In an effort to flex my writer / storytelling muscles a bit more, I’ve decided to revive my pieces derived from Nika Harper’s Writing Challenges from Wordplay on YouTube. Since this month starts with the Short Story, here’s what I came up with.
Prompts: Unbridled enthusiasm & A guy walks into a bar
The Other Currency
“House special, please,” Warden said, “Extra strong.”
The barkeep chuckled as she tucked her flopping fringe back behind her ear. With a single swoop, she poured and mixed parts of club soda, cola syrup, and pomegranate juice into a shaker before giving the drink a rinse and tumble. Pouring out the soda in a tall, clear glass, she smirked at him.
“A little too enthusiastic for your first time here, aren’t you?” she asked.
He did nothing except smile sheepishly in response, reaching for his drink.
“So,” the barkeep continued, wiping the walnut bar while she kept her gaze trained on this newcomer, “How did you get in?”
“I have my ways,” Warden replied with a wink.
The barkeep smiled back with that kind of smile you see curling at the side of a mouth of someone being snarky. Her gaze shifted from his eyes and face, down to where his fingers fumbled around with an incisor-like shell pendant hanging around his neck. Inching a couple of steps away, she ran her fingers on the underside of the bar until they found a switch, and she let the pads of her fingers rest against the device, as she continued her conversation.
While the small talk continued, the bar crowd came and went in regulated batches, as they were meant to. Halfway through their conversation about the upcoming Sugar Tax, the barkeep’s attention went beyond Warden’s right shoulder, square on another stranger at a high table at the far end.
Knocking his knuckles lightly against the metal table, the sounds created a beat one could only associate with music pumping out from the rich areas. Dressed in a casual suit, face clean shaven, and hair back, the barkeep pushed the button under the bar.
“If you’ll excuse me for a moment,” she said to Warden, before leaving her post.
Warden’s gaze followed her as she exited from behind the bar and headed straight for one of the bar’s bouncers. Hiding behind his drink, his eyes traced their gaze from the corner to the same stranger the barkeep saw just a few moments ago.
Then, his empty glass hit the bar with a clink.
“I see you’re new here too,” he said after taking a seat next to the stranger.
“Likewise,” the stranger answered, “What’s your story?”
Warden raised an eyebrow.
“Everyone who finds themselves here have something up with them,” the stranger explained, “So, what’s your shtick?” Instead, Warden shifted in his seat, leaned in and said, “What do you want to know first?”
“How much are you asking?”
“I don’t trade currency.”
With the slightest movement, Warden leaned in further and stroked the top of the stranger’s right forearm. “The world cannot run on money alone,” he said, his forefinger tracing its way to the tip of the stranger’s sleeve.
“Knowledge and information, however,” Warden continued, his eyes locking onto the stranger’s, his free hand sliding off the table.
Then, his eyes went from the stranger’s to the mark peeking from underneath.
“Is a different story.”
The stranger bolted, only to be chained down when Warden grabbed his wrist with the stroking hand. Before the stranger could do anything, Warden’s free hand came over the table and tasered him right in the tattoo.
Screaming, the stranger retracted his arm and fell onto the floor, writhing and jerking against the aftershocks from the stun gun, now pocketed on Warden’s belt. The latter turned around, walking past a bar full of people now with their eyes locked on him, one hand on their drink, their other hand on some kind of a weapon aimed at this dark, tattooed guy walking through the bar at the moment.
Reaching the bar, Warden reached into his pocket and placed a photograph on the table.
Cautiously, the barkeep took the photo – an exact match for the stranger now lying in the middle of their speakeasy – and flipped to the back.
“Now, can I assume that I’ve passed the audition?” Warden asked.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece, and stay tuned for more pieces from writing challenges in the upcoming months!
My adventures with in urban speculative fiction.