A short story by Daniel A. Olivas
If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been these last three years, let me just tell you right now that you can find me at Bar 107 in downtown on 4th Street most nights with a sheaf of paper—my unfinished novel—red Sharpie in hand, a glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon by my side for inspiration.
I’ve been editing the same first chapter for, well, three years. I didn’t make tenure, something you’d know if you’ve been talking to Mónica which would kind of surprise me since she was the ostensible reason for us breaking up when she and I got very drunk—right here at Bar 107—and you caught us messing around in that booth over there. I still think you overreacted since we did not go beyond what you can do in a booth in plain view—of course!—but you did come close enough to see that I had my left hand up her short skirt and in her beautiful, little black panties. I haven’t seen her since that night. But I admit that when you moved out of my condo the next day, I texted her, tried to get that ball rolling, so to speak. I mean, Mónica is hot. You know that. Not as hot as you, but hot nonetheless. But she never responded which makes me suspect she chose you over me and probably begged to remain your best friend.
I like Bar 107 for a few reasons including the fact that it’s a short walk from the Pershing Square Station which is important ever since I lost my car—well, it was repossessed—and lost my job and had to downsize my life in many annoying ways including selling the condo and then renting a one-bedroom in Koreatown. I’m not on unemployment anymore since I’ve managed to patch together a living by taking on a few private students and teaching creative writing online extension courses through UCLA. I mean, I do have an award-winning short story collection to my name and have published in some of the better literary journals including Tin House, Ploughshares and ZYZZYVA, to name but a few (I am not bragging…I’m simply stating the truth). That little fiction collection kept me legit for five full years, but my drinking and my cockiness and my writer’s block all conspired to derail my pathway to tenure at the UNIVERSITY-THAT-SHALL-NOT-BE-NAMED. You’d think they’d never met an alcoholic writer for God’s sake. Though I do suspect that the second complaint lodged against me by that perky little sophomore (who also shall not be named) didn’t help. I mean, if she didn’t want to be around me and my hands why didn’t she just drop the class? Young people today, they have no sense of logic. If something bothers me, I walk away. That’s how it’s done. You don’t have to ask me twice before I exit, stage right.
Anyway, my meager living doesn’t keep me from Bar 107. I’ve actually made some great editing decisions right here. I think I’ve finally figured out how to begin this novel—writing the first chapter, getting it perfect is what I have to do because that will set the stage for the rest of it—and once I get these first pages just so, the other chapters will flow like, well, Pabst Blue Ribbon from the tap. But if you do come by Bar 107 and see me hunched over my pages, wait until I take a break before coming by to say hi. I don’t want anything to break the magic, not even you. You know how delicate the creative writing process is, right? I mean, you saw it up close and personal for long enough. Just be patient. I’ll look up from my writing eventually. Really. I promise.
[“Bar 107” first appeared in PRISM. It is included in a new, as-yet placed short-story collection.]