by Tim Price

Harry had began to become obnoxious by his third beer. He and his co-workers had decided to stop into Bill's Bar and Grill on the way home, as they always did, because it was the best place in town.

Everyone knew about the new secretary that had been hired to Harry's department three months ago. She was 21 and preferred short short skirts and spiked heeled shoes. She had long legs and an insatiable appetite. She stopped making the rounds with all the bachelor workers about the time Harry started working her late. Everybody knew what was going on and would grin knowingly and elbow each other whenever she would be called into Harry's office for several hours at a time. Thus, it was only a surprise to Harry when his wife filed for divorce.

"The bitch had me tailed by a detective," he slurred angrily, "she got about twenty pictures of me and Miss Schafer!"

He friends had been having a very rousing conversation before this. The atmosphere at Bill's was perfect for hatching new innovative ideas. "Shit, Harry," Haverson said after a while, "how many times are going to keep saying that?"

"My privacy was invaded, you asshole!" Harry growled. He then began to blubber, "She's got big time lawyers! She's gonna take me for everything I'm worth!"

Harry began to sob convulsively at this point.

"Come on, guys, Harry is being a complete downer tonight," Haverson said to the others as he slipped off the stool and moved to the other end of the bar. The others followed suit.

Bill walked over and began to polish the bar right in front of Harry. The rush had pretty much played itself out for the moment, so Bill was enjoying a little, albeit rare, rest.

"Pull yourself together, Harry," he said with a gentle smile, "you're hurting my business."

Harry sniffed a little and wiped his nose. "Hey, Billy," He said.

"What's up big guy?"

"I'm surprised you haven't heard," Harry said as he pushed his empty glass towards Bill.

Bill smiled beneath his trim, trademarked goatee, "Yeah, I've heard all about you and the misses. One of the benefits of being the most popular bar in town, you know. Tough luck, Harry."

"All I wanted was just a little fun," Harry's voice began to crack and he dissenigrated into heartrending sobs again.

"I understand, Harry, really I do," Bill said as he put a steadying hand on Harry's heaving shoulder.

"I can always talk to you, can't I Billy?" Harry said as he wiped snot off his lip with the back of his sleeve.

"Of course you can, compassion is why I'm the most popular bar in town, Harry. People drink for two reasons: they drink when they want to celebrate life, and they drink when their lives become miserable, meaningless shells of useless protoplasm. I opened this establishment with the pledge to cater to both of those crowds."

"Not too many people really deal in compassion, do they?" Harry said as he eyed his friends talking and laughing at the other side of the bar, "like them, or my wife."

It's an uncommon trait," Bill said shaking his head, "people usually just prefer to plow through life with as cold a heart as possible, and not think of anyone but number one."

"So," said Harry on the verge of another outburst of tears, "can you help me? Can you help me forget my..." the words weren't coming easily for him, "miserable, meaningless shell of a useless protoplasmic life?"

Bill smiled tenderly and patted Harry's hand. "Of course I can. I've the very thing you need, Harry," he said as he reached beneath the bar.

The double barreled shotgun that Bill pulled out discharged the second it cleared the top of the bar. Harry's stomach blew out from his back and intestines, bone and tiny bits of flesh showered the people behind him. The second shot cleaved off half of Harry's head. He flew backwards about five feet, smashing at least two tables in his wake. Harry then came to a rest and leaked blood, brains and digestive juices on the meticulously polished bar floor.

Bill looked over the counter disapprovingly. "Gonna have to pull the ol' mop out tonight, I guess," he said.

Hoots and clapping echoed from the other end of the bar where Harry's companions sat. "Nice shot!" one yelled. "Saved us some gas, he was out of our way," another yelled.

Bill smiled charmingly and replaced his shotgun.

"Well done," Haverson said as Bill carried some more beer to their end of the bar, "no wonder your's is the best place in town"

© 1997 by Tim Price

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The Best Place in Town, 16 May 1997