Calvin didn’t hear the bartender. Based on the expression she made, and the fact that he wasn’t holding another beer, he assumed it had something to do with her cutting him off. He hoped he looked angry, but he decided to choose his words carefully.
“Hey, my beer.” He slapped the bar, leaned back, and had to hang on to the slick wood to keep steady. His focus on the task caused him to miss her reply again. “Wha?”
“I said you’re not getting another beer asshole. Calm down or you’re gonna get tossed.”
Calvin was confused. He didn’t think she could pick him up, and he told her so.
She yelled something, but she was looking over at a guy standing at the door, or guys, it was hard to tell from how they kept swirling around. They walked over and merged into one guy who could easily pick Calvin up.
The bartender said some things to the man, but Calvin was watching her lips move, puckering his own at her, and he missed that conversation too. He thought he heard her call the guy darling, but she’d called him darling too. With his mouth hanging open, aghast at how she was double-timing him, he turned to the big man to stake his claim.
“Ffffff,” Calvin started, then forgot he was saying anything at all. He stood, holding the bar steady, looking like an idiot, making the sound of a punctured tire. Eventually he ran out of air, licked his lips and stared the guy in the face, as if to say, ‘your move.” In his triumph, Calvin decided to give the bartender a wink, but tripped on the bar stool and fell into the man instead.
In a blur of motion, Calvin was carried to the door and deposited in the parking lot, by the edge of the road. He stood and opened his mouth to berate the brute for his mistreatment of a customer, but by the time he was on his feet, the bouncer was back in the bar. Calvin decided to write a nasty review instead. He smiled at the thought, tried to find his keys, and completely forgot about it.
It was dark on the remote road. Calvin did a slow spin to get a bearing on where he was. He squinted down the road, but couldn’t see very far. Next to the bar was a mechanic’s shop, but the building was empty and there wasn’t anything else for another fifteen kilometers in either direction.
Calvin dug into his pocket for his keys, forgetting he had already tried. Still looking at the shop, he remembered he’d given his keys to the mechanic earlier. It was why he was at a bar in the middle of nowhere. He’d decided to get a drink while he waited for his car to be fixed. Briefly, he considered breaking in, to get his car, then thought about sleeping in the vacant building, then decided his bed was worth walking home. It would take him most of the night, but he was hopeful a passing driver would give him a ride. He’d be damned if he’d pay for a cab to come get him.
Turning to the bar, Calvin considered what way he’d come from and decided it was right. Then he faced the road, second guessed himself and went left.
The road stretched between two small towns. It was one lane with wide dirt and gravel shoulders. The side Calvin was walking along dropped slightly into fields with patches of wooded areas in the distance. On the other side, a ditch separated the shoulder from the black fields beyond.
Calvin dragged his feet, resenting having been forced to leave the bar and walk home. He hunched his shoulders and exaggerated his motions, like a pouting child. His steps became loping, rolling, trudging. “Fu’em.”
By the time the bar was out of site, Calvin resigned himself to the walk and made good, but sporadic, progress. He stumbled a few times and swayed regularly, but the steps added up to kilometers.
The further Calvin was from the bar, the more he calmed down. The night was cool and the walk wasn’t so bad. He started to run from streetlight to streetlight, trying to pass the time. His stomping, flailing trots were record breaking sprints to Calvin. His exaggerated times proved he was good enough to make the Olympics, if he’d wanted to.
When he got tired and queasy from running, he counted the dashes in the road, but they kept moving and he lost count too many times. Calvin decided there were a million and moved on.
He resorted to kicking rocks on the dusty shoulder. They scattered away from his trebuchet like kicks, throwing up puffs of dust. Calvin saw a bottle cap sticking out of the dirt and took a run at it, missed and stuck his toe in the dirt, sending him face first to the ground.
The ground tasted like a poorly cleaned baseball diamond and Calvin wondered how he ended up on the ground. He stuck his tongue out to taste for blood, but got a mouth full of dirt and a stone. He lay on the shoulder for what seemed like the majority of an hour before pulling himself up and dusting off his clothes. Little points of pain were scattered across his body and he poked at the spots that hurt the most. He didn’t seem to be seriously hurt, but he had a bloody nose and there was a strange whistle when he breathed.
He went back and found the bottle cap in the dim light, spit, and gave the small piece of molded metal a savage kick. It sailed into the dark field and Calvin fell back on his behind. Judging the revenge triumphant, he reoriented himself and continued down the road.
A few kilometers further, Calvin found a telephone pole that was calling his name. He walked over, unzipped his pants and let out a long shuttering sigh. The warm liquid spread out faster than he had anticipated and he had to shuffle back awkwardly, trying to keep his pants dry. Once he was safe, Calvin relaxed and enjoyed the relief, humming to himself. Lights appeared on his right, then vanished down the road. He turned to try and wave the car down, but all he could see were two red dots fading away. A warm sensation on his leg reminded him that his pants were still open. He swore, tried to wipe it away, and sniffed his hand.
Calvin stumbled the few steps to the pole and hopped on one foot, jutting out his other in a poor attempt at a jump-kick. He missed and tumbled down the embankment into the field. He scrunched up his face and took a deep breath, preparing to scream, but another bright light caught his attention. He opened his eyes and saw lights shining out in the field. He stood up and tried to see the road or driveway where the vehicle was parked.
The field was covered in long grass and surrounded by trees. Calvin failed to find a road, but he headed towards the lights, hoping to catch a ride. They, and what they were attached to, were further out in the field than Calvin had initially judged. The lights loomed over Calvin as he approached.
“Hello,” he called, accentuating it with a hiccup. “You guys camping or something? That’s a big camp-thingy, thing.” Calvin slurred the words and spittle flew from his mouth as he spoke. He heaved a few times and fought to keep from getting sick.
Small figures came out of the tall grass around him. He quickly counted them, fifteen, ten, five, as they came into focus.
“You guys midgets or something,” he hiccupped. “Or dwarves, little people!” Air bubbled up his throat and a small burp escaped.
They said something to each other, and Calvin couldn’t make it out.
“Norwegian midgets,” he said to himself. He tried to follow their back and forth talking and stay on his feet. “You guys give me a ride?” Saliva filled his mouth and he swallowed. “Or a beer?”
More quickly than the guy threw him out of the bar, or guys, Calvin was sure there was more than one, the small figures swept Calvin up and into their vehicle.
“You guys got big heads.” Calvin giggled. “Sorry, I mean you people.”
The camper was filled with shiny metal surfaces, reflecting blinking lights. Calvin had trouble focusing on one thing at a time. He swallowed more saliva and leaned heavily on a low metal table. The group zipped around him, pressing buttons, turning dials, and carrying metal boxes and spheres from one place to another. It looked like choreographed dancing, but the motion made Calvin dizzy.
“You guys need a hand?” Calvin gripped the table with all his strength to keep from tipping over. One of the figures ushered a staggering Calvin to a chair that leaned back like a Lay-Z-Boy, and strapped him in.
“Thanks for the lift.” Calvin burped again.
The little people with big heads found their own seats and the vehicle was moving. The acceleration knocked the wind out of Calvin. He closed his eyes. From his best guess, they were going a million-miles-an-hour. The vehicle took a sharp turn, then another, and another. Calvin swore they were spinning in circles.
“Hey, you guys don’t have to speed or nothing. You’re flying.” Calvin held on the arms of the chair and the contents of his stomach. Saliva was flowing constantly and he had to keep swallowing to keep up. A moment of clarity struck him as adrenaline pumped through him. “You might want to – just in case.”
He vomited spectacularly. The geyser erupted out of him, spraying everything within a meter in front, covering Calvin and at least two of the foreign people.
“Sorry, sorry.” Calvin moved to clean up the mess, but he was still strapped to the chair. “I think tha’s all of it.” He felt much better, but his face was hot. The figures were talking rapidly again, the two who Calvin got more loudly than the others.
“I’ll pay for it to get cleaned.” He had to swallow again and a small burp came up tasting like what had preceded it. “I think you should let me out here.” He closed his eyes tightly and held on again. He was tired from walking and being sick. Without noticing it was happening, he fell asleep.
When he opened his eyes again, Calvin was on his front porch, shivering. His head felt like a worm had gone through it like an apple and he smelled terribly. He tasted what had caused the smell, made a sour face, and sat up. He regretted the move the moment he attempted it and stopped. He held his head, to keep his eyes from popping out.
“How the hell did I get home?” Calvin couldn’t recall telling the foreigners where he lived. He did remember vomiting on them, and winced at the thought.
Bracing himself, Calvin got to his feet and reached in his pocket for his keys. When he couldn’t find them he remembered he’d given them to the mechanic the day before. He reached for his wallet to get the guy’s card and realized that the people who picked him up probably checked his driver’s license to see where he lived. The wallet wasn’t in his back pocket so Calvin patted down all his pockets, twice, but his wallet wasn’t there.
“Those little foreign pricks.” Walking back to his house, Calvin picked up the fake rock with his spare key. He swore a few times thinking about all the people he had to call to cancel his cards and report his ID stolen.