Overpriced drinks. Awkward conversation. Wondering if you're going to get any. You know what they say about the singles' scene these days.

It's hell.

24/7 by Paul Greenberg

Jake went to a bar. The darkest one he could find. No one talks to you in a dive like this, he thought. You'll get a boot to the fucking head if your eyes linger on anything other than your drink.

There was a girl. A hooker maybe. Red hair. Cute. She looked at Jake. He got the hint. He sat at her table and signaled for another round. When her drink was ready he went to the bar to pick it up and pay. She was tequila, salt, lemon. He ordered Dewars, neat. He sat back down.

“So, what's your name?” she asked.


“I'm Nico.”

“Unusual name. Where did that come from?”

“Some German singer my Dad liked. I really have no idea.”

“Jake and Nico. We're a cute couple.”

“Ya think?” She laughed.

They drank.

“What do you do?” Nico asked.

“I'm an actor but I'm working in landscaping at the moment. You know how it is.”

“Sure, sure, I get it.”

“How ’bout you?” Jake asked.

“I drink, mostly. And that’s no lie.”

“I’m a fan of afternoon drinking.”

“Uh huh,” she said.

An uncomfortable silence followed. Jake tried hard not to pound his drink down too fast. She was making him nervous. She had a snake earring that wrapped around the top of her left ear with the tail piercing the lobe. She was pulling at it unconsciously. Old habit, Jake guessed.

“What are you scared of?” Nico asked.

“I’m not scared. What gave you that idea?”

“No, no. I mean, what scares you the most?”

“Being out of Scotch. Bartender,” Jake called out and waved for another round.

“Seriously,” Nico said.

“Oh, seriously, well…” He didn’t want to play games. “Nothing scares me.”

“There’s gotta be something. Spiders, zombies, clowns, guns…”

“Knives.” It was as if she pulled the word right out of his mouth.

“Knives? Really? Were you cut when you were a little boy?”

“Burned,” Jake said.

“Burned? With a knife?”

“I came home from school one day. My mom and some guy were crowded around the stove smoking hash between two hot butter knives. They were pretty whacked. They offered me some. I said no and the guy grabbed my arm and took the hot knife and burned my wrist.” He pulled up his sleeve to show her the scar.

“That’s a hell of a story, Jake. What did you do?”

“I cried and fuckin’ ran. I was ten years old.”

“The prick still around?”

“He’s dead. Not by me. I looked for him for a while. Somebody shanked him in the joint. That’s the story I heard, anyway.”

He went to the bar for their drinks. Came back and sat down.

“Here, let me show you something.” Nico rolled up the sleeve of her short black leather jacket to expose an ace of spades tattoo on the inside of her forearm.

“Cool,” Jake said.

Nico pulled a cigarette from her bag and lit it.

“You can smoke in here?” Jake asked.

“That’s right. I can smoke in here.” She offered him one but he said he didn’t smoke.
Jake looked around. No one seemed to mind. As a matter of fact no one seemed to have moved.

A familiar bongo and piano started to bleed out the sound system, though no music had been playing before. “Sympathy for the Devil.” Jake looked around wondering how The Stones, would go over with the old fucks in the bar. He looked back at Nico, who was smiling and glaring at him with eyes that were blood red. She had pulled a knife out of her bag.

“What the fuck?” Jake asked.

“Don’t be scared. Or be scared. I don’t care.”

She waved the knife quickly in front of his face, first to the left, then to the right.
It took Jake a couple of seconds to realize that his lips were on the table in front of him. It was then that she thrust the knife in his neck right behind the ear. His head hit the table seconds later.

Nico sat for a few minutes, as she watched the blood cover the table and drip to the floor.

The bartender was watching the TV and working on a bag of sunflower seeds, shooting the shells with his fingers toward a trash can in the corner. On her way out, she said, to no one in particular, “It sure is dark in here.”

No one looked up from their drinks and she was gone.

Paul Greenberg has always been a writer. Just hasn’t let anyone read anything until recently. Now he’s writing short stories. Stories about people. People who kill people. And submitting them. He wants that beer.