If in fact there are aliens from outer space I suspected one had landed on the bar stool next to me, researching the effects of bourbon on the Martian brain.
“I’m not getting anywhere and I’m fucking sick of it,” the Martian said to the bartender.
The bartender poured him another shot and commented out of respect for his customer with typical bartender indifference. “Yeah, it’s tough out there.”
My own observation: Aliens like this Martian made bartending a tough way to earn a living. You had to be a saint, a martyr or a masochist.
The alien downed the shot, slammed the glass down hard and motioned for another. “I’ve fucking had it with the rat race, working my ass off for nothing, being passed over, getting nowhere.”
I took a long drink of beer. Why me? Why on the stool next to me? Why in this bar of all bars? “It’s impossible to be getting anywhere in infinite space,” I said, and set my empty mug up on the bar. I motioned for another, “There’s no place to be getting to.”
The alien looked at me. “I don’t live in outer space. I’ve got a flat on Cass Avenue.”
“Your flat you can get to,” I said, as the bartender approached. “Detroit is a closed manifold. But the universe is infinite, it’s impossible to be getting anywhere. You aren’t the only one not getting anywhere, nothing is.”
“No thanks, I have Elle for that.”
The alien turned away and stared at the neon red Frog Lounge sign in the bar’s window. I wasn’t sure why, but I continued to explain the laws of motion to him. “If you had a Porsche that could go a hundred millions miles an hour and you drove it for a hundred million years and then stopped, you’d be no closer to getting anywhere than you were when you started.”
The bartender laughed as he refilled my glass. “That’s funny. But it makes me feel better about being a going nowhere bartender. What do you do for a living?”
“Pool boy, Elle’s pool boy,” I said.
“I thought maybe you were an astrophysicist or a cosmologist.”
I laughed. “I clean swimming pools.”
“Are you in grad school?”
“No, I’m thirty. I have a Masters in particle physics, did my thesis on pool cleaning.”
“Jim Hines, bartender, degree in Philosophy, minor in lit,” the bartender said.
“Jack Joseph,” I said, extending my hand. “No joke, physics is my game, but pool boy’s my trade. What about you?” I said to the chubby alien, who had loosened his tie and turned to listen.
“Jeff Reamer, logistics analyst.”
“And not getting anywhere,” I added.
“Skipped over for a promotion, he said.”
It was getting late and my head felt even later. I looked at my watch. It was after ten and I did have some pools to clean in the morning. And Elle would be looking for me. “Well, I need to be getting somewhere.”
“Where’s that?” Jeff asked.
“To Elle,” I said.
“Going home to the little woman?” Jeff sniped at me.
“She’s not so little, 36 double D.”
“Does she have a pool that needs cleaning?” Jim asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, there’s a pool.”
Jim wore a huge smile. “The pool must be tended to. Don’t forget to check her chlorine.”
I looked at Jim-the bartender-Hines. I thought for a moment, a long moment. “The pool is covered, closed for the night. There won’t be any swimming.” I nodded at my empty glass.
“What about Elle?”
“She’s afraid of water.”
“Then you might as well swim here, physicist,” Jim said. He poured me another beer.
At eleven-twenty when my cell phone rang, my head was ringing, too. I fumbled to get it out of my pocket, and by the time I did, it had quit. I looked at the recent calls, it was Elle. I should go home to my wife. I should not drink anymore. I should look for a real job. I should do a lot of things. But tonight I wasn’t going to do any of them. I closed the bar with Jeff the logistics analyst and Jim the bartender, and I drove home blind. In the morning I wouldn’t remember driving home. It was not the first time.