“Now let me.”

Jersey frowned and stepped away from the door enough to allow Chauncy to grab the handle. He opened the door and Jersey gasped. There were in what looked like a ravaged city that was walled in. Halfway across the street was a concrete wall with barbed wire on top. Beyond that, a building made of glass. She started to step through, but Chauncy stopped her and pulled her back. He closed the door and pointed to the stools.

“I have a theory, but you might not believe me. Will you sit?”

“Yeah. God, I wish there were drinks in here.”

“So do I. And I’m not known to drink.”

They moved to the stools, tested one or two and moved to a booth at the back instead. The stools seemed a little unstable. Once they were seated, Chauncy told Jersey what brought him to the bar tonight.

“And just as you thought the name, I came in?”

“It seems that way.”

“Look,” she covered her face with her hands for a moment, “My dad is into Star Trek and Star Wars and all those things, and he reads a lot of sci-fi, and so do I, but this doesn’t seem real.”

“You saw for yourself what happens when each of us opened the door.”

“I know but… why us? Why are we here?”

“I don’t know. We each needed a safe place. It’s possible somehow this bar picked up on it.”

“But that just seems so out there. I mean, I don’t know, I guess it’s more of,” she took a deep breath and stopped talking to really think of what she was trying to say. “Look. It still comes down to why the two of us. We can’t be the only two people in the history of humans, assuming this goes to different times, that need a place like this at this time.”

“Maybe we are. Or maybe it did choose us for a reason. I love being a time archeologist, but when I was younger, I helped in a bar. I have wanted to own a bar for most of my life since then. I just can’t do both. And I won’t give up being a time archeologist. Do you want to be a bartender?”

“Never really thought about it. I just turned 21. Tonight was my first time in a bar.” Her eyes grew wide in frustration and anger. “And I nearly got killed or worse.”

He let his theory go. “Well, it may just be a coincidence.”

She turned her head away. “Maybe not. I was trying to run away.”

Their eyes met across the table. “Why?”

“I like my parents and all that, or I used to. Dad lost his job a year ago. Can’t find anything. I moved in to help out, but he’s been drinking and got mean. My older brother is taking mom in but not dad. We’re thinking about putting him in rehab again, but it didn’t work the previous two times. I don’t think it’s going to work this time either.” She sighed. “I can’t find a job, either.” She laughed. “Probably because of the way I dress.”

They sat in silence for a moment as they both thought their thoughts. Finally Chauncy came to conclusion.

“Jersey, this place is calling to me, begging me to take care of it. I have already figured out how to get a generator in here and how to wire all the lights and what type of things we should have in here. But I need a bartender. I think you will do. I don’t care what you look like. Just do yourself a favor: if you accept, don’t leave your time without telling your family something. Perhaps not the truth, but tell them something.”

“This just seems a bit to perfect, you know?”

“There will be hard work ahead. I will need help with wiring the place and bringing in supplies.”

“This is nuts.” She stood up. “No way this is real.”

With that, Jersey ran out of the bar, slamming the door behind her.

Chauncy sat for a few minutes more, then stood and left as well. He would be back. A Bar Called Always needed to exist.

*****

It took a few months of working at night in order to get the bar in shape. He did most of the work himself. During the renovations, a few people wandered in. Some gave their time, some only their story. Chauncy didn’t mind. He took the help when it was offered, and never told anyone they had to help. He had decided on two bedrooms in the back. One room he set up a modern generator. He had to fill it every week, but it worked fine to keep the lights, refrigerators, and ice machine working. He thought a stove might be a good idea for food, but wasn’t sure if that was necessary.

Also, he was having a hard time understanding why no one in his time had found him out. He kept requisitioning odd pieces of furniture from the warehouse, for research, but wasn’t returning anything. The ice machine, and various refrigerators for the beer were the time warehouse. He didn’t want to use things specifically from his time. It seemed like a better idea to use things that didn’t look to modern. He wasn’t sure why, but he listened to the ideas.

For the booths, stools tables, and counter top, he refurnished what was already here. He went with leather, as leather was timeless. Varnished wood was timeless as well. A Formica table, or vinyl bench would be dated. Anything he could use from his time would be too sleek, and not very welcoming in his opinion. Wood and leather fit what he was trying to accomplish.

At the end of the six months of renovations, he decided that gas lanterns would be a nice touch. They would run on electricity, of course, but it seemed like a touch of old world England might place folks from older times at ease. Chauncy wasn’t sure when people would come from but he liked the way the lanterns looked, and went with it.

When all was said and done, he stood behind the full stocked bar and sighed. He still didn’t know who would man the bar, but perhaps for the moment, he could. As he stood there, looking out over the bar, polishing a glass, the door opened.

He turned to the door. “Welcome.”

A man stepped through, slammed the door shut and leaned against it heavily, looking for a lock. He looked like he had been through hell. When he didn’t find a lock, his scared eyes found Chauncy. Fear came back. “Please don’t hurt me.”

“Why ever would I do that? Are you all right?”

“They’re trying to lynch me.”

The man looked young, barely 18. He was dark skinned and wore a brilliant white button-down shirt and nice pants. His shoes were without wear.

“Lynch?” And he remembered what the word meant. He also remembered that for a while, that was a popular “sport” of people in the south of the United States. Chauncy’s heart broke for this young man. He walked around the bar and held his hand out to the young man, who still seemed leery.

“My name is Chauncy. You’re in A Bar Called Always. This is a safe place.”

“Terrance.” He tentatively reached out and shook Chauncy’s hand. “You’re not from around here, are you? You don’t sound like the others do.”

“I’m from England. And you?”

“Alabama.” He looked to Chauncy. “I was going to say you should know that, but we’re not in Alabama any more, are we?”

“I have a tale to tell you, Terrance. Will you join me at the bar? I can give you something to drink, if you wish?”

“I…” He looked to the fully stocked bar. “Do you have cola? I’m not sure I want to drink anything.”

“I do. Come, sit. Let’s talk for a bit.”

Terrance nodded. “All right. Sure.”

Chauncy smiled and led Terrance to the bar. Once the boy was situated, Chauncy went around the bar and poured the customer a drink. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do about a bartender, but one thing was for sure: A Bar Called Always brought people that were in need of a safe haven. He would provide that for as long as he could.

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Morton

The door opened slowly, as if the person on the other side felt they had to be cautious of it. Once fully opened, a man in ragged clothing stood in the doorway, the light illuminating him from outside. The sun was setting behind him and surrounded him in a halo. The man hesitated for a moment longer, then took a step inside. He took another as the warmth of the bar invited him further in. He took a final couple steps in and closed the door behind him. There was no hesitation in that act. He felt safe now.

With the door closed, the man took a few more steps inside. His eyes were open wide. He looked surprised and comforted by the surroundings. He walked further into the bar, staying away from the stools, his eyes fixed on the booths at the end. He wanted to sit, maybe to sleep. No one stopped him. Morton went to the nearest booth, sat in it and tensed. He expected someone to tell him to leave. When that didn’t happen, he relaxed.

A woman came to the table, a smile on her face and a menu in her hand. “Hi. Welcome. Can I get you anything?”

Fear came into his eyes. He met her eyes, saw kindness and took a breath. “I…don’t…” He took another breath. “I don’t have any money.”

She left the menu on the table, reached out and touched his arm. When he met her eyes again, she smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll get you a coffee, on the house.”

He frowned. “Coffee?”

As he questioned it, the knowledge of the beverage entered his mind. He didn’t question it, but shook his head instead.

“I would appreciate that, yes.”

She smiled again and walked away. When she did, he touched the table and the bench he was sitting on. The bench was covered in leather, but it was a much softer leather than he had ever felt. Maybe the nobles had leather like this, but somehow, he doubted that. He had worked in a leather store for a while. Nothing there compared to this.

The wooden table was odd as well. It was smoother than any wood furniture he had ever touched. It was varnished, but with a much thicker coating than he was used to seeing. He looked around the bar and slowly examined things with his eyes. As he looked, words of the items came to his mind. Though it was disconcerting to have the words of these unknown items come to him, he was not afraid. It seemed right that it would happen. As it seemed right to walk through the door of this place.

At the back of the bar, was an electronic dart board. Behind the bar were more liquor bottles than he had ever seen. The lanterns hanging from the wall looked like gas lights usually found outdoors, but the lights were steady. Electricity gave the lanterns their lights. His eyes wandered to the white round thing on the wall with the black numbers. It was a clock. The electricity made it move. It kept time.

And then it didn’t. As he watched it, it moved backwards. He didn’t think that was supposed to happen.

“It doesn’t work right in here.”

Morton looked to the man standing near the table. He was dressed oddly in a blue button-down shirt, and blue pants of fabric he’d never seen. The man wore a belt with a holster and a pistol, but the pistol was far different than the ones Mort had seen. The man also wore a brown hat with a wide brim. Even with the pistol, the man looked kind. “Why doesn’t it work right?”

The man smiled. “Time is weird here. But you know that, don’t you?”

“I was starting to suspect something was odd, but I didn’t understand.”

“You hungry?”

Morton looked away. “I…”

“Have no money. I overheard. That’s why I’m offering. Are you hungry?”

Morton looked down and nodded.

The man sat in the booth, placed his hat to the side and held his hand out to Morton. “I’m Theo.”

Mort looked at Theo’s hand for a moment then shook it. “Morton. Mort for short.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Mort nodded. “Why are you helping me?”

“Look around. Only certain people find this place. Only people who are supposed to find this place find this place. When someone walks through the door, they are family, no questions asked. If someone is hungry and can’t afford to pay, we help them out.”

“That’s not the usual way of things.”

“A Bar Called Always is not the usual place. How about we get you some soup?”

Mort nodded. “Soup is universal, isn’t it?”

Theo laughed. “At the very least, it’s timeless. We’ve had a lot of visitors here, but so far, no one who isn’t human. This bar is locked out of time and opens to many different places in the human time stream.”

Morton frowned a little, trying to understand. “Have we lived a long time then? There is speculation.”

“Do you know what year you’re from?”

“I was born in the year of our Lord 1503, in England. I have lived around thirty years. I lost track.”

Theo nodded. “Humans have been around a long time and will be around for a lot longer, from what I gather. When I go home, it’s 1876. There have been people from far further in the future than that.”

Mort looked overwhelmed. He looked about to say something, but a bowl of soup was placed in front of him at that moment. He looked down at the food, then looked to Theo.

“Chicken soup with rice.”

Mort picked up the spoon. “Soup may be timeless, but it does not look the same at home.”

“Might taste different.”

Mort nodded and dug in. Though it did taste different, it was good, and he enjoyed every bite. When he was done, a dessert was placed in front of him. He looked to Theo.

“What is this?”

“Chocolate cake. Best I’ve ever had.” Lucy placed a piece of cake in front of him as well. Theo grabbed a forkful of cake and popped it into his mouth. “Try it.”

The information for chocolate came to Mort’s mind as he used the fork to poke at it a bit. Finally, he took a small forkful and tried it. As soon as it touched his taste buds, the sweetness exploded in his mind. He closed his eyes and savored the flavor. The sweetness was a bit more intense than he liked, but it still intrigued him. He tried the coffee, which had been brought over some time ago, with a forkful of chocolate cake and found it to be a fine mix.

Theo finished long before Mort, and watched as the man finished the dessert. It took a while, but he left Mort alone, as he looked to be enjoying himself. When Mort was done, he placed the fork on the plate and leaned back.

“Good food?”

“Yes. It was very good. Thank you.”

“Welcome. How about you tell me a little about yourself? Why don’t you have any money?”

“I haven’t been able to find work. My family are poor farmers. I was one of ten children. Most of us didn’t survive. There were problems on the farm and we lost it before I was old enough to help. There was no work to be found. Mother and father moved us to London, but that proved fatal. Mother died not too long after the move. Father left the rest of us on the streets to fend for ourselves. It didn’t take long for my sisters to find a brothel. I did what I could to earn my keep, but as soon as I was old enough, they turned me loose onto the streets. I did what I could to earn money, but it was never enough.”

“Well,” the feminine voice said from the end of the table, “you can stay here for the night if you need. You look like you could use a good night’s sleep.”

Mort looked to the bartender. “I would appreciate that.”

“I’m Lucy.”

“Mort.”

“Mort, you can stay here as long as you like, but if you do stay, you’re going to have to earn your keep. You look like you’re strong enough to help me out.”

“I… Yes, of course. Thank you. I’ve never been afraid to work, I just have problems finding it.”

Lucy smiled and took the dirty dishes. She came back a moment later and refilled the men’s coffee cups. “There’s a room in the back. Well, actually, there are two rooms. I sleep in one. You can have the other. There’s a shower, too.”

Mort looked confused. “Shower?” He smiled as the definition came to him. “That would be appreciated.”

“Great. Relax until you’re ready, then come talk to me. Theo’s good company. I’m sure you’ll have lots to talk about.”

“Thank you.”

Lucy nodded and moved away.

Mort looked to Theo as if waiting for something more.

Theo smiled. “How did you find the bar?

“I saw a door where there was no door before. I had an overwhelming need to open the door. Since I had nothing left to lose, I decided to open it.”

Theo nodded. “Sounds familiar.”

“How did you find it?”

Theo shook his head. “Tonight is not the night for my story, Mort, it’s for your story. Tell me about home. I know you didn’t have a good life, but there must be something interesting that happened in your lifetime.”

Mort took a deep breath and took a moment to think. “There was a war going on.” He laughed a little. “I even failed at being a soldier.”

Theo leaned in a little. “Tell me about it.”

Mort smiled for the first time and started his tale. “I failed the first day of training. I accidentally shot my commanding officer in the foot with a crossbow. Instead of hanging me, they kicked me out and told me that I would never be allowed back in.”

Theo was taken aback. “Why does that make you smile?”

“A moment before I shot him, he was boasting about the fact that he had never been wounded, even with all the combat he had seen. It may seem morbid, but I thought it fitting that he was shot while off the battle field. I didn’t mean to do it. I was trying to draw the string back while holding the arrow in place and my hand slipped. My life is full of stories like that.”

Theo stared at him for a moment. “Tell me more. Please.”

Mort smiled. “All right. Let me tell you about the time I walked in on a certain member of the court having relations with a woman, not his wife and nearly took off his head with a platter.”

Theo smiled, leaned back and listened to Mort’s story.

*****

“Mort! Welcome back! How was your trip?” Lucy called to him from the other side of the bar. She was pouring a drink for a regular customer.

Mort sat down on a barstool and folded his hands on the bar. “I learned a lot, but it was hard. The world is very different in Theo’s time. Moves much faster. Maybe too fast. I was able to find a job at a…ranch, but I almost killed the owner on the first day while saddling his horse.”

She gave him a look full of pity. “Not going to stay there?”

“No. I keep forgetting the words and though things aren’t too much different, they are different enough. I feel out of place. I think the only time for me is my time, no matter how bad it was.”

Lucy finished pouring the drink, nodded to her other customer and went to Mort. “I wish you wouldn’t. It seems like a nasty place for you.”

He shrugged. “It may seem like that, but I don’t know what else to do.”

“Stay here for a while. Let me teach you more about being a bartender. Maybe that’ll help.”

He looked into her eyes. “Why?”

She breathed deep. “Maybe I have an ulterior motive. Stay here, Mort. Let me teach you more.”

Mort looked at her for a moment, but didn’t question the look. She was hiding something, but she wanted to help. Maybe that was enough. He nodded. “All right. I’ll stay. Thank you.”

Lucy smiled. “Good. Relax for the rest of the night. Think about Theo’s world and about what you learned. We’ll start tomorrow.”

Mort nodded and ordered a drink and some food. Tomorrow was a new day.

****

Lucy trained Mort for five months before she finally told him the truth. They were cleaning up for the night, the last patron had just left the bar. Lucy closed the door, hoped no one else would come in and pointed to a booth. It was late enough, she doubted anyone would come in.

“Join me, Mort.”

He nodded, put the rag down and went to the booth. Once they were both seated, Lucy took a deep breath. “I’m pregnant.”

He smiled. “You’re going to have a child?”

She gave him an oddly annoyed look. “Yeah. Do you know how long a woman is supposed to carry a child?”

“I believe it’s nine months, yes?”

“Yeah. I’ve been pregnant for three years.”

Mort was silent for a long time. “You don’t show it.”

“I became pregnant three years ago when I went back home for a visit. I stayed there for three months, but I had only found a temporary replacement for the bar. I came back here after I found out I was pregnant. I kept waiting to show signs. Once day, I went home, to see a doctor. I pretended I didn’t know I was pregnant, gave them all the symptoms. They did a test and told me I was three months pregnant.”

“I don’t think I understand.”

“Time doesn’t move here. The world outside that door does, but the world in here does not. We go through food and drink like every place else does, but time stands still. At least for those of us that stay here long enough. It doesn’t seem to affect visitors, just those of us who have worked here.”

“Are you sure?”

“The bartender before me left a diary. Before he left, he told me where to find his diary. I didn’t think to read it until I found out my pregnancy wasn’t progressing. He wrote in his diary that he noticed he wasn’t aging. He had been here for at least fifteen years.”

“That’s a long time.”

“I want to come to term and have this child. I have morning sickness, it should go away after the first three months, but that’s not ending for me.”

“I’ve heard of morning sickness. I’m sorry that’s happening.”

“I want out, Mort. I need someone to take my place. If you want it, you can have it.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but then shook his head. “I have no words.”

“Think about it. But please don’t think too long. I’d like to go home. Soon.” Lucy started to get up.

“Why me?”

She paused. “You remind me of me, Mort. I wandered in here with a similar story. You’re lost, so was I. You’re a good replacement.”

“Tell me why you stayed?”

She sat back down. “Because it kept me from having to figure out how to live in the real world.”

Mort folded his hands on the table. “I figured out how to live in the real world. It just didn’t seem to like me. Why do you want to leave?”

She laughed. “I found love. Then I got pregnant and realized he was not the right person for me. But I still want this child. It’s my child and I want to raise her or him.”

Mort nodded. “You’re wrong about me, but I understand your desire. Would I be able to leave as long as I found a replacement?”

“Yes. You can leave without a replacement for short times, a few hours at most, as long as a regular is here to watch the place. Couple things you should now, the door does not lock, but no one comes in at night. When it’s night in the real world, it’s night everywhere in the real world. Gives you time to sleep. Also, if someone wants to spend the night, they can, but don’t let too many people stay for too long. One extra person, maybe two is the max. We only have the two bedrooms. No one sleeps in this part of the bar. Ever.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. That’s what I was told by my predecessor. I decided not to change the rule and decided never to find out why. I have a feeling that’s when the supplies are delivered, but I’m not sure.”

His eyes went wide for a moment. “I never wondered about that.”

“We never run out of anything and somehow we have electricity. I don’t question that either. I guess I didn’t care enough to find out. I just needed a break from the real world for a while. Now, I’m ready to go back.

He held his hands up. “I understand that, Lucy, but I haven’t agreed yet. Please give me a few days.”

“I’m sorry. Sure. Take a few days.” She got up. “Thanks for thinking about it, Mort. And I’m sorry if I said anything mean.”

“You’re agitated. I understand. Go sleep. I’ll finish up here.”

She nodded her thanks and left for bed. Mort sat in the booth for a long time, thinking about his options.

*****

The door opened, and the bartender called out. “Theo! Welcome!”

Theo looked to the bartender and smiled. “Mort. It’s good to see you again. How to you like the job?”

“It’s wonderful. I’ve learned so much. Care for your usual?”

“You remember what I drink?”

“To be fair, whiskey is easy to remember. But, with all my shortcomings, it seems as if the best job for me is bartender. I have a mind for drinks. So far, I have severed thirty regulars and remembered all of their usual orders. Your whiskey is coming right up.”

Theo moved to the bar. He sat on a stool and smiled to Mort. “Thanks, Mort. I think you’re going to do just fine here.”

Mort smiled as he made the drink. “That remains to be seen, Theo. Optimism is for the lucky. I’ll keep my head and be grateful for what I have.”

Theo stayed silent as Mort finished pouring the drink. He poured two and placed one in front of Theo and kept one for himself. Mort raised his glass and Theo did the same.

“To continued customers.”

“To luck and Optimism.” Theo touched his glass to Mort’s. “To our new bartender. May he be here for as long as he wants.”

Mort smiled and took a drink. He hoped to be here for as long as he wanted, as well.

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