“Perfect end to a perfect day,” I mutter to the CLOSED sign hanging on the deli’s door. Larry never closes this place. What? Was there a death or something? I should probably give him a call, see if he’s okay.
I fish around in my pocket but my cell isn’t there. I check my others to be sure but I only put the thing in the one pocket so I’m not shocked to find them empty as well. Must have left it charging at the office.
I sigh, take a step back from the door, and turn to leave. My shoulder slams into the side of some guy walking with his girlfriend and he stumbles into her and then to the ground. “Oh God!” she blurts. “Are you okay?”
“Hey, sorry Dude, I should have looked where I was going. That’s my bad,” I say.
He doesn’t even glance in my direction. “I think so,” he tells his girlfriend. “That was so weird.”
Ah jeeze, he’s gonna be an asshole about this. “You know,” I say. “I’m sorry, it was an accident. I…”
“Let’s just go,” he says to her, still not sparing a glance in my direction. She helps him to his feet and I watch them stumble away silently.
“Well, screw you very much too,” I mutter, not loud enough to be heard.
I guess I’ll hit up Sammy’s bar. He does an all right plate of wings. Really wanted one of Larry’s Heart Attack burgers though, I’d been thinking about it all day since… wait, what did start me thinking about it?
Hell, I can’t even remember why I want a burger. This has been a rough day. Gonna have to pair a beer with those wings. It won’t do much for the memory but it’ll make dealing with it a little nicer.
I nod at the guy coming out of Sammy’s as I walk past him. He ignores me until I brush against him and he just shudders and closes the door in my face. This city, man, it really knows how to make you feel welcome.
I walk up to the bar and take the only empty stool between a ginger wearing business casual and an old man being warn buy a filthy suit that apparently used to belong to a much bigger guy. If it weren’t for the tobacco stained beard and eyes that you could tell have seen their share, I might think he was a kid in his old man’s clothes.
I try not to get too close to the old guy but that means I have to rub up against business casual a little which doesn’t hurt my feelings in the least. She jumps and turns to face me.
“Sorry about that,” I say. “It’s a bit of a tight…” She doesn’t let me finish, just turns slowly away and waves to someone across the bar before hopping up and walking off.
“I always did have a way with the ladies,” I say to the old guy. He doesn’t respond but at least he has the excuse of barely being conscious.
Sammy walks by and I nod at him. At least I think it’s Sammy, looks like him but he’s lost at least twenty pounds since I saw him just last week. I hope he’s not sick. Then again, if he is, whatever he’s got seems to also have shaved about ten years off his face. Maybe I should have him sneeze on me or something.
“You get some work done, Sammy?” I ask but, before he can even turn around some palooka drops on the stool business casual just vacated and says, “Set me up with the usual, Timmy.”
“Timmy?” I laugh. “You hear that, Sam? This guy thinks you’re your eight-year-old kid.”
Sammy don’t laugh, he doesn’t like to run off custom.
“Oh God!” the old guy says next to me. “Where’d you come from?”
I turn toward him and he’s staring at me like he’s been bobbing in the ocean for two days and I just rowed up to him in a boat. He looks alive at least, for the first time.
“What do you mean?” I say. “Like, where did I come from originally?”
“No, I just mean… guess I didn’t see you come in is all,” he says. He turns and lays his head down on the bar.
“You, uh, you feeling okay?” I ask.
“Yeah, I am.” He says. “Feel better than I have in a long time, actually.”
“Oh crap!” Sammy says, running over to the old guy. He starts patting the guys face, no, more like slapping it. “Henry!” he yells right in the poor guy’s ear.
“Sammy, what the hell?” I say.
“It’s okay, I can’t feel it,” the old guy, Henry, I guess, says.
“That doesn’t mean it’s okay,” I say. “Sammy, cut it out!” I grab his arm to stop him slapping the poor guy and he jumps.
He looks at me, or maybe just toward me, he’s being kind of crazy, it’s hard to tell. He turns toward a bartender I don’t know and says, “Ned, you calling…?”
“Already on it,” Ned says, with the phone up to his ear.
The door opens and Henry and I turn to look. An older guy, not Henry-old but old, wearing tailored livery like you see the servants wear in those PBS shows that should be boring but somehow aren’t, steps into the bar and walks up to Henry.
“Your car is ready, sir,” he says to Henry.
“Wait, I’m sorry, his car?” I ask.
“That’s correct,” the guy says.
“This guy? This guy right here? He has a car and a driver ready for him?” I turn to Henry. “I mean, no offense, but…”
“All souls have a car waiting for them,” the guy says. “Mr. Jenson’s has only just become ready.”
I look at Henry and he smiles broadly at the man. He nods and the two walk toward the door. I look around at the rest of the bar. No one else is paying any attention to the well-dressed chauffeur leading the man who wouldn’t be out of place riding a rail-car out the door toward an awaiting limo.
I feel a chill run through me and suddenly I can’t breathe. I sprint to the door and stop the chauffeur. “Hey Hey!” I say, jumping in front of him. “Do… do I have a car?”
“Indeed,” the man says. “But only Mr. Jenson’s is ready.”
He tries to step around me but I don’t let him. “But… I mean…” I look again at the bar patrons. They’re all distracted with something going on over where Henry and I were just sitting. No one is looking at us. “I mean… SHOULD my car be ready?”
The man smiles at me, not unkindly, and says, “There’s been… a delay with your car.” He pats my arm and gently, but firmly, pushed me out of his way.
“A delay?” I say, chasing after him. “What the hell does that mean?”
He helps Henry into the back seat of the limo and looks up at me. “It means that your car will be along at a later time.”
“What time? Why is mine delayed?”
“I regret that I have only the answers I have given you.”
“But…” I say, looking at Henry settling into the leather seats of his car. “I don’t have to wait, right? I can catch a ride with Henry!”
The man shakes his head slowly. “I fear that this is not an option.”
“Sure it is,” I say, grabbing at the limo door. I try to open it but it’s sealed tight. “I can’t just stay! Can I?”
The man slides wordlessly behind the wheel and starts the car. He pulls away from the curb and I run after the car until it disappears around a corner. I stop sprinting and lean against the door of the building next to me.
It’s Larry’s deli.
But why is it closed? Larry never closes this place. “What? Was there a death or something? I should call and check on him on my way to Sammy’s. Guess I’ll have to settle for some hot-wings.