The Bar Scene

by G.T.

The bars around here are like gaudy trinkets, regarded with hallow fondness by the townies who live within walking distance or have long lost their driving privileges. Up and down these residential avenues are hand-me-down establishments in need of a thorough dusting. But not dives, which unlike the watering holes up and down these streets of which I speak, have a special way of embracing their gritty status. A way of presenting severely cracked tile floors in need of a good washing, if not replacing, as a commendable form of art, like an urban mosaic that heightens in value with every knock of a bar stool and spilled drink flooding its crevices and staining the crumbling grout. These local bars mask any imperfection with Cubs paraphernalia.

There is a bar on my block, one of three on my intersection, that is a regular spot for metalheads, bikers, and residents of nearby rural communities that consider Joliet with the same cacophonous view that suburbanites give to Chicago.

The other night I stepped outside for a cigarette. It’s midnight and quiet, for I’ve grown accustomed to the sounds of traffic and random shouts. It’s as natural as the birds in the morning. I lit my cigarette and took a generous first drag, exhaling into the array of spider webs that surround me. The spiders and I have an unspoken truce: keep your webs out of my path and you can catch all the flies that your silk weaving hearts desire. Sometimes they forget, but I don’t make a tiff off it. The more spiders in my yard the fewer flying pests to land and crawl upon my skin, irritating me for I have to slap myself again and again. The spiders protect me and allow me to relax during my midnight smoking.

Suddenly the evening silence is broken by a furtive succession of pops. Pop pop pop … pop pop … pop pop pop pop. The first thought that crossed my mind was that they didn’t sound like they do in the movies. Like I said, they were pops, not volatile bangs or thunderous booms. Petite spurts, but still gunshots. The peaceful sound of passing cars was interrupted by screeching tires and an engine revved to the fullest. Once the car had sped out of earshot, people began shouting each others’ names. The second thought to cross my mind was that the intended target must have been dead, but I say that as if I knew that one person didn’t respond to their name called aloud.

People ran down my street where their cars were parked, but once the police swarmed the parking lot, everyone walked casually. I walked to the edge of my front lawn and asked two self-proclaimed strippers what had happened, which sounds like a stupid question, but I didn’t know how else to word it. Someone got shot, one of the girls said, who added that she had spilled her drink when she ducked behind a pool table. They both laughed about the incident and debated whether they should go to a strip club since the current party ended a tad bit earlier than they had wished. I had lit another cigarette and eavesdropped on the passersby, who also joked about the shooting. The gunshots lasted only seconds, but what lingered in the air long afterward was apathy.

This morning I finally found out the details about the shooting. The victim was a bouncer who had refused entry to a few men based on their choice of shirts. They went home, changed, came back, and were again refused entry by the bouncer.

And that is why shots rang out at midnight.