Tim’s hunger gnawed at him. It had been so long, and he was out tonight to correct that. He had gone to Pierre’s, the smoky, hole-in-the-wall that had cheap, stiff drinks and was close to other, more promising bars. He tried to skewer the cherries of his Manhattan. They seemed to mock him and his lucky hat, as they evaded his plastic mini-sword. Sparing the red snacks’ sweet lives, he peered at his mirrored self behind liquor bottles tipped red, yellow, and green. His red bowler with a black band may have been too much, he thought. Not one woman had talked to him tonight. Course there weren’t many women here, but this was the place to get courage not use it.
“Don’t see many bowler hats these days,” the grizzled bartender said to him.
“This,” Tim pointed and laughed nervously. “I found it at a thrift store.”
“Really? Doesn’t look it.”
“Yeah,” Tim said, squeezing past the bartender’s sarcasm. “It’s a good luck hat. I won the lottery the day I bought it.”
“A little shit; it was just a scratch-off. $200. I’ve probably paid them back in full plus interest with the all the ones I’ve played since.” Tim paused and pictured his ex-girlfriend’s burning anger towards the hat. Not only for his faith in it but also because she thought he looked like a rap-rock front-man. Tim’s eyes narrowed and his hunger to find someone new bit deeper.
“Well, Lucky,” the bartender poured himself a whiskey. “Here’s to changing your luck, again.” He lifted the small glass to Tim and gulped the whiskey. Tim faked a laugh, lifted his Manhattan, and threw it back. The drink lunged into his throat, forcing it to react. He somehow managed to keep the cough in his mouth but only just—his stomach and chest convulsed under his baggy, starched blazer. He felt his face flush red. He inhaled sharply through his nose to give a forceful ‘AHEM’ to his balled fist, but he exerted himself more than he meant to. His vision crashed into waves of lime green and dark purple stars. Then it rolled back, the cough gone.
He used a bar napkin to wipe his mouth, then crumbled it and netted the trash can near the bartender, who eyed Tim and smirked. Wearing his own smirk, Tim gazed into the mirror. A string of nerves pulled taut through him, tightening his guts. The reflected room was filled with beautiful women that had arrived without his noticing. They were all dressed to the nines, all their sultry, beckoning eyes trained on him. Tim prayed to his reflection to play it cool.
He had forgotten his hunger, and, despite his prayers, he wanted nothing more than to go home to play World of Warcraft. His ex always gave him shit when he would play for hours on end. For months now, he could play to his heart’s content. Instead, his heart was empty and missed her… Well, enough of that shit, Tim said to himself.
His composure regained, Tim searched the mirror for the tastiest morsel. A single woman, in a halter-top red dress with a thin, black belt was stalking towards him. Tim turned slowly, deliberately in his chair to face her. Hand on one hip, she stopped and said, “Hey, Lucky!” except her voice was strange. Distant and deep, almost gruff. Then it was gruff, “Hey, Lucky! Wake up.” The woman slapped him. Then she faded and the room was sideways and his gut ached, like he was punched by some prize boxer.
“Hey, you alright there?” the bartender asked, chuckling. “These almost did you in.” He held two mangled cherries in a napkin. “That hat sure as shit is good luck, man. This chick come in who knew the Heimlich and CPR and went to town on you.”
“What chick?” Tim asked, still confused. A crowd of people blocked his view of the bar.
“You know, now that you say that, I don’t where she went. She had a red dress on,” he said, looking around. “You’d think you couldn’t miss her in that red dress.”
Tim dusted off his now-wrinkled blazer and found his bowler. Shaken but steady, he paid his bar tab all the while craning his neck for his savior. He exited the bar’s smoking door, its spotlight making Tim felt like he was being watched. But all he saw was the orange glow of the streets, as a growling pang returned to his belly.
This is the first in a three-part story. Here are the others: