Excerpt from Wrong Bar, by Nathaniel G Moore

PART ONE: kiss the headlights and put it in neutral

I.

This dingy morning is half eaten.

The store feels empty.

I have been fidgeting by the colourful fish tanks with their hyper-turquoise glamour burbling in the reflection, while outside a prehistoric wind terrifies me with its malignant hissing; it wreathes harsh against the glass with the finesse of a poltergeist. Well, not finesse. It’s smearing the glass in a certain inhumane way: entirely relentless. Maybe finesse, maybe calculating.

A customer prods me with sea queries, reminding me I am not alone. The store is not empty.

“So they last a long time?” The woman is rushed; her eyes go across the tanks, over to a hamster wheel, and back to me. To me, she seems erratic and disenfranchised, not fully comprehending her role as caregiver.

“You’d be surprised,” I go. “How many would you like?” Then, giving a half-crescent smile, “As you may know, it’s half-price fish day here at Sloppy Salmon’s Wet Pet Centre.”

I add the word “wet” for syllabic resonance. Ten in the morning, four customers, and my face is already a clock of sweat, my skin iridescent and convivial. That’s probably not the right word. My skin tingles in chatter, if tingles could speak. Not tingles so much as itches.

Maybe it’s glue or something.

The mother asks her son what he thinks. The kid shrugs. I begin to unravel, not literally, of course—“Look, I’m under cover,” I tell them. I feel light-headed. “This is a sting operation.”


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