A Bucket to Catch the Rain
The dried leaves would blow through the back door in the fall, people would go out and smoke and on a decent day they would just leave it open. It was an odd feeling kicking her way through a pile of desiccated plant matter on the way to the ladies’ room. Any other season in here and you could see the dark red patterned carpet.
On this trip through the bar, she nodded at people she knew but with her bladder about to burst she didn’t spare the time for conversation. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t spoken to both the guys and women that she was friendly with the first time she made the trip, seriously what more could she add? She finally reached her goal and pushed open the outside and inside doors, portals to personal relief she thought to herself and grinned.
Once she finished, she studied herself in the mirror over the single sink, it was a face that contradicted her five decades on some days and on other days thrust her into the next one. Laugh lines at the corner of hazel eyes, and her gray hair starting to show through the last colouring session. She shrugged, not a lot she could do now anyway, aside from some more exercise she amended. She turned the tap on and was astonished to find the hot water flowing. That was unusual as it had been straight cold for at least the last year, she washed her hands and took her time enjoying the warmth. A life-sized poster of a shirtless man in highland dress was taped to the wall behind her, given the chiselled features and cut abs on the model she was surprised she hadn’t noticed it on the way in especially given her appreciation for anything Scottish.
Pivoting on her heels, she turned to admire the 2D form while drying her hands on a towel from the yellow wicker basket. She actually gaped at the soft and absorbent cloth in her hands. Where was the usual thin beige paper hanging from the dispenser? Where was the dispenser come to that? Just how strong was that boxed wine anyway? She hummed the theme song from the old Twilight Zone television show. She turned again back to the counter, a little slower this time in case she was suffering from some kind of stroke. This was the bathroom at her local, right? She’d come through those doors already this afternoon, where was all this the first time? Words from an OMC song came to mind, ‘how bizarre, how bizarre.’ She supposed this was all some kind of prank and it would all go back to normal tomorrow. She smiled to herself as she summoned up an image of the two brothers, ‘what a pair, I’ll get them for this.’ She reached for the door and pulled.
Emerging into the din of the bar was discordant with the peace of the washroom, as unnerving as that had been. She noted that the table of women had left, and a group of men had taken their place. Her eyes scanned the crowd and noted that all of the females that she’d seen on her way in had also departed, ‘strange day in here’ she thought. As she made her way back to her husband and their large wooden table, a strange shiver ran up her spine. At first glance all was the same, the comforting faces of the men she’d grown fond of over the last year or so were sitting over their drinks, laughing and chatting. The lack of any other female DNA in the bar wasn’t that unusual, she was kind of anomaly coming in with Al every time. Let’s face it even in 2021 most men liked a couple without the wife tagging along.
She noted that her wine glass had been replaced, instead of the stout and stemless unbreakable glass she usually drank from there was a beautiful, stemmed glass with a dolphin painted on the side. A bucket of ice sat on a stand to the side of her chair chilling a bottle of Château Margaux 2009. Standing on either side of her chair were two men in waiter garb. One saw her approach and pulled a chair out. She sat tentatively and thanked him, the other man poured her wine into the goblet and waited while she took a sip. When the wine gently tripped over her tongue she sighed. He appeared gratified at her reaction, snapped his fingers and the two of them left taking the ice bucket and wine with them. She leaned back and noted that the usual red padded metal chair had become a comfortable club, complete with a soft back cushion and arm rests. She sat back and sighed. Her hubby and friends didn’t seem to think anything was strange about the whole procedure which made her uneasy.
As the conversation flowed around her, she took note of other changes. She saw that the bartender wasn’t one of the usual women that worked here. Lani was gone and substituted by a short blonde man sporting a goatee and satin vest. The talk show hostess on the far screen had been replaced by a panel of former football players discussing the next NFL game. The television she got; someone had just changed the channel. However, one didn’t just dismiss a barmaid in the middle of a shift. Taking another sip for peace of mind reminded her of the twin servers. Why had no one at the table even commented on it?
“This is nicer wine than usual, wasn’t it nice of the staff to up their game hon?” She turned to Al. He glanced at her and shook his head.
“What’s different about it, it all comes out of a box, maybe you just got a good batch.” He turned to Dan and continued their discussion about the latest election. It appears that there were no women running and they wondered what was going to happen to the country. Her ears perked at that.
“What about the Green Party, they have a woman running, I don’t fancy her chances but she’s still in charge.” The whole table stopped their conversation.
“The leader of that party is a man, you know that Mo, did you forget his name. Roger Commons is not, nor has ever been a woman.” Chortled Bob. She sat back and took a deep breath. What in all that’s holy? She was beginning to hope that this was a dream, she did have very realistic dreams but even for her this was a doozy! Her contributions to the conversation didn’t appear to amuse or engage the men today. At one point John asked if she’d lost weight, ‘well you can tell he’s married’ she thought to herself. She looked down at her waist and was staggered to see that the tummy she’d been sporting for a couple of years had disappeared. Not as flat as it was in her twenties, but there was no menopause middle either.
“Oh, I just stopped eating bread” she started to say but the topic had changed as she was running her hands down her abdomen in wonder. As she did so, her hand touched not the Mark’s jeans and long-sleeved cotton shirt but a shimmering gold pantsuit. It wasn’t really her style she acknowledged but it did match nicely with her Jimmy Choo heels. They were a step up from the bargain basement zip up boots she’d worn in here. She was sure that’s what she put on before they left the house, she amended to herself.
A group of men poured through the front door, laughing, and pushing each other in jest. Their voices added another layer to the excess male vibe already in the place. She admitted to almost missing the high-pitched conversations of some of the female regulars. She rose in her seat and to her shock all the men in the bar rose with her, ‘what is this some kind of wave’ she joked with those closest. One man even bowed in her direction. Turning she walked to the lotto machine to play a few games of Keno and just maybe get some normality back to the outing. After six tries with a twenty-dollar bill, she still couldn’t access the game. Admittedly they didn’t always work unless you folded them in half or crumpled them, she tried both options and no luck. Barry was standing behind her waiting patiently for his turn.
“Go ahead” she told him; I can’t get the thing to work.
“I’m not surprised, you have a female DNA, the machine doesn’t recognize that.”
“What!? That’s the stupidest, I was just playing on it an hour ago and it was fine, nothing’s changed.” She trailed off there. Literally almost everything else had changed why wouldn’t the machine, yep this was one strange dream. No more hot peppers in her burritos before bed for her!
“Okay, well do you think that if I gave you my numbers and money that would work?”
“I think we’d have to use my twenty, it’s already got my guy pheromones on it, then you could slip me yours while we’re out of sight.” She thought it was an extraordinary thing to do considering it was a machine, but she wasn’t about to argue a minor point. She also thought that Barry, being a meat cutter had even more male testosterone going so she was willing to give it a shot. They completed the trade off and she resumed her seat.
Her posse, as she called them had grown by one. Al’s friend Mark had joined the table and he was discussing the premier league table.
“Hey Mark, you didn’t bring your two female friends in today?” She asked sitting down in her club chair. He looked at her blankly and said “Who?” She just inhaled deeply and shook her head. “Never mind. Silly of me to even ask.” Watching the Keno board for her numbers and sipping her wine seemed a much saner option than trying to conduct a normal conversation with this group today.
About an hour later her patience had run out, all the numbers that corresponded to the women’s birthdays in her family hadn’t appeared, no fifteen for her sister, five for mom or seventeen for her. Just the four and thirteen for her dad and brother. The server that had poured her wine had been back to top her up and an aproned chef had presented her with a free snack from the kitchen. He bowed and begged her to try his newest creation. It was getting too much, and she begged Al to pay up and go home. She had tried to pay the tab, but the bartender had told her that women don’t pay in the Bucket when he’s working.
Acknowledging that at some point she could go to sleep and wake up to the world she knew made this insanity a bit easier to deal with. Al was finally ready to leave so they stood and every male again, stood with her. She waved and thanked them all for a pleasant afternoon, adding that she hoped everything would return to normal when she came in next time. The men all laughed, she shook her head and smiled as if it was some big joke when she was deadly serious. She liked men and all, but a bit of estrogen wouldn’t hurt now and then.
She longed to text her sister and laugh about it all. Kat’s number hadn’t come up when she tried earlier, none of her female friends or family had appeared in her contact list. It actually made her laugh out loud; she’d have to write this one down. Maybe even submit it as a contest entry.
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Hi Maureen, Cute story! The premise was intriguing, for sure. I especially liked the parade of changes in the bar as the story grew. Thanks for writing!
Hi Cathryn, thank you for reviewing it, it was fun to write as I patronize the Cranberry a few times a week. After I submitted the story for the contest we went up there and I realized how many other things I could have added! Thank you for your review.
I loved the metaphorical aspects of the "raining men" theme. It reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode as you referred to in your story. The fact that it rained so hard that it drowned out the women was interesting.
Thank you, I was looking around our local pub last week and noticing all the men so when I saw this contest I just had to try and work it in! I appreciate your observations too.