The writing workshop I attended recently had one unexpected turn. We were invited to take about forty minutes to write a short, short story. I don’t write fiction. I am not interested in writing fiction, in spite of what some critics say about my essays. The muse of blank minds reminded me that Garrison Keillor was about to retire, that I, like him, grew up in Minnesota, and that some places in the inter mountain West, where I live, are not unlike Lake Wobegon. With plagiarizing political speech writers as my guide, this is what I came up with. Enjoy; it is my only contribution to the world of fiction. Like Schubert’s 8th, it’s unfinished, ever to remain so.
Ralph had little to show for his life, and was satisfied with it. He had a small place about ten miles out of town, and owned a bar at the end of Main Street, Ralph’s Pretty Good Bar, where the beer was not bad and there was nothing on the top shelf. It was the only bar in town so it was good enough. His pride possession was his old, somewhat temperamental, Bentley convertible with the top permanently stuck in the down position, which he’d bought years ago at an estate sale. For companionship he had Olga, his St. Bernard, who was a neutered male but he didn’t know that when he got “her” from friends who no longer wanted to pick up after him. Anyway, it was near time to open the bar, and he was running late. Olga was trundled into the back seat, not without difficulty, and the two of them headed to town. There would be the usual gathering of old ranchers waiting for their beer and a bump, but they could wait. They always did. Besides, it gave them time to spit their Skoal into the gutter instead of on his floor. Then it began to rain the kind of straight down and sideways at the same time rain that can happen only in western towns. The car did not like rain on it’s cracked red leather, nor did it care for soggy dog odors mixed with dog slobber and whatever detritus hung under her tail. Being English, it did not like running in the rain under any circumstance, so it quit, deciding to stay put until better weather came along.
Old ranchers will wait for a while, but the desire for a beer and a bump, and the lack of desire to get soaking wet, were inspirational moments for Karl who knew where Ralph hid the extra key, and figured maybe he was sick or something, so decided to open up on his own, which the others thought was a good idea, especially since Fred, retired rancher and the town’s part time cop, was with them. They did a pretty good job of it too. Everyone knew how to run the taps, and where the whiskey and glasses were kept. That part was easy. No one knew how to run the cash register, so each one kept his own record on a piece of paper to be left on a spindle near the jars of peanuts and pickled eggs. When, and if, Ralph ever showed up he could sort it out at his convenience. The penciled receipts left something to be desired as the drinks continued to be poured in increasingly generous portions.
That’s as far as I got. Here endeth the story. Now it’s time to get back to politics, economics, theology, and the occasional nonsense.