A Life at the Bar


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and other stories

By Aubrey Malone

ISBN: 978-1-78382-280-5
Published: 2016
Pages: 302
Key Themes: Mental Health, Short Stories, Identity, Relationships, Alienation


A prisoner awaits execution. A group of people attend a party dressed as characters from Bob Dylan songs. A couple go back to the hotel where they honeymooned trying to recapture the magic that’s gone from their lives…

Aubrey Malone completes his short story trilogy from Chipmunka (which also comprises A Window to the World and I Was an Elvis Impersonator) with this collection. It continues the themes of the other two books in the trilogy : the broken lives of characters seeking a tenuous dignity against the odds. From tragic – and humorous – stories set in and around his roots in Ballina, County Mayo and extending to his second home in Dublin as well as various sojourns in Europe and the U.S. he creates a range of
characters from adolescence to old age desperately searching for their identity in problematic relationships as they struggle against alienation and dysfunctionality.

About the Author

‘A Life At The Bar’ is Aubrey Malone’s fourth book to be published with Chipmunka, it follows ‘The Foggy Ruins of Time,’ ‘A Window To The World’ and ‘I Was an Elvis Impersonator’. He lives in Dublin.

Book Extract

She was from the projects. He met her at the Irish bar where they’d both worked for the summer. They dated briefly at the time but weren’t seeing each other anymore.

They were sitting in a different bar now. It had been noisier earlier in the night because of some people who strayed in from a baseball game that had been on nearby. Most of them were gone now so it was quiet again.

‘I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Walter,’ she said, ‘but that’s the way the mop flops.’ She had her hair in a corn row style, with a gardenia in it. She had the biggest lips of any woman he ever knew.

‘It’s not your fault ,’ she said, ‘and maybe it’s not entirely mine either. You just met me at the wrong time. I know you’re going to make some lucky lady very happy in time and have bucketloads of children with her and a pet dog and a white picket fence.’

He took a sip of his Budweiser.

‘I don’t want a pet dog or a bucketload of children or a white picket fence,’ he said, ‘I just want you.’

‘I know, honey, and I know we had some good times, but unfortunately that’s not the way it works. I’m with someone else now. He’s not as pure a spirit as you are but we seem to be right for one another, at least for the moment.’

He squirmed in his seat.

‘You don’t love him,’ he said, ‘I know you don’t. It’s me you love. You told me that. You told me a hundred times. And I believed you.’

‘Love is a strong word, Walter. To be honest with you I don’t know who I love or don’t love, or who I might love or fall out of love with. Love changes with me like the weather. You know that. I’m not proud of it. I may feel different next week or even tomorrow. It’s just working out at the minute with Nathan. Beyond that I don’t ask.’

‘So you don’t care how long you’ll be with him?’

‘I didn’t say that. You shouldn’t ask me those kinds of questions, honey. I’ve never been able to think ahead, it’s not in my DNA. Next year I might come back to you, leastways if you still want me, and they’ll play the violin music and everything will be wrapped up in pink ribbons and we can have a horse¬-drawn carriage and the whole bit. But the way it is now, tomorrow morning I’m going to wake up beside Nathan and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.’

He gave her a hard look.

‘Do you intend to marry him, April?’ he asked.

She thought about it as she applied some lip gloss.

‘Marriage is a dirty word for me, Walter, you know that. No damn piece of paper is going to tie me to any one man.’

‘I wish you wouldn’t say things like that. Why is everyone against marriage these days?’

‘I don’t mean to offend you. I’m just telling it like it is.’

‘Does he want to marry you?’

‘Goddam it, you sure ask a lot of questions for a shy Irish boy.’

The juke box came on. Elvis Presley was singing ‘Don’t Be Cruel.’ April tapped her foot to it. She looked at him as if she was glad of the break in their conversation.

When the song finished she went up to the counter. She started chewing a pretzel from a bowl the barman had left on the counter.

‘I’d like some more coins for the juke- box,’ she said.

‘I think it’s broken, ma’am,’ he said.

‘Are you dumb or something? I’ve just played an Elvis Presley number on it. Ever heard of him? ‘

‘I might have. Wasn’t he a pop singer? ‘

‘So they tell me. Now can I have that coin?’

He gave it to her. She went back to the juke box. She twiddled her fingers on the glass top.

‘Let’s go for another Elvis one,’ she said to Walter. ‘What about ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’ ‘Would you like that? Or ‘Money Honey.’ They’ve got lots of Elvis stuff here. That would be a good one, wouldn’t it? It might get us in the mood of wanting to be rich. ‘

‘I don’t care what you play,’ he said.

‘Oh come one now, Walter, don’t be like that. We’re on a night out. Let’s get into a fun mood.’

She put on ‘Money Honey’ and started to jig around to it.

‘Sorry, no dancing,’ said the barman.

She looked at him as if he’d just told her her clothes were on fire.

‘Jesus Christ, man,’ she said, ‘This place is turning into a police state. No dancing? ‘

‘That’s right, ma’am. House rules. I don’t make ‘em.’

She put on a face and went back down to her seat. Walter had his head in his hands. She sat down beside him. She tried to pull down the mini-skirt she was wearing but it was still way up above her knees.

‘Why do you wear them that short,’ Walter said, ‘when you have to keep pulling them up?’

‘That’s just the way I am, sunshine,’ said April, ‘That’s just the way I am.’

She took a drink of her vermouth. Walter was still looking glum.

‘Listen, sugar, don’t be sulking,’ she said, ‘Come to momma and let her give you a big hug.’

‘Don’t make fun of me,’ he said, pushing her away.

‘Whatever you say, honeychild. Would you like another drink?’

‘No. I think I’ve had enough.’

‘Okay, well maybe I’ll have one then. Would that be okay with His Majesty?’

‘I think you’ve had enough too.’

‘What? But I’ve only started. Afraid I’ll molest you or something?’

He groaned. She clicked her fingers at the counter.

‘Bartender! Same again.’

The barman nodded. He went over to the taps. He poured her another glass of vermouth. She waddled up to the counter and took it, along with the bowl of pretzels.

‘Put it on the tab,’ she said.

She went back down to the table with it, sipping it as she walked. Walter had his head in his hands.

She grabbed a fistful of pretzels from the bowl.

‘Tell momma your problems,’ she said, sitting down. She crossed her legs and lit up a cigarette.

‘I might have one of those,’ said Walter, putting his hands down from his face.

‘Good job!’ she said, ‘Now we’re talking.’

‘Just one,’ he said.

‘That’s right,’ she said, lighting it up for him, ‘Live dangerously. ‘

He took a drag of it but started to splutter. She slapped his back.

‘You okay, Walt?’ she said, ‘You chokin’ or sumthin’?’

‘It’s all right,’ he said, ‘I’m always like that for the first puff.’

‘Can I get you a glass of water? We don’t want you getting asphyxiation or anything.’

‘I’m all right. Don’t fuss over me. I’m not a child.’

‘I’m sorry, honey. I seem to be doing all the wrong things tonight.’

‘It’s not you. My nerves are on edge. I’ll be all right. It’s just everything that’s been happening. I wish you’d come back to me so we could be as we were. I think we were good together.’

April sighed.

‘Oh Walter. We were brilliant together. And you know what? We might be brilliant again. You just have to give me this little bit of time to sort myself out. By now you must know I’m all freaked out. You’re the sensible one. I don’t think it would be fair of me to inflict myself on you. ‘

‘I’d take you any way you were, April, you know that.’

‘You don’t need a degenerate like me. I’d ruin you. Why don’t you find yourself a nice Irish girl?’

‘You’re the one I want. Can you not get that through your head?’

‘I believe you, Walter, and I’m very touched that you say it. But, tarnation, I don’t believe you really love me. You only think you do. In fact nobody in their right mind could love me. I’m like a car crash. You get me?’’

‘Don’t say that. You know it’s not true. You’re drunk. It’s the drink talking.’
‘No, Walter, April Johnson’s been around long enough to know what’s what. Most men just want to get into my panties. I know you’re different but I think you’re infatuated with the idea of me. That’s different from loving me. Do you hear what I’m saying’?’’

‘Don’t keep putting names on things. I just want to be with you. Love grows.’

She let out a laugh.

‘My, my, Walter, you’re still back in kindergarten, ain’t you?’

He put his arms around her.

‘I think about you all day,’ he said. ‘In fact I can’t think of anything else. You’re everything to me.’

‘That’s the problem, Walter. I don’t want to be everything to you. Or to anyone else. It crowds me. That’s why I like what’s happening to me now with Nathan. He lets me do my own thing. Fact is, we rarely see each other.’

‘What kind of a relationship is it if you’re not together all the time? Isn’t that the whole point of a relationship?’

‘That’s where I disagree with you. I need breathing space. Otherwise I get claustrophobic.’

He started to brood about Nathan. He tried to imagine what he might have looked like, what she might have seen in him. From what he heard of him so far he didn’t think much of him.

‘Does he tell you he loves you?’ he asked.

‘Shucks, Walter, I don’t go in for that stuff. That stuff’s for Hollywood movies.’
‘Does he even compliment you?’

She thought hard.

‘Sometimes he tells me I look nice but that’s not his style usually. Maybe he thinks if he compliments me too much I’ll get a big head.’

‘I don’t think that would happen.’

‘Maybe it would, Walter. Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do. Maybe you don’t know how vain women are, Walter. Compliments are like oxygen to us. They turn us into animals.’

Elvis finished singing ‘Money Honey.’ Walter found himself becoming agitated.

‘Now you’re just making fun of me.’

‘Look, Walter, what I’m trying to say is, I don’t want to be adored, Nathan doesn’t adore me. In fact sometimes he even insults me. He insults me and I like it. I don’t want him to compliment me. When you compliment me it makes me nervous. I’m not as good as you think I am. Most of the time I don’t know shit from Shinola. ‘

‘I don’t care if you’re good or bad. I just want you with me. ‘


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