Thursday, June 20, 2013

Randall Antipodal

To encourage participation among our Forgers, I am sharing my results to our first writing prompt. The exercise was fun, but the character sketch was difficult, in that I decided to go dark.  If I understand this prompt correctly, then my new character will be many of those things that I claim so proudly to NOT be - all the way to the core. I can do dark; but not Keith-dark, as in thriller dark. So, why did I even go there? Because it scared me to think that I couldn't.

How would character-sketch-of-opposite-you behave in a bar, just before closing, as an annoying little woman mocked your imperfections -- like all women assumedly did? Here we go:

An ever-changing string of adjectives and thoughts that define me is:
Optimistic, Empathetic, Romantic, Honest, Hard working, Reliable, Stubborn, Scientific/Technical, Worrisome, Sacrificing, Inhibited, and in Cobalt Blue.

And now for the Opposites:
Pessimistic, Selfish, Hardhearted, Ordinary, Dishonest, Fickle, Simple, Assured, Resisting, Confident, and in Bloodshot Red.

He was the only one left in the bar...a freakin' thirty more minutes to lock up.  The bartender hated looking the man's way -- the guy was creepy. The bartender kept himself busy, as all bartenders do, to shut out the ugliness that greeted him every night. And this man's the ugliest. He counted the shot glasses, locked up the new whisky under the bar in the not-so-secret cabinet behind the trash can, and then grabbed a bucket to scoop out the ice out of the bin that stupid Ed clogged up again.

He did a double-take; thought he saw the creep reaching into his coat pocket. Yep. The man tossed a fifty dollar bill on the bar counter; the half-folded bill teetered half off the edge, caught by a smeared ring of beer. The man's glass was empty, but he clutched it with his thick, grease-stained hand and kept it directly under his pointed, unshaven chin. The bartender exhaled, dumped the brown ice on the floor over the drain. He leaned around to pick up the bill between the tips of his fingers like he was working a pair of forceps.

He turned his back on the slouching smudge who, for two hours straight, sat at the bar and stared into his mug, saying not one word, save for that strange teeth grinding frown he formed every thirty or forty seconds, as if he were whispering the same words over and over again. Damn the Rich was the bartender's best guess. The bartender slapped the fifty on top of the register and scooped the last bucket load of ice, poured it over the pile of ice, soggy lettuce, and bacon bits over the drain. Something about 'damn the rich.'

The bartender didn’t care to know what the freak was muttering. Half the people who come here are mental. He just wanted the guy to leave. The man was large, bull-chested; he wore a pair of screw you to eternity eyes that were bloodshot and squinty before he had his first beer. And he reeked in armpit sweat and a kind of metallic stench. A wielder? His brown coat was smudged in oily rust that looked more like blood smears than engine goo. Mechanic, or trucker. His hair was a thick coppery brown, slicked back in Brylcreem, and looked like he fell out of the Sixties. Damn the rich…damn the rich. I hear ya, buddy.

His girlfriend was the one who pointed it out when she came in an hour ago to pick up his tips and to nail down the exact time when he was gonna close this sit-n-spit down. A slow night, she knew; had two drinks while he looked over delivery. "It's Mitch. Yeah. Damn it Mitch." she insisted; her whisper a bit louder than the bartender appreciated. Just tell the freak to leave, she demanded; but he knew that she knew better. She scoffed, jumped off the barstool, and swiped her long blond hair off her shoulder. "I'll be in the car. Don’t try to call; I’ll be talking to Jenna." But before she left, she turned in the doorway and broadcasted, "Aw, Damn it Mitch!" The bartender was not amused; pretended to not hear her.


The creepy guy punched the bar three times; the ashtrays shook off their stack, and the bartender whipped around in a panic. The man's fist lay on the bar, his thick middle finger pointing over the e of the bar; pointed straight at the bartender and his grimace never leaving his beer mug; the side of eye a rage of red. The bartender took in a deep breath, stared at the finger, even shook his head as he tried to figure out what the hell -- transfixed his gaze on the man's episodic lip curling. Killed. It’s killed that bitch.

The fifty dollar bill.

"I'm getting it, buddy." He heard himself say as he turned to open the cash register. He sat the fifty dollar bill in one of the drawers -- wasn't sure which one, his hand was shaking-- and pulled out a twenty, then a five; felt his forehead start to sweat; couldn't remember the tab and wondered if he should just give the whole fifty back. He closed the drawer and stepped toward the man -- tossed the fifty next to the still pointing fist -- and kept walking towards the kitchen. He took the corner and leaned over the stainless steel sink; bleach from the mop water filling his lungs.

Shattering glass; the ashtrays again? the door opening…Bleach…and slamming shut. The bartender closed his eyes, waited a few seconds, and then peered around the corner. The man was gone. The bartender grabbed a used apron hanging on shelving post and wiped his face. He was about to toss it on the floor until he realized what the creep had left behind: his mug was turned over on the edge of the bar and smashed to pieces. Killed the bitch. Killed the bitch. What should he do? His stomach tightened.
The mug was smashed on top of the Collins glass his girlfriend drank dry.


  1. Trustworthy loyal helpful friendly courteous kind cheerful thrifty brave clean and reverent Hmmmmm, sounds like a boy scout.

    Okay, then . . .

    Devious self-serving unaccommodating hostile caddish unforgiving gloomy improvident craven maladroit and profane.

    So, now for the character sketch . . .

    "This joint session of congress will now come to order."

    Gee, that was easy.

  2. Love this exercise. And I love writing about characters that scare me a little.