The Further Adventures of Beer Drinkin’ Jesus, by Daniel Ritter
Mug Shots was exactly the kind of bar you’d expect people like Darryl and Tony to frequent; a Godless hole with enough room between the brass bar rail and the wall for a stool and a walkway to the three tables in the back, none of which matched. The floors were mostly well swept and mopped. The corners were not, which is probably why the faint odor of mildew persisted.
The magician persisted, too, at the middle table. He was always there, but he never spoke. He sat, he played solitaire with a deck of red backed cards with crisp edges. He never touched the highball of whiskey on his left, which was always there. He wasn’t a magician, though, he just looked like one; quite a bit, in fact.
Barry wasn’t exactly the kind of bartender you’d expect at Mug Shots. He was slim and meticulous; particular and every little motion was emphatic. His boring routines looked more like rehearsed choreography. Barry the Fairy, they’d call him, but he’d smile with that scrunched kind of face that conveyed he hated the nickname but loved the attention.
“Hey,” yelled Tony, “Fairy Barry…”
“It’s Barry the Fairy,” corrected Darryl, “get it right or don’t get it.” He laughed a little too loud at himself, in that way that felt he was convincing himself he was actually quite witty.
“My beer’s gone empty. I thought I told you to stop serving beer with defecations.”
Darryl pulled off his CAT Bulldozer branded baseball cap and swatted Tony with it, “It’s defections, you idiot. Defecation means crap.”
“YOU MEANS CRAP!” Tony yelled, leaping off his stool, sending it clattering backward across the two feet of space to the wall just behind him.
Darryl, the much larger of the two, stood and loomed over him. “Sit down, you son of a bitch.” His massive ham of a fist aimed a fat finger at Tony.
Barry delicately slid Tony’s empty glass away, wiped the spot with is wet-surface-only towel with a red stripe, polished the spot with is dry-surface-only towel with a green stripe, then carefully set a full beer down in the vacancy and returned quietly to the sink.
Darryl sat back down as Tony uprighted his stool while muttering, “You’re still a piece of crap you giant sweaty pig…”
Tony clacked the stool down onto the floor, and the foot door creaked open, blinding light flooded in, silhouetting a figure standing at the door.
“Oh my God,” whispered Barry, looking to his left.
Darryl and Tony covered their eyes with their forearms, looking right, Tony peeking around Darryl’s bulk.
“Welp!” said the magician, tapping his deck of cards neatly on the table and sliding it back into the pack. He stood, slammed his drink, set the empty glass down. “It’s been real.”
The magician tucked his card pack into an inner vest pocket as he squeezed past the two at the bar. At the doorway, he shoved his shoulder into the newcomer unapologetically, and turned left, disappearing up the sidewalk.
The silhouetted figure stepped inside, followed by a golden retriever and what sounded like singing.
Tony tapped Darryl on the shoulder, looking back and fourth at him and Barry, “Do you hear that? Sounds like angels?”
“Shhhshsh,” shushed Barry.
The man wore a long white robe, flat sandals bound with thin sinews crisscrossed up to the knee, and wore his hair long and strait. The dog sat obediently by his side with his mouth closed and his eyes bright. In the blinding light at the doorway, another shadow appeared, and hopped into the bar around the man’s right side.
“Is that a kangaroo?” asked Tony, looking very confused.
“Oh my God,” whispered Barry, who was now wringing his hands absently with his dry-surface-only towel with a green stripe.
Jesus Christ, the Lord, our Father in Heaven, walked in and sat at the bar, leaving the customary one empty stool between himself and Darryl. His dog came over to the stool, trotted in a tight circle twice, then lowered himself to the floor exhaling a quick puff a air through his nose. The intense light from outside subsided as the kangaroo pulled the door slowly closed until the latch clicked, then hopped a half step to the side so as not to block the entrance.
“So,” said Tony, “Jesus and a dog and a kangaroo walk into a bar…”
Darryl swatted him again with his cap.
The Lord spake unto Barry, “What do you have on draft?”
“We have,” recited Barry, “Coors Light, Miller Light, Bud Light, Yeungling Lager, a Sam Adams seasonal, and a house bitter.”
“What’s the Sam’s seasonal?” said He unto him.
“It’s the Oktoberfest.”
“It’s May?” the Lord did inquire.
“It’s a little old,” whispered Barry, and winked at Jesus, hoping the favor would result in some sort of religious credit down the road.
“The bitter, please,” the Lord spake unto Barry.
“Right away, sir,” Barry’s voice was steady and sure, but his palms began to go clammy. Some days aren’t what you’d expect at Mug Shots.
Barry checked the glass for spots and other stray matter, then pulled the beverage carefully, tilting it just so under the tap. He delivered it to Jesus, just behind one quick swipe of the dry-surface-only towel with a green stripe.
“It’s cellar temperature,” he explained, as he always did serving the house bitter, but then grew suddenly nervous, hoping there would be no embarrassing associations with any experience in tombs.
The Lord picked up on the nature of Barry’s discomfort, having seen it in his eyes, and chuckled, “It’s alright, my son, you do good work.”
“So…” stumbled Barry, “….so do you.” His skin went hot and tight with embarrassment. ‘You met Jesus in your bar? What did you tell him?’ went the imaginary conversation in Barry’s head with Barry’s imaginary friends, ‘Oh I told him he does good work. Gah. So stupid.’
The Lord sipped at his drink and set it down. He raised his eyebrows at Barry, “Refreshing!” spoketh He to him.
Barry smiled and felt suddenly at ease.
“You’re God, right?” yelled Tony, from the other side of Darryl.
Darryl swatted him again with his cap, “He’s Jesus, you idiot. God’s his dad.”
The kangaroo bobbed nervously on it’s back paws, glancing between the men anxiously.
Jesus was mid-sip when the inquiry came, and, being left-handed, it took Him a moment to set His mug carefully down to the bar. Without effort, Christ the Lord extended His left fist sidelong, and, miraculously, spanned the distance over the empty barstool and punched Darryl with a solid strike.
Darryl rag dolled to the floor, confused and dizzy. His chest heaved as he breathed belabored.
“I don’t like how he picks on you, Tony. You’re doing your best.”
“Wow, Jesus, that’s just. Wow. Thank you. Folks don’t usually stand up for me.”
“It’s alright. You just keep doing your best. Maybe try a little harder sometimes?” Jesus titled his head slightly at Barry.
Tony looked at Barry, then back at the Lord. “Yeah.” Then he said to Barry, “Hey, I’m sorry and all, you know.”
Barry said, “Thank you. I know.”
Jesus lifted his drink again and drained the glass.
“You hit me!” slurred the heap of Darryl, from the floor.
“You’re lucky. I have laser eyes too,” Christ the Lord then did cast His precision gaze upon the cap of the fallen man’s head. Light red as blood and thin as a camel’s hair did burn through the stitches which heldeth together the cap, and falleth it asunder then into its constituent panels of fabric.
The Lord placed one shekel onto the bar, and slapped His thigh, whistling one loud note across his lower lip. As He left, the dog followed obediently. The kangaroo opened the door, and bobbed as they left. It hopped after them, latching the door behind.
Posted on October 9, 2014, in Issue 15: Elves & Spacerockets and tagged e-zine, fantasy, genre blender, magical realism, short stories, The Were-Traveler, weird tale. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.