This blog post was created for Chuck Wendig’s FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: RANDOM COCKTAIL CHALLENGE. The idea is to randomly select/generate alcoholic drink and use that drink’s name for the title of the story.
- 2 oz Bourbon
- 1 oz lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp superfine sugar
- 1 orage slice
- 1 Maraschino cherry
Cafe 88 wasn’t much to look at, but it did pretty good business. From the outside, the dive bar was a plain, narrow, windowless, unmarked, grey, poured concrete building on a small field of red-brown clay. On the side of the building facing away from the factory sat the bar’s entrance. It was an old steel door painted black and located in the center of the building. It didn’t even have a parking lot.
On the inside, the counter ran the entire length of the building. The patron side of the room was narrow. Excluding the barstools, it was maybe big enough for two people to stand shoulder to shoulder. Cigarette smoke was constantly thick in the air and the lighting was so dim that you’d have trouble telling a White Russian from a Black Russian.
As for the food; it was expensive, greasy, and somehow managed to be both over and undercooked at the same time. The drink prices were fair; though, the drink selection consisted almost exclusively of bottom shelf and bargain brands. However, quality and price weren’t really a factor in the bar’s profitability or appeal.
With the exception of the factory and the labor union’s credit union, Cafe 88 was the only building in the area. Since it was about five miles to the next nearest restaurant, the bar was the primary stop for most workers during their lunch or when their shift ended. Even if it wouldn’t have been Saint Patrick’s day, the bar would have been packed.
As he made his way from the door toward the bar and pushed his way through the wall of glittering green garbed bodies, Rick Glass felt like a sardine. Worming his way between two fat gents in green face paint, green “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts, and green sequin top hats; he managed reach the dirty, faux wood counter. He knocked his hand on the counter and waved it in the air until he caught the attention of the bartender.
“What can I get you Rick?” the young woman shouted.
“Bourbon sour.” Rick screamed back. “With Fighting Cock.”
Before he could extricate himself from the two large men he was sandwiched between, a young, red-faced man turned to face Rick. He was carrying a dark pint of beer in a Guinness and wearing a shirt that said ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ with an arrow pointing down toward his crotch. “Oi, it’s Saint Patty’s day.”
“And?” Rick replied.
“And you should be drinking an Irish drink.”
“I prefer whiskey.”
“There’s Irish whiskey.”
Rick took a second to look the young man over. “Name one. Other than Jameson.”
The young man stood there for a second, with his mouth hanging open before taking a sip of his Guinness. “Oi, what the fuck do you have against Jameson, eh? He takes down a big fuckin’ eagle. Roasts it up good. Fuckin’ great commercials.”
Still wedged between the two colossi, Rick shook his head. “I don’t have any problem with Jameson, or Ireland, or the actual Irish. What I do have a problem with are people who think they are Irish because someone in their family several generations ago came from Ireland and they dress up in green and drink Guinness once a year.”
The young man’s face scrunched up. He looked like he had just bitten into something extremely sour while trying to deficit, but found himself constipated. “Are you questioning my Irishness?”
The entire bar got quiet.
“Oh, come on. You’re only like a quarter Irish. Hell, your last ancestor from Ireland came over over three generations ago.”
The young man just glowered at the trapped Rick. His nostrils flaring with every breath.
“Oh for fuck’s sake – your name’s Rupert Hall. You’ve lived in Kentucky your entire life – and you’re likely to die here. If you’re going to be proud of anything, why don’t you try being proud of the place you currently live in?”
There was a sickening crunch as Rupert’s fist slammed into Rick’s nose. Again. And again. And again. Unable to dodge, or move in any meaningful way, Rick could do little more than try to weather the blows.
Rupert didn’t stop punching Rick in the face until the young man couldn’t feel his own hand anymore. Twin crimsons streams trickled down Rick’s battered face and his nose was bent at an obtuse angle.
“Rick the dick, fighting cock. Heh. Yeah. Right. More like Kat the cunt, pounded pussy. Heh. You think you’re so smart. You spent time in school studying. You went to college. And what did it get you? You’re working on the line just like us – just like our parents – only guess which one of us has a hundred kay in debt? That’s right. You motherfucker.”
Rick’s head was swimming, and he had trouble holding it up. His words were slurred as he replied. “What the fuck is wrong with you? And all your faux Irish pals, sitting on their-”
A gun shot rung out in the small space. Standing behind Rupert was a tall young man with short, tightly curled ginger hair. He was dressed in a plain green tee shirt and blue jeans, and in his hand he held a Colt Python revolver.
“You don’t fuck with the Irish.” Curly spat. Of course, his words’ effect was pretty much completely lost. Firing a gun in such a confined space pretty much deafened everyone present.
Rupert, like most of those present, initially stood there dumbfounded. After a few seconds had passed, everyone scrambled to get away from the shooter. Unfortunately, the cramped bar was packed to the gills with people, and no one was getting anywhere fast. The surge of bodies towards the only exit only resulted in those closest to the door being crushed against it. The sole entrance/exit to the bar opened inward, as one might expect from a location so clearly violating the local building and fire ordinances.
Hopping up onto the bar, Curly made a grand, impassioned speech about the superior nature of the Irish character and how it was every true Irish American duty to defend their noble birthright to the death. However, between the lingering effects of the gun shot and the frenzied screaming of those attempting to flee, almost no one heard any of it.
After finishing his speech with “Right?” he waited for someone to vocalize their support. He repeated it again.
Dejected, and clearly unstable, Curly hopped down behind the bar and decided to make a Flaming Russian. He grabbed a bottle of vodka off the shelf, smashed in on the counter. Pulling his golden lighter embossed with a four leaf clover from his pocket, he lit it and brought the flame meet the vodka soaked bar. With an impressive whoosh, the entire counter quickly burst into flame.
Sighing and shaking his head softly, Curly started singing God Save the Queen and watched it all burn.
After the bodies were found, the incident was chalked up to a tragic accident; the result of a building not being up to code coupled with the mishandling of alcohol and tobacco. For about twenty-four hours, the story received constant coverage by local and global news services, and trended high on twitter. A few days later, the event had completely slipped from the public consciousness and was forgotten to history.
I actually had a hell of a time finding a bourbon whiskey distilled and aged in Kentucky by an individual or group also based in Kentucky. The only 100% Kentucky owned and operated distiller I could find was Heaven Hill, makers of Fighting Cock. Sazerac Company is based out of New Orleans, and Brown-Forman is a publicly traded company.
Due to the amount of time I spent researching whiskey, I didn’t have a chance to find an actual Kentucky factory or bar. As such, I based the factory and bar very loosely off of the memories I had of the factory my father worked in – and the bar that was just across the street.
The image in this post was used without seeking permission. I believe its use falls under fair use. If it is yours, and you feel its use is inappropriate; please contact me and let me know.