A man walks into a bar. But it isn’t a bar. Not by conventional standards. A bar usually has…well…a bar. A bar usually has stools. Tables. The sounds of clinking bottles and clouds of cigarette smoke. Sometimes a dance floor. Usually a jukebox pumping music. And a bar serves alcohol; and peanuts and pretzels in a sticky wooden bowl purchased from a local dollar store. A bar has the smell of old cheese and moldy wet shoes. But not this bar. This bar promises to transform the muddy soul into a solid entity. A sign on the wall to the mans right says so.
He walks into the dimly lit shell of a room, and stands in a line. A young woman is in front of him, a blonde bob style haircut sways at shoulder length, sunglasses dangle from her hand. No rings adorn her fingers. A tall man is ahead of her. The line of people is varied. Old, young, slim, fat, tall and short people. The patrons all dissimilar to one another. But they all came for the same reason. The ad in the paper said to come to the bar. Anyone who comes to the bar for a grand opening will get a free bottle. ( The word free is a magnet to those in life who feel they must get what they can before someone else does.) So the man came to the bar, near the ocean, and stood in line to get his free bottle.
The line moved ahead one space. Two more got in line behind him. He half turned; and nodded over his shoulder to them. They nodded back, politely, a middle aged couple. A strange bongo beat pulses from unseen speakers, resonating in a dance of dust motes in a patch of sunlight. The line moves ahead a person. The man bumps into the blonde ahead of him. She turns and gives him a ‘ watch it buster’ look, her eyebrows raised.
“I’m sorry,” the man says, “I wasn’t looking. I was thinking.”
The woman smiled, “it’s okay.”
“Have you ever seen a bar like this? Empty, with a line that moves through a room, through a door on the other side, single file.” The man asked.
“Mmmm, no. I don’t believe so.” She answered, a smile on her lips and in her eyes.
“Me neither. Maybe there’s a bigger room – with a bar – behind the door.” The man said wryly.
“Maybe.” The woman agreed.
The line moved ahead another patron. There were only four people ahead of him. Seven more people came in the door to stand in the line behind him. When the man turned around, the woman was facing the other way. Her perfume haunted his nose with a lingering scent of roses. It was her turn. She went through the door. She turned around and looked at the man. “Nice talking to you. See you on the other side.”
“I’ll look for you.” The man said.
Finally, it was the mans turn. He was ushered through the door by a short man on the other side. His skin had the bluish tint of a Hindu. “Good fortune,” the bluish man said.
“Thank you,” the man returned.
“Go down the hall to the door at the end. Your free bottle is there.”
The man walked down the dimly lit hall. His ears listened for music, laughter, the clink of bottles, but heard nothing, only the slow tic of his shoes on the wooden floor. He reached out and turned the silver doorknob, and entered another room. A large man resembling a Samoan wrestler sat behind a desk. A placard on the desk stated this was Mongo. The man approached the desk. Mongo looked at him, and smiled. “Peace be with you.”
“Forgive me, but didn’t the ad say I would get a free bottle, if I came to the grand opening of the bar on this day?” The man inquired.
“Yes. It did.” Mongo confirmed.
“Well, where’s the bar? Where’s the blonde that was ahead of me in line?” The man asked, “and where’s the alcohol?”
“She already got her bottle.” Mongo answered. “She will be very satisfied. And there is no alcohol here; only… spirits.”
“We call it booze, here in the States, Mongo. And what kind of gag is this?” the man asked, annoyed at having to wait in line for so long, for this. “Is this a cult?”
“No. No gag. No cult. Here is your bottle.” Mongo produced a bottle from the crate on his left. There was no lid on the bottle. It was empty.
“I hope you will enjoy it.”
“What kind of gag is this?” The man asked, very angry with this scam, he grabbed the bottle from Mongo and waved it around before his eyes, tipped it upside down, nothing dripped out. “It’s empty.”
“The ad in the paper said nothing about it being full,” said Mongo, “it said, ‘free bottle’. Look into the bottle through it’s top – you will see it’s not so empty after all.”
The man looked into the bottle. A tingle passed through his entire body. Sure enough, at the bottom of the bottle there was an inscription; Thea nomattis tulli sforee. the man read it, and was immediately ensconced by a peace he had never felt before. Mongo caught the bottle before it hit the desk. He placed it into the crate to his right. Next to a bottle that smelled of rose perfume.
His sausage finger found the button on the desk drawer and depressed it. The bluish man ushered the next patron through the door and Mongo gave them the free bottle. And so the rest of the day and night went.
Upon closing time, Mongo collected the cases and carried them through the back door of the bar, to the beach. He and the bluish man corked all of the bottles to keep the ocean water out. He began dumping the cases in the sea when the tide sucked to an endless horizon. He went back and forth between the piles of cases and the sea, releasing each and every spirit. Free bottles.