Seven men take refuge in a small town bar with a freak blizzard hits. Seven men brought together by chance and bound by fate.
Jack Miller pushed through the swinging door of The Dive and had to force it shut against the howling winds behind him. He stood for a moment just inside the doorway and let the warmth of the bar wash the ice from his veins and took a moment to reflect on how sudden the blizzard outside had hit. It seemed very odd, especially for the central Illinois town of Effingham.
He looked around the bar as he hung his coat on the rack by the door and noticed he wasn’t the only want to take refuge in here. Besides Gus, the gruff, over the hill bartender, there were five other men in the establishment, most of which he recognized.
Burt Walker sat at the bar nursing an Amaretto Sour and looking even more depressed than usual. He was a little weasely looking man with an old tweed suit, pencil-thin mustache, a bad comb over, and bulging eyes that always looked on the verge of tears.
Also at the bar was a guy Jack only knew as Harold. He was a big man with a big gut and an even bigger beard like an old lumberjack or mountain man. Jack had seen Harold at the bar plenty of times, but couldn’t remember a time he’d ever heard the man talk, not even to order a beer. He would just walk in, sit at the bar, and raise a big finger at Gus whenever he was ready for another one. Gus would tip his head in acknowledgment and send another bottle Harold’s way.
Kyle DeVille who had graduated High School with Jack almost twenty years ago, sat at one of the bar’s five tables twirling a cell phone between his fingers and jittering his leg in anticipation. Waiting on an important call evidently. He and Jack hadn’t necessarily been friends in school, but more of friendly acquaintances. After high school Kyle went the route of college, career, and family whereas Jack stuck to his care free ways and skipped the whole college scene. Instead, after high school Jack bought a beat up van and took it cross country living the hippie lifestyle he admired. Jack since moved back to Illinois and settled down, but still wore his hair shoulder length to pay homage to his glory days and sported a full beard. A contrast to Kyle's shorter, wavy blonde hair.
The man shooting a solo game of pool was a man that Jack could’ve done without knowing. He liked to call himself Bones and the tattoos proclaiming that were evident on his body, but Jack knew the man back when he was Larry Dow. Even back then he’d been a useless waste of space and he’d just gotten worse every day. He was the typical biker – long greasy hair pulled back in a ponytail under a dew rag, black leather vest, and a faded black size 4X tee shirt with the sleeves ripped off. Every visible bit of skin except his face was covered in tattoos. As Jack watched, he picked up a soda can and spit a wad of tobacco into it. He didn’t bother to wipe away the brown liquid that dribbled onto his chin.
All of these men were regulars at sipping his drink The Dive except the fifth. That man's name (unbeknownst to Jack) was Nigel White, a businessman from London passing through town for a gin and tonic. He was an older man, tall and skinny with a beak nose, bags under his eyes and a mouth in a perpetual frown. He sat at the end of the bar minding his own business and slowly.
Seven men brought together by chance and forever bound by fate.
"Hey, Gus." Jack pulled a pack of Marlboro's from his pocket and started tapping one out as he took his place on a stool at the bar. "Got a pack of matches or anything?"
"You can't smoke in here, Jack," Gus said. He pointed a calloused finger to a plaque hanging behind the bar showing the bar's compliance with the Illinois law that smoking indoors was prohibited. "You know the law."
"Come on, man. You expect me to go outside and smoke? I'll freeze to death."
Gus shrugged his broad shoulders. "I don't like it any more than you do, but I don't like fines neither."
"Fines? Ain't nobody here gonna fine you." Jack stood up and turned to the other patrons. "Is anyone in here a cop?" he asked loudly. "Are you a cop?" he asked Burt. The squirrely man only shook his head. He turned to Bones at the pool table. "You a cop?" Bones only sneered and gave him a murderous look. Jack turned to the distinguished man sitting alone at the end of the bar. "Hey, you a cop?"
The man turned to him with drooping eyes. "I assure you I'm no constable," he drawled.
"See?" Jack turned back to the bartender. "Ain't nobody in here a cop or gonna care. And with the blizzard outside I highly doubt any cops are going to come walking through that door anytime soon."
Gus rolled his eyes and let out a long breath. "Fine." He tossed Jack a pack of matches from under the counter. “Just count yourself lucky I’m such a nice fella. On a normal day I’d make you freeze, but this blizzard…” Gus only shook his head and let the statement trail off.
“I hear you,” Jack said as he swept the hair from his face and lit a cigarette. "Thank you, my friend." He sucked a long drag, held it in his lungs for a minute, then blew it out slowly. Smoking was a habit he'd kicked many times, but it seemed to have a way of rearing its ugly head time and again. He reached across the bar and picked up and empty shot glass to use as an ashtray garnering an unhappy sneer from Gus. "What's up with this weather?" he asked to anyone around him willing to strike up a conversation.
"Came out of nowhere, didn't it?" Burt said, shaking his head. "The weather report today wasn't calling for any bad weather."
"If it had I wouldn't be here. That's for sure." Kyle checked his phone again even though it hadn't gone off. "And I wouldn't be waiting for this frigging phone to ring."
"Important call?" Jack sucked down another drag.
"Tow truck. I was coming home from work and got blasted by this storm. I pulled over to see if it would clear up then found my car won't start."
"That sucks," Jack said. "Sucks hardcore." He turned his attention to Burt. "What about you, Burt? What're you doing here?"
"Came in for a drink." He lifted his glass. "Guess it got bad as soon as I came in. Now I'm stuck here until it clears up." This was only half the truth. The reason Burt stopped in for a drink in the first place was because just a few hours prior he'd been fired from the job he’d held for fifteen years. Replaced by someone younger and dumber. He'd hoped some alcohol would calm his nerves before he had to confront his wife with the bad news. Hilda would not take the news well.
"Getcha a beer?" Gus asked.
"Why not? Looks like I'm gonna be here awhile." Jack popped the cap off the Budweiser Gus handed him and took a swig. It was ice cold as he swallowed it, but as soon as it hit his stomach it released a warm glow throughout his body. He let the sensation flow through him and wash away the lingering chill of the blizzard. "Ahh..." he breathed a relieving sigh.
The bar fell back into silence. Bones racked up another round of pool to shoot by himself and each of the other men sat nursing their drink and lost in their own thoughts. Seven men brought together by chance and, when the lights went out, forever bound by fate.