“The shades don’t come out for just anyone. Discerning folk. The dead usually are.” Ralph says. You smile and drink the beer he’s poured for you. It tastes like the soapy stuff you drank in college. The bar is only half full and the patrons are not demanding, so he talks to you.
“It’s their prerogative to be picky,” Ralph explains. He owns the only bar in Cairnbrook and has never truly met a shade in all his sixty-two years. And he’s just fine with that. A couple times, when driving the west highway, Ralph has seen something in the trees. “Never looked any closer than a glance. A shade got its end at the hands of the living. They have no cause to like us.”
You ask if they are dangerous.
Ralph looks at you while he gathers up old coasters, gauging your age, your clothes, your humoring smile. He nods. “Some more than others.”
You ask a question, then another, and again until Ralph holds up a hand, waving it about like he’s dispersing flies. “Different, same as you and me. They’re still people in a way. Different in what they want, what they do, who they’ll suffer.”
Ralph refills your beer. You drink because you are supposed to, but close to midnight and the bar is clearing out. Ralph doesn’t tell you to leave. “Don’t go looking, they find you if they’re so inclined. But that’s for them to decide. The teenagers try sometimes, getting drunk and scaring themselves.”
You ask what happens to them.
A snort, and Ralph pours himself a beer this time.”Mostly nothin. Shades don’t bother themselves with that foolishness, they know young and stupid when they see it. But you, you should know better, and they know it.”
You look at the clock. After midnight now. Ralph follows your eyes to the clock. “Stay, next round is free.” He knows what you are planning, and it makes him nervous. You smile again and promise to be careful.
He watches you finish your beer, jaw tight and nostrils flared. Ralph doesn’t touch the money you place on the bar.You thank him and leave the bar, ready to wander the streets of Cairnbrook until you find her.
This week I challenged myself and Raw Rambles to write to Patsy Cline’s Walkin’ After Midnight. Check out the piece here.