The Life-Ready Bar — Part II

Walking to the bar, the African picks up one of the schooners and drinks a mouthful.

‘Tastes like home,’ he says, smiling.

‘Smells like an abattoir to me,’ the Aussie says, eyeing the other schooner.

There’s no way he’s drinking what looks like a glass full of blood.

‘Show him around,’ the angel says.

The Aussie looks at the African. At least the angel understands.

‘You won’t drink with me, then?’ the African asks, pointing his sword at the schooner.

‘Not on your life, mate.’

‘Okay, follow me,’ the African says, walking towards a curtained wall. ‘This is the first window.’ The African pushes the curtains back with the tip of his sword and they’re looking out on snow-capped mountain peaks, which are joined by a massive anchor chain.*

‘Nice view,’ the Aussie says, breathing a sigh of relief. Being a tourist is something he gets.

‘That’s the Eurasian and Indian continental plates,’ the African says, winking at him.

‘Is that so,’ the Aussie says, looking around for a real bar or at least a kiosk.

‘Those plates,’ the African continues, ‘are grinding up against each other fifty million years ago: volcanoes, earthquakes, glaciers all welding them together. In here we call them Easy and Ivy.’

‘That’s funny,’ the Aussie says. ‘That’s my name and my wife’s name.’

‘You know what’s in the next window?’

‘Rivers?’

‘Uh huh: fertile valleys teeming with life!’

As they walk towards the next curtain, the lady who first met them, materialises and smiles.

‘Hello again,’ Easy says, smiling a little too long at her.

‘You’ve done okay so far, Easy,’ she says.

‘What do you mean? I haven’t done anything.’

‘You have actually,’ she says. ‘Take a look behind you.’

He turns and sees his partner standing there, as if she’s lost. It’s definitely her: the dimples, the soft brown hair and cheeky grey eyes. But she looks so young, just like on their first date.

‘Darling,’ she says. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘What are you doing here?’ he asks.

‘We were talking about our wedding, remember.’

‘Ah—’ he says and then stops. That wedding started years ago, and he was about over it when he came to this bar. It must be why she’s here too. Looking at her, he says, ‘Is that why you—’

‘Don’t go there, buddy,’ the African interrupts.

About to ask another question, Easy thinks better of it and follows the African, who’s mouthing a ‘no’ at him and leading him to that next wall.

‘Wait!’ Ivy yells. ‘The kids are here too!’

At that very moment, five children materialise next to her: three girls and two boys, all in school uniforms.

‘You’re a lucky man,’ the African says, smiling and tousling Easy’s hair.

‘What do you mean “lucky?”’ Easy asks.

‘You have a home—we call that an “us” in this world, and without an “us” you don’t have a chance at the next door.’

‘What do you mean “us”: a home is not an “us.” I built my home, it’s an “it.”’

‘Not at all, a home is not a building, a home is a melody.’

‘A what?’

‘A gathering of sweet musical notes.’

‘Like in a song?’

‘Yes.’

‘So, by home,’ Easy says, pausing for a moment to stroke his chin, ‘you mean us, which means sweet musical notes?’

‘You’ve nailed it. But there’s one more piece to the puzzle.’

‘Which is?’

‘Without love there can’t be any us.

‘But what if there is no love—period?’

‘Then there’s no us and no home: fortunately, you and Ivy have a whisper of love left.’

‘Jesus!’ Easy says, looking back at his partner and his children.

‘What the f**k is that?’ she says, pointing past him.

Easy turns and the African and the angel are standing either side of a heavy wooden door that has the words ‘Death-Ready Bar’ over it. The angel holds a sword and the African holds the schooner glass of red.

‘I don’t like the look of this,’ Easy says.

‘What don’t you like?’ the Angel asks, looking down and running his fingers along the blade.

‘I’ve never drank blood,’ he says as Ivy and the children gather around him.

‘You’ve been eating and drinking it all your life,’ the African says with a grin. ‘Every pie you’ve ever had at the footy, every steak.’

‘What’s this all for anyway?’ Ivy asks, taking the sword from the angel.

‘You go in there, lady, you better be ready to use this sword.’

‘But first, one of you—or both—must drink this cup.’

‘What do you reckon, dad?’ the youngest girl asks. ‘I’ll drink it all for you.’

There’s a long silence. Easy stares at the Angel. He can’t believe this. He’s heard those words before, a long time ago. It was late at night. He was supposed to be in bed but he’d been eavesdropping on his mum and dad having a quarrel about ‘drinking the cup’ in the kitchen. ‘I’ll drink it all for you,’ his mother had said.

‘I’ll do it,’ he says, taking the schooner, drinking most of it, then watching Ivy drink the rest.

‘Congratulations! Easy and Ivy,’ the Angel says, high-fiving the African. ‘You’ve both graduated as rookie home-makers!’

Easy reaches for the door handle.

‘Wait!’ the angel says, pointing. ‘We have visitors.’

Easy, Ivy and their children stand and watch as a rough looking man and two red-haired girls walk through a wall: the smallest girl carrying a golden goblet.

‘Before you go,’ the angel says, ‘I’d like you to meet some of my relations.’

‘Where are they from?’ Easy asks.

‘Another planet, by the look,’ Ivy says.

‘Let them speak for themselves,’ the African says.

‘We always wait here for someone to help us through,’ the man says.

‘We can’t get through that door on our own,’ the taller girl says.

‘How long have you had to wait?’

‘Never mind,’ the girl with the goblet says, looking up at her sister. ‘We’re gamblers, we always turn up uninvited; we take you “unawares.”’

‘Well, you don’t look like one of us,’ the taller boy says.

‘Of course,’ the angel says. ‘But they bring a rich harmony to your melody.’

‘But they are not one of us!’ the tallest girl says.

‘If you allow it, they will be your extended us;’ the African says, and adds, ‘everyone who comes to this door has a chance to take some of these with them.’

‘Would you like to drink from our cup?’ the little girl asks, holding up the goblet.

 

  • The image of the alps is a thought borrowed from GK Chesterton