William Cordova glanced through the bar, just off Fort Carson military base in Colorado. Soldiers frequented the bar during their off hours. Smoke filled the room as a young lady swung around a pole in the center table, surrounded by plush purple velvet chairs. The young blonde, in high platform heals, clung to her top, teasing the group of testosterone filled men. Music blared through the scraped and worn speakers. Laser lights danced across the dents in the walls, which spoke of the fights that broke out in the past. The bar tender poured a round of shots for Will’s buddies, he had come in with.
“Over here Will.” Jacob Stillman gathered up the five shots of Cuervo for himself and his small group of friends. “First dollars on me.”
Will joined the Army right out of high school. His mother had a fit when he told her his plan. She tried grounding him to his room, something she hadn’t done in several years. He was 18 when she attempted that. Now he was a few weeks into his 21st year and settling into the night life, just off post. The infantry was challenging work, but was something that he enjoyed.
Will sauntered his six-foot frame, over to the main attraction and grabbed up the shot glass. Toasting to their temporary reprieve, Will sat down ready for the entertainment to commence. Jacob slapped a dollar bill down in front of Will and let out a whoop. The young blonde dancer was entertaining the other side of the table and showing off a brilliant bit of art work on her back. The angel wings, tattooed on her back, morphed from pure innocence to the decayed remnants of something belonging to the underworld. The image was a striking contrast to her ivory skin.
Will felt a nudge on his shoulder. Turning he found an attractive red headed bar maid in a black frilly dress and a red corset holding a drink out to Will. “Compliments of the gentleman in our VIP section.” She waved a hand to indicate the direction of the lavish private rooms.
Will looked with his gifted night-vision eyes to find two dancers, each on their own mini table and one greasy haired man who looked like a crooked car salesman. His black caterpillar mustache flashed a warning sign of scam artist. His floral print shirt and tan blazer enhanced the overall look of ill trust. Will didn’t see anything he liked about the man.
“Please tell him no thanks. I don’t swing that way.” Will turned back to his drink.
“He said that when you get done acting like a child, come speak with him.”
Will looked again at the face framed with greasy black hair. Reluctantly, he accepted the drink and stood. He leaned close to Jacob’s ear and said, “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Walking the short distance to the VIP section, he stood at the entrance contemplating what he would say to start the conversation. The man seemed engorged in the entertainment in front of him. Distracted by Will’s presence, he shifted his bulging eyes to Will.
“What are you looking at?” The bug-eyed man blasted Will with an underlying accusation.
About to speak, Will felt a swat on his leg from behind. Wheeling around on his heels, he found a man holding an ornate cane. A wrinkled hand gripped the brass eagle head atop the decorative white staff. The man sitting in the secluded corner, just out of sight of the entrance, wore a long black overcoat. He looked professional, but was completely out of place in his current environment. The grey hair and wrinkled face of a 1000 battles sported the trade mark glasses of a blind man.
“Sit down.” The man patted and equally wrinkled and scared left hand on the seat next to him. He puffed on a cigarette and tapped his right foot to the beat of the music.
Will made his way around the table and sat next to his host. “Beautiful, isn’t she?” The blind man said.
“Yes, she is.” Will became confused to the man’s knowledge of what was typically privileged, to those gifted with sight.
“I like how her nose is bent a little to the left.” The blind man announced.
Will glanced to the young lady dancing around the pole. Indeed, her nose was bent a little to the left.
“She must have had a left-handed boyfriend.”
“How could you see that?” Will asked, still puzzled.
“In this environment, it is better to be blind.” Will didn’t say anything, still trying to add the pieces together. “I see with my hands dummy. Don’t they teach you anything in the Army?”
“How did you know I…?”
“Cause your dumb as a brick and your friends have made enough hooah calls, to make the bricks in this building come into heat.”
Will could see that he was being schooled, therefore checked his ego and took a sip of his drink, then watched the center stage entertainment. Her eyes were blue, hair a dark brunette and she wore a matching jeweled top and bottom. Her skin was flawless and absent of any tattoos. The song changed and started into another grunge band flop that only a hand full of people seemed to like.
“The games people play.” The elderly man’s voice was as ancient as his appearance.
“What do you mean?” Will asked.
“People play games.” The blind man continued. “Delyla here plays the game of making do while she attends school. Her parents kicked her out. Her boyfriend beat her. Now. she lives with a friend and works here. Our neighbor owns a used car lot, buys cheap cologne and spends all his money here to feel important where he otherwise wouldn’t anywhere else.”
Will glanced at the car salesman and could see the typical stereotype. “How did you know about Delyla?”
“We had a little chat as she introduced herself. I could feel the tension in her face relax, as she told me her story. Everything is true, except for her name. We all know that they have stage names. It’s a good safety check regardless.”
“Are you always this perceptive of people?” Will asked.
“Usually.” The two sat quietly for a moment and watched the dancer or rather Will watched and his host puffed on a cigarette. “Have you ever played the game tug-o-war?”
“Yes, at grade school outings.”
“Tug-o-war is life at its essence.”
“How do you mean?” Will didn’t see where this was going but was somehow enthralled by man’s remark.
“Every morning you struggle against gravity climbing out of bed just like tug-o-war. There is an opposing force. You struggle against obtaining your mission on your job. Delyla fights against sleep and the capacity to acquire the knowledge presented her during the day. You struggle against growing up. You would rather remain a child. Probably because you would have to start thinking for yourself”
Will’s neck heated at the suggestion of being a child. “What the hell does that mean?”
“How many years have you been in the military?”
“Three. Why does…” Will said when he was cut off.
“And you haven’t advanced in rank?”
“What does that have to do with me growing up. I’m in the army serving my country.” Will had just been busted down a rank to an E-2 for showing up to work drunk several occasions.
“Your hiding from what you really want to do, because it requires you to think and be responsible.” Will sat silent as the blind man continued. “The games people play are as many as the stars in the sky. So are excuses. Republicans are natural born enemies of Democrats. Tree huggers struggle against polluting factory owners. Factory owners fight against tree huggers and the regulations they bring about. Parents are enemies of children. Cops try to outwit criminals just as criminals find innovative ways to circumnavigate cops. The poor vie against the rich because the rich have what the poor want, but they lack the knowledge or ambition to get it. The rich guard against the poor to keep control over how their money is allocated. Countries all fight each other whether in big ways with bombs or small ways negotiating over where to eat.
“It’s all a tug of war. Sometimes you’re on the same side. Sometimes you’re on opposite sides. If you don’t struggle, you become just a pet on a leash. Nature knows this and doesn’t try to change it. Man is the only one dumb enough to try and change nature.”
The blind man stood to leave. Will stood with him. “I didn’t get your name.” Will said.
The old man turned to the dancer and handed her a Ben Franklin. “For you my dear. Please entertain my guest. I apologize that I must go. This is for you. For your rainy-day fund.” The old man held up a ten-dollar bill that was neatly folded into a swan. He kissed her hand and quietly made his way to the door, where the bouncer assisted the blind man, out to his waiting car.
Will stood staring at the door. Delyla continued dancing, tracing a finger across Will’s shoulders to bring his attention back to her. He sat, staring at the empty space between himself and Delyla. He had a drink and entertainment, yet he suddenly didn’t crave his typical go to distraction. He thought about what the man said and what would define someone following on a leash.
A shout echoed from the opposite side of the dim establishment. “Will, we need your help.”
Shouts and cussing erupted from across the bar, as a brawl spun to life with fists and feet flying. Will jumped to assist his friends. Jacob, tossed through the air by a towering man, with tattoos across his face, collided with the rack of pool ques causing them to clatter to the floor, in a tangle of pick up sticks. The music blared, disco lights flashed and Will raced straight into a heavily ringed fist.