Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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Torch Song

by George J. Condon


Tom Nolan looked at his wristwatch as he stood behind the marble topped bar in The Brass Rail Tavern. His angular face took on a frown when he saw that it was only about five minutes past three o'clock in the morning. It would be nearly two more hours before the daytime bartender showed up, allowing Tom to hang up his apron and go home for some sleep. Working the graveyard shift meant extra salary, but the wee small hours of the morning could be lonely and boring.

Right now, The Brass Rail was dimly lit and the place was empty, except for Tom. He was just about to turn up the sound on the big flat screen TV mounted behind the bar when the woman walked in.

Tom had seen some gorgeous women in his time. He'd waited tables for two years at a strip joint where the younger bump and grind dancers were real knockouts, but they all paled in comparison to this chick. She had shoulder length hair that was jet black and seemed to glisten, even in the subdued light. Her skin was the color of peach ice cream and a bright red dress clung to her amazing body like a second skin. Even the way that she moved was erotic. Looking at her, Tom didn't feel sexual desire so much as awe.

The woman in red ignored the booths and tables to walk over and sit down on a barstool where she crossed her incredible legs. She gave Tom an appraising look that made him feel naked. Tom wasn't shy with women usually. In fact, he considered himself something of a ladies man, but this woman made him feel like a gawky teenage boy at a high school prom.

"Can I get you a drink?" he managed to say.

"Scotch," the woman said, her voice a smoky purr that gave Tom the shivers. "Make it a double."

Tom brought the drink to her and then stood gaping while she downed it in almost one gulp.

"Bring me another," she said in that seductive voice.

Tom brought another scotch and this one disappeared as quickly as the first.

"Look," Tom said," I know it's none of my business, but maybe you should take it a little slower with the booze."

The woman looked at Tom as though she was really seeing him for the first time.

"What's your name?" she asked.

"Tom."

"Well, Tom, you're right. It is none of your business."

"Sorry," Tom said.

"Don't be. I'm drinking to forget somebody."

"That never works."

"Sadly, you're right. Is that a jukebox in the corner?"

"Not a real one," Tom said. "You can't get those old vinyl records any more. This machine uses a computer, but it works just like a real jukebox. You push buttons on the front for the songs you want."

The woman in red stood up and walked over to the fake jukebox. Tom saw her slim fingers brushing the buttons on the machine's front panel and then she came back to her barstool. Suddenly, Frank Sinatra's voice was in the room, singing an old torch balad called Angel Eyes. Funny, but Tom didn't remember that song being in the computer.

"What about my drink?" the woman asked.

Tom brought the woman another scotch, but she let this one sit on the bar in front of her while she stared into the liquor glass.

"You know my name," Tom said. "What's yours?"

The woman in red hesitated for a moment and then she smiled. Tom would have been happy to look at that smile for the rest of his life.

"Lucy," she said and then laughed as though she had just made a joke. "Yes, call me Lucy."

"Well, Lucy, you seem kind of unhappy."

"You're very observant," Lucy said.

The Sinatra song had finished now and the music machine was playing Merrilee Rush's version of Angel Of The Morning. Tom didn't remember that one being in the computer either.

"Is this all about some guy?" Tom asked.

Lucy gave him that look again.

"Isn't it always?" she asked.

"Lucy, you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. You could have lots of guys."

"I don't want lots of guys, Tom. Besides, none of them would measure up to him. Nobody is like him."

"Were you two together for long?" Tom asked.

Lucy laughed.

"Only since the beginning of time," she said.

Tom decided that the scotch must be catching up to Lucy. As a bartender, he often served as a combination psychiatrist and father confessor to his customers. It was obvious that Lucy had a story to tell.

"What happened?" Tom asked. "Was it another woman?"

"Nothing like that. He was jealous, that's all. Jealous of my friends. Jealous of me whenever I tried to do anything by myself. I always had to serve only him."

"Is that what broke you up?"

"Yes. I told him to treat me as an equal," Lucy said. "He went into a rage like none I'd ever seen before. He said he'd created me and he could destroy me too, if he wanted to. Then, he threw me out."

"How long ago was that?" Tom asked.

"Longer than you'd believe. He told everyone lies about me. Said I was hideous looking and evil. Do I look evil to you, Tom?"

"Not at all."

"Well, I've done lots of evil things. So has he. We've hurt so many people in our trying to hurt each other. So many people."

Now, the music machine was playing Roy Orbison's Blue Angel, another song that shouldn't have been in its memory. Tom felt a creepy sensation traveling up his spine. Lucy was still talking.

"We're going to keep on hurting people," she said. "It's only going to get worse, with plagues, wars and earthquakes. Finally, it will be Armageddon."

Tom figured that Lucy was really drunk by now, the way she was babbling. He looked at her face and it seemed to blur into something cold and hideous. Tom shuddered, but then he shook himself out of it and was looking at Lucy's beautiful, sad face again. He must be getting tired.

"He called me his angel," Lucy said to herself. "His beautiful angel. Then, he threw me out. No wonder I hate him."

"I don't think you hate him at all," Tom said. "I think you still love the guy."

Lucy looked at Tom and then there were tears in her eyes.

"You're right," she said. "I still love him so much."

"You've had enough to drink, Lucy. I think you should go home."

"You don't know what my home is like," Lucy said.

"It has to be better than getting drunk in a bar."

Lucy nodded and then she stood up.

"You're right, Tom. Thanks for listening. How much do I owe you?"

"I'll tally it up," Tom said and went to the cash register. When he turned back toward the bar, Lucy was gone. He hadn't heard her leave. She was just gone. Near where Lucy had been sitting, two crisp new twenty dollar bills lay on the bar, one on top of the other.

Tom sighed as he cleared away the liquor glass that Lucy had used. She was one gorgeous woman, but really strange. Something lying on the floor near the bar caught his eye and he stooped down to pick it up. It was a religious pamphlet. One of those bible thumper types had been in the place before midnight, trying to convert the sinners away from their drinking. Tom had hustled the guy outside and one of his pamphlets must have fallen onto the floor. He was about to toss it into the garbage can behind the bar when the first line of its text caught his eye.

Genesis tells us that, before rebelling against God, Satan was called "Lucifer" which means "Angel Of Light".

Tom stood there for a second, feeling a chill creep over his body. Could Lucy have been...? No, that was just crazy. He tossed the pamphlet away and then began wiping the bar down with a wet cloth. That was the trouble with working these graveyard shifts. They could really mess with your mind.

THE END


© 2008 George J. Condon

Bio: George J. Condon is a retired security specialist who has taken up fiction writing. His work has appeared in Planet Magazine and here in Aphelion (most recently, Cruelty to Animals, May 2006). He has two detective novels and a collection of science fiction stories available through Amazon.com and through local (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) bookstores. Miscellaneous links of interest: Mr. Condon's website, Checkmate Fiction; his blog, Thoughts.com: GJ Condon's blog; and for those boycotting Amazon for some reason, George J. Condon's Storefront.

E-mail: George J. Condon

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