A Normal Night Out (short story)

Barrett Nash goes to the bar across the street for no particular reason other than the fact that it is close and it has vegetarian chicken wings. What is a vegetarian chicken wing, he wonders. It’s made out of seitan, but what is seitan? He’s in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, just for a day and a night and a day, killing time before taking a late night bus to New York.

The bar is called Remedy and Barrett is familiar with it because it was used as a landmark that took him to “Not a Hostel,” the illegal hostel that’s been set up in the neighborhood. While he’s never been to Pittsburg before, he’ll leave it with fond memories, mostly due to the time he spends at Remedy.

When he walks in its busy. It’s a Saturday night, of course it is busy, but Barrett forgot that it was  a Saturday night. He’s been on the road for a few weeks and time has a habit of disappearing when you’re on the road. He was looking for a quiet night but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be in the cards and before he gets two steps away from the door a man blares into his ear the question, “Where you from.” Barrett tells him he’s from Canada and the man, who introduces himself as Keith, maybe because he is a bit drunk or maybe because he is just excited to have an out of towner to talk to offers to buy Barrett a drink. Why not, Barrett thinks, a drink is a drink and he sits down.

While Keith is yelling to the bar tender to get Barrett a beer, the name of which doesn’t land into Barrett’s ear, Barrett takes a look around the bar. All bars are the same aren’t they? Sure, there’s a superficial layer but once you scrape that away a bar is a bar, it is just a reflection of the people sitting in it. This bar is full and raucous, a full bar with a line of older men watching baseball backed by maybe a dozen smaller tables where small groups of men and women talk to each other with serious gazes.

The beer comes and Barrett tells Keith it’s fantastic, even though it just tastes like every other lager he’s ever had. It’s been brewed in Pittsburg and it’s polite to cheer for the home brew. Keith is with two other friends, he’s introduced to them and they form a bit of a group for the night but neither of them remember his name and he never really catches their names. Maybe one of them was called big Tom? Big something. Or maybe he’s just a big guy. The big fellow tell Barrett not to even look at the menu, just to order the honey mustard chicken wings. Barrett figures why not, but the big man nearly falls off his seat when he hears Barrett order the seitan vegetarian chicken wings. “Why would you want to do that?” Big Tom grumbles. Barrett says he’s a vegetarian and Big Tom mumbles under his breath a bit but he just seems to enjoy grumbling. He’s buying everybody drinks throughout the night and you get the feeling that he’s all bark, no bite. That he’s having a great time. The other fellow, let’s call him Pony because of his long Pony tail, defends Barrett for being a vegetarian. He doesn’t really seem to care, he just seems to want to be jumping into the conversation.

The night carries on like this, with Big Tom, Keith and Pony talking to Barrett. They’re telling him about what makes Pittsburg a great city, they’re telling him about their favorite sports teams and what makes them great, they tell him about America’s past, present and future. They seem to be talking for a love of talking, for a love of what they’re talking about and a sincere pleasure of giving their opinions to someone to whom these opinions are still fresh. The conversation is good, Barrett is having a great time.

Keith in particular is talking a mile a minute, full of passion. He works for the railway, yet, he says he used to be an artist. One might wonder if this duality is the reason why he is talking so fast, perhaps he is trying to prove something. The conversation is good, soon Pony and Big Tom fade away leaving just Barrett and Greg to talk one on one.

Barrett is listening as Keith describes what makes Pittsburg such a great place to live. “You see,” says Keith, “Pittsburg is not a city. It is all these neighborhoods. Sure, it’s a big city, but it’s a big city made out of small neighborhoods. You get to know each other.”

“It does seem like a really friendly city. It doesn’t feel like

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